NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, November 2007
Configuring Outlook Express
By Dick Maybach, Columnist,
Brookdale Computer User Group (BCUG) Brookdale, NJ

n2nd(at)att.net (click to email author)

Obtained from APCUG with the author's permission for publication by APCUG member groups.

You can greatly improve your e-mail experience by properly configuring Outlook Express, which is the default Windows e-mail client. Outlook, which is included with MS Office, is a completely different program, but it has a similar user interface for e-mail. The two programs are similar enough that you should have no trouble adapting these procedures to your version. You should modify them as you get more experience with your particular mix of e-mail messages.

By default, Outlook Express has X folders. You should add to these to organize your e-mail messages to make them easier to find in the same way that your organize your file system by using folders there. Set up a separate folder for each major category of e-mail that you send and receive. With Outlook running, click on “File”, select “New”, and then click on “Folder…”. Put the desired name in the “Name:” box and select “Personal Folders” in the “Select where to place the folder:” box. Move the messages in your Inbox to the appropriate folders. While you’re at it, delete any you don’t need. You will probably find some messages that don’t belong in any folder; just leave these in the Inbox. Consider having Outlook Express empty the Deleted Messages folder every time you exit the program.

You will now set up a series of rules that tell Outlook where to place incoming messages, using the following procedure. Click on the Organize icon and then the Rules Wizard menu item. Click on the New… button to create a new rule or the Modify… one to change a rule. Assuming you are creating a new rule, the first screen asks you what kind of rule you want, which is usually “Check messages as they arrive.” At the bottom of each screen is a window showing the rule as you’ve defined it so far. You can click on any underlined terms in the rule to change them. (When you are defining a new rule, you must define these before you can go the next screen.) The second screen lets you specify for which conditions you want to test. In the third screen you set what to do with the message, and the fourth one lets you add any exceptions. Finally, name the rule.

First, establish the rules to move incoming messages to the desired folder. Make the following choices for the rules screens. Screen 1 – “Check messages as they arrive”. Screen 2 – “from people or distribution list”. (Select the names from your address book.) Screen 3 – select both “move it to the specified folder” and “stop processing more rules”. (Click on specified and select an existing folder or create a new one.) Screen 4 – you probably won’t need any exceptions. Screen 5 – give the rule the same name as the folder. Repeat this until you have specified folders for all the people from whom you regularly receive mail.

By default, Outlook indicates junk mail by showing it in gray and adult content in purple. (I love that we use the new-speak term “adult” to describe content that most of us lose interest in by the time we leave adolescence.) To get rid of it, set up the following rule. Screen 1 – “Check messages when they arrive”. Screen 2 – “suspected to be junk e-mail or from Junk Senders”. (You will see a message asking if this is to be applied to every message you receive; select “Yes”.) Screen 3 – “move it to the specified folder”, probably “Deleted Items”. Screen 4 – no exceptions. Screen 5 – name it “Junk Senders”. Repeat this procedure, but for screen 2 select “Containing adult content or from adult content…”.

You will probably find that these filters are not very effective. The following step is quite effective in eliminating spam, but it deletes all messages sent to you on a “copy to” (cc) or “blind copy to” (bcc) list. I use bcc routing on the Roundtable and Hardware SIG meeting notices. Unless you have set up a rule to route messages from me to a folder and then to stop processing other rules, Outlook will delete these meeting notices. Repeat again but select “Where my name is not in the To box” in screen 2. Monitor the results of this rule in case you need to add exceptions. Note also that if you don’t have your incoming mailed sent to folders as above, your will need exemptions for every correspondent that uses cc or bcc routing.

If you follow my suggestions, you are sending all suspect e-mail to the Deleted Items folder. On my PC, everything in this folder is erased each time I exit Outlook, which means that you should look before you exit, at least for a month or so. By the way, I find that many such messages attempt to access the Internet when you open them. I think that they are just downloading graphics, but I don’t want to take a chance that they are doing something sneaky. After I download my e-mail I disconnect so I can abort such actions. (If you have high-speed access you probably can’t easily do this.)

Your last step is to order your rules list. The rules moving the desired e-mail to the correct folders should appear at the top of the list. Since they stop checking other rules after they move a message, they will prevent the spam filter rules from throwing out messages from people with whom you regularly correspond. To do this, click on “Rules Wizard…” and use the “Move Up” and “Move Down” buttons to sort the rules. You will have to reorder the rules each time you add a new one.

You will probably find that some spam still gets through. You can add to your junk senders list by right clicking on the message, selecting “Junk e-mail, and clicking on “Add to Junk Senders list”. However, many spammers change their e-mail address with each message, making this ineffective. In such cases, see if you can identify the junk in some other way, perhaps by looking for specific words or in one of the fields (address, header, etc.). Keep in mind however, that your goal is not to completely eliminate spam, but to reduce it to a manageable volume. Don’t let yourself become obsessed.

This article has been provided to APCUG by the author solely for publication by APCUG member groups. All other uses require the permission of the author (see e-mail address above).

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