Ewan’s recent post on search folders in Outlook inspired me to change my Outlook 2007 behavior (I guess I’d been doing pretty much the same thing for 8 or so years…so I was due a change).
Prior to this change I’d made extensive use of rules to manage my mailbox (I don’t remember how many but it was lots), mainly due to all the distribution lists (DL’s) I’m a member of (50+, we love these in Microsoft!). I’d recently started to get a few conflicts in my rules and trawling through all of them showed duplicates and it just seem messy.
So when Ewan showed an example of filtered RSS posts, I had a play to see what I could do adopting this example as a starting point.
Initially I deleted all my rules – I wanted as few as possible from my new configuration. My other goal was to concatenate some of the DL’s into common ‘ search folders’, my old rules based system had moved mails into folders typically on a one rule to one folder basis – which I wanted to move away from.
So without all the rules in place my Inbox rapidly got very busy, I then used Ewan’s RSS trick to make my first Search folder that shows all my unread RSS reads from the last 12 hours.
I then moved on to each email that I received and if it was from a DL I either created a new search folder or added the DL to a existing search. Rapidly I end up with approx 17 Search Folders, which was a good start (note: 6 weeks later I still have 17).
This basically left the email addressed just to me or for which I was cc’ d in the Inbox, it also left some random emails which slipped through my Search Folder net.
This fairly large collection of emails in my Inbox would be ok for most people, but I had a issue with having 50+ emails. I have a Windows Smartphone that synchronizes with Outlook, and I like to see only the emails sent directly to me in that list as it’s easy to triage when you’re out and about – in my old rules based set-up I typically got just 10-30 emails a day that remained in my Inbox.
So I had to create a rule to handle this (my first and only one it turns out), this rule is “Where my name is not in the To box” and I in addition use the “move to folder” option, for which I created a sub-folder called “InboxFilter”.
At a later stage I amended this rule and added two exceptions so that emails from my immediate team (again via a DL) also stay in my Inbox – so these show up easily in Outlook and on my Smartphone.
Quite by chance the “InboxFilter” folder also helps me discover new DL’s (sometimes we get added to them without our knowledge!), as these exceptions are obvious when I’ve read all my emails in the Search Folders. Anything that is still unread in InboxFilter must not have a Search Folder filter, which is easy to rectify.
Here is brief view of my configuration, showing the InboxFilter and Ewan’s RSS Search Filter