Display a custom alert when you receive new mail

Outlook has had a 'new mail alert' dialog for years, but until the new mail desktop alert in Outlook 2003, it was, well, sucky. There's another way you can create a custom alert for new mail as well that is not immediately obvious, so I wanted to mention it:

1. Tools | Rules Wizard
2. Create a rule and make the action “Display a specific message in the new item alert window”
3. Choose your custom text and save the rule

Then when new mail arrives that matches your conditions, you'll get a dialog like this:

(guess which string was the 'specific message' I chose?)

Why would you want to do this? I think it's mostly useful when you only use it for certain types of mail that you choose with the rules criteria. You may turn off the overall desktop alert (tools \ options \ email options \ advanced email options) and only want to get an alert for messages that match certain criteria - maybe they're from your boss, are sent to you specifically rather than a distribution list, etc. And of course, you're not just limited to boring ol ASCII:

Comments (9)

  1. Kirk Munro says:

    By the by, this is a great feature. Personally I use it to display notifications for meeting requests/changes since I tend to ignore email for long periods of time. Since I work in development I use the following setup to organize the information that comes in while keeping the interruptions to a minimum:

    1. Rules, rules, rules: If I get email based on a subscription, I move it to the appropriate folder and stop processing so that I don’t get any notification of those emails. Those rules sit at the top of my list. Beyond that, if I get sent to a DL that I care about, I move it to the appropriate folder and continue processing. Then at the bottom of my rules list if the message was about a meeting that is requested or was modified, I display the new item alert (sometimes the requests/modifications come in last minute) and finally all messages that make it to the bottom of my rules list get a desktop alert.

    2. MSN/Windows Messenger. If it’s important, I stay signed-in so that co-workers can contact me.

    That’s it. The only thing lacking from my setup is something I would request as a feature. Generally we send a lot of messages internally to project team DLs. Sometimes we exclude certain people from team messages such as when the content is very technical and developers want to have a discussion about something. I would like these to also go to a specific team folder however I can’t since they aren’t sent to a DL. I can assign a category however that isn’t good enough since (a) it is not very visible on the standard mail form and (b) it requires custom categories that might not be on the server. We could prefix the subject but that allows for human error. I think the solution to this is to create custom forms for messages that are to be sent using certain categories, but I thought it could be done more easily (not quite sure how at this time). I’m basically looking for some flag that I can set that I can catch in a rules filter while keeping the possibility of user error to a minimum. Suggestions?

    Thanks for taking the time to blog. I’ve only been tracking blogs for a little over a month (and haven’t yet caught up to the 34 that I subscribe to) however I always stay current with yours since the subject matter is very relevant to my work right now and since you are one of the more interesting bloggers I have found.


    Kirk Munro

  2. KC Lemson says:

    Thank you for the kind words. I have forwarded your suggestion on to outwish @ microsoft.com which is currently the best way to send in your comments to the Outlook team.

  3. Mike Walsh Helsinki says:

    Great tip, KC!

  4. adam says:

    I used to work with a guy who had a rule set that whenever a mail came in from a certain girl in the office, it would pop up a dialog saying ‘You have received a message from the woman of your dreams’.

    We told him that he should get out more 😉

  5. Andrew says:

    This is good stuff, thanks for passing it on!


  6. Bill Mann says:

    Any tips on getting an alert on my mobile when email arrives from specific people? For example, I would like to get a short alert when my boss sends me email.

    Was able to do this with a stand-alone app when I used a BlackBerry, but my Verizon Wireless mobile phone doesn’t hace the same kind of app.

    Any suggestions? I don’t want the entire message forwarded to my phone, just an alert saying that he sent me a message.



  7. Kenji Yamamoto [MVP] says:

    Hey, the second pic shows that the message resource or the Syslocale is not correct… It shows meaningless characters if it was meant to show the Japanese.

    Just for your note.

    P.S. If there is a chance let’s talk, in the coming MVP Summits!

    — Kenji Yamamoto (Security MVP)

  8. KC Lemson says:

    Bill – I think I heard about some apps that allow this, try searching http://www.slipstick.com.

    Kenji – that’s because it was just me typing in the characters =) I just wanted to show that they do display properly. What do you mean about the upcoming MVP Summit? The summit was last month…

  9. Ash S says:

    I really like the feature in Outlook to show an envelope in the task bar when new mail arrives. I also have rules that move my Inbox mails to specific folders. However, I don’t want an envelope icon for every new mail that I receive. I want it to show an envelope only when a mail gets moved to specific folders. How do I do that in Outlook?


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