8.5 Getting Email to Play Nicely with Windows

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8.4 Organizing and Handling Mail

If your inbox look like the computer equivalent of a bad hair day, you'll probably welcome some tools to tame mess. This section offers all kinds of hints for organizing and handling your mail, including nifty ways to force your email software to sort everything automatically for you.

8.4.1 Adding New Contacts in Two Seconds

Here's a super-quick way to add new contacts to Outlook and Outlook Express. If you use Outlook, when you receive an email from someone you want in your address book, open the message, right-click the From: or Cc: line, and then choose Add to Contacts. Outlook adds the sender's name and email address to your contacts. In Outlook Express, you don't even have to open the email; in your inbox, just right-click the message and choose Add Sender to Address Book.

Outlook Express Address Book Bloat

Outlook Express has the very bad habit of automatically adding names to your address book. Every time you reply to an email message, the program enters the person's contact information in your address book without telling you.

As a result, your address book can quickly fill up with people you may not ever want to contact again. It also means you can end up with duplicate entries. For example, if someone already in your address book sends you a message from a new or different email address, Outlook Express creates a separate entry for that person.

To stop this behavior, simply choose Tools Options Send, and turn off "Automatically put people I reply to in my address book."

8.4.2 Marking Messages Unread

Outlook and Outlook Express both mark new, unread emails in bold so they stand out from others in your inbox. But when you keep your cursor on a message for several seconds, the bold disappears ‚ even if you haven't actually read the message. As a result, you have no way of telling which messages you've opened, and you can easily forget to go back and read the message as your inbox overflows with new mail.

It's a snap to return a message to its unread state: Right-click it and choose "Mark as unread" from the context menu. Now you won't forget to send your boss the spreadsheet she requested , or bid on that unicycle your friend saw on eBay.

8.4.3 Clearing Clutter

Email conversations can go back and forth for a while , generating a bunch of messages about the same subject scattered all over your inbox. Here's a terrific ‚ and little known ‚ trick for organizing that clutter: threaded conversations. When you thread your messages, Outlook or Outlook Express clumps together all the messages that are part of the same conversation. Figure 8-11 shows you what threading looks like.

Figure 8-11. When you thread your email, related messages appear indented below the first one in that conversation. It takes half a day to get used to this arrangement, and then it's hard to live without.

To thread your messages in Outlook 2003, when you're in your inbox, select ViewCurrent View By Conversation Topic. Thats it; you've just decluttered your inbox.

Note: In Outlook, this setting applies to one folder at a time. If you want to thread the messages in other folders, like Sent or Bar Mitzvah Invitations 2006, you have to repeat the process when you've got that folder open.

In Outlook Express, choose View Current View Group Messages by Conversation. The setting applies to all your folders.

Tip: If you've threaded the messages in a very full folder, and you want to sort by date or sender or attachment so you can find a particular message, it's often easiest to turn off threading when you search, and then turn it back on when you're done. Just follow the menus again to turn it off.

8.4.4 Taking Control of Mail Overload

If you're having a hard time sorting your mail manually, both Outlook and Outlook Express offer help. Although many people don't realize it, you can set these programs to automatically move incoming mail to a specific folder based on who sent the message (say, sort all the messages from people in your Dungeons and Dragons club to one folder), or based on keywords in the text (anything mentioning "dodecahedral dice" goes in the same folder) . They can also sound an alarm when a message from the big cheese in your department drops into your inbox, and they can do other helpful tricks to help you stay on top of your mail.

These actions are called rules , and they simply trigger different responses depending on instructions you've set. They're key to power email management. Creating rules in Outlook

To create a rule in Outlook, choose Tools Rules Wizard; the Rules Wizard appears, as shown in Figure 8-12. Now just follow the wizard's instructions to establish some organizational rules for Outlook to follow.

Figure 8-12. The Rules Wizard lets you automate how Outlook handles your incoming email. Choose the rules you want to apply from the top part of the screen, and click the links near the bottom to finish. You may want to choose a destination folder, for example, after you click the link.

For some people, following the wizard's instructions is a no-brainer. Others find the process time-consuming ‚ and error-prone . You can make the setup process feel less like you're training to become a computer programmer by starting with a message in your inbox that you want to create a rule around. That way, Outlook begins the rule-creation process by giving you some suggestions ‚ many of which can turn out to be spot on.

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Select the message you want to base your rule on .

    Find a message you want Outlook to handle in a particular way, like an email from your mother, whose missives you want to route to the "Mail from Mom" folder.

  2. Right-click the message, and choose Create Rule .

    The screen shown in Figure 8-13 appears. To start with, the rule already contains certain information about the message, such as the sender and its subject. Each of these kernels of information appears next to a blank box. To incorporate these items into your new rule, select the box next to the factors you want (Outlook considers these factors conditions ). Click Next.

    Figure 8-13. One way to create a new rule is to select an existing email message, then choose the parts of the message you want to base the rule on ‚ the sender's address, for example.

  3. Select the action you want Outlook to perform (when it encounters the conditions that you've identified) .

    In the screen that appears, select the action you want Outlook to take ‚ say, transferring every message from a particular sender to a specific folder ‚ and click Next.

  4. Specify any exceptions you want to add to the rule .

    In the following screen, you can create an exception to your rule; in other words, you can say when not to apply the rule. For instance, if the message is marked as having High importance, you may want to leave it in your inbox. Click Next.

  5. Name the rule .

    Now every time mail arrives matching the conditions you've specified, Outlook performs the actions you've chosen .

Note: You can edit or delete a rule you've created by choosing Tools Rules Wizard. To edit a rule, highlight it and choose Modify. To delete a rule, highlight it and choose Delete. Creating rules with Outlook Express

Here's how to create a rule in Outlook Express:

  1. Choose Tools Message Rules Mail .

    The New Mail Rule dialog box appears, as shown in Figure 8-14. If you've already created any rules, Outlook Express displays them in a list, which you can edit. Create a new rule by clicking New.

    Figure 8-14. To create a new rule in Outlook Express, follow the four steps depicted on this screen. When you click an underlined link in step 3, you must fill in specific pieces of data that are required to finish the rule (for example, by identifying which people you want to send a message to).

    Note: You can also create rules by selecting a message as your starting point and, from the Outlook Express menu bar, choosing Message Create Rule from Message. The New Mail Rule Dialog box appears, with information from that message already filled in
  2. In step 1 of the New Mail Rule dialog box, select the conditions you want to trigger the rule .

    Conditions might include certain words in the subject line, or when the email is from a specific person. Note that you can combine several of these conditions. For example, if a message is from your car mechanic and the subject includes the phrase "new transmission needed," shoot it into your Crisis folder.

  3. In step 2 of the dialog box, select the actions you want Outlook Express to take .

    You may ask Outlook Express to move the message to a specific folder, forward it to a particular person, or just delete it. Once again, you have the ability here to combine several actions. For example, you might want to automatically move those mechanic messages to your Crisis folde, and copy them to your Car Repair History folder and highlight them red.

  4. In step 3 of the dialog box, click the blue links for more information about the rule you're creating .

    For example, if you've created a rule that looks for a particular word in the subject line and then moves the message to a specific folder, you would type the keyword Outlook Express should look for, and also choose the folder where you want the email moved to.

  5. In step 4 of the dialog box, type in a name for the new rule and click OK .

    That's it. You're good to go.

Note: Your control over these rules doesn't end after you create them. You can always edit them, delete them, or change the order in which they're applied by choosing Tools Message Rules Mail.
Import and Export Rules in Outlook

If you've got Outlook on more than one computer, or you go out and buy a new machine, you can save yourself the headache of having to recreate rules from scratch. You just need to transfer the rules from one PC to the other.

In Outlook, choose Tools Rules Wizard Options, and click Export Rules. Outlook creates a file that ends with a .rwz extension. Outlook sends the file to your My Documents folder, unless you tell it otherwise . When it's done, copy this file to your other computer and open Outlook. Then select Tools Rules Wizard Options Import Rules, and open the .rwz file. Thats it. Outlook automatically incorporates the mail-sorting rules you've imported. Using this method, you can also share rules with other Outlook users.

8.4.5 Opening Blocked File Attachments

Email- borne viruses are nasty. They can inflict serious harm on your PC and can also use your computer as a jumping-off point to attack other machines. As a service to us all, Microsoft has taken a draconian approach to protecting you from these dangers. If you use Outlook or Outlook Express, your email program may refuse to let you open a wide variety of file attachments, including those ending in .exe, .bat, and many other common file extensions.

Table 8-1 lists some of the files Outlook blocks you from opening (for a full list, check out http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;829982). When you receive a file with one of these extensions, Outlook is courteous enough to show you the message name and inform you that it was blocked.

Note: Depending on the version of Outlook you use, it may not block you from opening any files ‚ or it may block only some of the files in Table 8-1.
Table 8-1. Blocked File Extensions in Outlook


File Type


Windows Media audio or video


Batch file


Microsoft Windows NT command script


Control panel extension


Security certificate


Executable program


Help file


HTML program


Setup information


Jscript file


Jscript encoded script file


Microsoft Windows installer package


Microsoft Windows installer patch


Microsoft Windows installer transform; Microsoft Visual Test source file


Office XP settings


Photo CD image; Microsoft Visual compiled script


Microsoft Outlook profile settings


Registry entries Opening attachments with Outlook

With the right coaxing, Outlook will let you open any type of file attachment with a simple Registry hack. First, quit Outlook if it's running. Then run the Registry Editor (see Section 15.1.2) and go to My Computer HKEY_CURRENT_USER Software Microsoft Office 10.0 Outlook Security. Create a new String Value called Level1Remove. In the Value Data field, type the name of the file extension you want to open, for example, .exe . Separate multiple file extensions with a semicolon, like this: .exe; .bat; .pif . Use Table 8-1 as a guide to decide which blocked file extensions you want access to. (Warning: Be careful about allowing .EXE files through, because they can contain viruses.) Exit the Registry and reboot. You can now open the file extensions you specified.

Tip: Attachment Options is a free Outlook add-in program that lets you open email attachments ‚ without having to edit the Registry. It's available at http://www.slovaktech.com/attachmentoptions.htm. Blocked attachments and Outlook Express

Like its software compadre, Outlook Express also takes a heavy-handed approach by preventing you from opening a wide variety of email file attachments. Those ending in .exe, .bat, and many other common file extensions, are all off-limits.

Note: Depending on the version of Outlook Express you use, it may not block you from opening attachments. But if you've installed Windows XP Service Pack 1, Outlook Express Service Pack 1, or Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1, chances are Outlook Express does, in fact, prevent you from opening certain file attachments. Using a newer version of Windows XP may also limit your ability to open attachments.

With Outlook Express, you can't select which specific types of attachments you want to open; you must tell it to grant you access to all blocked file types, or none at all.

To open blocked attachments, choose Tools Options Security, and uncheck "Do not allow attachments to be saved or opened that could potentially be a virus," as shown in Figure 8-15. (You may have to close Outlook Express and restart it for the new setting to take effect.)

Figure 8-15. When you deselect this box, Outlook Express lets you open any email attachment you receive. If this is how you want to proceed, make sure you always use anti-virus software when opening these attachments ‚ otherwise, you're asking for trouble!

Windows XP Power Hound
Windows XP Power Hound: Teach Yourself New Tricks
ISBN: 0596006195
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 119

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