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A brief tutorial on the use of Outlook 2000's automated organization tools AutoArchive
and the Rules Wizard. You should read Using Outlook first. This page is based on a
Microsoft Knowledge Base article.

Archiving Outlook Folders

Your Outlook mailbox grows as items are created, in the same way that papers pile up on your desk. In the paper-based world, you can occasionally shuffle through your documents and store those that are important but not frequently used. Documents that are less important, such as newspapers and magazines, you can discard based on their age.

You can quickly complete the same process in Outlook. You can manually transfer old items to a storage file by clicking "Archive" on the "File" menu, or you can have old items automatically transferred by using AutoArchive. Items are considered old when they reach the age you specify. With AutoArchive, you can either delete or move old items.

AutoArchive is a two-step process. First, you turn on AutoArchive. Second, you set the AutoArchive properties for each folder that you want archived. At the folder level, you can determine which items are archived, and how often they are archived. You can automatically archive individual folders, groups of folders, or all Outlook folders. The process runs automatically whenever you start Outlook. The AutoArchive properties of each folder are checked by date, and old items are moved to your archive file. Items in the Deleted Items folder are deleted.

Several Outlook folders are set up with AutoArchive turned on. These folders and their default aging periods are Calendar (6 months), Tasks (6 months), Journal (6 months), Sent Items (2 months), and Deleted Items (2 months). The Inbox, Notes, Contacts, and Drafts folders do not have AutoArchive activated automatically. The Contacts folder cannot be set to AutoArchive and does not have an archive property.

Manually Archive Items

You can manually transfer old items by clicking "Archive" on Outlook's "File" menu. Select the "Archive This Folder..." checkbox and then select the folders that you want saved. Enter the age of the items that you want removed to the archive in the next box, and then specify a location and a filename for the archive. The default location for the archive is in the local computer's copy of your profile. Don't use this; it's hard to find and doesn't get backed up. You should store this archive on your "O:" drive with an easy-to-remember name. If you have your own computer or are configuring this at home, then save the archive file to your local hard drive. Clicking "OK" will launch the archiving process.

To Turn On AutoArchive

Rather than manually archiving, it may be more convenient to have old items automatically archived. To configure AutoArchiving, go to the Outlook "Tools" menu, click "Options" and then click the "Other" tab.

Click the "AutoArchive" button.

Select the "AutoArchive Every n Days" check box, and then specify how often the AutoArchive process will run by typing a number in the days box. The default value is to archive every two weeks.

Click to select the "Prompt Before AutoArchive" check box if you want to be notified before the items are archived.

In the "Default Archive File" box, type a file name for the archived items to be transferred to, or click "Browse" to select from a list. As discussed above, you should store this archive on your "O:" drive with an easy-to-remember name. If you have your own computer or are configuring this at home, then save the archive file to your local hard drive.

Click OK twice to close Options.

Set AutoArchive Properties

Now that you have turned on AutoArchive, you must set AutoArchive properties for each folder that you want backed up.

In the Folder List, right-click the folder that you want to AutoArchive and then click Properties on the shortcut menu.

Click the AutoArchive tab.

To set AutoArchive for this folder, click to select "Clean Out Items Older Than" and then enter the age of items you want removed to the archive.

To specify the file name for the archived items to be transferred to, click "Move Old Items To" and enter the file name. This should be the location on the "O:" drive or on your own PC's hard disk that you specified above (unless you want to save the folder to a separate, unique filename for some reason).

Then click OK to exit the window.

Recover Archived Items

To read items archived using AutoArchive go to the "File" | "Open" | "Personal Folders File (.pst)" menu item. Browse to the location of the file (you gave it a memorable name, right?), select it and click "OK". The entire set of archived folders will be merged into your Outlook folder tree under a new heading. You can now browse to the item that you want to retrieve.

After you have finished working with your archive file, you can close it and remove it from the folder tree by right-clicking the icon for the archive file, then choose "Close" from the popup menu.

Special Notes

Note that, if you copy an archived Personal Folders .pst file to a CD, you will not be able to read it. Outlook requires write access to open a .pst file. Even archives must be stored on a medium that you can write to.

Don't use the "Import and Export" command on the "File" menu to retrieve an archive. That permanently restores the archived items back into the folder tree, which defeats the purpose of the archive. "Import" should be used only to add new items; "Export" is used to save Oulook items in formats easy for other programs to read.

The Rules Wizard

For the ultimate in Outlook e-mail automation, learn to use the Rules Wizard. This Wizard allows you to create sets of sophisticated rules that filter and manipulate your e-mail. You can filter messages to delete spam, for example, or you might automatically make copies of incoming mail messages and store them into folders named for the sender. We'll use the latter as an illustration.

To use the Rules Wizard, go to the Outlook "Tools" menu and select "Rules Wizard". The Rules Wizard window is divided into three areas: a listing of the existing rules, a window showing the details of the currently selected rule, and a set of buttons.

To create a new rule, click the "New" button. Another window appears to walk you through the rule-generation process. The first step is to identify the kind of message or event that you want to take action on. For example, to filter incoming e-mail messages, select "Check messages when they arrive". (Note that you can also check messages that you send, or take actions on a number of variations of these. You should look over the full set of options presented in each step of rule-making to get an idea of the richness and power of the Wizard.) Click "Next" to move on to the next step.

Now we test the arriving message to identify it and to decide what the Wizard should do with it. If you want to save messages from a particular person, for example, check "From people or distribution list". This condition is added to the rule, visible in the "Rule Description" window. Click on the highlighted phrase "people or distribution list". Your address book will pop open and you can select the person whose e-mail you want to watch for. Click "OK" to exit the address book; the rule should now show the address you selected.

Click "Next" to specify what to do with the message. For our example, check "Move a copy to the specified folder". Click the highlighted phrase "specified" in the rule, and a browse list of Outlook folders appears. Select the folder that you want to save to (or use the "New" button to create a new folder) and click "OK". The folder name now appears in the rule. Click "Next" again.

You can now specify exceptions to the rule. If this correspondent tends to forward bad jokes, for example, you might want to choose "except if the subject contains certain words" and enter the word "joke". Messages from this person with "joke" in the subject would now not be saved. Exceptions are usually exceptional, so usually you can just skip over this step.

Click "Next" one last time, and enter a name for your new rule. Check the box that turns on the rule, and the box that will run it on any messages currently in your Inbox (if you want to). Your rule is now complete and you can click "Finish". You'll come back to the original Rules Wizard window, where you can continue creating rules or exit by clicking "OK".

Special Notes

When you create a rule, you designate whether to apply it when messages arrive in the Inbox, or when you send messages. The rules are applied in the order in which they appear in the "Apply rules in the following order" list in the main Rules Wizard window. You can move rules up or down in the list by clicking to select a rule, and then clicking "Move Up", or "Move Down".

With our Microsoft Exchange Server, the rules are stored on both your computer and the server. If a rule can be completed on the server, it will run even if Outlook is not running on your computer. However, if it requires client-based activity, like moving a message to a folder in a Personal Folders file, the rule is applied when you start Outlook.

Outlook tries to update all rules on the server. Rules that cannot be updated are marked "client only" after their name. If your list contains rules that have been updated on the server and rules that have not, the rules on the server are applied first, and then the client-only rules.

The server is limited to handling Rules files under 32 kB, or around 50 rules. If you have more rules than that, you will have to store them on the client (your local PC). When you edit the rules you will be asked if you want to use the client or server set, and you'll want to specify "client".

Last updated on Tuesday, 14-Jul-2009