How-to: Customise your incoming alert sound for each email.

Difficulty: 2

Outlook_2007Many mobile phones have allowed us to change the ring tone, depending on who is calling us. This can be helpful as we no longer need to get our phone out to see who it is. The ring tone will audibly tell us. Why not create the same custom tones for our incoming email?

Email consumes us each day. We often check our email whenever a new message comes in, only to find out it is spam or non urgent. Setting up your email with audible alerts depending on urgency, subject and sender is another way to streamline your email usage.

Setting this up will allow you (with a little self control), leave all your non urgent email for a certain time of the day, and remain focused on your work. You will know when an urgent email has been received, as you will be familiar with the alert. We do all this by using simple email rules.

This is just as useful if you are someone who does not check their email regularly, but would like to be alerted when an important message has come in.

This article is written for Office 2007 running on Vista. This works in both Outlook 2003 and 2007 and the setup is very similar for both. Read on. 

If you want to transfer your rules between multiple computers, it is worth creating a folder to store your sound files in which you can easily copy over to the other computers. This should not be necessary if you are using Windows inbuilt sounds, but there are not many of these to choose from.

The Method:

There are a number of different criteria we can use to bring on the desired sound. We can set it to play a particular sound when you get a message from a particular person or group of people. This is what we will cover now, and then we will move into some more complicated rules.


To get things going, go into your tools menu and select Rules and Alerts…





NewruleSelect “New Rule”




RuleswizardThe rules wizard will show up. In here we want to select “Play a sound when I get messages from someone”.

At the bottom of this window, you will now see the new rule. You just need to fill in the people and select a sound.

For example: If you click on the “people or distribution list” link, your contacts will open up. You can select 1 or many of them(by holding down ctrl) and then choose which sound you want to be associated with those people.

This is now setup so that if you receive an email from anyone in the list you just created, a particular sound will play.

That is all that this article set out to do but as I was writing I thought of many more uses for this, so we will look at a couple of them.

Advanced method:

If you want to play a particular sound when an important email comes in, we can set up a rule based on importance. In the Rules Wizard, you have the option to create new blank rules. These let you fully customise the rule to suite your needs.

Click “Check messages when they arrive”

ImportancerulePress “Next”

Tick “marked as importance”

Click “Next”

Change the “importance” to “High importance”

Now you have setup a new rule what will play a particular sound when a message of high importance comes in.

Advanced Method 2:

You can use the same method as above to play certain alerts depending on the subject of the post. For example, if you get email from ebay, some of it will be an alarm to say your item is about to go off, and others are just for confirmation. i.e. non urgent.

Setting this up based on subject will mean that your computer will play a sound depending on words in the subject or the body of the email. You can know what the email is without even looking at it.

Distraction free method:

Outlook will play a sound each time a new email arrives by default. We should turn off all sounds that are not already set up in a rule, so that you have silence unless an important email comes in, based on your rules.

To do this, click on “Tools” and then “Options”.

Open “Email Options”

Open “Advanced E-mail options”

Untick “Play a sound”

It is probably worth unticking “Show an envelope icon in the notification area” as having that will defy the point of doing this in the first place. Unfortunately you can’t set this to show up in “Rules” but you can create a popup for extra important emails.

Transferring your rules:

If you use multiple computers, it is easy to transfer your new rules from one computer to another.

In the “Rules and Alerts” window, click on “Options”

Select “Export”

Select the rules you want to export and save them to a file.

On the second computer, import them from the same place. You may have some troubles switching between versions of Outlook for some rules, but all the rules we have covered in this article will transfer across without any problems.


Rules are very powerful and allow you to do many things. This article only touches the surface, being just one example of what rules can do for you.

I hope you have found this article helpful. Keep checking back to Inspect My Gadget for more Outlook tips and tricks.

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6 comments so far »

  1. Sharon Olson said, on March 24, 2008 @ 1:06 pm

    Under Tools, there is no “Rules” or “Options”. Now What?

  2. Chris Duckworth said, on March 24, 2008 @ 3:01 pm

    The tools menu is different if you have a message open. Make sure you open the tools of Outlooks main Window

  3. Sue-z said, on November 16, 2010 @ 5:47 am

    I am unable to find a way to alert me when new emails come in. I don’t have Rules and Alerts on my tools. Can you help me?
    Thank you,

  4. Eva Dimasi said, on June 17, 2011 @ 10:51 am

    I found this information useful and it worked.

  5. Riverboy said, on January 11, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

    Instructions were far too complicated. I got about halfway through, and became “lost”. i was unable to get the “Rules” part to do what I wanted, that is, to apply all incoming emails to this “rule”. This would only show names from my address book.

  6. Chris Duckworth said, on January 19, 2012 @ 5:44 pm

    This article is meant to give you options to have sound sample for one person and another sound sample for another. To do what you want to do, go into control panel and sounds. You can change the incoming mail notification tone which will occur for each email.

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