How-to: Rid your inbox of spam – almost (Outlook)

Difficulty: 2

PieChartSpam plagues our Inbox each day. Emails advertising Rolex watches, penis enlargements, viagra and emails from Nigeria offering me vast amounts of money for doing nothing, are all very annoying, but we are able to get rid of most of them automatically.

Email servers often have spam protection built in. These cull the majority of spam, but they have to allow a fair chunk of spam through so as to not restrict legitimate emails. Sometimes if they are unsure, they may add a spam tag to the subject. It is scary looking at server stats, just how much is stopped at the server level.

In our email client we are able to setup rules to remove the majority of remaining spam from our Inbox. I regularly find myself doing this on computers where I work and have found this method to be very reliable.

This article will show you how to setup basic email rules which will check mail as it is received. The rules will look for keywords in the body and the subject of you emails to decide if they are spam or not. We are then able to move these filtered emails to a folder of our choice.

It is worth noting that you will still be receiving the same spam as you always have. What this article will help you achieve is automatic removal of it from your Inbox. There is no perfect solution to your spam problems, but this one comes pretty close. It is still necessary to look in junk email every now and again to see what has been wrongly tagged.

We have to be careful when we make our rules to keep legitimate email in our Inbox. We will also need to check our spam folder every so often to ensure legitimate email has not gone into it. On a good note though, we can keep tweaking the same rule to best suit our needs.


Outlook and many other email packages come with rules or filters that we can use to manage our email. With these rules we can check mail as it is received and automatically send the email to particular folders or send auto replies. These are normally things that we would do manually, but once rules are set, they can be our personal secretary.

I will be using Outlook 2003 in this article. To setup rules in Outlook 2007, the configuration is very similar.


Tools rules

In Outlook:

Click “Tools”

Click “Rules and Alerts”



RulesalertsYou will be presented with a new screen showing you what rules you already have.

Click “New Rule…”




I like to start with a blank rule. This lets me configure every aspect of the rule to suit my needs.

Setup a new rule to “Apply this rule after the message arrives, with specific words in the subject or body.

RuleWork your way through the wizard, keeping in mind the following points…

  • If you click on “specific words”, you then get to enter in words that are normally associated with spam.
  • Words like viagra, sex, Rolex, Nigeria, penis and possibly a few swear words should be in this list. It’s a good day to have tourettes.
  • You want to be careful to choose the right words though because you may get rid of legitimate mail if you use incorrect words. Words like enlargement may stop legitimate email. Your friends might also send you emails with the odd naughty word.
  • I like to add the word spam to my list. Be aware that some emails may legitimately say spam in them. You may want to create a new rule where the word spam only registers if it is in the subject, instead of both the subject and the body.
  • You can have as many rules as you want. 

Click “Next”

Tell Outlook to move these flagged messages to a specified folder, in my case, Junk Email.

That is the end of the basics, but we can customise out rule a little further if you would like. Click “Finish” if you would like to end here, otherwise read on.

Click “Next”

Select “Except if from people or distribution list.” In here you can select your whole address book. This will make the rule void if the message is sent from somebody you know. This is a worthwhile step as you will still receive all the email from recognised contacts.

When you are done, click “Finish”

Please note that you may get into trouble by adding in too many variables. For example, if you create the one rule to filter messages with “spam” in the subject and “viagra” in the body, the rule will need to find both of these to be marked as junk. In this situation, it is best to make two rules. One for the emails body, and another for the emails subject.

You have a lot more options as to how you configure this. If you follow the last step, you can probably feel more free to add more keywords above. This will require a bit of tweaking. If you do get legitimate email in your spam folder, you can figure out why it was sent to this folder and change the rule to suit. If you get spam in your Inbox, you can add words to the rule so that they too will be flagged as spam.

You are able to run the rule immediately to clear out your current Inbox of spam. You also have control of turning the rule on and off. Either way, you should have greatly reduced your spam intake for all future emails.

Rules can be transferred from computer to computer, but they are so easy to make, you may as well start from scratch.


You should now have much less spam in your Inbox. You can keep tweaking your new rule to work better for you over coming weeks. This method has never failed me and it is one of the first things I set up when I install Outlook.

Rules can also be a really fast way to tidy up an over cluttered Inbox. If you have 300 messages, the spam rule above and a few other rules specific to people or distribution lists, can really help you work through huge chunks of email quickly.

I hope you have enjoyed this article. Please stick around and check out some other articles at Inspect My Gadget.

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