Spam Filters and Outlook Rules: Friends or Enemies?


Spam Filters and Outlook Rules: Friends or Enemies?

Outlook Rules

If you actively Internet at home and in office and receive dozens of e-mail messages everyday then you almost surely have to use some facilities for automatic sorting of the incoming e-mail. For example, in Microsoft Outlook you can automatically sort incoming messages using Outlook Rules. Although the article is not about the advantages of automatic sorting we have to mention that gives you a number of benefits, at least you save your time and mental health you can always be sure that letters from your wife are in Honey folder while business letters never go to Fun . This article is about something that can actually take plenty of your time and health the mess, which is in one way or another caused by spam.

Spam Filters

Since you actively use e-mail you must receive much spam and since you are not happy about this* you must use some anti-spam software. Spam filters can be divided into two groups server filters and client ones. Server spam filters scan all the e-mail coming to the server and protect you from receiving spam. So the majority of spam doesn't simply reach your mailbox but if the server spam filter deletes an important e-mail then you do not just lose it - you will never know that it came. That is why more people prefer client spam filters. They scan the messages coming to your personal mailbox and direct spam to the special folder that you can always check. In this case junk messages reach your mailbox but they are stored in spam folder do not really bother you.

A Problem?

What can bother you is the conflict between the two nice features mentioned above Outlook Rules and your spam filter. Because of this conflict some of my friends even decided not to use spam filters and deal with the spam manually. The problem is - the spam filter doesn't "know" about Outlook Rules while Outlook Rules don't "know" about the spam filter. Separately these two features are nice and useful but when they work simultaneously you can get the feeling that they are specially designed to make your life harder. For example, you receive a filled questionnaire and Rules direct it to Inquirer but then the spam filter finds word "Sex" in it and an important letter goes to the spam folder. Another situation: the spam filter detects spam messages and directs them to the spam folder but then Outlook Rules sort these messages and send them to your work folders.


What is even more surprising in this conflict is when it happens within one program. Microsoft Outlook 2003 has a built in Junk filter but apparently this filter has absolutely no idea about Outlook Rules. We did some tests sending a hundred of spam letters to the mailbox with Outlook 2003. Spam filter and Outlook Rules were seizing each letter and as a result there were two letters one in Junk message folder and the other in a folder for Outlook Rules. Finally we received about 200 letters. So, this means that a built in spam filter is not a guarantee of faultless simultaneous work because very often different program blocks are designed by different teams and may be in different parts of the world.


How to avoid the conflict between the features and have sorted mail without spam? We see the following two ways:

  • You can set the server spam filter to add the word "spam" to the subject field of a detected spam message instead of deleting it. Next step is to add a new Outlook Rule that directs messages with such a subject to the spam folder. Choosing the priority of the rule you can decide if you want it executed before or after other rules.
  • You can install a client spam filter where you can organize the interaction between spam filtering and Outlook Rules. Fortunately there are some new spam filters with such a feature. For example, Outlook Spam Filter has full support of Outlook Rules and you can try to use it.
* - If you are happy receiving spam then, please, drop me a line because I like to meat extraordinary people :)

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About the Author: Kate Romanova, Support Manager at LuxContinent.
Outlook AntiSpam

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