Outlook email Rule: How to automatically file sent mails

Would you like Microsoft Outlook to automatically file emails you send into your chosen folders?
Our reputational and commercial risk is recorded more in our ‘sent’ emails than in our received mails. Many people have elaborate Outlook folder structures to file received emails, yet they pile their sent mails in their ‘Sent’ folder. The following automatic filing approach works well if you want to live with a Zero Inbox.

It does not matter whether you are an email ‘Piler’ or ‘Filer’, the principle is that – unless you are relying 100% on search technology to access relevant emails and see them in their correct context – you need to see your ‘Sent’ mails along with received mails.

Creating separate Outlook Rules to divert specific sent mails into specific folders is just too impractical. We therefore need a general rule and a simple process-step to achieve our desired result of seeing ALL emails on a specific subject area together.   

First, create the appropriate Outlook rule:

  1. Click on Tools in the top toolbar and select ‘Options’
  2. In the ‘Preferences’ tab click ‘Email Options’ and then click ‘Advanced Email options’
  3. In this pop-up, click the middle option in the ‘Save messages’ area ‘In folders other than inbox save replies with original message’
  4. Click OK 3 times to exit.


Now, make a simple email management process change:

Simply file the email BEFORE you action your Do, Date or Delegate decision – then go to the mail in your selected folder and reply or forward from there. Your sent mail will now be filed in that folder. You can then action any other control processes on those mails without moving away from the folder. If you were going to file the received email anyway, there is zero additional overhead in adopting this process.

What do you think? I’m curious to know. By the way, my thanks goes to Jon Scragg at EMC for raising this during one of our recent training programmes.

Of course, you can always contact us directly to tailor a support programme to your needs.


  1. Richard Maybury October 22, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Hi Oliver, as you say. what you are doing there will reap rewards as you move forward. There is a great comfort knowing that when we go to a mission critical folder we can see ALL relevant correspondence in that one view.
    The fact that you are able to create your own separate pst folders is a bonus. Many corporate clients are now restricting the individual’s opportunities to create additional pst files.

  2. Oliver Harrison October 22, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Dear Richard,

    Restricted Inbox

    I have just read this note and started putting the technique into practice. Reading some of the correspondence has also been en-lightening as I have been struggling with emails that are difficult to match with my Mission focused folders.

    My plan now is to remove as much of the mail from my ‘sent items’ and also monitor the size of this folder – most of it should be deletable.

    My mission critical folders are under a second pst file that I can use for archives.

    All in all this should mean I eventually end-up with none of the space taken up in my Outlook Mailbox – a useful thing in the FCO where they only give us a few MG to work with, especially as large emails frequently get bounced back to sender before I get the chance to filder them for importance.



  3. Andy October 19, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    No problem Richard! Keep up the great posts!

    MSFT Office Outreach Team

  4. Richard Maybury October 14, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Hi Manfred, it is great hearing from you – A zero inbox after 3 years since the training – a testament to your application of our processes – Congratulations!

    The way I avoid any problem with the inclusion of this process-step is to only move critical emails into the relevant folder before I reply. The non-critical mails that I respond to are deleted – as are my replies. This means that my folders only have mission critical mails stored in them and none of the polite / nice to have / low critical value-add mails.

    I still value my non critical mails – and it is important to exchange pleasantries and politeness and acknowledgements from time to time BUT these never make it to my folders.

  5. Manfred October 14, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Hi Richard,

    excellent tip and I can tell you folks it works quite well! I’m doing this for a long time now and it’s really a great help.
    Still I find messages in my Sent Items folder. My Inbox is always empty (remember :-)), because usually I sort out everything 3 times a day before I work on it. Either I read and file/delete a message, or I put it into another folder called “ToDo Today” and I work on it after I checked all new stuff.
    That works just fine. But then there are times when I realize that a very quick reply would be good so I do it and you know, the message goes to the wrong folder. I know, I should move the original message to another folder, then reply and then go back to the Inbox, but this appears too disruptive to me.
    Usually these messages are not very important, but sometimes, well, I’d like to save it along with every other communication on this topic. To do so I would have to file all items from the Send Folder regularly, but this also does not work out well. Therefore I decided to move all (remaining) items from my Send folder to the Send folder of my .pst (offline) file, which keeps my Mailbox small but I still will be able to find a message when I need to.


  6. Richard Maybury October 12, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Hi Andy, thanks for your comments. The 2007 To-Do feature is very good. It still needs some customisation, though, to accommodate our proven workload management processes. The really GREAT news, though, is that one does not have to buy third-party add-ons to be a workload management ninja. Outlook, out of the box, allied to our proven behaviours and processes is a wining formula!

  7. Andy October 12, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Great tip! Customization is one of Outlook’s best attributes. If you liked this tip you should check out this tutorial on customizing your To-Do bar in Outlook: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook/HA102134711033.aspx

    And for more Office tips and tricks head to http://www.facebook.com/office

    MSFT Office Outreach Team

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