IT HELP: Microsoft 365 Outlook Web Access - Creating Rules

November 01, 2021

With Microsoft Exchange now in the Cloud as Microsoft 365, the question becomes should I manage rules and junk mail through my desktop or through the web using Outlook Web Access (OWA)?  The answer isn't as easy as it may seem.  If one leaves their Outlook running all the time on their desktop, then many of the rules created there will catch and do what you would expect.  However, in many cases, it may be more desirable to sign into OWA and create the rules there.  This is the age-old question of server-side versus client-side processing.  If you want your mobile experience to be the same as your desktop, then server-side rules are the way to go.

Below, this article will show a step-by-step process of creating server-side rules to manage your inbox.  Again, the benefit to server-side rules are that they process in the cloud and affect not just your desktop Outlook but your mobile email client as well.  Without further ado, here we go...

Step 1

Sign into your Microsoft 365 account by visiting  For most, use our @("@") account.


Step 2

In your Inbox, right-click on an email you would like to create a rule for.  A menu will pop up. Click on Advanced Actions and then Create Rule.


Step 3

Open the Advanced Rules window by clicking on More options.


Step 4

Click in the first text box and give the Rule a name you can recognize.  Microsoft auto-generates one that usually doesn't work.  Then click on the drop-down found under Add a condition and choose a condition/filter that will consistently identify incoming mail so that the rule will process it correctly.  Using a subject line excerpt, like in this example, works great for groups that you may be a part of like Basecamp.  Where you just want to file it for later and unclutter that actionable inbox!


Step 5

Enter the unique data that will target incoming emails.  In this example, the subject always has "Blah Blah" in it.  Again, some groups have subjects with [ group name ] for example.  So enter that here.


Step 6

Now that the email has been identified in your inbox, an action should be chosen.  There is a vast number of options here.  Personally, I like to move those unactionable emails off to a folder and out of my inbox to view later.  By clicking the Select an action drop-down, chose the action you would like to apply.  In this case, the email needs to be moved out of the inbox, so Move to is selected.

Choose the folder to move the email message to.



You may want to apply additional actions to the email message. 

In this optional step, marking the email message as read so that the folder doesn't show a number is chosen.


Step 7

Save the Rule! Click the blue Save button to close the rule editing dialog and return to the Rules list.

Final Step

Check your work.  At the Rules window, click on the Play button to run the rule in your inbox now and click the X to close the Settings window.  If the rule is written correctly, the email message is identified by the rule and the actions you selected are applied.  In this example, the email message is moved from the inbox and marked as read.

Did the rule process the email message as intended?  Great! No? Reopen the Settings window by clicking the Gear icon in the upper-right of the window and click on Rules. Use the Pencil icon to go back into your rule and edit the rule conditions or actions to suit the outcome that you want.  To delete the rule, click on the Trash can.  To disable a rule temporarily, click on the blue toggle button to the left of the rule name to disable the rule.


These rules work on the server-side.  No matter how you check your email: desktop Outlook, on the web or on your mobile device, these rules will be applied across the board and not just the device you are using.

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