As Outlook has matured, so has its Junk Mail filter — it’s getting better and better at recognizing what’s good and wanted, and what’s bad and not. You’ll seldom find “good” mail in your Outlook Junk Mail folder, and the filter rarely lets spam email into your inbox. But it’s not perfect and will never be 100 percent right — you still have to check the Junk Mail folder from time to time to make sure the email you wanted to see in your inbox hasn’t been rerouted to Junk Mail.
You can increase the Junk Mail filter’s accuracy by telling Outlook when it’s wrong, and what not to identify as spam. If you take a little time to give Outlook some instructions, it will respond by increasing the accuracy of its spam identification.
When Unwanted Email Lands in Your Inbox
The easiest way to ensure that unwanted email never makes it through to your inbox again is to right-click on the unwanted email in the inbox email list view. Then, when the right-click menu appears:
- Select “Junk Mail” and then “Block Sender” from the fly-out menu.
It’s that simple. You’ll never see messages from that sender in your inbox again.
The email won’t be deleted; Outlook will just immediately route all future email from that sender to the Junk Mail folder. As you continue to instruct Outlook on which emails you want directed to the Junk Mail folder, the less your inbox will be filled with annoying unwanted mail. (Note: This technique works equally well on email from senders you may formerly have wanted to receive but no longer want to be bothered with, as it does on “real” spam.)
When Wanted Email Lands in Your Junk Mail Folder
As above, when you find “good” email in your Junk Mail folder, you can right-click on it in the email list view and choose from the following options:
- Never Block Sender: Emails from the sender will never again be sent to Junk Mail.
- Never Block Sender’s Domain: Emails from anyone at the same domain as the sender will never be sent to Junk Mail. For example, if I sent you an email from firstname.lastname@example.org and you chose this option, every email sent to you from @gmail.com (which is the domain) would be sent to your inbox. Choosing this option will very much depend on the domain of the sender!
- Never Block Newsletter or Mailing List: If you find e-newsletters to which you’ve subscribed rerouting to your Junk Mail folder, this is the option to put a stop to that behavior.
- Not Junk: This choice will move the selected email from Junk Mail back to the inbox, on a one-off basis, but it doesn’t otherwise provide Outlook any instructions for the future. You will be asked if you want to add the sender to the Safe Senders list — your answer depends on who the sender is.
Fine-Tune Outlook’s Junk Mail Options
For further Junk Mail filter enhancements, take a look at the bottom of the right-click menus referred to above and click on “Junk E-mail Options.” From there, click on the “Safe Senders” tab and ensure the following two options are check-marked:
- Also trust email from my Contacts.
- Automatically add people I email to the Safe Senders list (on the theory that if you’re emailing people you want to see emails from them without any danger of those emails being routed to the Junk Mail folder).
If you poke around the Junk E-mail options, you’ll see additional settings. Unless you’re experiencing a ton of misdirected email, my advice would be to leave them be, as the default settings appear to work pretty well. However, if you get a lot of spam in your inbox, or good email in your Junk Mail folder, you may want to tighten up the settings. Have a good read of Outlook’s Help file on Junk Mail settings before making changes. You will also be able to see your existing Safe and Blocked sender lists here, so this is the place to remove a sender from either list.
So go ahead and help Outlook to understand what you do and don’t want to see in your inbox and Junk Mail folder — help Outlook help you!
Vivian Manning is the IT Manager at Burgar Rowe PC in Barrie, Bracebridge and Cookstown, Ontario. Prior to moving into IT, Vivian practiced law at Burgar Rowe, primarily in the area of municipal land development, with a total of 17 years in private practice before switching to the IT end of the law office. She currently indulges her love of teaching tech through her blog Small City Law Firm Tech, where she provides “tips of the day.”