How to Export and Import Rules in Outlook

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If you’ve been using Outlook for any significant amount of time, you probably have a few rules set up to help you manage your tidal wave of email. If you have a new computer, or you’re reinstalling Windows, you don’t need to set them all up again–just export them.

A Rule in Outlook is a series of steps you set up automatically take specific actions on email messages as they are received. For example, you can automatically display a notification when you receive important emails, move similar emails into a specific folder, or flag a message for follow up at a specific time.

Thankfully, Outlook has a way to back up these rules. This is useful if you have to reinstall Windows, set up Outlook on a new computer, or share your rules with other people.

How to Export Your Outlook Rules

To begin, make sure the “Home” tab is active. In the “Move” section, click “Rules” and select “Manage Rules & Alerts” from the drop-down menu.

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NOTE: You can also access the rules and alerts by clicking the “File” tab and then clicking the “Manage Rules & Alerts” button on the “Account Information” screen.

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The “Rules and Alerts” dialog box displays. On the “E-mail Rules” tab, click “Options” on the toolbar above the list of rules you’ve created.

NOTE: All the rules listed here will be backed up, not just selected rules.

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On the “Options” dialog box, click “Export Rules”.

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The “Save Exported Rules as” dialog box displays. Navigate to the folder in which you want to save your rules backup file. Enter a name for your backup file in the “File name” edit box. The “Rules Wizard rules (*.rwz)” type is selected by default in the “Save as type” drop-down list and the .rwz extension is automatically added to the file. If you’re sharing your rules with other people using the same version of Outlook as you, click “Save”. If you’re sharing your rules file with someone using an older version of Outlook, you’ll need to select a different type of rules file before you save the file, as discussed below.

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In addition to the rules file format for the current version of Outlook, the “Save as type” drop-down list provides three additional formats for the rules file, for people who are still using Outlook 2002, 2000, or 98. Select one of those options as needed, and then click “OK” to save the rules file.

NOTE: If you’re sharing your rules with multiple people using different older versions of Outlook, select the earliest version, because older rules files can always be opened in newer versions of Outlook.

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Once you’ve exported your rules file, click “OK” on both the “Options” and “Rules and Alerts” dialog boxes to return to the main Mail screen (or the “Account Information” screen, depending on where you started).

Now you can back up the resulting .rwz file to any external or network drive or share it with other people.

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How to Import Your Outlook Rules

Now, say you’ve set up your new computer, installed Office, imported the Outlook data file you backed up (rules are not saved in Outlook data files) from your old computer, and you’re ready to check email. Let’s import those rules you created and backed up, so Outlook can automatically take action on email as it comes in. Open the “Rules and Alerts” dialog box in one of the two ways we discussed earlier. Note that the list of rules is empty. To fix that and import your rules, click “Options”.

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On the “Options” dialog box, click “Import Rules”.

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The “Import Rules from” dialog box displays. Navigate to the folder in which you saved your rules backup file, select the .rwz file, and then click “Open”.

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You’ll notice that the list of rules on the “Rules and Alerts” dialog box, behind the still-open “Options” dialog box, fills up with your custom rules. Click “OK” on the “Options” dialog box to close it and return to the “Rules and Alerts” dialog box.

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If you checked email before importing your rules, you can run your rules now on the email you’ve already received. To do this, click “Run Rules Now” on the toolbar above the list of rules on the “Rules and Alerts” dialog box.

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On the “Run Rules Now” dialog box, select the rules you want to run and click “Run Now”. Once the rules have run, click “Close” and then click “OK” on the “Rules and Alerts” dialog box to close it. Now, your rules will run automatically, checking the emails you receive and performing the actions you specified, all behind the scenes.

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NOTE: Some rules may not work on other computers if there are specific folders, people, etc. used in the rules created on the original computer, but are not available on the other computers.

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