Clean the junk out of your Outlook Inbox

Power User Corner

By Colin Wilcox

Many readers have asked for tips on how to tidy up their Outlook Inboxes. Find out how to filter out unwanted domain names, empty a full mailbox, and add names and e-mail addresses to your Contacts folder easily.

Applies to
Microsoft Office Outlook® 2003
Microsoft Outlook 2000 and 2002

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The Power User mailbox has a nice, but hidden, feature: It helps me find big issues and get a feel for what frustrates you. And apparently, many of you are frustrated with the volume of e-mail messages and contacts that you have in Microsoft Outlook. This column answers the following questions:

  • How do I add domain names to my Junk Senders list?
  • How do I deal with the "out of limits" error message?
  • Can I add names and e-mail addresses to my Contacts folder easily?

Adding domain names to your Junk Senders list

A lot of you asked: Can I add domain names to my Junk Senders list?

Yes, but you have to be careful. First, let's examine the problem: Junk e-mail senders try to work around your junk e-mail filters by varying the names in the From field each time they send out a mass mailing. For example, you may receive junk e-mail from:

  • sender!

In addition, most junk senders only use a given name once, forcing you to add each version of a name to your Junk Senders list. That makes for long lists and a lot of time spent maintaining them. You can work around the problem by adding the domain name (the text that follows the @ symbol — in this case, to your lists. That way, the junk senders can vary names until they're blue in the face, but you won't see their messages.

Think twice before you do that. Adding a domain to your Junk Senders list blocks everyone on the domain, including possible legitimate users. Here's a rule of thumb:

If a domain name is obviously objectionable or commercial, such as a name with adult content, a name that is always associated with adult content, or the name of a known retailer, add it to your Junk Senders list. Otherwise, use techniques such as Inbox rules to deal with the messages.

To add a domain name to your Junk Senders list

 Important    If you haven't worked with the junk e-mail filter in Outlook, review the article Manage Junk and Adult Content Mail in Outlook 2002 before you start. The article explains how to turn on the filter and lists other proactive steps you can take to stop junk e-mail.

  1. On the Standard toolbar, click Organize The Organize button..
  2. Click Junk E-Mail.
  3. Click the For more options, click here link.
  4. In the second bulleted item, click either Edit Junk Senders or Edit Adult Content Senders, depending on the type of e-mail messages you want to block.
  5. Click Add, type the domain name in the Type the e-mail alias or domain of a sender to be added box, and then click OK twice. Don't type the @ symbol, just the domain name.

Dealing with the 'out of limits' error message

Bob asked: "I get a message that my mailbox is 'out of limits.' I cannot send or receive messages. I'm told that I can change where I store my messages, but I don't understand this very well. Can you help?

Without seeing the actual error message, it sounds like your mailbox is full. The administrators who run your mail servers give your mailbox a set amount of storage space. When you fill it up, generally you can't use your mail service until you free up some space. You can use several techniques to clean out and manage your mailbox:

Manually delete old or unwanted messages

Typically, messages with attachments (such as sound and image files) take up the most space. You can move messages to your Deleted Items folder, or you can delete them permanently:

  1. Sort your messages to find the types of messages that you want to move or delete.
    For example, you can find all messages with attachments by clicking Sort by: Attachment Button image.. You can also use Advanced Find (CTRL+SHIFT+F) to search for messages from a given sender or for messages that contain a common word or phrase.
  2. Select the unwanted messages.
  3. Do one of the following:
    • Press DELETE to move the messages to your Deleted Items folder.
    • Press SHIFT+DELETE to permanently delete the messages.
    • Drag the messages to a folder on your hard drive to move them to the folder.

Automatically archive files to a Personal Folders file (.pst)

This method involves the least amount of labor on your part. By default, Outlook does this for you every three months using a feature called AutoArchive. If you fill your mailbox before then, you can change the AutoArchive interval or start AutoArchive manually. For more information about changing your AutoArchive settings or starting the feature manually, see Help in Outlook.

Set up Inbox rules

You can set up rules that automatically move messages to folders on your hard drive. For more information about setting up rules, see these articles:

Adding e-mail addresses to your Contacts folder

Dan asked: Can I automatically add an e-mail address to my address book or Contacts folder?

A lot of you would like to see such a feature. Most of you suggest having the action take place when you open, close, or receive a message.

Outlook can't do that, and even if it could, I'm not sure I'd want it to. For example, you could end up with a folder full of junk or adult content names and addresses. In other words, such a feature could give you a maintenance migraine.

I think it's safer and easier to just do this:

  • Open the e-mail message, right-click the name in the From field, and then click Add to Contacts on the shortcut menu.

Keep those e-mail messages coming

We look forward to receiving your e-mail messages at We want this to be your column, so send us your comments and favorite handcrafted Office solutions. Remember, we can't feature every solution that we receive, we can't respond to all of your letters, and we are not technical support representatives. However, we may feature your solution or answer your question in an upcoming column.

About the author

Colin Wilcox writes for the Office Help team. In addition to contributing to the Office Power User Corner column, he writes articles and tutorials for Microsoft Data Analyzer.

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Applies to:
Outlook 2003