Color-Coding Messages and Setting the Rules

Keep your e-mail server squeaky clean with a little imagination and administration techniques.

By Brien M. Posey | Posted Oct 7, 2000
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In part 1 of this article series, Taming your Exchange Databases , I explain how you can reduce the load on your Exchange server while increasing its reliability by automatically moving all inbound messages into personal folders. Although this technique will save space on your Exchange server, your personal folder server will quickly fill up as messages accumulate. After all, any one who's ever managed an e-mail server knows that users have a bad habit of not deleting old messages.

However, users' keeping old e-mail messages is only part of the problem. Some people are just constantly bombarded by a flow of e- mail. This can cause other problems besides filling up the personal folder server. Often, important messages are overlooked because they blend in with the dozens of unimportant messages. Fortunately, there is a way to counteract these two problems. In this article, I'll explain several techniques you can use to reduce personal folder size and prioritize important messages.

What Color Are Your Priorities?

To get started, let's look at the situation in which a user receives so many messages that the important ones blend right in with the unimportant ones. I personally consider this to be an even bigger issue than the personal folder server filling up. For example, in my own lab, all my servers are set to send me an e-mail message if a problem occurs. I consider a server alert to be top priority. In the past, it has caused real problems when a server alert has gone unnoticed because it blends in with junk mail. Sure, you can flag the message as urgent, but half the people who send you junk mail also flag their messages as urgent--the urgent flag has lost its meaning.

To solve this problem, I prioritize my e-mail. My highest priority is server alerts, followed by e-mail from certain people such as the EarthWeb staff, and then messages from friends. I then color-code inbound messages based on the sender. For example, server alerts are listed in red, messages from important business contacts are in yellow, and messages from certain friends are in green. Everything else in my inbox is in the standard black (except for some junk mail, but we'll talk about that later). I can instantly look at my inbox and see if there's something that needs my immediate attention.

To set up color coding, open Outlook 2000 and select a message from a sender that you want to color code. Next, select the Tools|Organize command. When you do, a Ways To Organize Inbox window will open that contains many different organization options. One of them colors messages from the sender in the color of your choice. Just pick a color, click the Apply Color button, and you're in business.

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