I use Outlook Web Access at work and have set up rules for filtering emails by client email domains into different folders.

Is there a way for me to apply these new rules to messages already in my inbox?

  • I don't have outlook desktop, i have outlook web app.
    – Allan Robertson
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 0:15
  • @Ken I'm approving this for now, but there's some discussion on Meta about merging the two Outlook Web tags anyway.
    – jonsca
    Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 0:46
  • (webapps.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4459/…)
    – jonsca
    Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 0:46

4 Answers 4


Although the Outlook desktop client allows you to run rules against a mailbox (including inbox), not all features work the same in Outlook for Web Access (OWA). Rules is one of them.

As you can see from the screenshot below, the wording says, "When the messages arrives, and". This means your rules only apply to new messages. Existing messages, like those in your inbox, do not qualify for processing. You have to move them manually to each respective folder.

enter image description here

  • 17
    Well that's really annoying. Thank you for your answer :)
    – Allan Robertson
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 9:28
  • Yeah, in OWA you can set e-mails not to select the first e-mail (thus not marking it as read), but you can't do the same in the desktop client. If you use OWA and Outlook, you'll start to see quirks.
    – Sun
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 18:58
  • 7
    Upvote the answer, but downvote the functionality. Boooo OWA! Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 18:11
  • Server side (OWA) rules show up in the Outlook desktop client so you can run them on your Inbox from there.
    – shlgug
    Commented Nov 10, 2018 at 21:41
  • 1
    I just got a rule applied to all messages in the inbox in Outlook on the web (accessed through office.com, which I guess is 'webmail'). I had to try several times, but after about 3 goes, they applied. Maybe this is a new feature? In outlook on the web, I went to rules/manage rules; add new rule; defined the rule (message header includes...', add an action (categorize); stop processing more rules; run now'). The rule ran, and applied the category to all messages (thousands!) that matched the criteria. It took hours to see the full results, not sure exactly how long it ran.
    – Steerpike
    Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 2:03

I was looking for the same functionality, I created a rule and I want to run it to delete around 70,000 messages.

I found really useful the functionality ORGANIZE (Organizza in the screenshot) that run my rule deleting all messages I don't.

I hope it helps

screen shot

  • 6
    This feature is called Sweep in the english version and you can't run custom rules, only these rules: "Delete all messages from the Inbox folder", "Delete all messages from the Inbox folder and any future messages", "Always keep the latest message and delete the rest" and "Always delete messages older than 10 days"
    – Pylinux
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 6:34
  • support.office.com/en-us/article/…
    – Sun
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 17:03

Even though this feature is unavailable I found a way to not get bogged down too much doing it manually.

  1. Perform a search against Inbox that will return all the same emails your rule would catch.
  2. Select the first one.
  3. This is the worst part. Scroll three screen lengths down at a time. Each time, shift-click the checkbox of one of the search results on screen. Then continue scrolling three screen lengths at a time, shift-selecting each time, all the way to the bottom of the results.
  4. Now move all the selected results to your target folder, or whatever you were going to do with them.

(If you try to scroll all the way to the bottom, the shift-click won't work, at least as of now.)

There is a limit (250 threads) to the number of search results you will be shown, so if you exceed that limit you will have to repeat even this procedure several times until your Inbox is clear. However, do not repeat your search immediately. Do something else for a couple of minutes and then come back and do it. Because the emails will be moved/processed in the background, and until that completes, the same search results will be returned, and you will repeat your work. There is nothing in the UI to tell you that this is happening, but when the work completes, the search results will be different.

While Microsoft could just implement the "run rules against inbox" feature that other online email clients have, this procedure is still way better than moving them one at a time or 8 at a time using the "select all (at the top)" button.

  • In outlook 365 which is available now instead of step 3 you can click on the first, scroll a bit, shift-click on the message you see now, scroll a bit again, repeat shift-click etc. In regular application it is equivalent of "click on first then shift-click on last". For OWA this works in a very strange way: you can't select whole range at once but add small portions only. I was able to select at about 20 msgs at once, it's anyway better than selection one-by-one. Yep, it's microsoft.
    – Putnik
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 13:06

Go to https://outlook.office.com/mail/options/mail/rules


  • On the other hand, instead of kvetching about having to provide complete information, you could provide complete information.
    – Dave Land
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 23:20