ITS Documentation

Using Server-Side Filters to Manage/Organize Your E-Mail (Including Accept and Block Lists)

S4325 • May 2008

NOTE: A May 2008 upgrade to web mail provided some enhancements, cosmetic changes, bug fixes, and a couple of new features. See May 2008 Changes to Web Mail for more detail. The screen shots in this document were made prior to that upgrade, so you may notice some minor differences between them and what you see on your screen.


You can create server-side mail filters to sort your incoming mail into folders on the mail server. These filters work when the mail is delivered, so they will work on your mail no matter which IMAP e-mail program you use.

Table of Contents


Why Use Server-Side Mail Filters

The advantage of server-side filters, as compared to filters that you set up inside your e-mail program, is that they work on the mail server when your mail is delivered—before you access your mail. That's especially helpful if you use multiple programs to access your mail. The filters work, no matter which IMAP program you use to access your mail. (POP mail programs are the exception to this. POP programs download mail from the INBOX only and cannot access other folders stored on the mail servers.)

Here are some uses of server-side filters:

  • Use the accept list to ensure that mail from people you specify goes to your INBOX and not your SpamBox, Junk, or other spam folder.

  • Move newsletters and other routine mail to a separate folder where you can read them at your leisure and not have them clutter your INBOX.

Where Server-Side Mail Filters Work

Server-side filters work on mail as it comes in to your mailbox on the ITS mail servers. When you access your mail, no matter what IMAP program you use, the filtering has already been done for you.

Diagram showing that server-side filters work on the mail server when mail is delivered to your mailbox.

A Note to web.mail.umich.edu Users

You can get to the server-side filters tool from within web.mail.umich.edu.

  • In the web.mail.umich.edu icon bar, click the Options icon.

  • Under the Other Options heading, click Filters.

Using Your Accept List

Put the addresses of people from whom you always want to receive mail on your Accept List. If an incoming message is from someone on your Accept List, that message is put directly into your INBOX before SpamBox or any other content filter can act on it.

  1. Go to the Server-Side Filters tool and log in with your uniqname and UMICH Kerberos password.

  2. On the Existing Rules page, click Accept List.

    Screen shot of the Accept List link.

  3. On the Accept List page, list the addresses from which you always want to accept mail, then click Save.

    Screen shot of an address on the accept list.

Using Your Block List

You can put up to 25 addresses from which you never want to receive mail on your Block List. If an incoming message is from someone on your Block List, that message is either moved to a folder or deleted, depending on what you specify.

Note that the Block List is not an effective spam management tool. We recommend you use SpamBox instead for spam management. See Using SpamBox for E-Mail Spam Filtering (S4314).

  1. Go to the Server-Side Filters tool and log in with your uniqname and UMICH Kerberos password.

  2. On the Existing Rules page, click Block List.

    Screen shot of Block List link.

  3. On the Block List page, set how you want your block list to work. You have two options:

    • Have blocked mail deleted. We recommend against this, especially if you have not yet tested your block list. Once mail is deleted, it cannot be retrieved.

    • Have blocked mail moved to a designated folder. We recommend this option, at least at first. It allows you to check that your block list filter is really doing what you want it to do without your losing any mail. Once you are sure the block list is truly blocking mail that you do not want to receive, you can change the setting so that the mail is automatically deleted if that is what you want.

      Screen shot of block list set to move messages to a folder.

    Note that the setting is for all the addresses on your block list. You cannot have mail from some blocked addresses deleted and mail from other blocked addresses moved to a folder; mail from all addresses on your block list is handled the same way.

  4. List the addresses that you don't want to receive mail from, then click Save.

    Screen shot of address on a block list.

Creating a Filter

In this example, a filter rule is being created to look for Alertbox newsletters and put them in a folder called newslettersforlater. You will make different selections depending on what you want your filter rule to do.

  1. Go to the Server-Side Filters tool (http://filters.mail.umich.edu/) and log in with your uniqname and UMICH Kerberos password.

  2. Click the New Rule button.

    Screen shot of New Rule button

  3. In the Rule Name box, type a name for your rule.

    From the Select a field pop-up menu, select the part of the message that you want your filter rule to look for. (In this example, the rule is looking for newsletters that all have the same word in the Subject line, so Subject is selected.)

    Screen shot of selecting 'Subject' from the 'Select a field' menu.

  4. Add the text that you want your filter rule to look for. In this example, the filter rule will look for messages that contain the text "Alertbox" in the message's Subject line.

    Screen shot of filter rule example with search text added.

  5. From the Do this menu, select the action you want your filter rule to take when it finds a message that matches the criteria you specified. In this example, we want the message moved to a specific folder, so Deliver to folder is selected.

    Screen shot of selecting an action from the 'Do this' menu.

  6. Because Deliver to folder was selected, a Select target folder pop-up menu appears. For this example, newslettersforlater is selected.

    Screen shot of selecting the target folder.

  7. Click Save.

  8. Your new rule is added to the bottom of your list of rules. Use the Move arrows to the right of your rule to move it to the location you want in your list. Filter rules are invoked on an incoming message in the order they appear in your list. We recommend that if you use SpamBox, your SpamBox filter rule always be the last rule in your list.

    Screen shot of the Move arrows.

Editing a Filter

  1. Go to the Server-Side Filters tool and log in with your uniqname and UMICH Kerberos password.

  2. In the Existing Rules list, click the Edit icon (it looks like a piece of paper with a pencil) next to the filter rule you want to edit.

    Screen shot of Edit icon.

  3. Make whatever changes you want to your filer rule, then click Save.

Deleting a Filter

  1. Go to the Server-Side Filters tool (http://filters.mail.umich.edu/) and log in with your uniqname and UMICH Kerberos password.

  2. In the Existing Rules list, click the Delete icon (it looks like a trashcan) next to the filter rule you want to delete.

    Screen shot of Delete icon.

  3. Your browser may pop up a window asking you to confirm that you want to delete the rule. Click OK.

Working with Multiple Filters

At delivery, an incoming message goes through your filters one at a time in the order they appear in your list. In most cases, when a message matches the criteria specified in a rule, the rule is implemented (that is, the message is moved to a folder or whatever you specified in the rule), and the message is not checked against any rules remaining in the list. (The exception is if you uncheck the Stop checking if this rule matches? checkbox inside a rule. If you do that, the message is checked against all rules in the list, and only the last rule that matches it is implemented.)

Diagram of incoming message going through a set of filter rules.

If you create multiple filter rules, think about the order in which you want them to operate and use the Move arrows to put the rules in your preferred order.

Screen shot of the Move arrows.

We recommend that you always keep your Accept List first in your filter rules list. Otherwise, mail you want always to accept could be caught by another rule.

We also recommend that, if you use SpamBox, you keep your SpamBox rule last in your list.

Disabling a Filter Rule

You can turn a rule off without deleting it. This can be useful if you want to turn a rule off temporarily and turn it back on again later.

In the Enabled column, click the green checkmark (which indicates a rule is enabled) to change it to a red X (which indicates the rule is disabled). Click the red X to toggle it back to a green checkmark when you want to enable the rule.

Screen shot of enabled and disabled rules.

Log Out When You Are Finished

Logging out when you are done protects your privacy and the security of your online information. Click the Log out icon in the icon bar.

Screen shot of Log out icon.

The Software Behind Server-Side Filters

The software used for setting server-side mail filters is an open-source product called Ingo. Ingo is written by the Horde Project.

For more information about Ingo, see the Ingo web page.

For more information about the Horde Project, see the Horde Project website.

Additional Resources

Visit ITS's Information System to obtain ITS computer documentation and other resources. A list of relevant documents follows:

The ITS Service Center provides a variety of computing help resources.

For further help with this or any other topic, call 734-764-HELP [4357] or submit an online service request.