Sunday, November 1, 2009

Breaking all the rules on the 32K rules limit


By Joe Dolittle

OutlookPower reader Ralph McNall from AT&T Labs asks how he can get by the 32K rules limit:

Most, possibly all, of my Outlook rules are client side. Unfortunately, a significant number are disabled because of the 32K limit that is apparently imposed by the Exchange server Outlook connects to.
The fact that all the rules remain available locally and can all be selected to "Run Now" implies that the 32K limit is not intrinsic to Outlook, but rather imposed by the associated process that saves rules to the Exchange server.
Is there any way to configure Outlook (2007) to not save/restore rules to Exchange and thereby avoid the 32K rule size limit?

First, let's make it clear that the 32K Exchange rules limit is one of those ridiculous vestigial limits that we're hoping is gone as soon as the new version of Exchange and Outlook come out. It's just dumb and given today's computers that routinely run with a lot more memory than back in the old Exchange 5.5 days, this is a limit that should be consigned to the history books post-haste.

Unfortunately, the limit something we need to deal with for now, so the interesting question is how to get around the problem. Doing so requires you to think about the types of rules you use.

One easy way to reduce your memory footprint is to consign as many addresses as possible to distribution lists, and then check a distribution list in the rule instead of a pile of email addresses. A distribution list takes up the memory of one email address, so if you were to have even two or three addresses, a ditribution list will save you some meaurable space.

Next, think about rules that are essentially filing rules. There are a ton of Outlook add-ons that automate the filing process. One we looked at recently is QuickFile, from our friends over at Standss.

You could also replace the rules engine itself. Pergenex Software has a tool called Auto-Mate that essentially is a new rules engine for Outlook. It plugs into Outlook 2003 or Outlook 2007 and the company claims it doesn't suffer from the 32K limit. Unfortunately, while Auto-Mate works with both Outlook and Exchange email stores (.PST and .OST files), it doesn't appear to work on the server itself. That means you'll need Outlook open for rules to process.

The base version is $40 and the pro version is $80. The key difference appears to be that more actions are possible with the pro version. This is a pricey solution, but if rules are making you crazy, it might be a way to go. We haven't yet put the product through our rigorous review process, but it looks like it might solve Ralph's problem.

Good luck and remember: rules were meant to be broken.