Outlook: Creating Out of Office/Vacation Replies Using Rules

Posted July 20, 2006 by risherz in Microsoft Outlook

Typically, you need something known as an Exchanger server account in order to get the Out of Office Assistant in Outlook. However, most of us probably do not have that. Fortunately, there is a way you can work around this so that you can notify people when you are not at home.

Automatic replies are perfect for the holiday season or when you will be out of town and or out of the office for a while. However, keep in mind that if you are using an e-mail service like Gmail or Yahoo, this will not be of much use since you can find the vacation response setting usually in the Settings/Options section of your e-mail page. However, this is extremely helpful if you do not have such options.

The first thing that we have to do is create a template that Outlook is going to use automatically while replying to all incoming e-mail messages when you turn on the rule. To do that, simply follow the directions below:
1. Make sure you are not using Word as your editor. If you are, then you will not be able to create an Outlook template (.oft file). Go to Tools > Options… > Mail Format tab >, and uncheck the check box beside Use Microsoft Office Word to edit e-mail messages.
2. Then click on the New button, and create a message which explains that you are unable to reply to your messages at this time (e.g., “I’m not here right now. . . .”) Just fill in the content. Do not worry about the recipient, subject, etc. When Outlook replies, it automatically adds RE: to the sender’s subject, etc.
3. After that, save the file as a .oft template. Make sure you give it a name you will remember.
4. Now, it is time to create the actual rule.
5. In order to create a rule, you need to go to Tools > Rules and Alerts… > New Rule… >, and select Start from a blank rule.
6. Next, we need to select Check messages when they arrive, and click on Next. Then, select the option that says where my name is in the to box. Feel free to explore the other options. Then click Next. Remember the main idea is to reply back to the message using the template.
7. Then select reply using a specific template, and click the blue a specific template text. Find the option Look in: at the top of the screen, and select User templates in File system. Select the template that you created previously, and click Open.
8. Click Next. The next step is to specify the exclusions. In this list, select except if from people or distribution list, and click on the blue text that says people or distribution list. Here is where you need to add the addresses of newsletters to which you subscribe. You do not want to accidentally reply to a mailing list that you like and cause your account to be removed from the list (because sometimes that is the way to unsubscribe yourself in certain mailing lists).
9. Finally, just give a name for the rule. Make sure to uncheck turn on this rule unless, of course, you are going on vacation or will be away already.

Now,everytime you want to create an out of office reply, just go to Tools > Rules and Alerts… >. Select your rule, and click on Apply. Then enjoy your holidays without having to worry about getting a reputation of not replying back to e-mail messages. Make sure you keep your computer on and Outlook running as well. That is the only disadvantage. Otherwise, Outlook cannot send and receive. Then, obviously, the other person will not get an Out of Office reply when it is really necessary.

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