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How to Set Up an Out of Office Vacation Auto-Reply in Outlook

how to auto forward emails in outlook

By Heinz Tschabitscher. Email Expert

Heinz Tschabitscher's enthusiasm for email takes to the limit what many users take for granted: electronic mail. Read more

Wherever you go, taking all your email with you in a small, handy packet is easy. Leaving it behind in a big, bulky computer is hard. It is hard, and often the sane thing to do.

Of course, Outlook will not do your job, not even do your email job adequately. Who—and which AI construct—could respond in so coherent, cogent and concise a manner as you?

Outlook will respond diligently, though, letting senders know that you are out of the office, maybe when you will return, whether they should re-send their message then (if still relevant) or who to contact for matters demanding urgent action.

Set Up an Out of Office Vacation Auto-Reply in Outlook for a POP and IMAP Account

  • ›› Step by Step Screenshot Walkthrough
  1. Create a new message (click New Email ) in Outlook.
  2. Enter the desired Subject and message for your Outlook out of office auto-reply.
    • If possible and relevant, do include when people mailing you can expect a personal answer, or whether they should expect an answer at all. This might be some time after you will have returned.
    • Optionally, you can add Cc: and Bcc: recipients to receive a copy of each automatic reply.
    • If you set up the Outlook out of office auto-reply to be sent in response to all incoming mail (instead of only messages from select contacts), do take into account that revealing too much information freely does pose a risk .

Continue Reading Below

  1. Click FILE .
  2. Choose Save As on the sheet that appears.
  3. Make sure Outlook Template is selected under Save as type: .
  4. Optionally, enter a template name under File name: .
    • Outlook has chosen the template's subject by default.
  5. Click Save .

Go on to create the out of office auto-responder rule in Outlook:

  • ›› Step by Step Screenshot Walkthrough
  1. Click FILE in Outlook's Mail view.
  2. Make sure the Info category is open.
  3. Click Manage Rules & Alerts  under Account Information .
  4. Click New Rule. .
  5. Make sure Apply rule on messages I receive is selected under Start from a blank rule .
  6. Click Next > .
  7. Make sure Where my name is in the To box is checked under Step 1: Select condition(s) .
    • You can leave all boxes unchecked, of course, and make the Outlook out of office auto-responder reply to all incoming mail.
  8. Click Next >


  9. Make sure reply using a specific template is checked under Step 1: Select action(s) .
  10. Click on a specific template under Step 2: Edit the rule description (click an underlined value) .
  11. Make sure User Templates in File System is selected under Look In: .
  12. Highlight the template created before.
  13. Click Open .
  14. Now click Next > .
  15. Make sure except if it is an automatic reply is checked under Step 1: Select exception(s) (if necessary) .
  16. Click Next > .
  17. Type the desired name for your auto-responding filter under Step 1: Specify a name for this rule .
  18. Optionally, enable Create this rule on all accounts .
    • Keep in mind, though, that filters may not work with certain account types (for which Outlook will not create them even with this box checked).
  19. Click Finish .
  20. Click OK .

Instead of setting up a rule in Outlook manually, you can also use a tool like FreeBusy. of course; this also helps avoid sending unneeded out of office auto-replies.

Do take into account that Outlook will only send an auto-reply to each address once per session; a second auto-response may only be sent after Outlook is closed and re-opened. You also cannot have Outlook automatically reply to a sender with two different messages.

Set Up an Out of Office Vacation Auto-Reply in Outlook for an Exchange Account

If you use Outlook with an Exchange account, you can set up an out of office auto-reply directly at the server:

  1. Click FILE in the main Outlook window.
  2. Open the Info category.
  3. Click Automatic Replies .
  4. Make sure Send automatic replies  is selected.
  5. To have the auto-responder start and stop automatically:
    1. Make sure Only send during this time range: is checked.
    2. Select the desired date and time for starting the auto-responder under Start time: .
    3. Pick the desired ending date and time under End time: .
  6. Enter the message of your out-of-office auto-reply under Inside My Organization .
    • This email will be sent to people at your company.
  7. To send automatic responses to people outside your company as well:
    1. Open the Outside My Organization tab.
    2. Make sure Auto-reply to people outside my organization is checked if you're okay with the security risks involved .
    3. Enter the message sent to people outside your company.
  8. Click OK .

To maintain out-of-office replies more centrally on an Exchange server (including templates featuring fields merged with Active Directory), you can try Symprex Out-of-Office Manager .

(Updated November 2014, tested with Outlook 2013)

Category: Forex

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