How to Set up an Autoresponder in Mac OS X Mail

Reply to incoming mail automatically

email flying out of a laptop

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If you often use the same response to certain email messages in OS X Mail, setting up an autoresponder can save you time and hassle. Using email rules, Mail will send your precomposed message automatically in response to any incoming email that fits the criteria you set. Here's how.

The instructions here apply to Mail running on macOS (up to and including Catalina, version 10.15) and OS X.

  1. Select Mail > Preferences from the menu along the top of the screen.

    Apple Mail Preferences
  2. Select Rules.

    Mail > Preferences > Rules
  3. Click Add Rule.

  4. Give your autoresponder a descriptive name under Description.

    Mail rule description and criteria fields
  5. Enter the conditions under which you want your autoresponder message to be sent. For example:

    • To have Mail reply only to emails you received at a specific address, set the criterion to To contains
    • To auto-respond only to senders in your Contacts, to people you have emailed before or VIPs, make the criterion read Sender is in my contactsSender is in my previous recipients or Sender is VIP respectively.
    • To have the auto-reply sent to all incoming emails, make the criterion Every Message.
    Mail rule criteria
  6. Select Reply to Message under Perform the following actions.

  7. Click Reply message text.

  8. Type the text to be used for the auto-responder.

    For a vacation or out-of-office auto-reply, tell the recipient when you expect to return. If you don't plan to go through your old mail when you return, let recipients know when to re-send their messages if they're still relevant.

    Box in which to enter autoresponder message
  9. Click OK.

  10. If prompted Do you want to apply your rules to messages in selected mailboxes?, click Don't Apply.​

    If you click Apply, Mail will send the auto-reply to existing messages, generating possibly thousands of messages and multiple identical responses to the same recipient.

  11. Close the Rules dialog.

    Replies generated using this auto-responder method will include not only the original message text but also original file attachments. You can use an AppleScript auto-responder to avoid this.

Disable Any Auto-Responder

To turn off any auto-responding rule you have set up in Mail and stop automatic replies from going out:

  1. Select Mail > Preferences > Rules.

  2. Make sure the rule corresponding to the auto-responder you would like to disable is not checked in the Active column.

  3. Close the Rules preferences window.

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