How to Set Up a Vacation Auto-Response

Windows Mail or Outlook Express

Smiling couple using laptop
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Configure Outlook Express or Windows Vista Mail to reply to incoming emails automatically, say while you are on vacation.

They Will Reply When You Cannot

When you are away from your computers and your email accounts, who will reply to all the emails? Windows Mail or Outlook Express dutifully will.

Of course, the email programs do not exactly have your type of spontaneity and quick wit, but if you have a permanent internet connection and can leave your computer running at your office, home or home office, they will send a canned reply informing people you are out of the office.

The best, of course, is that you get to compose the canned reply – with your precise kind of spontaneity and all of your quickest wit.

Ideally, you will include in your automatic replies when you expect to be back and replying in person so your contacts can adjust their actions. Do keep security concerns in mind, though: you do not necessarily want to advertise to strangers when precisely your home will be left alone.

Set up a Vacation Auto-Response in Windows Mail or Outlook Express

To create an automatic out of office message in Windows Mail or Outlook Express:

  1. Open Notepad.
  2. Type the message you want to appear in the body of your autoresponse.
  3. Select File | Save from the menu.
  4. Type "Vacation Auto-Reply" under File name:.
  5. Make sure Text Documents (*.txt) is selected under Save as type:.
  6. Click Save.
  7. Close Notepad.
  8. Open Windows Mail or Outlook Express.
  9. Select Tools | Message Rules | Mail from the menu.
  1. Go to the Mail Rules tab.
  2. Click New.
  3. Make sure Where the To or CC line contains people is checked under Select the Conditions for your rule:.
    • Alternatively, you can check For all messages. It usually makes sense to reply automatically only to messages sent directly to your email address, however.
  4. Under Select the Actions for your rule:, check Reply with message.
  1. Click on the contains people link under Rule Description.
  2. Type your email address.
  3. Click Add.
    • If you have more than one address, repeat the previous two steps.
  4. Click OK.
  5. Now click the message link, also under Rule Description.
  6. Select Text (*.txt) from the Files of type: drop-down menu.
  7. Highlight the "Vacation Auto-Reply" file.
  8. Click Open.
  9. Under Name of the rule:, type something like "Vacation Auto-Reply" as well.
  10. Click OK.
  11. Click OK again.

To turn off the out-of-office auto-responder without deleting the rule:

  1. Select Tools | Message Rules | Mail from the menu in Windows Mail or Outlook Express.
  2. Make sure your "Vacation Auto-Reply" filter is not checked on the Mail Rules tab.
  3. Click OK.

(Tested with Outlook Express 6 and Windows Mail 6)