You’re going on vacation and want to send automatic replies from Microsoft Outlook? This is how you set up an automatic reply to let your customers, partners and co-workers know that you can’t read their email and when you’ll be back.
How to check the Microsoft Outlook Version
Microsoft Outlook allows you to set automatic replies. But the way you do that varies from one Outlook version to another. First, you should check the version of your software.
- In the ribbon above your inbox: is there a tab called “Tools”? If you can’t see one, you probably have a newer version or Outlook for Office 365. Click “File” and then “Info” and check if you get an image like the picture below.
- If you have a tab called “Tools” and you click it, is there an option “Out of Office Assistant”? Older versions (Outlook 2003, 2007) have this option.
- You see the “Tools” tab, but there’s no “Out of Office Assistant”? That means you’re probably using a non-exchange account. In this case, you’ll set the automatic reply by using the option “Rules and Alerts”.
5 Steps how to set an out-of-office reply in newer versions of Microsoft Outlook
If you have an Outlook version without the “Tools” tab and get an image like the one above, you are using a new version of Outlook or Outlook for Office 365. In this case, this is what you must do:
- Click “File” and then “Info”.
- Choose the option “Automatic replies (Out of office)”.
- Activate this option by selecting “Send automatic replies”. You can also check the option to send the message only during a certain period of time. Set the start time and the end time. If you don’t set a time range, you’ll have to deactivate the automatic replies manually.
- Write the text you want other people to get as an automatic answer to their emails. There are two tabs: “Inside My Organization” and “Outside My Organization”. You can use the same text for both or write different replies. And you can also format the text.
- Click “Ok” on the bottom right when you’ve finished.
Important: You can set a time range when the message will be sent – but the receiver can’t see the end date. This means: if you want people to know when you’ll be back, you must write that in your text.
Automatic replies in older Outlook versions
In older versions, setting an automatic reply works in a similar way. You just have to use the out-of-office assistant.
- In the ribbon, click “Tools” and then “Out of Office Assistant”.
- Check the option “Send out of office auto-replies” and set the time range if needed, in Outlook 2007. Or the option “I am currently out of office”, in Outlook 2003.
- Write the text that you want to be sent as an answer. In Outlook 2007, you can have two different texts, for your organization or for people outside your organization.
- Click “Ok” on the bottom right.
- Important: In Outlook 2007, you can set a time range when the message will be sent. But the receiver can’t see the end date. If you want people to know when you’ll be back in the office, mention the return date in your text.
Automatic replies using “Rules and Alerts” (non-exchange accounts)
If there is no option to set an automatic out-of-office reply at all, you can still send one. But it’s a bit more complicated:
- First, you must save a template containing the text you want to be sent (when you’ll be back, who’s the contact person while you are gone etc.). Start by writing a new email.
- In the new email, write the text that you want Outlook to automatically send while you are on vacation. But, instead of sending the email to someone, you must save it.
- Click “Save as”. From the dropdown menu, choose “Outlook Template” and a destination where you want the template to be saved.
- To set the automatic reply, click “File” (newer versions) or “Tools” (older versions) to find the option “Rules and Alerts”.
- Click “Rules and Alerts” and then “New Rule”.
- Now you see a window with many options. Click “Apply rule on messages I receive”.
- If you don’t see this option in your list, click “Check messages when they arrive”.
- The next step is to check to whom this rule applies: “Which condition(s) do you want to check?”. If you want the message to be sent to everyone who contacts you, don’t check anything and just click “Next”. And then “Yes” if you are beeing asked if this should apply to all messages.
- Now, you’ll be asked what you want to do with the message. Check the option “reply using a specific template” (Step 1). Step 2: Click “a specific template” and choose the template you’ve saved at the beginning.
- Click “Next”. Then add exceptions, if needed. Click “Next” once again.
- In the next window you must specify a name for the rule. And check “Turn on this rule” if you want to activate it right now.
- Click “Finish”.