Nobody likes managing email, especially when it’s time for a holiday. If you are going away, or just taking a staycation, you can use an automatic out-of-office (or vacation) reply to let people know that you won’t be reading or responding to emails during that time.
Today we cover how to set up an out of office reply in five of the more popular email clients and web services.
In Apple Mail, there is no dedicated setting for an out of office reply. Instead, you need to set up a rule. Fortunately this is very easy to do.
Go to Mail > Preferences and click Rules on the toolbar. Then, click Add Rule.
Enter a Description for your new rule. This will display in the list of rules.
For the If any of the following conditions are met drop-down list, leave the default option of any selected. Under the first dropdown list, select Account. Then, select the email account you want to use from the second dropdown list.
Then, you must specify what actions will happen when an email arrives in the selected account. Under Perform the following actions, select Reply to Message in the dropdown list and then click Reply message text.
Type your out of office reply message in the box on the Reply Message dialog box. This message will be sent out as an automatic reply to incoming email messages
Click OK on the Reply Message dialog box and again on the Rules dialog box.
A dialog box displays asking if you want to run the new rule on existing messages in your mailbox. Click the Don’t Apply button. If you click the Apply button, the automatic reply will be sent for all existing messages in your inbox. Be sure you click the Don’t Apply button.
TFW you email your entire inbox an out of office reply… like everyone… all of them… backdated… pic.twitter.com/epmnaRMdrr
— Sean Coakley (@stcoakley) September 15, 2017
Important: Seriously, don’t screw up and hit the Apply button. Make sure you choose Don’t Apply!
The rule is active by default once you create it, and all emails received in the selected account will automatically receive the reply you set up.
To make the rule inactive once you return, uncheck the box next to the rule’s name. The next time you go away, you can simply check it again (or hit Edit to change the message) and it’ll kick in once more.
Setting up an out of office reply for your iCloud email account is easy using a setting in the preferences.
Log in to your iCloud account and click Mail on the main screen. Then, click the gear icon in the lower-left corner of the screen and select Preferences on the popup menu.
On the Vacation tab check the Automatically reply to messages when they are received box.
You can set an optional date range that will automatically start and stop the out of office replies. Click the Start date box and select a date from the popup calendar. Do the same for the End date, if desired.
Enter your out of office reply message in the box and click Done.
Your out of office reply is sent to each email address only once. Anyone who sends you multiple messages while you’re gone receives your out of office reply only after the first message.
Outlook for Mac
Out of office replies in Outlook for Mac are like Apple Mail. There’s no setting for them, so you must create a rule to send automatic replies.
Go to Outlook > Preferences and click Rules in the Email section. Select the type of account you have in the list on the left. If you’re not sure what type of account you have, click Show All at the top of the dialog box.
Then, click the plus button at the bottom of the dialog box to add a new rule.
On the Rules dialog box, enter a name for the rule in the Rule name box.
To the right of When a new message arrives, accept the default choice of If all conditions are met in the dropdown box. Then, select Account in the first dropdown list, Is in the second, and the account you want to use in the third.
Now, define the action to be taken. We’re only going to need one action, so click the minus icon on the second row under Do the following. On the remaining row, select Reply from the dropdown list and then click Reply Text.
Enter your out of office reply message in the box and click OK.
Make sure the Enabled box is checked and click OK.
When you return, be sure to disable the rule. Go to Outlook > Preferences and click Rules to open the Rules dialog box. Then, uncheck the box for the rule.
The web-based version of Outlook includes a feature for setting up automatic replies. Go to Outlook.com and log in. Then, click the gear icon in the upper-right corner of the window and select Automatic replies from the dropdown menu.
On the Automatic replies slide-out panel, click the Send automatic replies option to turn the feature on.
To have the automatic replies sent out only during a specific period, click the Start time box and select a date from the popup calendar. Then, select a time from the dropdown list. Do the same for the End time.
When sending out automatic replies, we recommend you only do so for people in your contact list. Otherwise, you’re letting everyone know you’re not home, even spammers and salespeople. To be secure, select the Send replies only to people in my Contact list option.
Enter your out of office reply in the box, formatting it as you see fit.
Then, click OK at the top of the panel.
If you didn’t specify a Start time and End time, you’ll have to disable the automatic replies manually.
Click the gear icon and select Automatic replies again. Click the Don’t send automatic replies option then and click OK.
Gmail has a vacation responder feature in the settings that makes it easy to set up an out of office reply.
Log in to your Gmail account. Then, click the gear icon in the upper-right corner of the window and select Settings.
Scroll down to the Vacation responder section on the General tab and click the Vacation responder on option.
Click on the First day box and select a date from the popup calendar. The Last day field is optional. If you know when you’ll be back, check the Last day box, click on the box to the right, and select a date just like you did for First day.
Enter a Subject and your out of office Message, formatting it as you see fit.
When sending out automatic replies, we recommend you only do so for people in your contact list. Otherwise, you’re letting everyone know you’re not home, even salespeople and spammers. To be secure, select the Only send a response to people in my Contacts option.
When you’re done, click Save Changes.
If you did not specify a Last day, you must turn off the vacation responder manually.
Go back into the settings in your Gmail account and select the Vacation responder off option in the Vacation responder section on the General tab.
Use Your Creativity, But Be Professional
Out of office replies should be informative, letting the sender know when you will be unavailable and who to contact in your absence. That doesn’t mean it needs to be boring. Use your creativity to craft an entertaining, but professional, out of office reply the next time you go on vacation.
What are some out of office replies you’ve used? Do you think they should be funny or just informative? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.