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How to Set Up an Out-of-Office Vacation Auto-Responder in Gmail

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Not at home? Not even at the office? Be sure you let everybody know so they can enjoy your luck a bit, too. Or, looking at your great email-free time from more practical an angle, inform people about your absence (and when you plan to return) so they do not get nervous, frustrated or angry as their messages are not answered presto.

Gmail lets you set up a convenient vacation auto-responder that does the job fabulously. You can even restrict automatic replies to people already in your Gmail address book to avoid replying to newsletters and the occasional spam that might make it past Gmail's filters (mail rooted to the Spam folder as well as messages coming through mailing lists never get automatic responses).

Set Up an Out-of-Office Vacation Auto-Reply in Gmail

To set up an out-office auto-response that informs senders of your temporary absence and inability to get back immediately in Gmail:

  • Click the Settings gear in Gmail.
  • Select Settings from the menu that appears.
  • Make sure you are on the General tab.
  • Now make sure Vacation responder on is selected under Vacation responder.
  • Enter appropriate subject and message body text.
    • If you can, include approximate info on when you will be able to reply personally. An alternative contact or an alternative way of contacting you might also be appropriate.
    • See below for having Gmail start and stop the auto-responder at pre-set dates.
  • Optionally:
    • Set a start date in the future under First day:.
    • Check Ends: and specify a time for the auto-responder to auto-stop responding.
    • Have Gmail send automatic replies only to people in your address book by checking Only send a response to people in my Contacts.
  • Click Save Changes.

Turn Off an Automatic Gmail Vacation Response

When you return, stopping the vacation auto-responder is easy:

  • Follow the End now link in the vacation responder bar at the top of your Gmail screen.

Exclude Messages from the Gmail Autoresponder

You can prevent Gmail from sending automatic replies to certain messages by setting up filters that delete (and optionally forward) these messages. If you're back before 30 days are over, you can recover these messages from the Trash folder, too…

Set Up an Out-of-Office Vacation Auto-Reply in Gmail mobile

To create an out-of-office auto-reply on the go with Gmail mobile:

  • Go to the label list in Gmail mobile.
  • Tap the gear at the top right.
  • Make sure Enable vacation responder is checked.
  • Set a start date under First day:.
  • Optionally:
    • Check Ends: and specify a date for the auto-responder to stop.
    • Tell Gmail to send automatic replies only to people in your address book by checking Only send a response to people in my Contacts.
  • Type the desired subject for auto-replies under Subject:.
  • Enter your vacation message under Message:
    • Include when you will be able to reply personally (or whether you would prefer messages to be re-sent after your return), if possible.
  • Tap Apply.

Changes you make in Gmail mobile will be reflected in desktop Gmail, of course — and vice versa.

(Updated October 2012)

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