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How to Set Up a Vacation Auto-Response in Windows Mail or Outlook Express

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Smiling couple using laptop
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When you are away from your computer and your email account, who will reply to all those emails? Windows Mail or Outlook Express dutifully will.

Of course, it does 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, it will send a canned reply informing people you are out of the office.

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.

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:

  • Open Notepad.
  • Type the message you want to appear in the body of your autoresponse.
  • Select File | Save from the menu.
  • Type "Vacation Auto-Reply" under File name:.
  • Make sure Text Documents (*.txt) is selected under Save as type:.
  • Click Save.
  • Close Notepad.
  • Open Windows Mail or Outlook Express.
  • Select Tools | Message Rules | Mail... from the menu.
  • Go to the Mail Rules tab.
  • Click New....
  • 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.
  • Under Select the Actions for your rule:, check Reply with message.
  • Click on the contains people link under Rule Description.
  • Type your email address.
  • Click Add.
    • If you have more than one address, repeat the previous two steps.
  • Click OK.
  • Now click the message link, also under Rule Description.
  • Select Text (*.txt) from the Files of type: drop-down menu.
  • Highlight the "Vacation Auto-Reply" file.
  • Click Open.
  • Under Name of the rule:, type something like "Vacation Auto-Reply" as well.
  • Click OK.
  • Click OK again.

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

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