Set Up Auto-Replies in MS Outlook to Emulate Out Of Office Behavior

All the main web email services I know of let you set up a vacation auto-responder when you plan to not use your email for a while. However, if you are using a desktop email client, Outlook for example, not all editions of it have a direct way to set it up.

If you are a MS Outlook user you would be glad to know that you can set up auto replies for all such incoming messages (even if you are not using the Exchange Edition that comes with an Out Of Office (OOO) Assistant). Let us see how.

Steps to Emulate Out Of Office Outlook Behavior

There are two broad steps to setting this up. First, you need to create an auto reply template that will be used for automated replies.

Step 1: Create a new mail with the desired auto reply message. Have the Format  selected as Plain Text  from the Options tab.

Message To Send

Step 2: Save this message as an Outlook Template.

Save As Template

With this done, you are ready to head over to the second part of the configuration. This will help you automate replies based on the type of incoming messages that land up in your inbox.

Step 3: Navigate to Tools -> Rules and Alerts. On the next window you should start with a New Rule under Email Rules.

New Rule

Step 4: Start from blank rule and proceed with Check messages when they arrive option as shown in the image below.

Check Arrival

Step 5: Define your rules for incoming messages so that it can be scanned and filtered accordingly. You may check multiple boxes here.

Select Condition

Step 6: For the action rule you need to select reply using a specific template. Click on the underlined value to select the template that you had saved in Step 2.

Add Reply Template

Step 7: If there are any exceptions for the filtering and action standards, you may check to remove them as applicable.

Any Exceptions

Step 8: Cross check and finalize the rules lest you might want to step back and make changes or corrections.

Finalize Rule

Step 9: You will see that the entry gets added to the Rules and Alerts  dialog. Apply it as checked before you head out for your vacation.

Rule Alert Dialog


If you really want to take a break from work during your vacation, you should give this setup in Outlook a try. Vacation responders are meant to serve a purpose: letting you enjoy your time off without the pressure of answering every new email. This method in Outlook works seamlessly, just that you need to get the rules right and ensure proper server connectivity.

Last updated on 03 February, 2022

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