Outlook: Adding an Out Of Office Or Vacation Message

So, your going to be out of the office for a while huh? You may want to let everyone, that sends you an email, know that you will not be available by setting an out of office or a vacation message in Microsoft Outlook.

You can either watch the video, or see below for instructions on how to set an away message in Outlook.
(I apologize for the quality of the video. I need to re-record it in HD. I will upload it here when done.)


Here’s how:

1. Make sure your mail format is set to Plain Text.

  • Click on the Tools Menu and choose Options.
  • Then select the Mail Format tab.
  • Under message format, change the drop down box to display Plain Text.
  • Click the OK button.

2.  Start a New message, as if you were going to send an email to someone.

  • Type your Subject line: “Out Of The Office” or “On Vacation” or something relevant.
  • Type the Body of your message, indicating the time frame that you will be away and possible return times and whether you will be available at all.
  • Give contact information to anyone that may be covering for you.
  • Leave your contact information, so that they will know they got the right person.

3. Now, click the File Menu, or the Windows Icon, in the upper left of the window and choose the Save As option.

  • In the File Name field, give it a name such as “OutOfOffice-09-2012” or “Vacation-09-2012” or something similar.
  • Change the Save As Type field to “Outlook Template (*.oft)”. This will change the Save In field to the Templates folder.
  • Then click the Save button.
  • This will bring you back to your message, which you can just close. It will prompt you to save, but you do not have to at this point.

4. Now that your message is saved and ready, we need to create a Rule.

  • Click the Tools Menu and select Rules and Alerts.
  • Under the Email Rules tab, click on the New Rule button.
  • In Step 1: Select a Template, choose “Check Messages When They Arrive”, under the Start from a blank rule section. Then click Next.
  • In Step 1: Select Condition(s), check the box labeled “where my name is in the To or Cc box”. Then click Next.
  • In Step 1: Select Action(s), check the box  labeled “reply using a specific template”.
  • In Step 2: Edit the rule description (click an underlined value), click on the link shown as a specific template.
  • This will pop up another dialog box titled Select a Reply Template. In the Look In field, change the setting to “User Templates in File System” and choose the file that you saved in Step 3 above (OutOfOffice-09-2012 or Vacation-09-2012). Then click Open.
  • This will bring you back to the previous screen where you can see the new path to your template. Click the Next button.
  • On this next screen, you can set any exceptions that you might need, but generally you won’t need them. So click Next again.
  • On this final screen, give your new rule a name, such as Out Of Office or Vacation or whatever is meaningful to you.
  • You should also have the option to Run this rule now on messages already in “Inbox”. This is up to you whether you want to do this or not.
  • The next option is to Turn On This Rule. If you are going away now, then you will want this box checked, but if you are going later, you can always turn the rule on afterwards.
  • If everything looks good, then click the Finish button.

At this point, Outlook will now respond with the new Reply Template that you set up, assuming that the Rule is turned on, of course.

There are a few caveats to using this approach that you should know about.

FIRST: Your computer needs to stay on and Outlook needs to be opened, in order for this to work at all.

SECOND: If you are using Outlook 2007, there is a known issue that causes the rule not to work properly, without doing an extra step or two. I have seen two possible solutions to get this working, but the following process has always worked for me.

  • Click on the Tools then Rules and Alerts option.
  • Double-click the new rule that you created, to open up the Rules Wizard.
  • Click Next until you get to the last screen where the name of the rule and the Finish button are located.
  • Click the Run this rule on messages already in “Inbox”.
Now here is a slightly tricky part.
  • If you do not want to send this message to the potentially thousands of emails that you have in your Inbox, then click the Finish button and then IMMEDIATELY click the CANCEL button on the small dialog box that pops up.
  • This will send the message to a few of the emails that you have, but everything should work from this point on.
So essentially, you are giving the Rule a Jump Start, to get it going. I have not seen this problem in Outlook 2003 or 2010, so it seems to be specific to Outlook 2007. I may be wrong about that though.



Joe Austin

Joe Austin is the founder of Potentials Unleashed. He is currently an IT Professional Manager in the Financial Industry and has been using computers since 1978. While mostly self-taught, he is proficient in several computing areas, such as Programming , Web Development, most Microsoft Office programs, Internet Marketing, Spyware / Malware Removal and even 3D Animation & Modeling.

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