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How to Create a Vacation Away Message for (Almost) Any Email Account

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If you are heading out of town, you might want to put a note on your email to let people know where to contact you. Or just to let them know to contact somebody else while you’re away. Here’s how to setup a vacation responder for (almost) any email account.

Setting Up a Vacation Responder

When it comes to the setup of a vacation responder you are in one of a few boats:

  • Either you have Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo account that support responders.
  • You are connected to a Microsoft Exchange Server and can use the Out Of Office Assistant.
  • You have a legacy POP3/IMAP email account that doesn’t support responders, perhaps from your internet provider or another service.

For those of you who have email accounts with one of the 3 major search engines, that is Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo – the setup is fairly straight forward, taking only a couple of clicks to get going.

Setting Up the Gmail Vacation Responder

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For those of you who own an @gmail.com address, or even run a small company that uses Google Apps, the process is only  a few clicks long. Just click on the settings menu in the top right-hand corner of your screen and select Mail Settings. When the mail settings page opens, scroll down until you see a section called vacation responder.

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The options are very intuitive and creating a vacation responder is very easy.

Setting Up a Windows Live Hotmail Responder

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Once you are in your Hotmail inbox, click on the options button on the right-hand side and select the More options link.

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When the Hotmail Options page loads you will want to click on the Sending automated vacation replies link.

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From here you can easily set up your vacation reply.

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By default it will only respond to people you have in your contacts so be sure to uncheck the check box if you wish for it to reply to everyone.

Setting Up a Yahoo! Vacation Responder

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The vacation response in Yahoo Mail is set up by going to Options on the top of the page and then going to Mail Options. Once there, you will find a tab on the left hand side called Vacation Response, this is where you will need to be.

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One extra option that the Yahoo Vacation Responder offers is that you can have to different email responses and you  can set one based on a domain name rule scheme. Very helpful.

Setting Up a Microsoft Exchange Server / Outlook Vacation Responder

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If you are connected to a Microsoft Exchange Server (at your job, usually) you will be able to take advantage of the Out Of Office Assistant, which is the same thing as a Vacation Responder. To set this up hit the office button to enter the backstage view, from here you can choose the Automatic Replies button.

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From here setting up a vacation responder is pretty easy.

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Setting Up a POP3 / IMAP Vacation Responder in Outlook

If you aren’t connected to an Exchange server at your job, but maybe are using Outlook at home to connect to your local ISP mail, you can check your ISP’s webmail to see if they provide a vacation responder. If not, you will need to leave your PC running with Outlook while you go on vacation.

It will also require you to have a email template set up before you proceed. Just keep in mind that if your power cuts off and your PC turns off the emails will stop sending. This will also mean that you will need to have an active internet connection for the duration of your holiday. It’s definitely the last resort option.

Click on the Office Button to go into backstage view.

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Once in backstage view you need to select the email account that you wish to create the for vacation responder for.

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Once you have selected the account, you need to to create a new rule, to do this click on the Rules and Alerts button.

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When the Rules and Alerts dialog opens, you need to create a new rule.

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This will kick off the Rules wizard, you will want to choose the option that reads “Apply rule on messages I receive”, then click next.

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We want the rule to apply to all so we can leave the conditions section blank.

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You will be prompted once you click the next button, the message warns that the rule you are creating will be applied to every message that you receive. Just click yes to continue.

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One the actions page, choose to reply to the message with a template.

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Click on the specific template underlined word to choose a template that will be used.

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Once your template is chosen and you move to the next dialog, you will be asked if there are any exceptions leave this blank as we want all messages answered.

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Now click finish to activate the rule.

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Now when someone sends you an email the template that you selected will be automatically sent to them.


How do you deal with your emails when you just want to be left alone? Sound off in the comments.

Taylor Gibb is a Microsoft MVP and all round geek, he loves everything from Windows 8 to Windows Server 2012 and even C# and PowerShell. You can also follow him on Google+

  • Published 11/24/11

Comments (7)

  1. Gerry Meenz

    Very good thank you. I have struggled with this situation ie when I wanted to use Google Calendar sync.

    Why on earth could Google not come up with a simple Video and like yourselves?

    Well Done you filled a need, keep looking for such situations (maybe ask users like myself)

  2. Aprile

    This is great except for one thing: leaving an I’m on vacation message leaves you open to having our home robbed while you are away. I know of at last 3 people this has happened to so just be sure the message will only be read by those you trust.

  3. Srivatsan Venkatesh

    Nice article. As you have left out AIM/AOL Mail, the process is really simple. Just go to Options and there is a auto-response in there.

  4. Aprile

    okay, I meant “your” home and at “least” 3 people == too much turkey fogs the brain and typing skills! :)

  5. Nino Chavez

    Good point Aprile. On that note. The message should only read I would be out of the office and not out of my house or will be on vacation just to be safe :)

  6. conga

    I agree, you don’t have to remind anyone you are out of town for a prolonged time. And if you really have to, please don’t leave your PC/laptop running. I may suggest to switch off everything, probably by physically plugging them out.

  7. Tom Hall

    ABSOLUTELY UNBELIEVABLE STUPIDITY!!

    You should NEVER post a blind message telling anyone and everyone that you are away from home
    It is MIND BOGGLING that HTG should even suggest this practice
    SHAME ON YOU!!

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