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 you won’t be available, or to contact somebody else while you’re away.

Most email services provide a way to send out an automatic reply to incoming messages when you aren’t available to check your email. Here’s how to setup a vacation responder for the most popular email services.

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

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

We’ll show you how to set up a vacation responder in Gmail, Yahoo, Windows 10 Mail (for Microsoft accounts), Outlook.com, Outlook for Windows (for IMAP and POP3 accounts), Exchange, and even in Apple Mail for Mac (for IMAP and POP3 accounts).

Setting Up a Vacation Responder in Gmail

For those of you who have a Gmail address, or even run a small company that uses Google Apps, setting up a vacation responder in Gmail is simple. Just log in to your Gmail account, click on the Settings menu in the top right-hand corner of your screen and select Settings. When the Settings page opens on a new tab, scroll down until you see a section called Vacation responder. The options are very intuitive. Simply turn on the Vacation responder, select the First day and Last day (if applicable), and enter a Subject and a Message. If you don’t want the vacation response to go out to anyone sending you an email, check the “Only send a response to people in my Contacts” box to only allow the vacation response to go out to people in your Google Contacts list.

Setting Up a Yahoo Vacation Responder

To set up a vacation response in Yahoo Mail, open a browser and log in to your Yahoo Mail account. Then, click the gear icon in the upper-right corner of the browser window and click “Settings” in the dropdown. On the Settings dialog box, click “Vacation Response” in the list of options on the left, and check the “Enable automatic response during these dates (inclusive)” box. Choose the From and Until dates and enter the automatic reply you want sent out. If you want a different response sent out to one or more specific domains, check the “Different response to emails form a specific domain”, enter the domains, and then enter the message to be sent to emails from those domains.

Yahoo also allows you to have different email responses based on who it’s going to. Just check the “Different response to emails from a specific domain” check box and add in email domains you want a different response for.

Click “Save” at the bottom of the Settings dialog box when you’re done. Your vacation response will be automatically sent during the specified dates.

Setting Up Automatic Replies in Windows 10 Mail for Microsoft Email Accounts

Windows 10 Mail only allows you to set up vacation responses for Microsoft email accounts, including outlook.com, live,com, hotmail.com, and Office 365 accounts. To set up a vacation response in Windows 10 Mail, open the app and click the gear icon in the lower-left corner of the window. Then, click “Automatic Replies” on the Settings pane that slides out on the right and select the account for which you want to send out automatic replies from the “Select an account” dropdown. Click the “Send Automatic Replies” slider button so it turns a dark gray and reads On. Enter the message you want to send out as an automatic reply in the box below the slider button. If you want the reply to only be sent to people in your contacts list, check the “Send replies only to my contacts” box. You can set up automatic replies for all supported accounts in Mail, but you must do so separately for each.

Setting Up an Automatic Reply on Outlook.com

To set up an automatic reply on Outlook.com, go to http://www.outlook.com in your favorite browser and log in to the Microsoft email account from which you want to send an automatic reply. Then, click the gear icon in the upper-right corner of the Outlook.com page and select “Automatic replies” from the dropdown. Click the “Send automatic replies” on the pane that slides out on the right side of the window. Set the Start time and End time and enter the message you want automatically sent out. Select any other options you want, such as whether you want automatic replies sent only to people in your Contact list or everyone who emails you.

When you’re done setting up your automatic reply, click “OK” at the top of the pane. Your custom message will now automatically go out during the time period you set in response to emails received that meet requirements you set.

NOTE: You can only use Outlook.com with Microsoft email accounts—live.com, outlook.com, hotmail.com, and msn.com.

Setting Up a Microsoft Exchange Server Vacation Responder in Outlook

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 click the “File” tab to enter the backstage view, and click the “Automatic Replies” button.

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From here, setting up a vacation responder is pretty easy. Simply click the “Send automatic replies” option and check the “Only send during this time range” box if you want to have limit the automatic replies to a specific time frame. Select the “Start time” and “End time” dates and times. Then, you can enter a message to be sent “Inside My Organization” or “Outside My Organization” or both.

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Setting Up a Vacation Responder for IMAP or POP3 Accounts in  Outlook for Windows

If you aren’t connected to an Exchange server at your job, but maybe are using Outlook at home, you can set up a vacation responder right through outlook. However, this only works if your PC stays up and running while you’re gone, so it’s best to check and see if your email account supports vacation responders on its webmail service. If not, Outlook will do in a pinch.

To set up a vacation responder in Outlook for Windows, you must first set up an email template with the message you want to send out. To create an email template, you basically create a new email message, enter the message you want to save (with no To, Cc, Bcc, or Subject), and then save the message as an Outlook Template. Once you’ve created your email template, create a rule that will automatically send that email template to emails received during a specific date range.

Now when someone sends you an email, the template you selected will be automatically sent to them during the time range you specified.

Setting Up an Out of Office Reply in Apple Mail for Mac (IMAP or POP3)

Apple Mail does not have a built-in feature for out of office replies, but you can set up one or more rules to automatically send out custom replies to incoming emails for any IMAP or POP3 account you’ve added to the app. To set up an out of office reply for an email account in Apple Mail, set up a rule on the Rules screen on the Preferences dialog box (go to Mail > Preferences, then click the “Rules” button), specifying conditions that need to be met (the account for which you want to send out automatic replies) and the action to be performed (reply to the message with specific message text). You can also add other conditions, such as checking whether the sender is in your contacts or not or checking that the To field has a specific email address.

The out of office reply rule you create can be made active or inactive on the Rules screen by checking or unchecking the box next to the rule. Because you can’t set a date range for a rule, you must turn on the rule manually when you want it to run and then turn it off when you don’t want it to run anymore. So, be sure you uncheck the box for the rule on the Preferences dialog box when you get back from your vacation or business trip.

As long as the rule is active, any email that is received that meets the selected conditions is replied to with the custom message you set up. Each sender will receive the automatic reply every time they send you an email.

NOTE: You must leave Apple Mail open on your Mac for the rule to run. If you close Apple Mail, the automatic replies will not be sent out, but they will be once you open Apple Mail again and receive email messages in your inbox for the account selected in the rule. It would be better to set up a vacation responder in your email service’s webmail settings, if available, so you don’t have to leave your computer on.

Lori Kaufman is a writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.