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Out of Office Replies

Out of Office Replies
Get ready for Christmas! Set up an Out of Office message for the holidays

 

As the Christmas holiday looms many of us are looking forward to a couple of weeks away from work spending time with our families. But we will not all start or finish our holiday on the same day. So when our clients and colleagues send emails, we should let them know when we will return and when they can expect a reply. If your organisation has an Exchange server the best way to do this is by using the Out of Office Assistant in Outlook 2003 or 2007 or Automatic Replies (Out of Office) in Outlook 2010.

 

So how do you set an Out of Office reply?

Setting an automatic reply is very easy; just follow the instructions below for the version of Outlook you have.

Outlook 2003

  • On the Tools menu, click "Out of Office Assistant".
  • A dialogue box will pop up. Click "I am currently Out of the Office".
  • Then in the "AutoReply only once to each sender with the following" box type the message that you want people to see while you are out of the office.
  • Click OK.

The Out of Office Assistant will continue to run until you turn it off by going back into the dialogue box and clicking "I am currently In the Office".

 

Outlook 2007

  • On the Tools menu, click "Out of Office Assistant".
  • A dialogue box will pop up. Choose the "Send Out of Office auto-replies" check box.
  • With Outlook 2007 you can specify the time and date range during which the message should be sent by ticking the "Only send during this time range" check box and adding the Start and End date and time.
  • Fill in the message you wish to send. In Outlook 2007 you can send 2 different messages, one to colleagues inside your organisation and one to people who email you from outside your organisation. The Auto reply will always send to people inside your organisation but you can chose not to send to people outside by un-ticking the Auto-reply to people outside my organization box. You can also choose whether to send a message to everyone or just those people in your contacts list.
  • Click OK.

If you selected the "Only send during this time range" option the Out of Office Assistant will start and stop at the times you specified. Otherwise it will start immediately and stop when you turn it off by going back into the dialogue box and clicking "Do not send Out of Office auto-replies".

 

Outlook 2010

Setting Out of office replies in Outlook 2010 is exactly the same as in Outlook 2007 and the dialogue box is identical. However you find it in a different place:

  • Click "File".
  • In the menu on the left click "Info".
  • On the Account information page click "Automatic Replies (Out of Office)".

 

What should I put in the message?

You can add whatever you like to the automatic reply, but here are a few pointers:

Keep it brief! Only include information that is important to your colleagues and clients. I would start by simply letting them know that you are away and then tell them when you will be back and who to contact in your absence. For example;

Unfortunately I am out of the office at the moment. I will return on the 4th of January and will answer my emails then. If you're request is urgent please contact Charlie at charlie@example.com

If you don't have an Exchange server, can you still set an Out of Office reply?

Unfortunately Microsoft has confirmed that for Outlook 2007 there is no working process to achieve the same results. However you can emulate it in Outlook 2003 and 2010 by creating an email template and defining a rule in the Rules Wizard to automatically reply with that template. When you go away if you leave Outlook running on your computer it will send one message to each person who sends you an email. When you return to work disable the rule by un-ticking it in the Rules and Alerts dialogue box

 To set it up follow the instructions below for the version of Outlook you have.

Outlook 2003

The first thing to do is create the template. Make sure you don't use Microsoft Word as your e-mail editor otherwise the Outlook Template option won't be available when you come to save it.

  • Open a new Outlook message formatted as plain text and compose your message
  • On the File menu click Save As.
  • When the save dialog box opens, click to select the Outlook Template check box in the Save As Type list. Type a name for your template and then click Save.

Once the template has been saved you will need to set up the rule:

  • On the Tools menu, click "Rules and Alerts".
  • In the dialog box, click the "New Rule" button on the E-mail Rules tab.
  • In the Rules Wizard, click the "Start from a blank rule" button and click "Check messages when they arrive" then click Next.
  • Under "Which condition(s) do you want to check?" click the "Sent Only To Me" check box and then click Next.
  • Under "What do you want to do with the message?" click "Reply using a specific template check box".
  • On the Step 2: Edit the Rule Description page of the wizard; click the underlined phrase a specific template.
  • In the dialog box, click the template that you created and then click "Open".
  • Complete the Rules Wizard instructions giving the rule a suitable name, click Finish, and then click OK.

 

Outlook 2010

The method is the same in Outlook 2010 but you will find the Rules and Alerts in a different place

  • Click "File".
  • In the menu on the left click "Info".
  • On the Account information page click "Rules and Alerts".

So remember when you go away to set your Out of Office replies. It will let everyone know you are away and you could use it to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

 

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