Use rules to reply to messages

If you use a POP or an IMAP account, you don't have access to the automatic replies (out of office) feature. However, if you leave Outlook running while you're away, you can use rules to reply to your email messages automatically. Rules also allow you to forward emails to another account, mark messages as read, or move them to a folder automatically. For more information on working with rules, see Create a rule in Outlook.

Use rules to reply to incoming emails when you're away

By default, Microsoft Exchange Server accounts (starting with Exchange Server 2010) can’t use rules to forward messages to email addresses outside your organization. This setting helps prevent confidential and private organizational information from being disclosed. Only an Exchange administrator can change this setting.

If you use a POP or IMAP account, you can use the following steps to reply to all incoming emails with a message stating that you're out of the office.

  1. Select the File tab.

  2. Select Manage Rules & Alerts.

  3. In the Rules and Alerts dialog box, on the E-mail Rules tab, click New Rule.

  4. Under Start from a blank rule, click Apply rule on messages I receive and click Next.

  5. To reply to every email message you receive, leave the Step 1 and Step 2 boxes unchanged and click Next again. 

  6. Under What do you want to do with the message, in Step 1: Select action(s), select either:

    • forward it to people or public group

    • redirect it to people or a public group

  7. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description, click the underlined text for people or public group, specify the people or public group you want to forward messages to, and then click Next.

  8. Under Step 1: Select exception(s) (if necessary), select any exceptions that you want.

  9. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description, click each piece of underlined text, specify values, and then click Next.

  10. Under Step 1: Specify a name for this rule, enter a name.

  11. Under Step 2: Setup rule options, check the boxes for the options that you want.

    • If you want to run this rule on messages that already are in the Inbox, check the Run this rule now on messages already in “Inbox" box.

    • By default, the new rule is turned on. To turn off the rule, uncheck the Turn on this rule box.

    • To apply this rule to all email accounts set up in Outlook, check the Create this rule on all accounts box.

  12. Click Finish.

Note: If you're using a POP or IMAP account, in order to have the rule send automatic replies to your email messages while you're gone, you must leave Outlook running.

Note: To create a rule for a public folder, you must do so from the folder's Properties dialog box.

  1. Click Mail in the Navigation Pane.

  2. On the Tools menu, click Rules and Alerts.

  3. If you have more than one email account in your Outlook email profile, then in the Apply changes to this folder list, click the Inbox to which you want the new rule to apply.

  4. Click New Rule.

  5. Under Start from a blank rule, click Check messages when they arrive, and then click Next.

  6. Under Step 1: Select condition(s), select the check box next to each condition that you want the incoming message to match.

  7. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description, click the underlined value that corresponds to the condition, and then select or type the necessary information for the condition.

    1. Under Step 1: Select condition(s), select the from people or distribution list check box.

    2. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description, click people or distribution list.

    3. In one of the address lists, double-click the recipient's name, and then click OK.

  8. Click Next.

  9. Under Step 1: Select action(s), select either of these check boxes:

    • forward it to people or a public group

    • redirect it to people or a public group

  10. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description, click people or distribution list.

  11. In one of the address lists, double-click the name or distribution list to which you want to forward the messages, and then click OK.

  12. Click Next twice.

  13. Under Step 1: Specify a name for this rule, type a name.

    To run this rule on the messages that are already in your folders, select the Run this rule now on messages already in "folder" check box.

    To apply this rule to all your email accounts and inboxes, select the Create this rule on all accounts check box. This option is grayed out if you do not have more than one email account or Inbox.

  14. Click Finish.

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