How to Set Up AutoReply in Microsoft Outlook

By Carol Finch

The last thing you need when you get back to the office after a relaxing vacation or a busy few days on a business trip is a series of increasingly annoyed emails from customers who have been trying to get in touch with you. Outlook 2013 gives you the option of setting up an automated response to incoming mail, so you can give your contacts a heads-up that you're not around. This isn't hard to do, but the AutoReply process has a few steps to follow, as you need to set up a template email, choose sending rules and activate the function.

Step 1

Click "Home" and then "New Email" to set up your template. In the body of the email, type the message you want to use in your automatic reply.

Step 2

Click "File" and then "Save As." Name your file in the File Name field and select "Outlook Template" in the "Save as" type area, then click "Save."

Step 3

Click the "Home" tab and "Rules" then select "Manage Rules & Alerts." Click "New Rule" in the box that opens to start the Rules Wizard.

Step 4

Click "Apply rules on messages I receive" in the "Start from a blank rule" section. Click "Next." You'll see a range of criteria. If you want to send a reply to all emails, don't check any boxes. Check boxes if you want to limit which kinds of emails get an automated reply, then click "Next."

Step 5

Select the "Reply using a specific template" option in the first section of the dialog box that opens. Click the "a specific template" link in the bottom section to open the Select a Reply Template box.

Step 6

Select "User Templates in File System" from the Look In menu. The template you created earlier should appear in the window. Select the template file and click "Open" to return to the Rules Wizard. Click "Next." If you want to add exceptions to your AutoReply rule, check them off in the list and click "Next" when you're done.

Step 7

Give your rule a name in Step 1 and make sure that the "Turn on this rule" button is checked in Step 2. In Step 3, review the rule description and click "Finish."

Tips & Warnings

  • It may be useful to include details of alternative contacts in your email, so people know who to contact if they have an urgent issue.
  • You don't have to use this process to set up automatic replies if your Outlook uses Microsoft Exchange Server, which has its own Out of Office Reply feature.
  • To find out if you are using Exchange Server, go to "File" and click "Account Settings." On the Account Information page, click "Account Settings" and select the "Email" tab. If Microsoft Exchange is listed next to your email account, you're using it.
  • Test that your reply works by sending yourself a message.
  • Don't forget to turn off the rule when you get back to the office. Go to the "Home" tab and click on "Rules" then "Manage Rules and Alerts." Select the "Email Rules" tab and uncheck the rule for your template.
  • Outlook can only send out automated replies if it is running and set up to automatically check for new emails.