Microsoft Outlook - Set up an out of Office Auto-Reply

While you are away from the computer, Outlook can automatically reply to incoming mail with a message telling senders when you'll be able to reply individually.

What to Know

  • Non-Exchange account: Create a new email message template and then create a rule to send an automatic reply.
  • Exchange account: File > Info > Automatic Replies > Send automatic replies > compose message > select start and end times > OK.
  • On Settings > View all Outlook settings > Mail > Automatic replies > Turn on automatic replies > compose > Save.

This article explains how to create an out-of-office reply message for Outlook 2019, 2016, 2013; Outlook for Microsoft 365, and, depending on the type of account you use. It also explains how to determine whether you have an Exchange account.

How to Set Automatic Replies in Outlook

An effective out-of-office automatic reply in Outlook makes sure that while you're away, people know you're unavailable when you'll be back and what they should do if they have an issue that needs immediate attention.

The set up for an out-of-office reply in Outlook differs depending on whether your email account is on a Microsoft Exchange server or is an IMAP or POP email account (such as common email services like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and others).

How to Tell Whether You Have an Exchange Account

If you are unsure whether you are using Outlook with an Exchange account, look in the status bar at the bottom of the Outlook window. If you're using an Exchange account, you'll see Connected to: Microsoft Exchange in the status bar.

Create Your Automatic Reply Email Template

To set up an automatic reply in Outlook for an IMAP or POP email account (for Exchange, see further below), use Outlook's rules feature. Begin by creating an email template for the auto-reply email that will be sent to recipients while you're away.

  1. Select New Email

  2. Enter the Subject for the email and the message text telling the recipient that you're unavailable

  3. Tip: Let recipients know when they can expect a personal response from you and be conscious of how much information you reveal in your automatic reply because revealing too much information can pose a risk.

  4. When you're finished composing your auto-reply message, select File

  5. Select Save As

  6. Select the Save as type dropdown arrow and select Outlook Template

  7. Select Save As

  8. Outlook uses the template's subject by default as the name in the File name text box. Change this to anything you like that lets you know it's your out-of-office email template file
  9. Select Save

  10. Close the message window

Create an Out-Of-Office Automatic Reply Rule

The next step for IMAP or POP email accounts is to set up an Outlook rule. This rule will send a response using the template you created in the previous section.

  1. Select File > Info

  2. Select Manage Rules & Alerts

  3. Select the Email Rules tab

  4. Under Apply changes to this folder, select the email account you're creating the automatic response for

  5. Tip: You will have the option to apply your new rule to all accounts in a later step.

  6. Select New Rule

  7. In the Start from a blank rule section, select Apply rule on messages I receive

  8. Select Next
  9. Under Step 1: Select condition(s), select the Where my name is in the To box checkbox

  10. Note: The automatic response rule replies to all incoming mail if you clear all the condition checkboxes.

  11. Select Next
  12. Under Step 1: Select action(s), select the reply using a specific template checkbox

  13. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description (click an underlined value), select the a specific template link

  14. Select the Look In dropdown arrow, then select User Templates in File System

  15. Highlight the template you created

  16. Select Open
  17. In the Rules Wizard dialog box, select Next
  18. Under Step 1: Select exception(s), select the except if it is an automatic reply checkbox

  19. Select Next
  20. Under Step 1: Specify a name for this rule, type a name for your auto-reply rule
  21. Under Step 2: Setup rule options, select the Turn on this rule checkbox if you want to activate the automatic responder. If you don't want the automatic reply active now, clear the checkbox

  22. Tip: If you have multiple email accounts in which you want to use this automatic responder, select the Create this rule on all accounts checkbox.

  23. Select Finish
  24. In the Rules and Alerts dialog box, select OK

  25. Note: Outlook sends an auto-reply to the address of each email received once per session; a second auto-reply is sent after Outlook is closed and re-opened.

How to Enable and Disable Automatic Replies for IMAP and POP Email Accounts

For IMAP and POP email accounts, enable the automatic responder whenever you need it. Go to File > Manage Rules & Alerts > Email Rules, select the checkbox next to your auto-responder rule, then select OK.

To disable the responder, clear the checkbox, then select OK.

Automatic Replies for Microsoft Exchange Accounts

If your email account is a Microsoft Exchange account (you can set up an account as an Exchange account in Outlook), you can set up an out of office auto-reply directly on the server. Follow these steps for Outlook 2019, 2016, and Outlook for Microsoft 365.

  1. Select File > Info
  2. Select Automatic Replies

  3. Select Send automatic replies. Compose your automatic reply message in the text box

  4. Note: To disable an automatic reply, go to the Automatic Replies dialog box, and select Do not send automatic replies. Auto-replies are no longer sent.

  5. Optionally, set the time frame during which you want the auto-reply to be active. Select the Only send during this time range checkbox. Then set the Start time and End time. Only messages received during this range will receive an automatic reply.
  6. If you work inside a company or organization, you may have additional options for your automatic replies:

    • Inside My Organization: This message is sent to messages received from others inside the same company or organization as you.
    • Outside My Organization: The message is sent to people outside of your organization. Select the Auto-reply to people outside my organization checkbox.

    Note: There are security risks involved with automatic replies.

  7. Select OK

Outlook Auto-Responder Tools and Add-Ins

Instead of setting up a rule in Outlook manually, use an add-in like Mail Responder for Outlook or tools like Email Responder (FreeBusy) or Auto Reply Manager. These tools are smart about sending only necessary out-of-office replies.

To maintain out-of-office replies more centrally on an Exchange server (including templates featuring fields merged with Active Directory), try Symprex Out-of-Office Manager.

How to Turn On Automatic Replies on

Enabling automatic replies on is a simple process. The feature doesn't offer as many options as Outlook software does, but it is easy to use.

  1. On the Mail page, select Settings > View all Outlook settings

  2. Select Mail > Automatic replies

  3. Turn on the Turn on automatic replies toggle

  4. Note: To turn off automatic replies, turn off the Automatic replies on toggle.

  5. Optional: Select the Send replies only during a time period checkbox. Specify the Start time and End time. Automatic replies are only sent during this timeframe.
  6. Enter the message you want to send while automatic replies are enabled

  7. Optionally, select the Send replies only to contacts checkbox to send automatic replies to only the people and email addresses in your contacts
  8. Select Save

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