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Out of Office Auto-Reply in Outlook 2011 for Mac

This article applies to: Outlook 2011 for Mac


If you will be out of the office (or otherwise away from your email), people who send you messages may wonder why you haven't responded. Outlook's Out of Office assistant lets you create a reply that will be sent once to each person who sends you a message. You can choose to include and exclude people who fall into three categories:

  • Inside My Company - this category is only those people who have accounts on CIT's Exchange server. This includes most faculty and staff, retirees, and some students.
  • Note: People in colleges and units that manage their own email servers will never be "Inside."
  • Outside My Company - this category is everyone who isn't inside. Most undergraduates (who use Cmail accounts) fall into this group, as do people in colleges and units that manage their own email servers. The "Outside" group is broken down into two smaller groups:
    • Address Books contacts only - only people who (1) are not "inside" and (2) have an entry in your Contacts are in this group.
    • Anyone outside my company - and this is everybody else.

Messages from most e-list managers (including nearly all CIT-hosted lists) delivered to accounts on CIT's Exchange server won't trigger an auto-reply.

The auto-reply function lives on the Exchange server, so you do not need to leave Outlook running on your computer for it to work.

Your messages will be delivered to you exactly the same way whether you have auto-reply turned on or off.

(You can also set this up from any computer through Outlook on the Web, the browser-based version of Outlook.)

  1. Start Outlook.
  2. If you have more than one account listed in the Navigation Pane on the left (for example, your own account and your manager's account or a Resource Account), click the name of the account for which you want to set up an auto-reply.
  3. From Outlook's Tools menu, select Out of Office.
  4. To turn on auto-reply, select the second radio button: Send Out of Office messages. The rest of the controls are grayed out until you select this button.
  5. If you leave I am out of the office between UNchecked, auto-reply will begin as soon as you finish filling out this dialog box, and will continue until you come back to this dialog box and turn it off.
    If you check I am out of the office between, you must specify the start and end date and time. With this option checked, auto-reply will be turned off automatically at the date and time you specify.
  6. In the Reply to messages text box, enter the body of your auto-reply. It's a good idea to indicate when you'll return (or when you'll next check your mail), and to mention that the message they sent was delivered and is waiting for you, so there's no need for them to send it again.
    NOTE: the text in this first field will only be sent to people within your company (as described above).
  7. If you leave Send replies outside my company UNchecked, people "outside" (as defined at the top of this web page) will not receive an auto-reply.
    If you check Send replies outside my company, you then need to select one of the two radio buttons:
    • Address Book contacts only will generate this auto-reply only if the message came from someone in your personal Contact List (My Contacts).
    • Anyone outside my company will generate this auto-reply once for every address from which you receive a message.
  8. If you've chosen to send an auto-reply outside your organization, use the Reply once to each sender outside my company with text box on this tab to enter the body of your auto-reply. If you want to use the same text as you used for replies inside your company, you'll need to copy the text from that text field and paste it here. You can create a different message if you like.
    It's a good idea to indicate when you'll return (or when you'll next check your mail), and to mention that the message they sent was delivered and is waiting for you, so there's no need for them to send it again.
  9. Click OK to close the dialog box when you are finished.

Given the amount of unsolicited (and possibly unwelcome) email we receive, we generally recommend that you do not send auto-replies to everyone in the world. This would open you up to responding to spam or marketing messages, which would confirm to the sender that they had reached a valid address, and you would most likely start getting even more junk mail.

If you did not specify a start and end date and time, remember to come back to the assistant upon your return to the office, and turn off the auto-reply feature.

The text you enter for your auto-replies will be saved even after you turn this feature off. This is a good thing, because it means that the next time you want to use auto-reply, you won't have to create your message from scratch. Just review and update your text, and turn it back on.

It is not possible to send auto-replies to people outside your "company," but NOT to people inside.

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