Customizing the Outlook Out of Office Assistant

Customizing the Outlook Out of Office Assistant

Note: Before following any of the instructions below, think carefully about their consequences.

A client asked me this question today:

In Outlook, is there a way to change the subject line when using the out
of office assistant? For instance, we have a former employee’s email
account that says she is no longer with our company but the subject line of
the emails says out of office.

The answer is yes. When you run the Out of Office Assistant (OoOA), you get this screen:


Most folks put in some text in the upper box, click OK, and are done with it. But if you are using the OoOA for some special purpose, such as announcing the permanent departure of an employee, you might want a more sophisticated response. Or you might want to let some people know you’re out of the office but not everyone. In that case, you need to create one or more rules by clicking the Add Rule button. When you click the button, you’ll get lots of choices:


In this case, we want to check the “Reply with” button and then click the Template button to create a customized reply message. Enter the desired subject line and text, but leave the To field blank:


When you’re done composing, close the window and you’ll be prompted to save your message. Click Save and/or OK enough times and you’ll be back at the OoOA screen, with your new rule in place, and you can enable the rule when ready:


Note that for your auto-replies to actually get delivered to anyone via the Internet, your Exchange administrator has to allow it. In many cases this behavior is turned off to prevent an endless loop of messages getting bounced back and forth between auto-responding servers. The settings to enable/disable out-of-office and other automated replies are set in the properties of the Exchange Global Settings / Internet Message Formats / Default:


As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, you need to think very carefully about how you want your auto-responses to work. Having an out-of-office message sent to a mass mailing list is usually a big no-no. If you are thinking about using the OoOA for a departed employee, make sure that you have unsubscribed him or her from all mailing lists first.

Posted in All, Exchange, Office 2007, Software, Technology on Dec 31st, 2007, 4:48 pm by David Schrag   

7 Responses

  1. Jackie
    June 7th, 2010 | 11:21 am

    Thanks for the thorough explanation!!! Just what I was looking for!

  2. Shefy
    September 15th, 2010 | 4:22 am

    Hey thanks for the tip . Could you tell me where can i find Exchange Global Settings / Internet Message Formats in WIN2K3 envronment ? Is there anyway we can do this for individual account?

  3. September 22nd, 2010 | 7:43 pm

    Many thanks – exactly what I wanted to know. Will be pointing people here. 🙂

  4. September 22nd, 2010 | 8:03 pm

    […] in Outlook?”  Well, I did some poking around and found this nice post by David Schrag:  Customizing the Outlook Out of Office Assistant.  This described how to modify the subject line in Outlook 2003, but it should work for 2007.  As […]

  5. Praveen KP
    February 22nd, 2011 | 5:46 pm

    Thank you so much. This is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks once again.

  6. Outlook_Dev
    June 1st, 2011 | 1:35 am

    I want to customize the Outlook 2007/2010 ‘OutOfOffice’ window by adding few more controls to it.

    Basically few more controls which will be added are used to collection information from user and store in my own database – A check box, label and text box.

    When ever user set himself as Out Of OFfice, then he can check check box and mention reason in text box. These information will be communicated with my application database.

    What are APIs available to make it work as add in.


  7. John Besley
    November 3rd, 2011 | 2:15 am

    This is great, however a message gets sent everytime an email is received. With the standard out of office, an email only gets sent to each address that an email is received from once.
    Is it possible to include this functionality when creating a rule?

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