How to create an autoresponder in Outlook 2000

Get the latest version of Microsoft Office 2007.

Question: How do I set-up an auto-responder in Outlook 2000? –Jackie P.

Answer: Setting up an auto-responder in Outlook 2000 is pretty straightforward. (Here are instructions for Outlook Express, and here if you have Outlook 2002).

One note of caution before you start: You’ll need to leave your computer on with Outlook running, for the auto-responder to work. Your computer will also need to be connected to the Internet at all times while you are away. If you have an always-on high speed service that uses a cable or DSL (digital subscriber line) modem, then that’s not a problem. At work, your computer may also be connected to a network that is always connected to the Internet. Wherever your computer is, however, if you have to dial up to the Internet over a phone line then using an auto-responder as outlined below is not recommended.

On to the instructions. First create the text of the message that will be sent as your auto-response.

  1. Create a new message in Outlook 2000 by clicking on the File menu and then selecting New and then Mail Messages. A new e-mail window will open.
  2. Type in the message you want to go out automatically to people who send you e-mail. Don’t fill in any of the To or CC fields, but do type in a subject, like “Andy Walker is out of the office”. (Of course, use your own name, because who knows where I’ll be?)
  3. When finished, click the File menu at the top of that box and choose Save As. If it is not listed, click the double arrows at the bottom of the menu to expose all menu options.

Next, you’ll want to save the auto-response file to your hard drive. Let’s call the auto-response outofoffice and place it in a folder called email-files on your main hard drive.

  1. In the Save As dialog box, create a folder called email-files to keep the auto-responder e-mail message file in.
  2. Click on the pull-down box at the top of the dialog box and choose the “C:” drive. Then click on the Create New Folder icon (which looks like a file folder with a star exploding on its edge) at the top of the dialog box. A highlighted folder named New Folder will appear.
  3. Rename it to email-files and hit your Enter key.
  4. Then double-click on the newly created folder to go into it. Make sure it says outofoffice in the File name field.
  5. In the Save as file type field, click the pull-down box (down arrow to the right of the field) and choose Outlook Template (*.oft).
  6. Click the Save button. Your auto-responder file, named outofoffice.oft is now ready to go.

Now you’ll tell Outlook when to apply the rule.

  1. In the main Outlook window, choose the Tools menu, and then the Rules Wizard.
  2. Click the New button. A box will appear. Make sure the Check messages when they arrive item is selected in the Which type of rule do you want to create box at the top. Click Next.
  3. On the next screen, you’ll select the types of e-mails that the auto-responder will respond to. There are lots of choices (be sure to use the scroll bar on the right to explore all the options). To be safe, choose Where my name is in the To box. If you want to alert people who copy you on e-mail (“CC” for when that used to mean “carbon copy”), then check the Where my name is in the Cc box as well. Click Next.
  4. In next dialog box, you’ll choose what to do when an e-mail arrives. Scroll down using the scroll bar at the right of the dialog box, and find the item that says Reply using a specific template.
  5. You’ll notice that each part of the rule you are creating appears in the Rule description box. When Reply using a specific template appears in the rule description, note that specific template is underlined. That means it’s clickable, and therefore customizable. So click it.
  6. A dialog box with the title Select a Reply Template. This is where you link to the auto-responder e-mail that you created earlier. In the Look In pull-down menu at the top, select the second item, called User templates in file system. When you do, this you’ll notice that the Browse button to the right, which was previously grayed out, is now active. So click it.
  7. A Go to Folder box will open. Now click the plus sign (+) next to My Computer. A list of drives on your computer will appear. Click the plus (+) sign next to the C: drive. It’ll look something like this “Andy’s computer (C:)”.
  8. A list of folders on your “C:” drive will appear. Select the email-files folder you created earlier and click OK.
  9. The outofoffice template we created earlier will be listed in the email-files folder. Select it and click Open. Now you’ll be back in the Rules Wizard box. In the Rules Description, you’ll notice that it says on the bottom line, Reply using C:email-filesoutofoffice.oft. Click Next.
  10. You’ll have the option to create any exceptions. If you want your auto-response to go to everyone/anyone who sends you e-mail, just click Next. If you want any exceptions to the rule, just check them on the list and then click Next.
  11. On the next screen, name the rule in the top box. Call it Out of the Office, if you like. Also, make sure there’s a check mark in the box that says Turn on this rule. This will activate the rule immediately.
  12. You can leave the box next to Run this rule now on messages already in the Inbox unchecked, unless you want all the messages you have already received to be sent your “out of the office” auto-response. Click “Finish”.

The auto-responder is now set up! It will be listed in the Apply rules in the following order box. To modify it, select the rule so that it is highlighted and click Modify on the right. To remove it, highlight it and click Delete. If the box next to the rule is checked, then the rule is active, so don’t turn it on unless you are ready to leave the office.

To get to the rule later, start Outlook 2000, choose the Tools menu, and select Rules Wizard.

Readers can send questions via our Queries Page.