How do I set up an automatic reply in Outlook webmail?

If you will be away from the office for some time, such as on a trip or holiday, you may want to set up an automatic reply in Outlook to inform people. This easy guide shows how to do it.

Setting an out of office reply on your email account is important and you should not simply ignore people for the week or two weeks you are away. What would happen to customers or clients, or even friends if their emails went unanswered? They may think you are ignoring them, you don’t care, or are not interested. Give them some feedback with an automatic reply.

An automatic reply can tell people:

  • Why you cannot immediately respond to their message
  • When you will return and be able to deal with matters
  • Who is covering for you while you are away

Let’s see how to set up out-of-office replies using Microsoft Outlook webmail. I have the dark theme enabled for the screenshots. Other email providers have similar features, but the menus will be different.

1 Open Outlook settings

Outlook webmail settings

Go to the website in a browser and click the gear icon in the top right corner to open the settings panel on the right.

2 Show more Outlook settings

Outlook webmail settings

Only the Quick settings are shown, such as the theme and message views. The auto-reply features we need are elsewhere. Look down at the bottom of the settings panel and click View all Outlook settings.

3 See advanced Outlook settings

Outlook webmail settings, automatic replies

A new, larger Settings panel appears. Select Email in the first column and click Automatic replies in the second column The Automatic replies settings appear on the right.

4 Enable Outlook automatic replies

Automatic replies in Outlook webmail settings

Turn on automatic replies using the switch at the top to enable it to be configured. For example, there is a text editor in which you can compose the message that is automatically sent to people. All the usual formatting controls are there so you can keep it simple or do something fancy. Whatever is appropriate.

A useful option at the bottom enables you to send replies only to your contacts. Friends, relatives, work colleagues, customers and other people will receive the automatic reply, but people you don’t know will not. It is up to you to decide whether to enable this feature and some will find it useful, but others will not.

5 Set an automated reply time period

Automatic replies in Outlook webmail settings

You could simply turn on automatic replies when you leave to go on your trip or holiday, but you may forget. It is better to select Send replies only during a time period. This enables you to select the date and time you are leaving and returning. Click the little calendar icons next to the dates and the V next to the times.

Additional settings now appear and there is a checkbox to Block my calendar for this period and Automatically decline new invitations for events that occur during this period. The calendar option is useful and you can enter a name for the reason why you are out of the office or home.

6 Block your calendar

Automatic replies in Outlook webmail settings

What does it mean to block your calendar? Switch to your Microsoft Calendar by clicking the icon in the bottom left corner of the window. Select the month you will be away and you will see that the time is marked with the text you entered in the last step.

7 Decline meetings while away

Automatic replies in Outlook webmail settings

Select the option to Decline and cancel my meetings during this period and more options appear. Select one, such as Use my automatic reply message. A list of events currently in your calendar are listed and you can choose which to clear.

That’s it. Don’t forget to click the Save button at the top of the Settings panel.

Suppose the trip or holiday is cancelled. Just return Automatic replies in Settings and turn off the switch. Check your Calendar and remove the event if you chose to add it.