Anyone that has gone through an email address change knows it takes time for everyone to update their address books. An Outlook auto-reply rule and email template can pick up the slack. Basically, Outlook evaluates the incoming email and if it meets certain criteria, it performs and action. For example,
IF the email came from a contact in your address book AND it was addressed to a specific email address, THEN Outlook should automatically send out a specific email message.
A more common example might be the out-of-office email messages you get from co-workers.
Creating an Outlook Email Template
The first part is to create an email template for the rule. The template contains the information you wish to convey. In my friend’s case, he might enter his new information and also include a vCard attachment. For illustration purposes, these steps are using Outlook 2007.
1. Open Outlook
2. From the File menu, select New and then Mail Message.
3. Type a Subject: for the email. As example, “New contact info for ...”
4. Add the content for your email.
Optionally, you can use the Insert tab and add your Business Card. This will attach your vCard, which may make it easier for people to add your contact details to their address books.
5. Click the Office button in the top left and select Save As.
6. In the Save As dialog, change the Save as type: field to “Outlook Template (*.oft). By default, the file will be saved in the Template folder.
7. Provide a descriptive File name for the template.
8. Click Save.
9. Press Alt+F4 to close the template.
10. Click No when asked if you wish to save draft.
Note: If you wish to check your template, you can click the triangle next to the New button and select Choose Form… Change the Look In: selection to “User Templates in File System”.
Creating the Outlook Auto-Reply
The second part is to write an Outlook rule that uses this template whenever it processes an incoming email that meets your criteria. In our example, the criteria are an email from someone in your contacts folder AND it was sent to the old email address.
1. From the Tools menu, select Rules and Alerts.
2. In the Rules and Alerts dialog, click New Rule…
3. In the Rules Wizard, click “Check messages when they arrive”. This is under Start from a blank rule.
4. Click Next.
5. In Step 1, check “with specific words in the recipient’s address”.
6. In the lower pane, click the hyperlink for “specific words”.
7. Enter the email address you are retiring.
8. Click Add.
9. Click OK.
10. Scroll down and check “sender is in specified Address Book”.
11. Click the hyperlink “specified” in the lower pane.
12. Highlight your address list and click Add.
13. Click Next.
14. For action, select “reply using a specific template”.
15. Click the hyperlink “a specific template” in lower pane.
16. In the Select a Reply Template, change the Look In: value to “User Templates in File System”.
17. Select the template you made.
18. Click Open.
19. Click Next.
20. Add any exceptions you wish and click Next.
21 Give your rule a name.
22. Click Finish.
Tweaking & Testing the Outlook Rule
Although this isn’t a complex email rule, I find you should always test them. The last thing you want is your new email address and contact info to go to everyone that sends you email. That would make spammers happy and annoy contacts who already updated their address book.
An easy way to test such a rule is to use another email address such as Yahoo!. I created a test contact for myself in Outlook with the Yahoo! address. From my Yahoo! account, I sent an email to the address I used in Step 7.
If the rule works, you should see your copy of your template email in your Sent Items folder provided you save copies. If you don’t see it, the rule wasn’t triggered for some reason. As example, you may have typed the wrong email address in Step 7. One issue I ran into was my email rule didn’t work with delegated addresses. These are the email addresses that show “on behalf of”.
These auto-reply rules can be tweaked to suit your needs. You may decide that you prefer certain Outlook groups or Outlook distribution lists get the reminder emails instead of all contacts. Microsoft provides the framework, but you can easily adjust the email rules.
Last Updated (Friday, 18 June 2010 20:33)