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Moving or making Out of Office messages stand out

With the holidays coming up, and the fact that you only receive Out of Office notices once, I’d like to keep track of who is away when.

As most people tend to write their substitute or an emergency number in the Out of Office message as well, I thought storing them into a separate folder (or having them stand out more so I don’t forget to move them) would be a good approach. I can then simply search within that folder

How would I move or color code these Out of Office messages without risking to also move or color code other messages?

Automatic Replies buttonKeeping received Out of Office (OOF) messages like that for a while can indeed act like a quick handy reference.

Creating a message rule to move these messages directly is easy enough but unless you regularly monitor that folder or work from a Search Folder such as the Today’s Unread Mail folder, you might miss the initial notification. Also, you might want to be a bit more selective in which OOF message you’d like to keep. Making them stand out between your regular mail so you can choose to move or delete them might be the better approach.

Moving OOF messages via a rule

If you want to automatically move the OOF messages that you receive to a separate folder, you can create the following rule:

  • Apply this rule after the message arrives
  • which is an automatic reply
  • move it to the specified rule

Note: In Outlook 2007 and previous, the condition is called “which is an Out of Office message”.

Color coding OOF messages

To color code OOF messages without risking that regular emails messages also get color coded, you can setup a Conditional Formatting rule in the following way:

  1. Open the Conditional Formatting dialog:
    • Outlook 2007 and previous
      View-> Arrange By-> Custom…-> button Automatic Formatting…
    • Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013
      tab View-> View Settings-> button Conditional Formatting…
  2. Press the Add button and name the rule. For instance: OOF Messages
  3. Press the Font… button to set the highlighting options of your choice.

    OOF Messages - Create a new Conditional Formatting rule with a unique color.
    Create a new Conditional Formatting rule with a unique color.

  4. Press the Condition… button.
  5. Select the Advanced tab
  6. Type the following condition:
    • Field: Message Class
    • Condition: contains
    • Value: IPM.Note.Rules.OofTemplate.Microsoft
  7. Press the “Add to List” button.
  8. Press OK until all dialogs are closed and you’re returned to the Inbox.

This manual Conditional Formatting filter will only apply to OOF messages.
This manual Conditional Formatting filter will only apply to OOF messages.

Note: If you are receiving OOF messages which are not coming from an Exchange server, then you might need to look at other specific message properties. For instance, most subjects have a specific prefix or the message contains specific words in the message body for which you can create a filter.

Additional tips

Mail Tips
If you are sending to someone within your Exchange organization, a mail tip could display the OOF message for this person as well, regardless whether or not you’ve already receive such a notice (requires Outlook 2010 and Exchange 2010 or later).

Mail Tip - Automatic Reply / OOF

Quick Steps
Instead of manually moving the OOF messages, you could create a Quick Step to move the message and directly mark it as read as well. This saves you from a couple of clicks and the need to look up the folder. You can even add a keyboard shortcut to the Quick Step in case you prefer to process you mail via a keyboard.

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