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Forward emails only when Automatic Replies (OOF) is enabled

I’m not always in the office but I’m quite consistent with enabling the Automatic Replies feature while I’m away.

Would it be possible to forward my emails to somebody else only when I have Automatic Replies enabled?

If so, can I also forward emails to my private address when the message was sent with high priority or from a specific colleague?

Automatic Replies and Forwards buttonYou can indeed create rules that are only executed when you have Automatic Replies (also known as Out of Office or OOF) enabled.

This rules dialog looks quite different from the regular Rules & Alerts wizard though and some rules are bit tougher to create.

Creating Automatic Replies specific rules

You can create message rules that are only executed when you have Automatic Replies enabled in the following way;

  • Outlook 2003 and previous
    Tools-> Out of Office Assistant…-> button: Add Rule…
  • Outlook 2007
    Tools-> Out of Office Assistant…-> button: Rules…-> Add Rule…
  • Outlook 2010, Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2016
    File-> Automatic Replies-> button: Rules…-> Add Rule…

Creating a rule for Automatic Replies requires you to open quite some dialogs on top of each other.(click on image to enlarge)
Creating a rule for Automatic Replies requires you to open quite some dialogs on top of each other.(click on image to enlarge)

Forward emails to somebody else

When you want all messages to be forwarded when the OOF is enabled, leave all other options blank and only enable the Forward option. Type the address you want the message to be forwarded to or press the To… button to select an address from your Address Book.

Forward emails to an external address

Forwarding emails to an external address is only possible when your Exchange environment has been configured to allow automatic forwarding to the Internet (which is disabled by default).

For more details and alternatives for this method see: Out of Office rule doesn’t auto-forward my mail.

Forward high priority emails only

When you only want to forward emails that were sent to you with high priority, then you can press the Advanced… button in the Edit Rule… dialog. Here you’ll find an option to select the importance level to look for when messages are being received.

Do not forward newsletters or notification emails

To exclude emails coming from specific address from being forwarded, specify these addresses in the From field and specify the address to forward all other emails to as well.

Press the Advanced… button and select the option: Only items that do not match these conditions.

The Advanced dialog allows you to create “Exceptions” by enabling the option: Only items that do not match these conditions.
The Advanced dialog allows you to create “Exceptions” by enabling the option: Only items that do not match these conditions.

Do not forward sensitive private or confidential emails

Similar to the rule above, you’d first specify the address to forward all other emails to. Then press the Advanced… button to select the sensitivity level that you wish to exclude and the option: Only items that do not match these conditions.

To exclude multiple sensitivity levels, you’d need to create 2 rules as explained below.

Multiple rules and “Do not process subsequent rules”

Similar to normal rules, it is important that you sort them accordingly and use the “Do not process subsequent rules” action. This is especially true when you have multiple exclusion rules (with the selection: Only items that do not match these conditions) as you may not need to configure it as an exclusion rule anymore.

Also, when rules have the same (forwarding) action, you’d only need to specify the action for the last rule or create an additional rule without any conditions or exceptions but just the (forwarding) action or you could end up with the same email being forwarded multiple times.

To prevent multiple actions being taken when a message’s properties applies to multiple rules, use the “Do not process subsequent rules” option and also sort your rules accordingly.
To prevent multiple actions being taken when a message’s properties applies to multiple rules, use the “Do not process subsequent rules” option and also sort your rules accordingly.

Example
The following configuration would forward all emails marked with high importance to your private address except when it comes from a specific address. In addition, it will forward all your emails except emails that are coming from specific addresses or are marked as private or as confidential to a colleague.

Instead of rule 4 and 5, you could also create the following rule to achieve the same thing:

  • Advanced: Sensitivity: Confidential
  • Advanced: Only items that do not match these conditions
  • Forward: colleague@company.com

Note: In the above configuration, high priority emails will be sent to both your personal address and your colleague.When they are also marked as Private or Confidential, you’ll receive a copy in your personal mailbox but not your colleague.