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5. Automating Emails
This lesson covers several important methods for automating emails. Learn how to insert a pre-built signature, send out of office replies and create custom automatic replies with automatic reply rules.
Explore methods for automating emails.
When signing off a business email, it’s common to include contact details below. Typing this every time can be tedious, so we can use a stored signature instead.
In the new email window, click the Signatures dropdown and select signatures.
You can create multiple signatures for use at any time. To create a new signature, click new, give it a name and type your signature in the box below.
To insert a stored signature, click the Signatures dropdown and choose from the list of previously created signatures.
When you’re not available to reply to emails, it can be very beneficial to setup automatic replies. To start, click File, select Automatic Replies. By default, Automatic Replies will be turned off. To turn them on, select “Send Automatic Replies”.
To automatically turn Automatic Replies on or off, check the box entitled “Only send during this time range:”. Then select the desired start date and time followed by the desired end date and time.
Below, we can type our message. This will message will be sent to anyone who send you an email while Automatic Replies are activated.
Automatic Reply Rules
To access rules, click the Rules button at the bottom of the Automatic Replies window. Rules give us a lot more control over how we handle incoming emails while we’re away. To start, we can control how the rule will trigger.
These conditions include emails which are sent to or from specific accounts and whether or not they were sent directly or as a CC.
They can also be triggered based on specific words found in the subject or message body.
Once the criteria are set, we can set the actions for the rule to perform.
We can have these emails trigger alerts, but this isn’t particularly useful because this feature is mostly used when you don’t have access to Outlook.
We can also choose to delete these emails, but this also has limited uses.
One action is to move emails to specific folders. For example, you may have an Out of Office folder for all emails you receive while you were away. A rule could automatically move these emails to that folder while you’re away. It can also make a copy in a desired folder, meaning that the original in the Inbox will stay.
We can choose to forward the email to another address. This is useful if you want to designate a colleague to reply to emails on your behalf while you’re unavailable.
We can also reply with a specific message. For example, if we’ve delegated these emails to a colleague, it would be useful to include a reply to let the recipient know that you won’t be replying but that they should expect a reply from your colleague.
We need to click OK to finish the rule. In order to activate the rule, we need to make sure it’s checked in the Automatic Reply Rules window and to ensure that Automatic replies are turned on.
In this lesson, we'll explore methods for automating emails.
Outlook comes with a few tools for automating emails.
These are especially useful when writing work related emails. For example, it's common to include a signature in your work email that includes your name and contact details. Writing this same info for every email can be tedious. Fortunately, we can automate this.
To do this, compose an email, select the Signatures drop down command and click signatures.
In the Signatures and Stationary window, we'll click New to create a new signature. We'll call this one Business.
To the right, we can choose which of our email addresses we want to associate with this signature. We can also choose a default signature for new emails and replies to emails. I'll use Business for both.
Note that this won't work for the current email we're writing, because it was created before we set a default signature.
We'll have to manually add a signature, which we'll do in a moment. In the box below, we can fill in the signature. I'll start by making the text bold and typing my name.
I'll then start a new line, turn off the bold formatting, and type my email address.
Next, I'll type a space, a vertical bar, and another space.
Finally, I'll type my phone number and click OK.
Now we can add one of our signatures manually. We just need to select the Signature drop down command and select a signature. This automatically inserts it into the main body of the email.
Let's look at another use case for automation in Outlook. Automatic replies.
This functionality is especially useful for business email accounts. For example, if you're on leave for an extended period, it's good practice to inform those who might try to contact you that you're away and when you'll be availible to reply to their emails. To do this, we'll first close the new email window, click file and choose automatic replies. This opens the Automatic Replies window. This feature will be turned off by default. We'll select Send Automatic Replies to turn it on. We can also specify a date range for the automatic reply to appear.
I'll set my automatic replies to turn on tomorrow morning and turn off the following week.
We can type our message below. In the first tab we can write a message aimed at people within our organization. This permits us to be a little more direct and a little less formal. Here, I'll quickly write a message aimed at my team.
In the next tab, I need to write a message for replies to external addresses. This needs to be more formal.
I'll enter a message explaining that I'm out of the office and when I'll return.
We can also add a little more complexity to our automation by clicking the Rules button at the bottom left and selecting Add Rule.
Rules come in two parts. The first part tells Outlook when to apply a rule. The second part tells Outlook what the rule is.
In this case, I want to make sure that our top client continues to receive quick replies even when I'm away. I'll create a rule that sends this client a message telling them that I am on leave, but that a specific colleague of mine will respond shortly on my behalf. For the first part, there are a few conditions to tell when to enact a rule. I need to make sure that this rule only triggers when our biggest client sends an email. Therefore, I'll type the email address of the client in the From field.
I don't want to bother them if I've only been addressing a carbon copy, so I'll check the Send Directly to Me box.
Below, we can type certain words in the Subject or Message body boxes.
This means our rule will only work if those emails contain the exact words that appear in the subject or message body fields. While this can be useful, it excludes any emails that don't contain those words. We want this rule to apply to all emails from our top client, Morris Croft, so we'll leave these fields blank. With the first part complete, we'll now configure how our rule works.
I don't need an alert, since I'll be on leave, and I certainly don't want to delete this email, so I'll leave the first two boxes unchecked.
I do want to move these emails to a folder I made for this client, so I'll check the Move To box.
I'll click the Folder button and navigate to the folder called Morris Croft.
If I wanted to keep a copy in my Inbox, I'd click Copy To. I'm happy to remove it from my Inbox once it's in the client folder, so I'll leave this unchecked.
Next, I'll check Forward and choose my colleague Trudy.
This will forward all the emails from the designated email address to Trudy. She'll take the lead in dealing with this client until I've returned. Finally, I'll add a template containing my reply to the client. This will open a new message window where I'll type a quick explanation to say that I'm out of the office and that my colleague will reply to the email they've just sent.
We'll close this new email window and save our changes.
We'll then click OK to finish creating this rule.
We'll ensure that our rule is checked, and then click OK to close the rules box.
We'll ensure that automatic replies is turned on and click OK.
Once we're back in the office, the first thing that we'll do is open the automatic replies window again, and select Do Not Send Automatic Replies. Let's stop here. In the next lesson, we'll learn a little more about sending emails by looking at how to configure delivery options.