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Yup, it’s officially summer time – and that also means vacation time. If you’re like us and use either Gmail or Google Apps for Small Business, an autoresponder can make your life MUCH easier. There’s nothing more stressful than coming BACK from vacation to find a bunch of, “WHY haven’t you RESPONDED???” type emails waiting for you. Of course, if you really ARE like us, then you probably have your handy little phone that gets all your email for you regardless of where you are anyway… but we digress.

In the world of Google and Gmail, the autoresponder is the “vacation responder”. With a little judicious setup, you can get it to send an automated reply to anyone who emails you while it’s active. It’s quick to set up – just a minute or two – and you can easily deactivate at a time of your choosing. BONUS: Start and stop dates can be setup ahead of time if you have a bad memory like me.

  • Sign in to your Gmail account.
  • Click the gear icon in the upper-right corner of your Gmail interface and then click “Settings”.
  • Make sure you’re on the “General” tab.
  • Scroll down to the Vacation responder section (it’s near the bottom of that config page).
  • Decide when to kick it on. When you click the “Vacation responder on”, it will make today the first day and you can select when to end it. If you want to set it up for next Friday through Monday am, you can do that all in one shot right NOW while you’re thinking about it.  If you’ve just won the lottery and are on permanent vacation, you may choose to NOT end it until you decide to do it manually.
  • Enter the subject and body of your message in the Subject: and Message: fields.
    • Enter either very specific information – will be out of office from date1 until date2 OR just general – I’m unavailable. See above #lottery.
    • If you’ve enabled a personalized signature in your settings, Gmail will automatically slap it on the bottom of your vacation response.
  • Check the box next to ONLY send a response to people in “My Contacts” if you don’t want everyone who emails you (stalkers, people casing your house for the next burglary, etc) to know that you’re away from your mail or on vacation.
  • Click Save Changes.

When the vacation responder is active, you will see a yellow banner across the top of any Gmail page, displaying the subject of your vacation response. To stop Gmail from automatically sending the response, click end now within the banner. Or, if you’d like to edit the response, click vacation settings.

Keep in mind that your vacation response will start over each time you edit it. Normally each email address only gets one response from the autoresponder. If someone receives your initial vacation response, and then emails you again after you’ve edited the subject or body of the message, he or she will then receive the edited response again.

Messages filtered as SPAM or addressed to a mailing list you belong to will not receive a vacation response.

Now, you’re geared up to take a few days off. Go out there and enjoy the world!