OK, so now that we know what’s going on behind the scenes with regards to auto reply rules, let’s take a closer look and create the perfect “away” rule. We’ll go through every possible step, and explain the rule dialog in more detail along the way. As you will see, some of these elements are optional and might not be necessary in your case. Here we go:
- From the main menu, select “Tools” > “Rules” > “New...”.
- In the “New Rule” dialog box, give your rule a proper name, such as “Out-of-office”.
- In the “When event is” section, from the drop-down list, select the default “New Item” and in the next part select “Received”.
- In the “If conditions are (optional)” section, on the left, select the type of messages that this rule should respond to. If you don’t select anything, all item types will be included.
Tip: You might want to include or exclude “Appointment” items, to ensure that if one of your co-workers sends you an invitation for a meeting, he or she will understand why you did not accept or decline immediately. If you receive a lot of meeting invitations, you might even want to consider creating a separate and moreto-the-point rule which only handles appointments.
The most important part of creating this type of rule is to define proper conditions:
- Click on the “Define Conditions” button.
- In the next dialog box, as shown in Figure 1, we want this rule to stop at a certain date, so make sure that you indeed specify this condition by adding the “Created” field and comparing it to a “less than or equal” date.
- We don’t want to reply to ourselves, so we want to include an exception for this as well, as shown in Figure 1.
Note: This is indeed very handy, as we sometimes include ourselves in e-mails to others and we don’t want to get an “Out-of-Office” reply as well.
- In some cases, you might only want to reply to mail which is really meant for you, not to “CC” or “BC” messages.
- You don’t want to annoy others on, for example, a news list with an endless stream of “away” replies. Therefore, you might want to set some exceptions, in this case, to any news server which includes “NGN” and “NGW” in the subject.
Tip: Do you want to have the rule set to reply to everybody, within, or outside your own organization? Or, did you inform your co-workers properly about your absence in some other way and you want the rule to work for “Internet e-mail only”? Take a look back at topic 25 to see how you can use the GroupWise viewname to handle this issue.
(Editor’s note: For topic 25, see the Second Quarter 2007 issue of Novell Connection magazine.)
- When you’re ready defining conditions, click “OK” to return to the “New Rule” dialog box.
- As we’re not dealing with an “auto accept” for appointments, we’re not interested in the “Appointment conflict exists” section and we’ll leave it as it is “Does not matter (Yes or No)”.
- The next step is to create a proper reply, so we need to define an action. Click on “Add Action” > “Reply...” and in the next dialog box, accept the default setting and click “OK”.
Note: Although it’s tempting to select the “Include message received from sender” option, there are a few reasons you might not want to do so, as we will explain later.
- In the “Reply” dialog box, enter a short and sweet message, preferably identifying a co-worker who will take care of your business while you’re away.
Tip: In the “Reply” dialog box, you can also add something, such as “away” to the “subject” line. This will be added between “(...)” to the subject line of the reply, so there is no need to add “( )” yourself.
- Click “OK” to return to the “New Rule” dialog box.
- You can consider adding another action, for example, to either forward the message to your co-worker and/or to store the message in a shared folder.
Tip: Depending on your specific needs, you may decide that this is all that needs to be done and no other rules need to be evaluated or activated. If that’s the case, you can include the “Stop Rule Processing” action. If you have more than one rule and you put this rule at the top of your rule list, it will be the only rule fired if your filters apply and no other rules will be evaluated.
- Click “Save” to save your rule and return to the main “Rules” dialog box.
OK, that’s it; the resulting rule should work as explained and should look like Figure 2. A bit of a complicated process? How do I explain this to my end users? If you are concerned about this, you’re ready for either one of two options:
- GroupWise WebAccess, as it includes a small wizard which will create a fairly complicated “Out-of-Office” rule with just a few mouse clicks.
- Or, the Advansys Formativ rule generator, as described in topic 135.
Tip: As mentioned earlier, the “Out-of-Office” rule will execute only once, even if it takes years before another mail from that same person comes in. However, if after my out-of-office period I disable the rule, change it at a later date and reactivate it again, it will have flushed the list of earlier recipients and start anew. Very clever!
Editor’s note: A best practice for any vacation or leave auto response is to insert the text “Out of Office” at the beginning of the Subject line for two reasons:
- so those who send messages to you and get your auto response will immediately know you will not be replying until you return,
- and so those auto responses can also be handled automatically by rules on the original sender’s end if desired.
Then, in the body of your auto response, succinctly state the details for follow up, for example:
- when you’ll be able to reply
- whom to contact in your absence for immediate assistance, and
- how to contact your immediate replacement.
You can buy The GroupWise Powerguide for US $24.95 (ISBN# 9789080893450) from your local bookseller or directly from the publisher at books4brains.com. You can also order the book at many other online retailers such as amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
The book contains more than 130 power tips like the ones listed in Fine Print. Each tip lists the versions of GroupWise with which it is compatible. Most tips are listed as compatible with versions 6.5 and 7.
For example, the electronic version of Novell Connection magazine is sent out every month to thousands of subscribers. Inevitably, a flood of auto responses immediately comes back to the firstname.lastname@example.org account with a slew of different Subject lines clogging the main list of messages. We created a rule to move all responses that include “Out of Office” (in several different languages) in the Subject to a specific folder created to hold them until each can be evaluated. Obviously, the rule doesn’t catch them all because they all don’t have “Out of Office” in the Subject line. If each of these auto responses had “Out of Office” in the Subject line, they would be automatically moved to the proper folder created to hold them.