skip to content

How To Set Up A Vacation Message

If you will be away from your email for a while, you may wish to set up a vacation message aka out-of-office autoreply. This message will be automatically sent to anyone who emails you while you are away to alert them to your absence. (Once a sender has received one vacation message from you there will be a delay before they receive any more.)

Remember to disable your vacation message when you return, and if you include any dates in your vacation message, remember to update it each time you go away.

Hermes users

Log into Hermes webmail. Click on "Settings" in the top menu bar, then "Mail Processing" and "Vacation". Take particular note of the Aliases box. Any email address which is forwarded to your Hermes account (such as your @damtp address) must be entered in there for your vacation message to work properly.

Users of local email (DAMTP, DPMMS, Statslab)

The vacation.txt method

The most straightforward method is to create a file vacation.txt with your vacation message to enable the out of office autoreply, and delete or rename the file to disable it.

An example vacation.txt file:

I'm off on holiday until [DATE].  Your message will be read when I
return.  Urgent work-related matters should be referred to


Do not include headers in this file. They will simply be treated as part of the body of the email.

  • The From address of the vacation message will be USERNAME@statslab, dpmms or damtp as appropriate, replacing USERNAME by your username.
  • The Subject will be "Re: original message's subject" or "Out of Office reply" if the original message had no subject.
  • The gap between vacation messages sent to the same person will be 7 days.

If you need to change any of these options, use the more complicated exim filters method described below.

The exim filters method

Create a file called .vacation.msg containing your vacation message. You can use variable expansions like $header_subject to substitute the subject line of their message into your auto-reply e.g.

I'm off on holiday (till about November 14th).  Your message regarding


will not be read till then.  Urgent work-related matters should be
referred to [COLLEAGUE'S EMAIL]


Then create a .forward file containing the following (edited to include your own name and email address). Alternatively, download and edit a longer .forward file which includes options for spam filtering and blocking unwanted email as well as vacation messages.

Note: If you already have a .forward file for simple redirection of all your email, you may find it easiest to set up your vacation message at the other end.

# Exim filter << DO NOT REMOVE

# Vacation Messages :
# Change Message below for vacation Subject if desired, and,
# optionally, create File '.vacation.msg' with Reply Message.
# Line 'once_repeat' sets frequency in days of Vac. Message,
# to send to correspondents emailing you while Vac. set up.
# To activate Vacation Message uncomment Lines below :

if personal alias
   vacation subject "Away from the Office"
   from "A B Surname <>"
   once_repeat 7d

Customise the file as follows:

  • Replace all the A.B.Surname and abs99 stuff with your own name and email address.
  • Ensure that you have an alias line for each address people are likely to use. Only email addressed to your username (e.g. abs99@statslab) or listed aliases will receive a reply.
  • Optionally, change the subject of your vacation message and the gap between repeat messages.

To disable your vacation message, comment out the "Vacation messages" section of your .forward file by adding a "#" sign at the beginning of each line. Or type mv .forward .forward.old but remember that this will also disable any other filtering you have set up.