Now that Outlook, Exchange and Lync all provide a way of showing that someone is Out of the Office (aka OOF, not OOO), it should be no surprise when you send email to someone internally, that you get an Out of Office message.
Outlook’s tool tip tells you they’re out, Lync’s status icon shows the small * to indicate the same, and if you hover over the person’s name, you’ll see the same message shown at the top of the information balloon from Lync. Maybe it’s time to ditch the receipt of old-fashioned OOF message altogether, at least by taking them away from your inbox...?
Fortunately, a simple Outlook rule will take care of that. We’ve talked about Outlook rules before in previous ToWs… #9 and particularly, #29. ToW #29 introduced a way of having multiple rules working to remove everything from your inbox that met a bunch of conditions, meaning that what’s left is likely to be important. If you get too many emails, check it out.
A short bit of theory
Now, you might not know this, but every “item” in Outlook (eg. email, contact, appointment) is really just a blob of data with some specific fields defining the shape of the item – obvious stuff like when was it created, sent, who was it sent to, what was its subject, etc. One of the more important fields is the “message class” – that’s the information that tells Outlook how it should be displayed, and what kind of functionality the user will have. Outlook needs to use a very different form to display a contact, for example, than a regular email message, yet underneath there’s actually very little difference other than which fields exists and what their values are.
So what? Well, it turns out OOFs use a specific message class, and can therefore be filtered out based on that.
Create the rule
To set up the rule, go to the Home tab in Outlook’s main window, and under the Rules icon, create a new one. Now, go straight to Advanced Options button in the lower right. In the Condition(s) page of the rules wizard, scroll down and look for which is an automatic reply and tick it, then click Next. Now you can decide what you want to do with it (Delete? Move to another folder, etc). It’s pretty self-explanatory after this point.
One nice side-effect here is that Outlook typically strips a lot of its internal information on an email that is sent externally – so if you get an OOF from a customer or partner, it won’t have the classification of being an automatic reply… it’s just a regular email as far as Outlook is concerned. So the filtering will only remove OOF messages from internal people and will leave external OOFs in your inbox.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you could create other rules to handle messages based on type by using the “uses the form name” condition… Just make sure you don’t squirrel important messages away too deeply, in case you might actually need to read them…