How to create an auto-reply rule in Apple Mail (and why you should)



I don’t always have time to reply to that email as soon as it comes in. 

Marc Romanelli/Getty Images

Throughout the day I receive a constant deluge of emails from numerous sources. Many of those emails are spam. From the remaining collection, some missives can be ignored until I have a free moment while others need an immediate response. 

The thing is, I don’t always have time to reply to that email as soon as it comes in. When I’m in the writing zone, my attention can often become quite laser-focused and I forget to do things like check email.

However, some of my contacts expect an almost immediate reply (otherwise they get antsy). For the recipients, I create a rule that sends an auto-reply to let them know I’ve received their communication and will reply as soon as possible. Fortunately, Apple Mail makes that feasible with the help of rules. 

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Let me show you how to use Rules to create an auto-reply response for those contacts who need to know you’re not ignoring them. The process is quite easy and can be taken care of in a couple of minutes.

Creating your auto-reply rule

What you’ll need: To create an auto-reply rule, you’ll need a running instance of Apple Mail (I’ll be demonstrating on MacOS Ventura 13.4) and at least one email account configured. That’s it. Let’s create that first rule.

The first step is to open Apple Mail, which can be done from either the Dock or Launchpad.

With Apple Mail open, click Mail > Settings to open the Settings window.

The Apple Mail Mail menu.

Accessing Apple Mail Settings from the Mail menu.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

From the Settings window, click the Rules tab and then click Add Rule.

The Rules section of Apple Mail Settings.

You can create as many new rules as needed.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

When the Rule popup opens, the first thing you’ll do is give it a description. Make sure to type something that sets the rule apart. For example, if the rule is an auto-reply to Olivia Nightingale, type something like “Olivia N. Auto-Reply” in the description. In the next section, change “contains” to “is equal to” and then type the email address of the contact in the field to the right of the drop-down you just configured. Next, change Move Message to Reply to Message. Click Reply message text and, in the resulting popup, type the message you want to automatically send. Once you’ve finished, click OK to save the new rule.

The Apple Mail Rule configuration window.

Creating your first Apple Mail Rule.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

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After saving the new rule, a popup will appear asking if you want to apply it. Click Apply to run the rule.

The Rule Apply popup for Apple Mail.

For this new rule, you don’t have to bother Applying it immediately.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

With the auto-reply rule in place, any time that contact sends you a message, they will receive an auto-reply informing them of the message text you added to the rule. This is a great way to ensure those VIP contacts know that you’ll get back to them as soon as possible. Use this feature wisely and it will help keep those who need to hear back from either getting concerned or bombarding you will follow ups.

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