Thursday, August 28, 2008

OOF - What's Your Policy?

In Microsoft-speak, OOF means Out of Facility. This is a holdover from the way old days of Microsoft's original email system, Xenix. Think early and mid-1990's.

Anyway, we refer to OOF as Out of Office because we create an Out of Office message, even though the facility for getting this done is OOF.


- - - - -

How do you use your Out of Office reply system?

Here are a few options:

  • None Allowed
    Some people turn it off because they don't want auto-replies going out of the office. It just alerts spammers that they've found a legitimate address.

  • Not Used
    I personally rarely use them. Important email to my company rarely goes to me. I travel a lot and get back to people when I can. Most of the time, my clients have no idea when I'm out of town. And most of my Internet friends don't care where I am.

  • Detailed Information
    Some folks give great, detailed information about how to proceed in their absense.

    This is an actual OOF reply. I've changed the name so you don't go break into his house while he's on vacation:

    From: [email protected]
    Sent: Sunday, August 24, 2008 9:18 PM
    To: [email protected]
    Subject: RE: Karl's SMB Email August 25th

    [This is an automated reply from Craig xxxxxxxx]

    I'm on a family vacation through September 1st. I won't be checking email or the phone while
    I'm away. For a prompt response, or computer support, please resend your email to
    [email protected]. Our office manager David can put you in touch with any of our techs,
    and we'll help get your issue addressed quickly.

    While I'm gone, the rest of xxxxxxxx team is here to support you. xxxxxxxx's weekly
    webinars are happening every week:

    Our weekly tips newsletter comes out each Monday:

    And of course, the rest of the technical team is here to make sure your computers are running
    smoothly. Thanks for your email.


    Phone: 123-456-7890
    Email: [email protected]

    KP Note: I love that reply. Lots of useful information. It gives a real sense that you're going to be taken care of while Craig's out of the facility.

  • Short And to The Point

    This message also gives clear information on how things will work in the recipient's absense, but is pretty sparse:

    Apologies, but I'm not currently available. If your enquiry is business critical & thus very urgent, please call my office on 0845-123-4567 and ask to speak with Tina.

    Alternatively, I'll respond to your email as soon as possible.

    Many thanks for your message and your patience!


    Nxxx Pxxxx

  • Or Just Plain Fun

    This one is not anonymous because it's very clever and Robbie's back from vacation, so you're less likely to break into his house.

    Thurs 21st - Monday 25th August:

    Lift tickets - stupidly expensive.

    Accommodation on snow - outrageous.

    Hiring skis, boots, poles, goggles etc etc - more money than I've got.

    Not having to think about anything other than avoiding trees & avalanches whilst shooshing down the snowy slopes of Thredbo for 3 days? Priceless. :-)

    Sorry folks but I'll be either up a mountain or down in the bar, returning Tuesday 26th & so if urgent, please contact Michelle Agudera on [email protected] or 02 9870 2308.


    Robbie Upcroft
    The World's Worst Skier

Just as with every other thing in your organization, your out of office (OOF) reply should be intentional. It should get the message across both in terms of content (how to get help) and tone (friendly, business-like, stuffy, etc.).

What goes out when you're not in?



  1. OOF ends up becoming part of the backscatter problem - I personally don't like them and don't use them myself. Great post on how to use OOF if you do use it.

    BTW, XENIX was the OS used that hosted the e-mail system. Microsoft licensed the UNIX source code from AT&T, outsourced development/porting to SCO and branded it XENIX. Not entirely correct, but close enough for the purposes of brevity.

    XENIX was used extensively inside Microsoft, not only for internal e-mail but also as a mail bridgehead between the XENIX-hosted system, the MSMail systems and the early Exchange systems and also acted as their SMTP gateway to the world. I also vaguely remember that was a XENIX system at which point it eventually got replaced with NT4.0 (might have been something between the XENIX and NT4.0 system though).

    XENIX has a very important place in the development of UNIX and UNIX-like systems on the Intel platform. Hard to think that during the early years of Microsoft that the migration off DOS was going to be to XENIX!

  2. Ahhhh . . . Memory lane.

    Do you remember that old NT systems shipped with a POSIX compatible component. No one outside Microsoft ever installed it.

    The first Microsoft Mail I hooked to the internet (1993) required a unix box. We didn't use xenix. I think we used freebsd.

    Too many cobwebs.

  3. Memories indeed...

    The POSIX subsystem got installed by default, didn't it? I remember having to rip it from production systems because of multiple security vulnerabilities. I was quite happy using it with the NT4 Resource Kit POSIX utilities as I had come direct from SunOS/FreeBSD/Linux to NT4 and wasn't prepared to regress back to the DOS commands :-)

    93 - most likely would have been NetBSD. FreeBSD was 94.

    I think we've drifted waaayy off topic however... Cobwebs indeed.

  4. Anonymous10:23 AM

    My first mobile phone (cell) had a voicemail message along the lines of;

    "Thanks for calling, I am in the office at the moment, please call again when I'm out."

    Regards, Gareth

  5. Sorry, Gareth. I'm stealing that.

    That's funny.


Feedback Welcome

Please note, however, that spam will be deleted, as will abusive posts.

Disagreements welcome!