Q&A: How do I set up an out-of-office message in Entourage?

I got this question via email:

How do I set up an out-of-office message in Entourage?

The questioner didn't give a valid email address, so I don't have any context for this question. My answer is going to be long.

An out-of-office (OOF) message is one that is automatically sent by your mail server when you're gone. While I know that some people hate them (hi, John), lots of people find them handy. Usually, an out-of-office message tells whoever sent you mail that you're gone, how long you'll be out, and who they can contact in your stead. When I'm travelling, I often set my OOF to say that I'm travelling and to tell people that they can call or text me on my cell if they can't wait until I next check my mail. If you do set an OOF, make sure that you either don't send them to certain addresses like mailing lists (or John), or unsubscribe yourself from mailing lists.

If you're using Entourage 2008 with Exchange 2003 or later, or if you're using Entourage for Web Services with Exchange 2007 or later, it's easy. In Entourage, go to the Tools menu, and select "Out of Office...". Choose your settings, and you're done. Support for OOF is one of the first Office 2008 features we announced. If you're using Entourage 2004 or earlier with any version of Exchange, you don't get this handy feature.

If you're using any version of Entourage with POP or IMAP accounts, this also isn't something that is supported. POP and IMAP don't expose that kind of server functionality to clients. Some servers will allow you to go to their website and set an OOF.

If you really want to set an OOF, and you can't do it on your server, then there is one option for you. This requires you to leave your computer running at home (don't let it sleep!), to leave it hooked up to the Internet, and to leave Entourage running the whole time. If you want to do that, then you can simply set up a rule to automatically respond to any incoming message. The Entourage MVPs have complete instructions for setting up that rule.