Vacation Program - Auto E-Mail Message Responding


Our CS Grad/Research Net and Ugrad Net e-mail services allow you to set an auto-reply message when you are out of the office. We utilize a program called vacation that resides on our Linux systems (and our Grad/Research Net Solaris system,

vacation allows you to configure your email account to send an automated reply to anyone who emails you, so that you can let them know that you will be unavailable for a time (a.k.a. a "vacation" message). (Note: Full information about how it works can be found by running man vacation It also keeps track of who has e-mailed you since the time you set your vacation message, so that the sender doesn't get multiple vacation replies for every e-mail the sender sends to you.


Please realize that if you have "vacation" enabled, all of those who e-mail you will receive an automatic reply back. That also means that all spammers who send e-mail to you receive an automatic reply back from you as well. That automatic reply back to a spammer tells the spammer that your e-mail is indeed an active e-mail address and might be added to more spamming lists, and therefore, produce more spam over time, So, be aware.

Basic Setup

These basic instructions should work for most people.

Enabling Vacation Messages

Log into any of the CS Linux Clients.

At the command prompt, type:


An editor will open with either a sample email or the last email you used for your vacation message. Edit it as you see fit and then save and exit the editor. A .forward file is created for you, which enables your vacation message auto-reply.

If you're enabling vacation messages for the first time in a while, it doesn't hurt to remove your old response database file:

rm ~/.vacation.db

(Removing that file can also help in some cases when people aren't getting vacation messages when you expect them to.)

Disabling Vacation messages

Log into any of the CS Linux Clients. At the command prompt, type:


The program will tell you that vacation messages are enabled and ask if you want to disable them. Type yes and press enter. Vacation messages are now disabled.

If you elect not to disable vacation messages, you will have an opportunity to edit your vacation message, and vacation messages will remain active.

Advanced Setup

In some cases the vacation program will not be able to automatically set up vacation messages, usually because the .forward file is already in use (already defined with a custom forwarding line). You should only need the following instructions if the vacation program tells you to use them:

Manually Enabling Vacation Messages When You Already Use Your Own .forward File

To manually enable vacation message auto reply when you already use your own .forward file:

Edit ~/.vacation.msg with the auto-reply message you want to send to people. It should have a Subject: line, possibly along with other headers that you want, followed by a blank line, followed by the message body. Here's a sample:

Subject: I'm on vacation until June 5th.

I will be away on vacation until June 5th.  If you need a response before
then, please email my colleague, Bob, at bob@email.address.

Next, edit ~/.forward and add to the line in it a comma followed by the text "|/usr/bin/forward account", where account is your account name.

For example, say your account is "cstest" and your ~/.forward file contains:


Then you should edit it so it contains the following:

\cstest,, "|/usr/bin/vacation cstest"

After that, vacation messages will be enabled.

You should probably also remove your ~/.vacation.db file, if you have one:

rm ~/.vacation.db

If you don't remove that file, people who sent you email during a previous vacation time might not get your new vacation message.

Manually disabling Vacation Messages

Simply remove the "|/usr/bin/forward account" destination from your ~/.forward file.