Announcing an Absence with vacation

Announcing an Absence with vacation

If you're planning a vacation and will be away from your email for a while, let Unix announce your absence for you (Figure 11.15). Using the vacation program, you can have Unix send a reply saying that you're out of the office to everyone who sends you email.

Figure 11.15. Using a template, you can customize the vacation messageeven extensively, as we've done.

Keep in mind that vacation is quite variable among different Unix systems and ISPs. What you have might be different from the "standard" form used here. Be sure to check with your system administrator for specific instructions if you have any problems, and also look at the procmail section of this chapter, as many newer Linux and Unix systems use procmail instead of a .forward file to tell vacation to respond to your messages.

To send "i'm on vacation" messages using vacation:


vi ~/.vacation.msg

At the shell prompt, type vi ~/vacation. msg. You'll need to edit a message (a template, actually) for the response that people should receive when they email you, as shown in Figure 11.15.


Subject: away from my mail! Thanks for emailing me about $SUBJECT. Fortunately for me, I'm taking a fabulous vacation mowing my lawn, doing laundry, and catching up on other things I can't do because I usually work so much. If you would like me to stay on vacation, please email my boss ( and let her know. Thanks!

Create and edit the text to say what you want.

The $SUBJECT term in the text will be replaced with the actual subject of the email sent to you.


Save your text and exit the editor. Chapter 4 has the gory details about saving and exiting in pico and vi.

Code Listing 11.6. Your .forward file should reference the vacation file.

[ejr@hobbes ejr]$ cat ~/.forward \ejr, "|vacation ejr" [ejr@hobbes ejr]$ 


vacation -I

Type vacation -I at the shell prompt to start vacation and tell it to respond to all incoming messages. You'll still get the incoming messages in your in-box. In fact, they'll pile up in your in-box and wait for you to return.


cat ~/.forward

Look at the .forward file in your home directory to verify that it contains a reference to the vacation program. Your .forward file specifies what should happen to your mail upon receipt. In this example, it should be processed by vacation. The reference to vacation is usually automatically inserted by the vacation program, but if it's not there, you'll need to edit the .forward file and add text like \yourid, "|vacation yourid". Of course, substitute your real userid for the placeholder above, and possibly include the full path to vacation (/usr/bin/vacation on our system). (See Code Listing 11.6.)

To stop vacation emails:

  • mv .forward vacation-forward

    At the shell prompt, move the .forward file that references the vacation program to a different name (in this case, vacation-forward). You could just delete it or remove the reference to vacation, but it's easier to save it so you can reuse it for your next vacation.


  • Remember to unsubscribe to all mailing lists before you start vacation. If you don't, you may send a vacation announcement to a whole list of people who likely don't care (not to mention that you'll really irritate the list administrator!). Or, worse, you might cause a mail loop (in which your messages to the list are acknowledged by the server, and the acknowledgements are in turn sent vacation announcements), causing hundreds or thousands of messages to accumulate in your account. It shouldn't happen, but it sometimes does.

Unix(c) Visual Quickstart Guide
UNIX, Third Edition
ISBN: 0321442458
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 251

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