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Delaying email in Outlook

How to write an email now and send it later.

For many versions of Outlook you’ve been able to write an email now but delay sending it until a later time.

Like many things with Outlook, there are several catches to the supposedly simple feature.

Why delay sending a message? One example is a birthday or other anniversary message – you could time a message to arrive at the start of the day (midnight or start of work). That’s especially useful when the recipient lives in another time zone. Say ‘Happy Birthday’ at 9am in New York when you’re still tucked up in your San Francisco bed at 6am.

Another use is sending a reminder to your portable device with an email gateway.

The basics are straightforward and unchanged for years.

In Outlook 2003 and before the ‘Options …’ button is on the toolbar.

For Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 there’s an ‘Options’ tab on the ribbon with a button ‘Delay Delivery’.

Outlook 2010 - Delay Delivery button full size.jpg image from Delaying email in Outlook at

Outlook 2007 - delay delivery button - small version.jpg image from Delaying email in Outlook at

Whichever version of Outlook you have and despite the changes in the immediate interface, you end up at a little change ‘Options’ dialog box.

Outlook - delayed message setting.jpg image from Delaying email in Outlook at

Set ‘Do Not deliver for …’ to the date and time you want the message to go.

Finish writing your message and click ‘Send’ as usual.

What sends the message?

Once you’ve ‘sent’ a delayed message, what happens from there depends on how Outlook sends out emails.

If you have a POP/IMAP connection, Outlook holds the delayed message in the Outbox until the date/time for sending. The message will only be sent if Outlook is running. If Outlook is NOT running when the time for sending comes up, the message will NOT be sent and the message remains in limbo until Outlook starts after the sending time.

If you’re connected to Exchange Server, the message is copied from the Outlook Outbox to the Exchange Server outbox. The message is held on the server until the date/time arrives then the server sends the message. Outlook does NOT have to be running at the delayed send time, as long as the Exchange Server machine is running the message will go at the right time.

Outlook will warn you if there are messages in your Outbox when you shut down the program, that includes delayed send messages.

Delaying all messages

A popular option for some people is delaying all outgoing message, giving them a chance to stop a message that could be worded better.

Again, despite some cosmetic changes in Outlook, the basics haven’t changed for years. Delayed sending is setup in the email rules.

In Outlook 2002 (XP) go to Tools | Rules Wizard

In Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007 go to Tools | Rules and Alerts

Outlook 2010 go to the Home tab | Rules | Manage Rules and Alerts

However you get there, start a new rule for ‘messages I send’ or ‘messages after sending’:

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The next part of the rule controls which messages are affected by the rule – in this case select nothing and the rule will apply to all outgoing messages. Outlook will warn you about that before proceeding. You could choose only some messages to be delayed and there’s a later option to exempt some message from the delay rule.

The third dialog box controls what to do with the outgoing message. At the bottom of the list choose ‘defer delivery by a number of minutes.

Outlook - defer delivery setting.jpg image from Delaying email in Outlook at

Check the option, then click on ‘a number of’ to choose the number of minutes to delay sending.

Finally you can choose any exceptions – for example you might want a message with High importance to go immediately.

Outlook - defer delivery except for High importance messages.jpg image from Delaying email in Outlook at

Finish up the rule and then all message you send will stay in the Outbox folder until the delay time has expired. During that time you can open or delete the message.

If you close Outlook with a delayed message still in the Outbox you’ll get a warning before closing the program.

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