Q: Is there a simple way to delay delivery of an Outlook email message?

A: Sometimes you or your users might want to send an email message at a future point in time. There are many reasons that might result in such a need. Maybe a staff email message needs to be sent after everyone has logged off for the day. Perhaps a sender wants to leave the premises before the recipient receives the message, or maybe the sender doesn’t want to respond too quickly to a message, which might suggest a greater level of availability than he or she wants to portray. From a Microsoft Outlook perspective, there are a couple of ways to accomplish this task without programming: delayed delivery and Outlook rules.

Both Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2007 have an option to set a delivery time for an email message. In a new email window, select Options from the Office Ribbon, then Delay Delivery in the More Options section. Figure 1 shows this setting.

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Figure 1: Configuring delayed delivery

There’s no limit to the date you can assign as a value (even a couple of thousand years into the future). You can also choose the time of day that the message is sent. The outgoing message will remain in the Outbox until the delayed delivery time is reached. For Microsoft Exchange Server accounts, the Outbox is actually on the server, whereas Internet accounts host outbound messages on the workstation in the Outlook personal folders file (.pst). A minor annoyance in the Delayed Delivery properties window is that there are no Save or Apply buttons. After you change a setting in the window, you just click Close to apply the setting and close the window.

Outlook also lets you assign a delayed delivery date in the past. The message will send as normal, with Outlook recognizing that the assigned delivery time has already occurred.

Outlook’s rules let you configure a delay between when a message is sent and when delivery (from Outlook to the email server) is attempted. In the Rules Wizard, select the Apply rule on messages I send option, as Figure 2 shows.

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Figure 2: Configuring a delayed send

After you select the features of the message to apply the delayed delivery to, click Next. As Figure 3 shows, you can defer delivery by a specified number of minutes.

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Figure 3: Specifying number of minutes to defer delivery

This feature allows messages that fit the rule to be delayed for a maximum of 120 minutes. If you want a longer delay, you can use the previous method.

The Outlook rule method limits the amount of time you can delay a message; however, you can filter which messages get delayed by applying the filters available in the Rules Wizard. You don’t have to manually set delayed delivery for each message that applies as long as the rule is enabled. The delayed delivery dialog box lets you set delayed delivery times well into the future, but you must configure the option for each message you want to delay.

If the functionality offered by these two options isn’t sufficient, you could also develop an add-on to perform the task of delaying when a sent email message is delivered. Baydin Software provides a third-party add-on called Boomerang (http://www.baydin.com/boomerang), dubbed a “snooze button for email,” that works with Outlook 2010, Outlook 2007, and Outlook 2003.

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