How to create a Gmail auto-responder

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

Q. How can I create an auto-response email for when I am out of town? I use Gmail and love it. Thanks for recommending it, Mr. M.

A. Normally, I do not advocate the use of auto-responder “I am out of the office” or “I am on vacation” messages for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that these types of messages typically generate “knee-jerk” responses to every email you receive, including spam. Doing so confirms to spammers that your address is a valid email address -- which is an excellent way to ensure that you will receive even more spam in the future.

The reality is that no matter who tries to contact you while you’re away, if they don’t receive a response, they will simply conclude that you’re away from your computer and it won’t be a big deal. If there are a few key people in your life who need to know you will be gone, email them directly or give them a call and let them know.

That being said, Gmail is fairly unique in that it permits you to create auto-responder messages that will only be sent to people in your Gmail address book. To create this type of restricted auto-responder, click Settings > General tab, and select “Vacation Responder On.”

Type an appropriate Subject line and the body of your message in the form presented. Check the box next to “Only send a response to people in my Contacts,” and click Save Changes.

Gmail will generate an automated reply to the same sender once every four days, at most. (Note: If you have enabled a personalized signature in your account, Gmail will automatically append it to the bottom of your vacation response.)

Q. I recently switched to Firefox as my browser and I like it, but is there some way I can learn all the keystroke shortcuts that can make using it even easier? Thanks. Mr. M.

A. The Firefox Cheat Sheet provides everything you could possibly want to remember -- and probably won't -- in one convenient location. Included are general, navigational, text, and search keyboard shortcuts, mouse shortcuts, file locations, and a few Firefox tips and tricks.

Q. In Internet Explorer, when I’m visiting one site and click a link to another site, is there a setting that lets the second site automatically open in a new window instead of replacing the site I’m currently viewing?

A. Yes, indeed. To have a link open in a new window, right-click the link, then click "Open in New Window" from the menu that appears. As an alternative, hold down the SHIFT key when clicking a link to have it open in a new window.

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