How-to: Set a Gmail auto responder for a specific day of the week

For some time now we (at Pixelpillow) use Google Apps with Gmail for our business email. Of course Gmail works fine, but since we’ve started using it for our business there was one big issue we couldn’t solve: setting an out of office auto responder for a specific day of the week. Since both my business partner and I have a day off to spend with our kids, we would really love to see Google implement such functionality (shame on you Google, for not providing it yet!).

After Google-ing once in a while we’ve come to the conclusion there’s no fitting solution for our needs, so we finally found a way to solve it using the fine service of Zapier.

Zapier to the rescue!

It became clear that Gmail’s own filters weren’t going to solve our problem. The advanced admin options in the Google Apps admin panel looked promising, but it turned out you can’t filter email content per user. Bummer… We turned to third party software for a solution. After failing to solve the issue with IFTTT (If This Then That) we tried Zapier. And guess what… Zapier can read raw email headers, filter out the date and send an automatic response for your in just a few simple clicks. Bazinga! Problem solved.

How does it work?

First off: unless you don’t expect to send more than 100 auto responses a month, you’ll have to pay up. A Zapier basic plan will set you back $20 a month. For that amount the boys and girls at Zapier let you run 3,000 tasks (in this case 3,000 auto responses). For us it’s definitely worth it! You decide for yourself.

Step 1: Set a trigger

  1. Create a zap (doh!)
  2. Set ‘Gmail’ as your trigger
  3. Select ‘New Email’ as your Gmail Trigger
  4. Authorise your Gmail account (or select one if you did this already)
  5. Under Options you can select a specific mailbox or label to watch (by default it checks your inbox and all labels, and we’ve left it to check everything)

Step 2: Add filter (to check date of incoming email)
This filter is going to check incoming mail raw headers for the date and check if it matches the day of the week you’d like to send an auto responder.

  1. Search for the ‘Filter by Zapier’ filter and select it
  2. Select the ‘Only continue if…’ option
  3. The filter has three choices (two drop-downs, one text field).
    Select the following options:
    1: ‘Date
    2: ‘(Text) Starts with…
    3: “Thu”. In my case this is “Thu” (first three characters of Thursday). If, for example, you would like to send the auto response on a sunday, you should fill in “Sun” in this field.

Step 3: Action baby!
Depending on the outcome of the filter above an auto response is sent.

  1. Select ‘Gmail’ again as your action
  2. Select the ‘Send Email’ option
  3. Authorise (or select) the email address from which the auto response should be send
  4. We’ll now set up the email. Of course you can completely customise the email be your own needs.
    We filled in the following:
    To: From Email
    From Name: Fill in your own name
    Subject: Fill in the subject of your auto response (in our case “Out of Office”)
    Body Type: “Plain”
    Body: I’ll spare you the Dutch mumbo jumbo. Tip: Personalise the email using variables by clicking the icon in the right hand corner.
    Attachments: “All Attachments”

Final step: Get your zap on

The only thing left to do is activate your zap, and your done.
Hopefully you find this article useful. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me af @milanvanbruggen on Twitter!

Happy Zapping!