Microsoft Exchange and Blackberry Server Specialists

Groups - Automatic Replies from a Group

This is for Exchange 2007 ONLY. For the version for Exchange 2003, click here: Automatic Replies from a Group - Exchange 2003

You may want a reply to come from a distribution list - perhaps to acknowledge that the email message has been received. However a distribution list cannot do automatic replies as there is no account or folder for the reply to be attached to within Exchange.

You can get around this by using a public folder. However doing so means that you have to change things around a little.


The public folder is the "list" and the distribution list used to send email to the users is actually hidden.

Create and Configure the Public Folder

First you need to create the public folder that will be the initial recipient of the email messages.

  1. Create a public folder using Outlook with the name that you want for the distribution list. Ensure that it is of type "Mail and Post items".
  2. You will then need to mail enable the folder. This can be done in one of two ways.

    Exchange Management Shell

    enable-mailpublicfolder -identity "\test\moderated folder"
    note the \ at the start and that it is the full path to the folder enclosed in quotes.

    Exchange Management Console

    Open the Public Folder Management Console from the Toolbox, then find the Public Folder. Right click on it and choose Mail Enable.

    To confirm that it was mail enabled correctly, run get-publicfolder -identity "\test\moderated folder" | fl
  3. Wait a moment for Exchange to process the request, then right click on the folder and choose Properties.
    You should now have the additional Exchange tabs.
  4. Click on the tab "email addresses" and check the email address that has been given to the folder is the one that you want email messages sent to. If the email address is already in use by a list, then you will have to remove the email address from that list so that it can be placed on to this public folder.
    You should probably also disable the option. "Automatically update email addresses based on email address policy".

Create the Distribution List

Next you need to create the distribution list that will actually control the distribution of the email messages.

  1. Create the distribution list in the usual way using Exchange Management Console. Make sure that you give the list an email address so that Exchange can use it. You may not want to add all the users to it at this point until you have tested it.
    You may want to name this folder something similar to the actual list address that you want to use, so that you know what it is being used for. Also make use of the Description and Notes to record its use.
    If you have a list already - then you can adapt that.
  2. Go back to the Public folder properties in Public Folder Management Console, click on the tab "Member of" and add the folder to the distribution list.
    (While you can add the public folder using "members" on the Properties of list, in practise it is easier to add the list to the properties of the folder on the "Member of" tab).

Configuring the Response and Email Management

Now that the list and folder are created, now it is time to setup the management of the inbound messages.

  1. Back to Outlook...
    Right click on the public folder and choose Properties. Click on the tab "Administration". On that screen is "Folder Assistant".
    This is where you set the rules.
  2. First rule to set is the auto reply. Use a template etc etc - pretty self explanatory.
  3. Second rule is the forward to send it to the distribution list.
  4. Test by sending an email to the public folder address.

    Now you can secure the folder and list.
  5. On the public folder, in Outlook, click on the tab "permissions" and set the following:
    • Ensure that someone is the folder owner. Use the "Email Admins Group".
    • Set "Default" to none.
    • Leave "Anonymous" as contributor.
    • Finally add the distribution list with suitable permissions - reviewer will be fine.
  6. Back to the distribution list - choose  the Advanced tab and hide from the address lists. This means that the public folder is the only thing that shows in the Global Address List.


This only works for internal email. If you want email replies to go to external senders then you need to enable Allow Automatic Replies. To do this, Open Org Config, Hub Transport, Remote Domains. Right click on the * and choose Properties. Click on the second tab and enable Allow Automatic Replies.
However this is a global setting and will allow ALL users to be able to configure an automatic reply message, with the associated risks involved in doing so. You may well find that using a Transport Rule will be a better option.

Net result...

  • auto reply from an email address
  • distribution list for easy management
  • the public folder keeps a copy of every message that is sent to the list
  • being a member of the distribution list lets you in to the public folder
  • however no one can delete items from the list.
  • if you have users who need to review the emails that are sent to that list, but not receive every message (such as a manager) just add them to the public folder permissions - again setting permissions as required.