Delay the messages you send from Microsoft Outlook

Set the program to hold back outgoing messages for a certain number of minutes, or specify a delivery date and time for a particular message.

Dennis O'Reilly Former CNET contributor
Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.
Dennis O'Reilly
2 min read

Since I started using Gmail as my primary e-mail program a couple of years ago, I haven't missed much about Microsoft Outlook. However, there's one useful Outlook feature that Gmail lacks: the ability to delay sending all of your outgoing messages, or to set individual messages to be transmitted at a particular time in the future.

Have you ever wished you had reconsidered sending that e-mail to your boss, explaining in detail his shortcomings as a manager? Or perhaps you regret complaining to a client about her unprofessional behavior for canceling a meeting at the last minute--before learning that the cab she was riding in hit a bus.

We all react inappropriately on occasion, but some of us (myself included) have a chronic case of e-mail foot-in-mouth disease. I've managed to stay on the good side of my boss since I enforced a cooling-off period before any mail addressed to him actually gets sent. Outlook's rules make implementing the automatic delay simple.

Create a transmit-delay rule
To put your outgoing messages on hold in Outlook 2003 or 2007, click Tools > Rules and Alerts > New Rule. In Outlook 2003, choose "Start from a blank rule." In both versions, select "Check messages after sending," and click Next.

Microsoft Outlook 2007 Rules Wizard
Choose "Check messages after sending" in Outlook's Rules Wizard to delay outgoing mail. Microsoft

If you want to delay messages only to certain people, those with attachments, or mail sent from a specific account, make the appropriate choice in the top window of the Rules Wizard's next screen. To delay all outgoing messages, simply click Next, and select Yes at the warning.

Check "defer delivery by a number of minutes" in the next dialog box, click "a number of" in the lower pane, and enter the number of minutes you wish to delay your sent mail; the maximum is 120. Click OK and then Next.

Microsoft Outlook 2007 delay-outgoing-mail settings
Set the number of minutes you wish to delay your outgoing mail in the Outlook Rules Wizard. Microsoft

To prepare for those times when you want a message dispatched immediately, check "except if it is marked as importance" in the list of exception options, click "importance" in the bottom pane, choose High in the drop-down menu that appears, click OK, and then Next. Give the rule a name, review its settings ("Turn on this rule" is selected by default), and click Finish.

Microsoft Outlook 2007 outgoing-mail rule dialog box
Give your outgoing-delay rule a name, review its settings, and click Finish to implement it. Microsoft

Set individual messages for later delivery
There may be times when you want only a certain message to be delivered sometime in the future. To set the delivery time and date for a particular e-mail in Outlook 2003, click Options > Options to open the Message Options dialog box. In Outlook 2007, click the Options tab and choose the Delay Delivery button in the More Options section of the ribbon.

In both versions, check "Do not deliver before," enter a date and time in the fields to the right, and click Close. The message will remain in your out-box until the time you specified.

Microsoft Outlook 2007's Message Options dialog box
Specify the date and time a message is sent in Outlook's Message Options dialog box. Microsoft

Tomorrow: customize Vista's User Account Control settings.