The usual way to implement a vacation autoresponder is to use the "vacation" program with procmail (or .qmail files if using qmail).
I've never liked that. First, ordinary users don't necessarily have the expertise to do this. Often either the administrator has to set it up for the users, or the users have to access a web page that lets them turn it on or off. The web page concept is an improvement on having the administrator do it, but I'd like to avoid that too.
The other thing I don't like about vacation is that its database of messages responded to is scattered about in users directories and isn't flexible. You can't control how it responds with any degree of flexibilty.
So, I've been thinking about how I'd like it to work. I'd like it email based: the user sends email to a "vacationmanager" address to turn responding on or off. This doesn't need to be super-secure, but we don't want people (except perhaps the administrator) turning other people's vacation on or off, so the program will respond to the "From" address with a key, and won't actually do anything until it gets another email containing that key. The flow is something like this:
- User sends message to vacationmanager with the subject and body they want to use for responses.
- Vacation program sends back a message confirming this request and includes a "key" in the body.
- User ordinarily simply replies to that message to turn on vacation.
- Vacation program sets up forwarding to itself and manages responses until it receives another email from the user.
- Recognizing that this person is "on vacation" now, the program responds with another key offering to turn vacation responses off.
- User replies and vacation is now turned off
That's all simple enough. We can expand the concept for more control by letting the response by the user contain more information. For example, the initial response from the program might look like this:
Hi, this is the vacation manager program at xyz.com. You (or someone pretending to be you) have requested that you be put "on vacation" and that people sending you email be sent the following notice: ===== YOUR SUBJECT ====== Subject: Re: (their subject) ===== your subject ====== ===== YOUR MESSAGE ====== Joe Smith is on vacation and will return on August 15th. ===== your message ====== If that's acceptable, simply hit "Reply" and I'll take care of everything else. If you wish, you can modify any of the following. You can also save this email and by modifying and replying later, you can change my behavior at any time. For example, if you need to change your message because your return time has changed, you can modify that. You can turn off these automatic responses simply by sending me a new message with any subject and body, or by modifying this message as instructed below. ===== Begin Vacation Manager Control ===== # DON"T CHANGE THIS: SECRET_KEY=3ADFGJ8& # Change this to off if you want to turn notification off, # or just send a new message VACATION=ON # This determines whether my reply includes RE: and their subject INCLUDE_THEIR_SUBJECT=YES # This determines whether to quote their text in my reply # and whether to send back any attachments they sent. INCLUDE_THEIR_BODY=NO STRIP_ATTACHMENTS=YES # The subject of my response (can be blank) YOUR_SUBJECT="" # The body YOUR_BODY=" Joe Smith is on vacation and will return on August 15th. " # The rest of these are more techy, don't mess with them if you # don't understand. I will remember these the next time you # are on vacation if you change them # Your email can be multiple values YOUR_EMAIL="email@example.com"; YOUR_EMAIL="firstname.lastname@example.org"; YOUR_EMAIL=""; # Days between responses to same address RESPONSE_DAYS=5 # Don't respond can take multiple email addresses. # For example, you might not respond to mail from a mailing # lists you subscribe to. # Examples: # NO_RESPONSE="email@example.com" # NO_RESPONSE="firstname.lastname@example.org" NO_RESPONSE="" NO_RESPONSE="" NO_RESPONSE="" # Don't respond to subjects containing these strings. NOT_IF_SUBJECT="" NOT_IF_SUBJECT="" NOT_IF_SUBJECT="" # more specialized uses: respond with attached files if # subject matches strings. Or could use for auto fax-back ATTACH_IF_1= ATTACH_FILE_1= ATTACH_IF_2= ATTACH_FILE_2= # ===== End Vacation Manager Control =====
I'm sure there are other features that could or should be added, so any suggestions are appreciated. I'm going to start developing some code toward this end, and will of course publish it here.© August 2003 Tony Lawrence All rights reserved
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