How it works, in a nutshell
After Googling it for about an hour, turns out there is no regular solution to perform such a basic operation. All the solutions I found involved installation of 3rd-party software OR installing and running complex macros. Uh, no thanks. I found some kind of simple workaround that requires no third-party software or macros. It's all in there, using advanced features.
Before I detail each step, here is the principle:
- We create a "Message Template". This template will contain the email to be sent to everyone.
- We place emails we wish to reply to into a specific category
- We create a rule that automatically sends the email template we created in 1) to all the senders of the emails we selected in 2)
- We apply that rule and send out the emails.
- Selecting a Template. Under the "Start from a blank rule", select "Check messages when they arrive". Click next.
- Selecting Conditions. Locate the "Assigned to category category" item and check it. As you check the box, a new item appears in the rule description. Click the underlined word "category" to be able to select which category of emails should be replied to. Click next.
- Selecting Actions. Locate the option "Reply using a specific template" and check it. As you check the box, a new item appears in the rule description. Click the underlined part "a specific template", which will reveal the template selection window. At the top of this window, in the "Look in" drop-down list, select "User Templates in File System". Then you will be able to browse for the directory containing your template created in the first part of this tutorial. Once your template is selected correctly, click Next.
- Selecting Exceptions. If you want to exclude certain emails from getting replied to, select your conditions here. Click Next.
- Specify a name for your rule. Below the rule name input box, you will find two checkboxes: "Run this rule now..." which you must enable; it will apply the rule to the folder currently selected in Outlook. Make sure to disable the "Turn on this rule" box, unless you want to automatically reply to similar messages in the future. Click Finish.