VACATION(1) User Commands VACATION(1)


vacation - reply to mail automatically


vacation [-I]

vacation [-a alias] [-e filter_file] [-f database_file]
[-j] [-m message_file] [-s sender] [-tN] username

vacation [-f database_file] -l


The vacation utility automatically replies to incoming mail.


The installation consists of an interactive program which sets up
vacation's basic configuration.

To install vacation, type it with no arguments on the command line. The
program creates a .vacation.msg file, which contains the message that is
automatically sent to all senders when vacation is enabled, and starts an
editor for you to modify the message. (See USAGE section.) Which editor
is invoked is determined by the VISUAL or EDITOR environment variable, or
vi(1) if neither of those environment variables are set.

A .forward file is also created if one does not exist in your home
directory. Once created, the .forward file will contain a line of the

One copy of an incoming message is sent to the username and another copy
is piped into vacation:

\username, "|/usr/bin/vacation username"

If a .forward file is present in your home directory, it will ask whether
you want to remove it, which disables vacation and ends the installation.

The program automatically creates .vacation.pag and .vacation.dir, which
contain a list of senders when vacation is enabled.

Activation and Deactivation

The presence of the .forward file determines whether or not vacation is
disabled or enabled. To disable vacation, remove the .forward file, or
move it to a new name.


The -I option clears the vacation log files, .vacation.pag and
.vacation.dir, erasing the list of senders from a previous vacation
session. (See OPTIONS section.)

Additional Configuration

vacation provides configuration options that are not part of the
installation, these being -a, -e, -f, -j, -m, -s, and -t. (See OPTIONS


vacation provides a reporting option, -l. See OPTIONS.


The following options are supported:

Initializes the .vacation.pag and .vacation.dir files and enables
vacation. If the -I flag is not specified, and a user argument is
given, vacation reads the first line from the standard input (for a
From: line, no colon). If absent, it produces an error message.

Options -a, -e, -f, -j, -m, -s, and -t are configuration options to be
used in conjunction with vacation in the .forward file, not on the
command line. For example,

\username, "|/usr/bin/vacation -t1m username"

repeats replies to the sender every minute.

-a alias
Indicates that alias is one of the valid aliases for
the user running vacation, so that mail addressed to
that alias generates a reply.

-e filter_file
Uses filter_file instead of .vacation.filter as the
source of the domain and email address filters.

-f database_file
Uses database_file instead of .vacation as the base
name for the database file.

Does not check whether the recipient appears in the
To: or the Cc: line. Warning: use of this option can
result in vacation replies being sent to mailing
lists and other inappropriate places; its use is
therefore strongly discouraged.

-m message_file
Uses ~/message_file as the message to send for the
reply instead of ~/.vacation.msg. message_file is a
relative path to the desired vacation message file.
To prevent directory/file "not found" errors,
message_file should be on the same disk partition as

-s sender
Replies to sender instead of the value read from the
UNIX From line of the incoming message.

Changes the interval between repeat replies to the
same sender. The default is 1 week. A trailing s, m,
h, d, or w scales N to seconds, minutes, hours, days,
or weeks, respectively.

The -l option is neither for initialization nor configuration, but for
reporting. The -f option can also be used in conjunction with -l.

Lists the addresses to which a reply has been sent since the last
invocation of vacation -I, along with a date and time stamp.


.vacation.msg should include a header with at least a Subject: line (it
should not include a To: line). For example:

Subject: I am on vacation
I am on vacation until July 22. If you have something urgent,
please contact Joe Jones (jones@fB0).

If the string $SUBJECT appears in the .vacation.msg file, it is replaced
with the subject of the original message when the reply is sent. Thus, a
.vacation.msg file such as

Subject: I am on vacation
I am on vacation until July 22.
Your mail regarding "$SUBJECT" will be read when I return.
If you have something urgent, please contact
Joe Jones (jones@fB0).

will include the subject of the message in the reply.

No message is sent if the To: or the Cc: line does not list the user to
whom the original message was sent or one of a number of aliases for
them, if the initial From line includes the string -REQUEST@, or if a
Precedence: bulk or Precedence: junk line is included in the header.

vacation will also not respond to mail from either postmaster or Mailer-

In addition to the above criteria, if a .vacation.filter file exists, it
is used to constrain further the set of addresses to which a reply is
sent. Each line in that file should be either a domain name, an email
address, a negated domain name or a negated email address. A negated line
starts with the single character !.

Each line is compared in the order listed to the sender address. A line
containing an email address matches if the sender address is exactly the
same except for case, which is ignored. A line containing a domain name
matches if the sender address is something@domain-name or
something@something.domain-name. A reply is sent if the first match is an
entry that is not negated. If the first match is a negated entry, or if
no lines match, then no reply is sent.

A sample filter file might look like the following:


Blank lines and lines starting with "#" are ignored.





A list of senders is kept in the dbm format files .vacation.pag and
.vacation.dir in your home directory. These files are dbm files and
cannot be viewed directly with text editors.


vi(1), getusershell(3C), aliases(5), shells(5), attributes(7),

November 22, 2021 VACATION(1)