Technical Note - Email Forwarding and Automatic Reply


This document details how you can enable forwarding of your ECS email to another mailbox or create an automatic response to any email sent to your ECS email address.


Email Forwarding

Email forwarding to a single remote address is easily accomplished using our web-based mail forwarding application.

Automatic Email Responses

Automatic email responses (aka "vacation emails" or "Out of Office" replies) are easily setup using our web-based automatic email response application.

ALERT! A known problem with this system is that once you create an automatic response, you cannot alter the message even though the system will appear to let you. In order to edit your message, you must cancel the existing automatic response, then wait for five minutes (to make sure the cancellation has actually taken effect) and then create a new autoresponse. This is a bug, not a feature. Unfortunately it is one that is tricky to fix and so far it hasn't had a high enough priority on the todo list!

More Complex Email Handling

Some users may want more complex mail handling (eg: automatic response to or forwarding of only selected messages, forwarding to multiple addresses, sorting incoming messages into folders, etc).

UNIX based email systems like that run by ECS have traditionally supported flexible email handling by allowing users to have a .forward file in their home directory. This file allows the specification of arbitrary programs (eg: procmail) that will be invoked to process incoming email. However the ECS email system no longer supports .forward files, mainly because they caused problems for our mail server when one of our home file servers was down. And specifying arbitrary mail processing programs is not currently possible using the web applications described above.

A more modern alternative to .forward files that is supported by the ECS email system is the sieve email filtering and processing language. Many email clients have ways of creating and editing sieve scripts but if your favourite client doesn't you can always fall back to the UNIX siesh command-line utility. If you would like help using sieve you can send an email to

If sieve doesn't meet your requirements you can also email telling us how you want your incoming email processed. If there is sufficient demand we will consider extending the web-based applications described above to provide more flexibility. And in the mean-time we may be able to help you set up the email handling you want some other way.

ALERT! Using arbitrary programs to filter your incoming email can be tricky and it is quite easy to lose incoming email. We do not recommend you do this unless you are confident you know what you are doing!