Did you know that you can create default email templates in Gmail to save you typing the same message over and over again? Or are you using copy and paste to save typing? In this post, I’ll explain how to create and use “Canned Responses” in your Gmail email to save time and ensure that you send consistent messages.
Why would I want to create email templates?
If you run or work for a business, you’ll know that you send a lot of the same text over and over again. To use my business as an example, I send these emails a lot:
- A pre-work email to students to explain exactly what I do and any issues around plagiarism that I need to tell them about
- An email to transcription clients that lists the choices I need them to make so that I can provide the transcription they need (do they want me to type the exact utterances or tidy them up, insert time stamps ever 10 minutes, etc.?)
- An email to enquirers to say that I can’t fit them into my schedule but here’s a list of recommended proofreaders
- An email to my small business chat interviewees to ask for their annual update, telling them how many hits their interview has had and what they said last time
I save considerable amounts of time by automating these emails using Canned Responses, and I’m sure that you have at least a couple of standard texts that you’re always sending out.
Where can I find Canned Responses in Gmail?
Canned responses are a “Lab” feature in Gmail. This means that they’re an experimental feature, written by a third party, a bit like a plugin that you can add to your email. Having said all that about them being experimental, I’ve been using them for YEARS now and they haven’t broken or disappeared.
To access the Labs, go into the Gmail settings by clicking on the cog icon at the top right of your screen, then choosing Settings:
Then choose the Labs tab at the top:
I’ve already got Canned Responses enabled, as shown here, but you will need to scroll down until you find it, or enter “Canned Responses” in the Search for a Lab search box (not the top search box):
Any labs that you enable will show at the top of your screen, and you can scroll down to see the others that are available, each with a description of what they do:
So do have a little explore another day! For now, click Enable and then Save Changes under the search box or at the bottom of the screen (to get back to your email, click on Inbox on the far left).
How do I use a Canned Response?
I’m going to show you what happens when you use a Canned Response first, to help you to understand what they are, and then we’ll look at creating a new one.
Let’s pretend I’ve received an email from a music journalist wanting to know about my transcription services:
I click on the Reply arrow at the top right or in the Reply pane at the bottom to start my reply:
But instead of typing my reply, I click the More options button at the bottom right of the screen. This brings me up a list of, well, more options, oddly enough … and then I click on Canned Responses:
Here I have a list of all of the canned responses I’ve set up. I’m going to click on Transcription conventions at the top, and when I do, the text will insert itself into my email automatically, saving me masses of typing!
It’s just like a normal email that I’ve typed, however, and I can add a greeting and do any editing to the text that I require in order to personalise it:
How do I set up a new canned response?
To set up a new canned response, start a new message in Gmail and type your standard text. I haven’t addressed this one, but you can save an email that strikes you as a particularly useful one to use again, at whatever stage. One important point, though: when you want to save it as a canned response, delete any signature file you have at the end of your emails. If you don’t delete it, it will become part of the canned response. Then when you add it to an email, your signature will be automatically added at the end anyway, duplicating it.
So, delete your signature and press that More options button at the bottom right before you send your email:
Now scroll down past the canned responses you have already set up (if you haven’t set up any, this will be almost at the top, underneath save) and select New canned response:
It will prompt you for a name for your canned response:
Type this in and press OK:
Now this response will appear in your list next time you want to use an email template:
How do I change a canned response message?
if you want to alter a canned response message, the easiest way to do it is:
- Start a new email
- Load the original canned response
- Choose More options / Canned responses then choose the appropriate Canned response name under the Save sub-heading
- The new version will be saved to replace the old one
What else can I do with canned responses?
You can use your canned responses in a filter. If you want a special message to go out to a particular customer automatically, To do this, go into Settings – Filters. I have already set up a filter to mark emails that are forwarded from my old email address as coming from there. I am now going to edit that filter:
Having hit Edit, I then select Continue:
I then access the options where I can choose to send a Canned Response to anything coming through that filter, and I choose the Canned Response from the list:
And finally choose Update Filter to make the changes stick.
Have you found this useful? Please comment – especially if you’d like to see more Gmail tips – and use the sharing buttons to share this post with your friends and contacts!