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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gmail Labs Canned Responses
By Tony Ruscoe

Yet another experimental feature has just been added to Gmail Labs. “Canned Responses” offers two useful features in one: the ability to store emails as templates and the ability to automatically respond to emails using those templates.

When composing an email, you have the option to save it as a canned response. You can then use this as either a template for replying to emails manually after you’ve read them, or you can set up a filter to send the responses automatically based on certain criteria – like if the sender is using a Hotmail address... ;-)

Although they’re not shown in the “Drafts” view, the canned responses are actually stored as some kind of draft mail in Gmail. If you use the “All Mail” view, you can see they’re listed with the red “Draft” label next to them – but don’t try to edit them from there as you’ll either get the “Unable to locate the canned response” error message when you try to use them or you’ll not be able to find them anymore when you reload Gmail.

One extra thing I thought of using this for was custom signatures. You could create several signatures – e.g. personal, business, without your phone number, etc. – and then use the canned response feature to drop your preferred signature into your mail. (I thought you could possibly even use this to include images in your signature, but although HTML formatting is allowed, I couldn’t get it to save images copied from the web in the canned responses even though Gmail’s draft messages allow this.)

However, one problem is that loading a canned response clears the content of the original message, so if you’re replying to an email you’ve received, if your recipient isn’t able to see a conversation view of the thread like in Gmail, they may not know which email you were replying to if the subject isn’t very clear.

As with all Gmail Labs features, be aware that the “Canned Responses” feature may change, break or disappear at any time.

[Thanks Moustafa ZA!]


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