Blog Post

3 Handy Uses for Gmail's Canned Responses Feature

We discuss Gmail quite a lot here at WebWorkerDaily, especially when there’s a new feature to play with from Gmail Labs. Canned Responses certainly isn’t a new feature, but it’s high time we looked at how it can be beneficial to the web worker.

The truth is that I wasn’t an early adopter of this feature. I always thought, “My contacts will think I’m too lazy or self-absorbed to write them a real email.” But after enabling Canned Responses for a few weeks and finding productive ways to use it, I wish I had been using this feature from the start! Here are three ways to use Canned Responses that will benefit both the sender and the receiver:

Send out smart autoresponders. What I love about Gmail’s canned responses is that unlike most autoresponder features from other free webmail providers, you don’t have to send the same automated email to everyone who sends you anything. By using canned responses hand-in-hand with Gmail’s filters, you can trigger Gmail to send out a specific response based on an incoming email’s keywords, who the the sender is, and other criteria.

This feature comes in handy for me because I provide free advice via email for one of my nonprofit blogs. Since it’s a low priority project, it often takes me a few days before I can give a sensible response to the readers who want to consult with me.

The online form that readers use to contact me sends me an email with the subject “Contact Form Results FP”. Here’s how I was able to create a filtered autoresponder (feel free to adapt the instructions based on your needs):

1) I wrote an email in Draft mode and saved it as a Canned Response.


2) Then, I created a filter for the subject “Contact Form Results FP”. I checked the option for “Send Canned Response”, and chose the appropriate template (see below).


Now, everyone who sends me an email via the contact form will know that while I will definitely reply to their message, I can only do so during the following weekend.

This helps me by preventing my inbox from filling up with “Did you get my email?”-type messages (which happened regularly before setting up this Canned Response). It helps my readers by telling them that yes, I do care about them and I will reply to their questions, just not right now. They’re not left frustrated and wondering when they can expect my reply, since my autoresponder gives them a timeframe.

Sending contracts and other paperwork. Online freelancers regularly send out contracts and other documents to their clients. Emails that have these documents as attachments often include at least a basic description of each attached file. You can use Canned Responses to handle this repetitive task for you so you don’t want to type these instructions over and over again, or even copy and paste it from a text file.

Here’s a concrete example: Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today has written a tutorial about how he uses Gmail’s Canned Responses to send DMCA notices. You can apply the same idea when you’re sending independent contractor agreements, non-disclosure agreements or client questionnaires.

Using multiple signatures. Right now, Gmail doesn’t allow multiple signatures. One workaround is to use the canned response feature to apply a specific signature to each message. Why is this useful for web workers? Well, odds are you have a vast network of contacts across several industries. Your services might mean different things to each of those contacts.

If you’re mostly helping out a specific client with their social media needs, then you can sign off the email as a “Social Media Consultant,” including a relevant link to a resource you’ve created on the subject. But if you’re providing design work for another client, then you can have a different signature tailored for that task, too.

Canned Responses may seem like a very basic tool on the surface, but if you use it well, you’re likely to lessen the amount of time you spend going over your email. Just make sure that it’s a good thing not just for you, but for your recipient as well.

Have you enabled Gmail’s canned response feature? How do you use it to increase email efficiency?

35 Responses to “3 Handy Uses for Gmail's Canned Responses Feature”

  1. Well, I’ve always liked to think of myself as an automation freak and yet it’s taken me until NOW to discover this!! Previously I was using Firefox’s web clippings extension. The downside to that being, if ever I’m on someone else’s machine and logged in to Gmail, I wouldn’t have access to the clippings. Now, problem solved!

  2. hello everyone…

    I have one question.

    I would need to send caneded respons to person whos mail is in a incoming email, which is send to us from system over which i have no control…

    Every idea would save me.

    pleas fell free to send me mail on [email protected]

  3. Does anyone know why the canned response sends the email the “mailed-by” name and not who is listed as the “reply to”?????

    If you simply click reply on the message it works…. but the canned response emails it to the mailed-by….. Im using an email code so people can sign up on my site and it auto emails me from the service….. so all my canned responses go to them instead of the address listed as reply-to??????

  4. Hi,

    Some great tips. Have you found that the email signatures (manually made up ones with inserted images) don’t display the images properly? Just a box with the dreaded red ‘x’?

  5. The reason the subject line matters to so many people, is that we’re using the “Canned Responses” as a work around for email templates.

    With my business, I use email templates for every stage of a person’s inquiry, product proofing, and shipment of the product… so, it’s not quite a “response” or a full fledged working “template” fix.

    But yes, I would like the option of the subject line to stay, my business email address to stay as the outgoing address, and save the appropriate attachment (IE pricing guide or order form) with the specific canned response.

    Hopefully some of this will be in the works for the future of this feature!

    • Good point and useful for autoresponder, but I want to save an email template which I’m not using as a reply.

      The Subject is thrown away when saving as a canned response which to me is so basic I couldn’t believe it was happening until I tested it. I just assumed that creating the template would save every field of info I supplied.

  6. This post was very useful for me and found exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for this great post.

    After reading your post I managed to send my eBook to computer students who really need it. I’m so excited and inspired by your post that I wrote an article on Google Auto Responder in my blog and shared. I added your trackback and hope you will like it.

    Bookmarked your blog and shared with my friends. I’m [email protected] if you wish to share in Buzz.

  7. Big problem with this system, for professional (as opposed to personal) usage, is that you have no control over the From address of the replies people will receive.

    I have to manage many canned reply scenarios, and with a UNIX mail server I can very easily set the addresses to whatever I want to (beside customizing the subject line and including the sender’s original message content if I choose to). Not only must all of Google’s “canned responses” have the same exact address label (the Google account name, exactly), but the email address itself is a goofy-looking advert for Google Apps! Can’t be changed.

    I’m forced to continue running my own mail servers just to support 20-year old industry-standard features that Google’s “professional”, paid product can’t do.

    • While you can’t use a different email addresses with Canned Responses (which would be handy for some folks), it’s not true that you can’t use a non-Google address with Gmail — here at GigaOM, we use Google Apps to manage email on our domain and it works very well.

  8. Troy – is that why I get folks sometimes replying to my gmail addy? I didn’t realize I could stop that if I paid $50. I only recently realized it was happening, as I filter lots of addies through gmail, and I felt it looked very unprofessional of me to other people as my gmail address is rather silly. :)

    Great post Celine. Now that I’ve found this site I will be coming back again.

  9. i like the canned feature as well but there is a problem…?

    I saved a message with an image- looks great but once saved and sent in future it doesnt appear to be able to be seen?

    any help would be appreciated..

  10. Benjamin Saiman

    Nice feature, and a very interesting post. thanks

    I have many email accounts : a Yahoo! mail account for a very long time, and a Gmail account for 2 weeks now.

    I had a very hard time to set up the “Canned Responses” feature, as my account was in French, and I could not see the “lab” tab in “Settings”. I had to change to the US version, activate the “Canned Responses” feature, and go back to the French setting.

    Then, when you write an email, you see a “Réponses standardisées” link, which corresponds to the “Canned Responses” feature.

    It should be the same for all the other languages.

  11. This is a great idea!
    However, I’m using the free Gmail account instead of the paid $50/yr account.

    I use Gmail as a way to keep up with my clients while I’m out of the office or away from my main computer (which seems like is more the case lately)

    so, the main issue I have is with the “sent on behalf of” line and the way it uses my gmail account.

    I’ve ran into issues before with my clients sending directly to the gmail account instead of my main account.

    I suppose this would stop with the purchase of the plan, but at this point it’s not something I need.