Email Faster & Better With Canned Responses

Yaara Lancet 08-01-2013

email canned responsesDon’t have time to cook lunch? No problem, grab a can. Need some camping chow that won’t go bad? Easy, get some canned food. Tired of typing the same email replies? Try canned emails! Think I’m kidding? Think again. Canned responses, or canned replies, are a feature that too many users have never even tried, but once you’ve tried them, there’s no turning back.


Have you always heard of Gmail canned responses Save Time with Gmail Email Templates using "Canned Responses" Read More but never got around to trying it? Are you hearing about it now for the first time? Regardless of your answer, if you’ve never tried this brilliant feature before, it’s high time that you did, and to make it perfectly clear why you should, this post will tell you all about canned responses, exactly what they are, when they are useful and how you can use them to save time.

What Are Canned Responses?

If you’ve been around for the past several years, chances are you’ve at least heard of canned responses. With their amusing name, canned responses really are as useful as canned food, and about twice as healthy. To put it simply, canned responses come to your rescue when you need to use the same text in an email over and over again. There are endless uses for canned responses, as we will soon see, but before we dive into these, it’s important to understand exactly what canned responses are.

email canned responses

No matter the reason, almost everyone has recurring emails that say the same thing over and over again. You can type these responses up each and every time you want to send them out, but you can also write them up once, can them, and take them out of the can every time you want to use them. This feature is available on almost every email platform, but is probably best known and easiest to use on Gmail.

Why Would I Want To Use Them?

To put it simply, why wouldn’t you? Here are some great uses for canned responses:


Sending out the same email multiple times: Do you sell stuff on eBay, Amazon or similar? Use canned responses to describe your product, or inform buyers it’s sold out. Need to send out contracts, questions or details to multiple clients? Can those emails. Need to respond in the same way to multiple emails? This is the perfect use for canned responses. Instead of typing up these emails from scratch every time, or copying and pasting from old emails, just save a canned responses. This is the classic use.

Smart auto-responder: In Gmail, and in any other client that offers sophisticated filters, you can use canned responses to set up smart auto-responders. What makes them smart? When you set an auto-response email to be sent, it’s sent to everyone who contacts you, regardless of who it is. This is not always ideal. Do you want your clients to get one reply, your family another, and to not reply to the rest at all? Simply set up different canned responses, and tie them into your email filters.

Multiple signatures: Many email clients don’t let you use multiple signatures Manage Multiple Signatures In Gmail Without Browser Plugins Read More for the same email address. With canned responses, you can set up several different signatures and save them each as a canned response. Now, when you start writing an email, you can add the relevant signature with one click.

Creative uses: There’s no limit to what you can do with canned responses, it all depends on how creative you want to be. Do you have a set grocery list? Set it up to be sent automatically when your husband emails you asking for it. Do you need to explain the same thing over and over again to someone? Don’t waste time, can the basic explanation and tweak it as necessary. Have fun with it!


Setting Up Canned Responses In Gmail

While you can use the links above to learn how to set up canned responses in various providers and clients, below you’ll find exactly how to do this in Gmail. Why Gmail? For starters, it’s what I use, and if statistics are to be trusted, it’s now the world’s most popular email service, after passing Hotmail earlier this year.

Surprisingly, canned responses are still not a native Gmail feature, and you’ll need to enable it in the Labs tab before you can start using it. To set up a Gmail canned response, start by composing it in a new email window. When you’re done, click the triangle on the right side of the compose window, choose “Canned responses” and then click on “New canned response…”.

canned email responses gmail

If you’re still using the old Gmail compose, and I’m sure many of you are, the process is slightly different. After composing your email, look for the “Canned responses” link under the subject line. You’ll find the “New canned response…” option here.


canned email responses gmail

Congratulations! You now have a new canned response. As you keep adding them, you’ll see the list grow longer and longer. Make sure you don’t get confused, though. The list appears under three titles: Insert, Save and Delete. The first and third are self explanatory, but if you choose one of your responses under the Save menu, you’ll overwrite it with whatever you currently have on your draft email.

To integrate a canned response with a filter, create a new filter Create An Automatic Email Response With Gmail's New Filter Read More through the settings, and when choosing the filter’s actions, check the box next to “Send canned response”, and choose which response you’d like to send.

email canned responses



Canned responses truly are one of the best inventions since canned food. If you don’t do anything else today, do yourself a favor and create one canned response. I promise you, you won’t regret it.

How do you use canned responses? Do you have creative uses to share? Were you inspired to try the feature after reading this article? Tell us all in the comments.

Image credit: Canned words image via Shutterstock

Related topics: Email Tips, Gmail.

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  1. Harry
    June 4, 2013 at 10:49 am


    To set up a canned response you write: "click the triangle on the right side of the compose window". I don't understand what you mean, cause I don't see such a triangle with the drop down menu. Can you please explain more clearly?
    Thnks in advance.

    • Yaara Lancet
      June 6, 2013 at 4:25 am

      Hi Harry, do you use the old compose or the new compose system in Gmail?

      • Harry
        June 6, 2013 at 11:09 am

        I use the new compose system.

        • Yaara Lancet
          June 6, 2013 at 1:40 pm

          Alright, so when you compose a new email, look to the right of the trash icon to find a little triangle. Click that and go to Canned Responses.

        • Harry
          June 6, 2013 at 1:48 pm

          Thanks, Yaara, for your answer.
          I had seen that triangle, but in my gmail there are only a few options under that triangle. No 'Canned Repsonses'.
          Because I'm Dutch it probably makes no sense to name these options, because they are in Dutch. I'll try tot translate them:
          - Temporaly go back to the old compose system
          - Lable
          - Plain text modus
          - Print
          - Spell check
          That's all!

        • Yaara Lancet
          June 6, 2013 at 1:58 pm

          Hi Harry,

          I can't reply to your last comment, so I'll reply back here.

          Your comment made me realize I left something important out of the post. I got so used to Canned Responses, I completely forgot it was a Gmail Lab and not a regular feature!

          To enable it, you first have to visit your email settings, click the Labs tab, and find the one called Canned Responses. After you enable that, you should see the option where I described.

          Sorry for the confusion!

        • Harry
          June 6, 2013 at 4:48 pm

          O.K., Yaara, that's clear.
          Thank you for your further explanation.
          I can do with that. ;-)

  2. Glenda Carl
    March 5, 2013 at 5:46 am

    We just switched to Google Apps at work, and the trainer who was helping us make the switch strongly recommended we use canned responses, in exactly the way you describe here. Thanks for walking me through the creation process! Now I have, let's see, eight different signatures to choose from, depending on how formal I want to be and who the recipient is. Anal? Who said anal? I'm just working on developing my mad Gmail skills.

    • Yaara Lancet
      March 5, 2013 at 5:57 am

      Wow, eight signatures! That's impressive. Would you believe I have none? I don't use signatures.

  3. Anestis Kozakis
    January 9, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    Unfortunately, most companies used canned responses too much. Instead of actually reading an e-mail, a person will scan for keywords and select what they think is the appropriate canned response, even if the query is about something completely different.

    Causes frustration for the user as they are forced to respond back with a clarification e-mail.

    Use canned responses responsibly, and only when required.

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 11, 2013 at 8:25 am

      Very true. It's very important to keep in mind there are still people on the other side, and you don't want to use canned responses in place of regular interactions. It's especially annoying when your emails should be read, but are not.

    • Catherine McCrum
      January 11, 2013 at 3:31 pm

      Having smarts are what is required. And as Anestis referred to, scanning for keywords and assuming they know what it is about, can lead to so much frustration if they are not true professionals and skilled at reading. Companies need to train, train, train & retrain their customer service representatives to ensure the focus always stay on the customers' needs. And if that means a one to one conversation instead of a canned response, let that be what the company chooses to do early in the process.

      • Yaara Lancet
        January 13, 2013 at 6:12 am

        I completely agree. In fact, I believe canned responses should not be used as real customer service replies at all. The right use for canned responses is to give an initial response, telling your your email has been received etc. It's really important for someone to actually read that email and send a real response, or at least a modified canned response when they can get to it. This does require companies to keep a close eye on the amount of emails they get so they can keep enough personnel to do this, but it makes a huge difference.

  4. Catherine McCrum
    January 9, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    I agree that canned responses are very useful, however, I hate the autoresponders that are not updated - example: The shop is closed till January 2nd . . . and it is now January 5th and they are still using the out-dated response. If you are going to use these tool, use them both professionally and keep them current.

    • Yaara Lancet
      January 11, 2013 at 8:24 am

      Yep, that's really annoying. People should also know how to use canned responses. The least they can do is keep it up to date!

  5. Scott
    January 9, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    One thing I like about canned responses is that I can go into my Outlook client and create an email intro (like "Hi, Mike") using, say, Calibri 11 font. I can then copy-and-paste that into the canned response and Google will recognize that font style and allow me to use it for the email, even though it's not among their own font selections. :-)

  6. Mac Witty
    January 9, 2013 at 8:17 am

    I use Typinator for Mac for standard answer.

  7. mary b. price
    January 9, 2013 at 2:02 am

    cannot access