If you want to reply faster, Gmail templates (also called “canned responses”) are the answer.
First, You Have Less Than Six Hours
Let’s face it: people expect you not only to reply, they expect a fast reply.
41% of consumers expect a response within six hours.
—Forrester Research Inc., 2008
The less time you spend writing, the faster you can reply—the more replies you can write, and the happier everybody will be.
This is how Gmail templates are so charmingly useful: you write oft-used responses (or even new messages such as pitches or reminders) once, then re-use them whenever needed. You can even set up Gmail to respond with a canned answer automatically—in response to emails sent to a Gmail alias you made up on the fly, for instance.
Let’s find out how!
How to Send Replies or New Emails Fast Using Gmail Templates
To use a template to start a new email or send a canned reply in Gmail:
- Make sure the template is all set up. (See below.)
- Position the text cursor where you want to insert the template text in your new message or reply.
Tip: In a new reply, the default will be just where you would start writing your answer, so you need not do anything.
- Click the More options button (a downward-headed triangle, ▼) in the composition window or pane’s toolbar.
- Select Canned responses from the menu followed by the template you want to use (under Insert at the top).
Will the template overwrite what I have already typed?
When you insert a canned response, it will be pasted where the text cursor is. As far as the email text is concerned, it works exactly as if you had pasted text copied from a template (in a text file, say).
Will the template overwrite the quoted text in the reply?
Any quoted email will remain intact when you use a canned response in Gmail.
Can I make the template overwrite text?
To replace text in an email with that of a canned response:
- Highlight the text you want to replace.
- Insert the canned response. (See above.)
What about the Subject line? Will it ever change?
The subject line will only change if it is empty.
So, to use the subject from the canned response, do delete any text in the Subject: line first.
Can I use more than one canned response in an email?
Insert as many email templates as you like. You can, of course, insert the same template more than once as well.
Tip: Since you can set up as many templates as you like and insert them wherever you like, they make for great alternative Gmail signatures.
How to Set Up a Gmail Template Email
To create a new canned response email template in Gmail:
- Make sure Canned Responses is enabled in Gmail labs. (See below.)
- Start a new email in Gmail.
- Click COMPOSE, for example, or press C (with Gmail keyboard shortcuts enabled).
- Type the message you want to use for the canned response in the email’s text area.
- Enter a subject, if desired; it will be used for new emails but not in replies.
- Optionally, choose a sending address; Gmail will remember it as well for new messages but not replies.
- Click the More options triangle (▼) in the message’s formatting toolbar.
- Select Canned responses | New canned response… (under Save) from the menu that has appeared.
- Enter a title that will help you recognize the template under Please enter a new canned response name:.
- Gmail will have inserted the email’s subject—if you have entered one; you can change that preset, of course.
- Note: If you do change the title, Gmail will use it as the subject instead if you use the template to create a new message.
- Click OK.
- Typically, click Discard draft (🗑) in the message’s toolbar.
- You can send the message as it is, of course; or edit it and save it as another template.
How to Enable “Canned Responses” in Labs to Start Using Gmail Templates
To make sure you can set up email templates in Gmail using Canned Responses:
- Click the Settings gear icon (⚙️) in Gmail; you will find it near the top right corner.
- Select Settings from the menu that has appeared.
- Go to the Labs tab.
- Look for Canned Responses.
Tip: Start typing “canned” under Search for a lab: to have Canned Responses raise to the top.
- Make sure Enable is selected for Canned Responses.
- Click Save Changes.
(Gmail templates tested with Gmail in a desktop browser; title image: StockUnlimited)