Gmail Tip: Selectively Auto-Reply with a Canned Response

March 19, 2009

Selective Canned Response
One of the lesser-known aspects of Gmail Labs' useful Canned Responses feature is that it's available as a filter action. This means you can auto-reply to messages that match criteria you set up with a canned response. For example, you can say that any message from Aunt Bertha with "Fwd" in the subject line should automatically get the response: "I love you Aunt Bertha, but please stop forwarding me chain letters."

As for me, I'm using this to deal with certain particularly persistent public relations people who send press releases to my personal email address. I used to just automatically filter those messages to a label I never look at; now, I can automatically reply with the following using canned responses:

Hi--Looks like you've sent me a press release. Please remove my email address from your mailing list.

Then shuttle the message off to a label I never look at. Check out the setup in the screenshot above. In the second screen of the filter creation process, check off "Send canned response" and choose the one you've set up from the list.

For more on enabling Gmail Labs and its best features, see my picks for best Labs features (including Canned Responses).

I LOVE the canned response auto-reply with one exception … it amends your return address to read username+canned.response@gmail.com.

I’m not sure why gmail feels the need to expose the canned-ness of the response in your reply-to address, it seems unnecessary and almost a little rude. Even auto.response@gmail.com would be a little gentler. Granted, in the case of your PR flacks, you don’t care if they know it’s canned … but I use my auto-responders to deal with frequent inquiries that I care about, and the reply-to address gives me away every time.

Oh wow, I didn’t even realize that Canned responses gave you away like that! I always start every canned response with “sorry for the impersonal reply, but” to cover my bases (and not sound like a bot), but I can see how this could be trouble. Buyer beware!

Gina Trapani [+195]
Mar 19 09 at 4:35 pm

The more I tell them to unsubscribe the more they send me those emails. The best option is to apply a filter to send them to the place they deserve to be, the trash-can :)



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