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How to Create Email Templates in Gmail: With Canned Responses

This post is part of a series called Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Gmail Tips and Tricks.
How to Send an Email Later With Boomerang for Gmail (At the Best Time)
How to Email Large Files as Gmail Attachments

It happened again. You opened your email and there was a message in there with the question you've already answered dozens of times. 

If you're tired of answering the same questions over and over, then Gmail Canned Responses can help.

Use Canned Responses in Gmail to create email templates that you can re-use quickly with just a few modifications. 

Of course, not every email you send should be a template email response. Some emails require a more unique response. But for those that don't, you'd be surprised at how much time you could save by starting with a Gmail email template. 

You can even use filters to automate your Canned Response so that it's always sent as a reply to certain messages.

Here are several scenarios where you might want to use the Gmail Canned Responses feature:

  • Help Desk - If you work in customer support, use Canned Response for those questions customers ask often.
  • Requests for a Product or Service Not Offered - As a small business owner, you sometimes get requests outside of your specialty. Send a Canned Response explaining what you do offer.
  • Late Notices - Create an email template to deal with late payments or late shipments.
  • Availability - If someone wants to schedule a meeting or drop by, use a Canned Response to explain your business hours.
  • Follow Up Notes - Follow up is an important part of relationship building. Use a template as a model for these types of emails.

You can probably think of additional scenarios where an email template could help your business. Learning how to create and use email templates with Gmail's Canned Responses feature can help you become more productive. In this tutorial, learn how to use this helpful feature—from setup to working with email templates. 

How to Create a Canned Response in Gmail

Now that we've talked about how to use email templates, it's time to explain how to create your own Gmail templates using Canned Responses.

Watch this quick screencast to learn the basics of how to create a Canned Response in Gmail:

Or walk through the detailed written steps below for more information on how to create and use Gmail email templates. 

Step 1. How to Access Gmail Labs & Enable Canned Responses

Canned Responses is a Gmail Labs feature, so to use it, you first need to access Gmail Labs:

1. Access Gmail Labs

To access Gmail Labs, start from the main inbox window. Click the Settings icon (it looks like a gear) in the upper right corner. From the drop-down menu, click the Settings option.

Gmail Settings Option
Click the Settings option.

The Settings Screen displays. Click the Labs option at the top to display available features you can turn on in Gmail Labs. Use the scrollbar on the right to scroll down to the Canned Responses Gmail lab option.

Gmail Canned Responses Lab
Scroll to the Canned Responses Gmail Lab setting.

2. Enable Gmail Canned Responses

The default Gmail setting is for Canned Responses to be disabled. Click the Enable toggle button to the right of the option to turn the feature on.

Enable Canned Responses
Click the Enable toggle button.

Scroll to the bottom of the screen and click the Save Changes button. Canned Responses have been enabled. Now your inbox displays.

Step 2. How to Create a Gmail Template

Now that Canned Responses are active, you're ready to start creating your email templates. To begin, click on the Compose button in the upper left. The New Message form displays:

Gmail New Message form
Type your Gmail message.

Type the message you want to create as an email template. Pay attention to what you type in the Subject field since this will become the default title of your Canned Response. It is not necessary to fill out the Recipients field.

To include a standard signature in your Canned Response, use an image or type the signature you want.

Once you've completed your message, click the down arrow in the lower right of the New Message form. A drop-down menu appears:

New Canned response option
Click the New canned response option.

Now click Canned responses > New canned response. You are prompted to name the Canned Response (your subject line is the default):

Naming  your Gmail Canned Response
This Canned Response will be named Our Business Hours.

If you want to change the name of your Canned Response you can do so now. Make sure that the name is descriptive enough that you will be able to tell what the template is for in the future.

Click the OK button when you are satisfied with the name of the new Canned Response. You do not need to send a message to create a Canned Response.

Note: Canned Responses are saved in the Drafts label. If you accidentally delete a Canned Response from Drafts, it will no longer work even if it appears as an option on the Canned Responses menu. 

Step 3. How to Use a Gmail Template to Reply

Now that you've created a Gmail template, you are ready to use it. You can use a Canned Response for a new message, or to reply to a message you've received. You can also create a filter to automatically send a template email response to a message you receive.

In this step, I'll explain how to do both.

1. Manually Use a Template

To use a Canned Response, either start a new message or click the Reply icon to respond to an incoming message.

Once you've opened the New Message or Reply form, click the down arrow in the lower right corner (next to the trash can icon) to see the available Canned Responses:

Available Gmail Canned Responses
Select a Gmail Canned Response.

Click the Canned Response you wish to insert into the message under the Insert option.

As soon as you click the Canned Response of your choice, the template response is copied into your email message.

If you need to personalize the email template, do so now. Also, if the Canned Response includes a signature, delete any other automatic signature you are using or your message may have two signatures.

Click the Send button on the lower left of the form to send your message.

2. Use a Filter to Automatically Send a Canned Response

You can also design a Gmail filter to automatically send out a Canned Response.

Start by opening the Settings screen. Click the Filters and Blocked Addresses option.

Creating a Gmail filter
Click the Create a new filter link.

Click the Create a new filter link. The Advanced Gmail search box displays.

Advanced Gmail Search Box
Type the filter parameters.

Type the parameters for those emails that you want to receive a Canned Response. You can create a filter based on any combination of:

  • From address
  • Subject line,
  • words in the email
  • whether the email has an attachment
  • whether the email is a chat
  • email size

Type information into the appropriate parameter fields.

After choosing your parameters, click the Create Filter with this search link. The Create Filter box appears:

Create Filter box
Select the Gmail Canned Response to use.

Because Canned Responses are enabled, there is a Send canned response check box in the Create Filter box.

Check the check box and use the up and down arrows to the right to select the Canned Response to use with this filter.

Click the Create Filter button. You'll see a prompt that "Your filter was created."

Messages you receive that meet filter parameters will automatically be sent the Canned Response you selected.

For more details on what you can do with a Gmail filter, review the following tutorial:

Step 4. How to Modify or Delete a Gmail Email Template

Sometimes you no longer need a Canned Response. Maybe the response needs to be completely rewritten, or maybe the situation that required the Canned Response no longer exists. For example, perhaps you were responsible for customer support, but you've been promoted and no longer deal with customers. You can modify or delete a Gmail email template as needed; here's how:

1. Modify a Canned Response

To delete a Canned Response email template, open a New Message or Reply form. Click the down arrow in the lower right corner to open the Canned Responses menu:

Gmail Canned Responses menu
Select a Canned Response to modify.

Click Canned responses. Then click [Name of the Canned Response] under the Insert option. The Canned Response you selected populates the message:

Gmail Canned Response
Gmail Canned Response template in a message.

Make modifications and changes to the message as desired. When you're finished changing the message, click the down arrow on the right corner of the screen. Click the Canned responses option. Then click [Name of the Canned Response] under the Save option. A confirmation prompt displays:

Overwrite Canned Response prompt
Click OK to overwrite the canned response.

Click the OK button to save the modified version of your Canned Response.

Note: When modifying a Canned Response, be sure to delete the original Canned Response from the Drafts label. If you accidentally save two Canned Responses with the same name, they may not work.

2. Delete a Canned Response

You can also delete a Canned Response you no longer need from the drop-down menu. Start from within the New Message form.

Click the down arrow in the lower right of the New Message form. Click the Canned responses option. The Canned Responses menu appears:

Canned Responses Menu
Select the name of the Canned Response to be Deleted.

Click the name of the Canned Response you want to delete. The system prompt displays:

Delete Canned Response prompt
Click OK to delete the Canned Response.

To delete the Canned Response, click the OK button.

Note: While the message is removed from the Canned Response tool and cannot be used, the text of the Canned Response remains in your Drafts label until you delete it.

Step 5. How to Disable Canned Responses

If you decide you no longer wish to use Canned Responses in Gmail, you can disable the Canned Response function.

To disable Canned Responses, access Gmail Labs through the Settings screen. Use the scrollbar on the right to scroll down to the Canned Responses Gmail lab. (It will be in the Enabled Labs section at the top of the screen.)

Disable Gmail Canned Response
Click the Disable toggle button.

Click the Disable toggle button. Next, click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the screen. The Canned responses option is no longer be available.

Note: Canned Response messages you previously created remain in the Drafts label until you delete them.


Stop re-writing the same email messages. Use Gmail email templates that you create once and use whenever you need them with the Canned Responses Gmail lab. You'll save time and be more productive. The Gmail Canned Response feature is easy to use once you know how.

Jump into our Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Working wth Gmail to learn more about Gmail filters, Gmail Shortcuts, and more Killer Gmail Features.

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