Combine the Power of Gmail Filters and Canned Responses to Create your Own Auto-Replies

Leslie BloomCorporate & Product Marketing Manager
Sometimes you get stuck sending the same message to people all the time, there’s no way around it. If you are using Gmail (or Google Mail) you can utilize a set of features to create responses that automatically send based on criteria that you set: auto-replies. This is not a standard feature in Gmail, it requires enabling some Google Labs and setting up basic filters to make it work.

What is a Google Lab you ask? Labs are experimental features created by the Google team and directly activated within Gmail to let users to further customize their experience. If you are using Google Apps for Business, your administrator will have to enable Labs for users before you can access them.

There are plenty of reasons you might want the functionality of an auto-reply:
  • Send an immediate confirmation email when using an email on a 'contact us' site.
  • Send auto-replies without having your vacation responder turned on.
  • Segement auto-replies to specific email domains.
  • And more…

In order to send an auto-reply you have to enable the canned response Google Lab within Gmail. This Lab allows you to save and send your saved messages using a button next to the compose form. We will be using a combination of canned responses and filters to create auto-replies.

Install the Canned Response Google Labs

  1. Log into your Gmail (or Google Apps) account at
  2. Once in your inbox, select the gear in the upper right hand corner. Select Settings. AutoReply01.png
  3. On the top navigation, select the “Labs” tab.
  4. From here you can view a brief description of the canned responses lab, select enable. Labs-02.PNG
  5. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page and select “Save Changes”. You might be prompted to reload your page for changes to take effect.Labs-03.PNG
Now that you have enabled the ability to create and save replies (aka canned responses), the world is your oyster!


Set Up a Canned Response

The canned response is at the center of your auto-reply world. When drafting your canned responses you can apply whatever formatting you wish and it will be sent to your recipients with that formatting.

  1. Compose a new email.
  2. Enter your subject line, message, and format it how you want your recipients to view it.
  3. In the lower right hand corner of your compose window, select the bottom arrow (be careful not to select the trash can!).
  4. Expand the canned responses menu. AutoReply00.png
  5. From here you select “New canned response” to save it. By default it will be the title you entered into your subject line. Select OK. AutoReply001.PNG
  6. You can now see your new canned response within the menu instantly.
  7. That’s it! You can now exit out of the compose window as you just saved your canned response.

Set Up a Filter

You have already set up the message you want to send to people, now you need to set up the filter to act as a trigger to complete the action. A filter acts like an auto-sorting mechanism that allows you to establish your if:then parameters and apply select actions. In Gmail these filters have endless uses, I use mine to keep my inbox organized, but here you will use them to send your canned response.

  1. In the very bottom of your inbox select “Create a new filter” –OR– Select the email you want to auto-reply to and in the upper right of the email frame, click the downward arrow to display a menu. Select “Filter messages like this” AutoReply03.PNGInbox-05.png
  2. Both actions bring up the search bar and displays the Filter options box. This is your ‘if’ statement, there are a lot of options here.
    1. Filter by the email From field
    2. Filter by the email To field
    3. Filter by a keyword in the Subject line
    4. Filter by the inclusion/omission of select words from the body of the email
    5. Filter based on an attachment
    6. Filter by email size
  3. Input your desired criteria and click “Create filter with this search”. For the sake of this article, I’m going to keep it simple by just filtering by the email's From field.AutoReply04.PNG
  4. Now we are ready to apply our ‘then’ statement, choosing the action based on our previous criteria. Select the “Send canned response” checkbox and the specific message you want to send from the dropdown.
  5. Select "Create filter" to finalize it.
  6. You’re done.

Now you have enabled canned responses and set up the parameters by which your auto-replies send from your address! Depending on what your message is and which triggers you want to use, you can play around with the tones and parameters that save you time copying and pasting between messages.

Setting up auto replies like this work 24 hours a day 7 days a week without affecting your other email activities. Gmail’s default vacation responder is the classic way of managing something like this, even allowing you to identify a specific date range to activate it. A major drawback of the default responder is that it sends a response to anyone who sends you an email. With canned responses and filters you can select specific people you want to respond automatically to, for specific subject lines, and more.

Think about the emails you send repeatedly and try giving them a canned response treatment to improve sharpen your Gmail game. Good luck and start experimenting!

Leslie BloomCorporate & Product Marketing Manager

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