Email Automation, Can it!

Email Automation with Gmail's Canned Responses and Filters

If you're a Google Apps user but not familiar with the concept of Google Labs, you might want to grab a cup of coffee and visit www.googlelabs.com.  Google describes their Labs project as a "playground" for Google engineers to develop "wild and crazy" add-on features to Google product offerings.  A unique example and one of the most daring of the bunch is a lab titled Mail Goggles.  Mail Goggle, which received a decent amount of buzz (pardon the pun), is the late night brain child of Jon Perlow, a Google Engineer.   While the fore mentioned is the poster child for wild and crazy, there are other Labs modules which are extremely useful as everyday business utilities.  This article will focus on one such lab close to my heart and inbox called Canned Responses.  Unlike its bad-boy brother, Mail Goggles, the Canned Responses Lab is not going to save you from drunk-mailing your boss at 2:00 AM to tell her what you really think about the new team building exercises.  Although, canned responses might help you work some automation into your inbox to help salvage the time you'll never get back while attending these communal sessions. Alright, so you're ready to get started with Canned Responses, what now?  First, you'll want to visited the Labs tab in Gmail to enable the appropriate lab module (that's Canned Responses if you're still dealing with the consequences of last night's 2:00 AM shenanigans).  Once you've enabled the lab module, traverse back to your inbox and we'll create a simple canned response.  Our example is simple and completed in two steps, the first of which is to author a canned response.  The new canned response illustrated below (image) is a response email to inform our customers that their support report has been received and ticketed.  Once I've completed authoring my email, I click the "Canned Response" link under my Gmail subject line and select "New canned response".  I give it a name and Gmail saves the contents of the email draft as a new canned response.

With our canned response saved, now we need to create a Gmail filter to handle the automation part.  The filter I created will have three responsibilities.  The first is to identify emails sent to my support address and archive the messages so that they never appears in my inbox.  The second task is to apply a label, in this case the label will be "SUPPORT". The third and last responsibility is to auto-respond to the sender with my saved canned response.  As you can see from the image below, by selecting three simple checkboxes, I've deployed some basic automation for managing my support emails.

While the above scenario is certainly a basic example of Gmail's canned responses Lab module, this utility has the flexibility to provide much more.  For instance, you could create multiple vacation auto-responders for various groups or individuals and respond with custom messages appropriate for that audience.  Or, maybe your Gmail inbox collects emails from your various email accounts (personal, business, family, etc.).  With canned responses and filters, you can create a custom canned response for each email account and then setup filters, one for each email account, to auto-respond with the corresponding canned response.  So, if you're a Gmail user who craves organization and automation, give the Canned Responses Lab a test drive.  I'm sure you're already thinking of a few applications for this little lab that can!

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