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Gmail Now Comes in a Can?

I am an unabashed lover of Gmail, the free email service offered by Google.  This week the Gmail team introduced a new feature that has some real value – Canned Response.  The feature allows you to “pre-write” standard email messages that you can then call up with one click and send as a response.

My first gut reaction to this was “email for the lazy.”  I thought to myself how impersonal to not take the time to write out each and every response in detail to the person on the other end of the message.  But then it hit me.  You could use this for numerous applications as a way to save time and improve the quality of your responses.

Here is one example.  Directions.  Suppose people are often asking you for directions to your workplace, directions to your home, or directions to your favorite coffee shop.  By typing the directions to these places up ahead of time, you can easily send people a detailed map with proofed instructions as to how to get to the desired location.  This might include where to park, landmarks, the name of the receptionist, a description of yourself, or any number of other relevant details that do not frequently change.  When someone needs directions they are not seeking out a personal response or opinion, they just need function information.  Thus, a canned response helps everyone.

Now, should you use this feature as a response to personal thank you emails, comments on your blog, or other specific responses?  I would caution against it.  Once someone gets a few of the same message from you, it can be annoying.  Like anything else, there is a right time and place for it.  Used correctly, this feature can be really helpful.

Official Gmail Blog: New in Labs: Canned Responses