Gmail’s Canned Responses – Busy Person’s Best Friend or Superfluous New Feature? 1

By Lindsey Scott

The official Gmail blog announced yet another new feature on Tuesday – “canned responses.” This feature is meant to save users the time they would normally spend sending out the same response to a common question by creating a canned response that they can send over and over again.

Google then takes it one step further by allowing users to develop automated responses for the filters, which are based on a combination of keywords and senders, they’ve already set up in their Gmail. For the especially busy (or lazy), opening an email will no longer be a prerequisite to responding to it.

At first blush, this all sounds like a great idea, but when you really get down to it, I’m not sure this new feature is all that useful. I honestly can’t think of a single question that I get emailed about repeatedly and would need to develop a canned response for. (Seriously, given that Gmail is not an enterprise email service, what kinds of questions can people really be asking each other on a regular basis? What are you doing this weekend? How’s your mom? What’s the weather like in Wasilla today?)

Moreover, with the proliferation of spam over the last several years, I think most of us are pretty careful about who we give our email addresses out to these days. For me personally, if you have my email address, I probably want and/or need to receive communications from you and wouldn’t benefit from the ability to send you an automated response without actually looking at your message. It seems to me that if someone were receiving emails that didn’t even require opening on a regular basis they should probably just send them to their spam folder, rather than taking the time to write up a canned response.

Indeed the only real benefit I can see to this feature is that it would allow users to send something akin to Outlook’s out of office message in the event that they were on vacation or knew ahead of time that they wouldn’t have access to email for a few days.

Any thoughts?

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