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Canned Responses - the Gmail hack for building beautiful email templates

Gmail is boring.  Lilly white.  Minimalist.  Beautiful in its simplicity and facility, but lacking pizzazz and panache.  

Sometimes, email should be graphical, rich, and inviting.

Canned Responses is a Gmail lab add-on that brands itself as “email for the truly lazy”.  Users draft common email responses, save, and insert them when needed.  Intended as a time-saver, Canned Responses provides an unlikely potential for building engaging, beautiful Gmail templates.

Karen Smith, a chemistry teacher at Lindbergh High School, recently built her first eNewsletter template for parents and students using the Canned Responses feature.  Her canned response features attractive headings, interactive links, and timely information.


Karen is excited to take communication to the next level.  “I love the transparency. It creates a learning partnership between parents, teacher, and students.”

Interested in building your own Gmail template?  First, activate the Canned Responses lab:
  1. In Gmail, left-click on the Settings icon,
  2. select Settings (again)
  3. choose the Labs tab
  4. scroll down to Canned Responses and select enable
  5. scroll up and click on Save Changes

To build your first template, follow these simple steps:

  1. In Gmail, Compose a new email.
  2. Insert your images, text, and links into the email to build your template.
  3. Using the drop-down menu in the lower right-hand corner, scroll over Canned responses and select New canned response....
  4. Name your template.  That’s it!

When you’re ready to use your template:

  1. In Gmail, click Compose
  2. Use the dropdown menu in the lower right-hand corner, scroll over Canned responses and select your template by name under the Insert heading.  The template should appear in the body of your new email.
  3. Make any modifications and simply Send when you’re ready.

Tips for making great school eNewsletters within Gmail:

  • test your links to make sure they work
  • use spellcheck
  • proofread your work, especially names, dates, and times
  • get permission for any images that are not your intellectual property or find images with an open Creative Commons license
  • after adding an image, click on the image and select Best fit to optimize the size for viewing
  • before sharing, send yourself a copy and view it on cell phones and other devices to consider the user experience
  • Avoid posting student’s last names and abide by photography permissions for your students


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