Automatically Reply to Messages in Gmail

Serious, focused businessman working at laptop in office
Caiaimage/Agnieszka Olek / Getty Images

You don't need to write the same email over and over when you can set up canned responses in Gmail. If you find yourself sending the same bodies of text to people, consider using the canned response function to send those messages automatically when set criteria are met.

This feature works by setting up a filter in Gmail so that when certain conditions are met (like when a specific person emails you), a message of your choosing is automatically sent back to that address; these are called canned responses.

If you'd rather send vacation responses in Gmail, you can enable a different setting for that.

Set Up Automatic Email Replies in Gmail

To have Gmail automatically reply to emails based on a set of criteria, follow these instructions to set up your inbox properly:

  1. Turn on Canned Responses by opening Gmail's Settings (the gear icon) and enabling the Canned Responses option in the Advanced tab.

    Enable button for Canned Responses (Templates) in Gmail Advanced settings tab
  2. Create the template you wish to use for auto-replying to messages.

  3. Select the Show Search Options triangle in the search field at the top of Gmail. It's the small triangle on the right side of the text area.

  4. Define the criteria that should apply to the filter, such as the sender's email address and any words that should appear in the subject or body.

  5. Select the link at the bottom of the filtering options called Create filter.

  6. Check the box next to the option called Send canned response.

    Send canned response options in Gmail Filter settings
  7. Open the drop-down next to Send canned response and choose which canned response to sending out when the filtering criteria are met.

  8. Select any other filtering option you want to apply, such as the one to skip the Inbox or delete the message.

  9. Select Create filter.

The newly created filter becomes stored in the Filters and Blocked Addresses section of Gmail's Settings.

Important Facts About Auto Responses

While canned responses can help automate your email workflow, be aware of a few important facts before setting your filters.

Envelopes floating in space, light rays from bottom
MirageC / Getty Images

New emails only: The filtering options only apply to new messages that come in after the filter is created. Even if you have existing emails where the filter could apply, the canned responses will not be sent out to the recipients of those messages.

Different email address: Canned responses originate from an address that's still yours, of course, but with a slightly altered email address. For example, if your normal address is example123@gmail.com, sending out auto emails will change the address to example123+canned.response@gmail.com.

This is still your email address, and so replies will still go to you, but the address is altered to indicate that it's coming from an automatically generated message.

Attaching files: While it is possible to attach files to a canned response and use them when you manually insert the response from the More Options > Canned responses menu, you cannot auto email attachments. So, any text within the canned response will send out but not any attachments; this includes inline images as well.

That being said, the canned responses do not have to be plain text. You can include rich text formatting like bold and italics, and they'll send out automatically without any issues.