Repetition is a normal part of email communication. For most mailbox users, it’s very common to receive almost identical questions from different senders all the time. That’s where canned responses come in handy. Instead of typing (or pasting) the same solution each time, you can tell your Outlook to use an email template you’ve prepared earlier. There are three different ways in which you can set it up. In the part 1 of the article, I explain how to use Outlook Quick Parts for your canned responses needs.
Canned responses in general
Some people might think that using a pre-made template shows that you don’t really care about the recipient. After all, you’re using a generic message for everyone. It’s like you don’t treat your recipients as separate human beings with their own issues, problems, and questions.
Using canned responses, apart from boosting your productivity, means that you actually care more. Here’s why:
- You can fine-tune your canned responses to be as helpful as possible. Include useful links, make sure the formatting is perfect, etc.
- A canned response is usually created based on an actual email that you send as a response to a specific question or problem. But instead of sending an email in a rush, you can take your time to proofread it and make sure the message is easy to follow.
- Having canned responses doesn’t mean you need to send generic messages. Some parts are meant to be personalized. Hopefully, you won’t send emails starting with Dear recipient, or Hello *First Name*.
- If you receive follow-ups to your canned responses, it’s usually a great idea to make some changes in them, e.g., add more info just to be extra helpful and go the extra mile for your recipients. They will be more satisfied, and you will be able to provide assistance more quickly, which will leave more time to focus on other things.
In the end, like with any other tool, it all comes down to how you use your canned responses. Just because you can break your finger with a hammer doesn’t mean you should label it as dangerous and stop using it whatsoever.
Outlook Quick Parts
Quick Parts is probably the most-used tool for managing canned responses in Outlook. They contain “building blocks”, which you can insert into any of your messages. They are based on an existing email fragment, which means that you can store formatted text, images, gifs – everything you would normally see in an email.
How to create a new Outlook Quick Part
- To create a new Outlook Quick Part, compose its content first. Then highlight it and go to Insert > Text > Quick Parts > Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery.
- The new window (Create New Building Block) has a few fields that you can edit:
- Name: by default, its value is automatically set to the beginning of your canned response. Change it to something understandable and easy to find.
- Gallery: best to leave Quick Parts as default. If you change it to something else, it will not be easily available from the Outlook’s ribbon.
- Category: You can group your canned responses to different categories. This is especially useful if you have a lot of canned responses for different purposes. By default, there’s only one category: General.
- Description: specifies the tooltip that will appear when you hover over a chosen Quick Part.
- Save in: specifies the Word Template used by Outlook to compose emails. In most cases, you’ll probably leave it as default.
- Options: defines how the building block will be pasted later on. The Insert content only option is the most versatile one, but you can also choose to insert content in its own paragraph or page. In short, it will add different non-printable characters.
How to use Quick Parts
Using Quick Parts is extremely easy:
- In Outlook, go to Insert > Quick Parts and click a building block of your choice. Left clicking it will immediately add your canned response to your current cursor location. If you right-click a building block, you can choose to insert a Quick Part at the current position (default), at the beginning of an email or at its end.
How to edit Quick Parts
Now this one is a bit tricky. If you want to edit the contents of a building block, you need to overwrite an existing Quick Part:
- If you want to edit the name of a Quick Part, change its description, or assign it to a different category, open a new email in Outlook, go to Insert > Text > Quick Parts. Next, right-click the right canned response and choose Edit Properties.
- The problem is, editing properties doesn’t let you change the most obvious part of Quick Parts: its content. To edit the content, open a new message and insert the Quick Part you want to edit.
- Make all the necessary adjustments. After that, select all (Ctrl+A), click Quick Parts > Save selection to Quick Parts Gallery.
- Use the exact same parameters as when you created the building block the first time (i.e., Name, Category, Save in).
- When Outlook asks you whether you want to redefine the building block entry, confirm your intention. If there is no confirmation window, it means you’ve just created a duplicate Quick Part.
How to delete Quick Parts
Deleting Quick Parts is a very useful feature. The obvious use case is when some templates become outdated or no longer useful. However, because Quick Parts are what they are, the editing process makes it easy to create duplicates, which can cause Quick Parts to lose its effectiveness.
- To delete an Outlook Quick Part, start composing a new email in Outlook, click anywhere within the message body, and go to Insert > Text > Quick Parts. Right-click any Quick Part and select Organize and Delete.
- In the Building Blocks Organizer, click the Quick Part you want to delete and click the Delete button below.
Pros and cons
- Once you learn how to use them, it’s quick and easy.
- They support all the formatting options.
There are some scenarios in which you won’t be able to use Outlook Quick Parts:
- If you’re replying to a message within its preview (Reading Pane), the Quick Part gallery will not be available for you – the Insert tab is not available there. Quick Parts only work when you open an email in a separate window. So, when you’re in the reading pane, use the Pop Out option to make your canned responses available.
- If the Quick Parts icon is greyed out, your cursor is most probably out of the email body. Not a major disadvantage, but this can be annoying.
- They don’t work in Outlook on the web.
- There’s no way to centrally manage them for a team or entire company.