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All about canned responses in Outlook, part 2: Outlook templates & email signatures

Canned responses part 2 - Outlook templates, OFT, email signatures

Canned responses can make your job much easier. They save you from having to do repetitive work and make it quicker to provide helpful answers to recurring questions. This article shows how to use canned responses with Outlook email templates (OFT files as well as with the My Templates add-in) and with email signatures. At last, I’ll show you how to manage canned responses for the whole team or organization at the same time.

This is the second part of the article about canned responses in Outlook. See part 1 in which I explain how to use Outlook Quick Parts.

Outlook templates (OFT)

There are two kinds of Outlook templates: OFT and My Templates. I’ll dive into the first variant first, as it is the better-known one.

OFT (Outlook file template) is a separate file which contains not only the email body but can also include a subject that you define. Here’s how to use them:

  1. To create a new OFT file, start composing a new email in Outlook. Once you prepare your email contents, click File and Save as.
Outlook - new OFT template
  1. Now, from the Save as type dropdown, choose Outlook Template. Type in a file name and save the file.
Outlook - new OFT template - save as OFT
  1. To use a saved Outlook email template, click New Items > More Items > Choose Form.
Outlook - use Outlook email template
  1. Finally, from the Look In dropdown, choose User Templates in File System, click the appropriate template and then click Open.
Use Outlook email template

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • They support all the formatting options.
  • Fine for new emails.
  • Can be used in Outlook rules as an automatic response.

Cons:

  • Extremely troublesome to use them for replies and forwards (and canned responses are, by definition, replies).
  • No way to insert them directly into a reply.
  • Don’t work in Outlook on the web.
  • No way to centrally manage them for a team or the whole organization.

My Templates in Outlook

My Templates is a built-in Outlook add-in which lets you add canned responses similarly to Quick Parts, but I find it a bit more intuitive. Here’s how it works:

  1. In a message composing window (it works in email preview, too), click the View Templates button. In the desktop Outlook, it’s located in Message > My Templates, while in Outlook on the web, you need to click more options (the tree dots icon) and then My Templates.
Outlook desktop - My Templates button
Outlook on the web - My Templates button_2
  1. In both Outlook email clients, clicking this option will show up a new pane to the right. To add a new canned response, click the plus (Template) icon.
Outlook on the web - add a new template
  1. Now, the My Template editor has no formatting options. You can use keyboard shortcuts to make slight adjustments (like Ctrl+B for bold), but it’s easiest to simply compose your canned response in the standard Outlook new message window and paste the contents here. Click Save when you’re done.
Outlook on the web - save a new template
  1. After your template is saved, all you need to do is open the My Templates add-in and click the template you want to use.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • Similarly to Outlook Quick Parts, it’s easy to use.
  • Can be used if you reply in the email preview pane (you don’t have to open the message in a new window).
  • Works for both desktop Outlook and Outlook on the web.

Cons:

  • The editor does not support any formatting options. You can paste formatted text and images into the add-in pane, but it will not be displayed correctly in the preview box.
  • There’s no way to centrally manage canned responses for a team or entire company.

Email signatures

I won’t elaborate on how to add and use email signatures. You can refer to this guide if you need instructions on how to set them up.

The email signature feature is usually used for your professional HTML email signature. They often include contact details, company branding, a marketing banner, maybe a legal disclaimer. But if you dare to think a bit out of the box, the signatures feature is perfect for canned responses.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • Support all the formatting elements and images.
  • Work in desktop Outlook and Outlook on the web.
  • Can be managed centrally for a team or entire organization!

Cons:

  • By default, you can set up only one email signature in Outlook on the web. However, in the next section I will show you how to fix that with a third-party tool.

Centrally manage canned responses for your team

If you want to centrally manage canned responses (via email signatures) for your team using native options, you can use the following solution:

VBScript: create an HTML Outlook email signature for the whole company – this method uses GPO to create personalized HTML email signatures for the whole company. You can use it to deploy canned responses as well. It deploys signatures to Outlook for Windows. The problem with this solution is that it requires some scripting and HTML knowledge. It also personalizes signatures based on local AD, which is a problem if you use Azure Active Directory. It’s also quite problematic when it comes to updates.

Fortunately, there is a third-party alternative which doesn’t suffer from those limitations.

CodeTwo Email Signatures for Office 365 lets you create email signatures for the whole company directly from a web browser.

One of the out-of-the-box examples of use is to manage canned responses for a team or the whole company. You can set up as many canned responses as you need. They can include the message body itself as well as a signature and a relevant disclaimer. Each user (or users belonging to certain groups) will be then able to pick the canned response directly in their Outlook or Outlook on the web.

How to use email signatures as canned responses – see this guide to learn how to set it up.

All about canned responses in Outlook, part 1: Quick Parts

Canned responses in Outlook: Quick Parts

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.

WRONG!

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

  1. 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.
Outlook new Quick Part - Save selection to Quick Part Gallery
  1. 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.
Outlook Quick Parts - create new building block

How to use Quick Parts

Using Quick Parts is extremely easy:

  1. 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.
Outlook insert canned response

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:

  1. 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.
Outlook Quick parts - 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.
Quick Parts - redefine building block entry

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.

  1. 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.
Outlook Quick Parts - organize and delete
  • In the Building Blocks Organizer, click the Quick Part you want to delete and click the Delete button below.
Building Blocks Organizer - Delete Quick Parts

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • Once you learn how to use them, it’s quick and easy.
  • They support all the formatting options.

Cons:

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.

Read more:

How to set up multiple signatures in Gmail

How to set up multiple signatures in Gmail

[Update]: This article was updated on October 29, 2019.

By default, Gmail (or Google Mail) allows for applying only one signature to your new email messages or replies. Although this solution seems to be sufficient when private correspondence is taken into account, it is not necessarily a desirable scenario in case of business communication.

If you have already had a chance to work with Microsoft Outlook, you perhaps noticed that it offers a convenient option of using multiple signatures that can be selected depending on a situation. In this article, you will find out how to achieve a similar effect in Gmail.
The tricky part of the setting is that you need to activate a Gmail extension called Templates. This feature evolved from Canned Responses, which later became “Canned Responses (Templates)”. How are canned responses different from templates? Apart from the cooler name, templates are pretty much the same.

As soon as this advanced feature is active, you will be able to create and save as many new signatures as you need.

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