Creating Standard Response E-mails

Sometimes you find yourself sending the same response over and over again and you wish you just had a canned answer that you could give those folks and save yourself the time of retyping and retyping and retyping.  There are a few options for automating your responses.

AutoCorrect

For short strings of text you can create autocorrect text entries that let you type it in shorthand and Outlook will expand out the full text. For example if you frequently have to answer a question about where the company picnic is you can go to File | Options | Mail | Editor Options | Proofing | AutoCorrect Options. 

In the “Replace” field you could type something like “{cp}” (a string you’re not likely to ever type on purpose for something else) and in the “With” field type “The company picnic is at Buffalo Park”.  Click OK back out.

The next time you type, anywhere in Outlook, “{cp}” and press a space Outlook will automatically replace that with “The company picnic is at Buffalo Park”.  Pretty slick.  Create AutoCorrect entries for your 5 or 10 most commonly used short pieces of text and you can start saving yourself a fair bit of time.

Quick Parts

AutoCorrect is great for short strings: 1-5 words perhaps. Quick Parts is the way to go for longer strings or even paragraphs of text.

To create a Quick Part you just select the element – highlight the text for example - you want to add to the Quick Parts gallery and then go to the Insert tab, Quick Parts and Save Selection to Quick Parts Gallery.  

Give the Quick Part a name. I’ll name my sample Quick Part “{CB}”, because the name you have needs to be descriptive, but should be fairly easy to quickly type. (I’ll explain why in a moment.)

Pick a gallery to add your new Quick Part to – you’ll see several of the known galleries like “Cover Pages” listed. Generally speaking you’ll want to choose either AutoText or “Quick Parts” if you’re just adding text or maybe a scanned signature image as most attorneys will. Choosing “Quick Parts” has the added benefit that your new Part will appear on the Quick Parts gallery under the button on the ribbon.

The next field is for Category and this one is purely up to you. You don’t have to use Categories if you don’t want to – put everything in General. But if you’re going to use a lot of custom Quick Parts you might want to organize them a bit by creating custom categories. Click the drop arrow for Category and you’ll see that “Create new category” is a choice.

Give your new Quick Part an optional description and then choose which template to save the Quick Part in. For the most part you’ll want to just save in the NormalEmail template.

To use your Quick Part just type the name of the Quick Part (“{CB}” in our example) and then press F3.  Or you can go to Insert | Quick Parts and select it from the gallery.

Entire Messages

If you want to create entire boilerplate, canned, messages to send to people then the way to do that is to create the messages ahead of time. You can either go to Sent Items and pick out a message you've already sent that has the content, or you can just draft a new one.  In this example I'll work from a previously sent message:

  1. Open the Sent message
  2. Click Actions | Resend This Message
  3. Delete the TO field so that it's unaddressed.
  4. Make any tweaks or adjustments you may want to make - you may want to sanitize the greeting for example so that it doesn't start of "Dear Cate".
  5. Exit and Save the message.  It'll be saved in your Drafts folder.
  6. Create a new subfolder and call it something like "Standard Replies"
  7. Drag and drop your message from the Drafts folder to the Standard Replies folder.
  8. Repeat for any other canned messages you want to create.

If you're creating the message new it's the same process except you just start a new message and pick up from Step #4 above; typing any boilerplate text you want it to contain.

When you need to send one of these messages just go to Standard Replies, find the message you want to send, drag and drop the message with your RIGHT MOUSE BUTTON to the Drafts folder and select COPY when you drop it there.  Open that copy from Drafts, make any tweaks you need to the text, type the address(es) of the recipients in the TO field and send it off.