One of my favorite parts about Gmail is all of the cool Labs features it has: the Send & Archive Button, Reply to All by default, Google Docs Previews, Canned Responses, and more. The problem, however, is that most (or none) of these are available on Android. Recently, app developer Apndroid decided to fix one of these issues by releasing a beta version of their app, Gmail Canned Responses, which brings Canned Responses to Android.
This app is clearly labeled as a development version but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a look at it! Let’s see how it’s coming along so far.
Gmail Canned Responses connects to your GMail account and grabs the canned responses you have saved. You can then press one of them to copy it to your clipboard and paste it in an email. In order for any of this to work, you need to have Canned Responses enabled in the web Gmail. To do that, go to Settings -> Labs and enable it.
On your phone, when you first start the app, it will ask for authorization to your Gmail account. You will need to do this in order for it to work.
Once you’re all authenticated, your canned messages will show up, and you have the ability to copy those responses to use, ostensibly in Gmail, but really anywhere in the app. Here’s what that looks like:
Being incredibly true to its name, that’s actually the only thing you can do. After you select a canned response, the only thing you can do is close the app, which is on by default. It also has a nice Report screen, which tells you everything the app has done so far. This was smartly added by the developers, likely for debugging purposes. While the app is understandably a little slow and has restarted on my phone twice, I do have a couple of improvements I’d like to see in the app to make it really usable.
The first recommendation is a big one: if you don’t have Canned Responses enabled, the app does nothing. No messages show up to notify you, and there’s nothing you can do. I almost gave up on the app because of this; I had forgotten I turned the feature off in Gmail and couldn’t for the life of me figure out what the app did until I re-read the description. There are a couple of things the developers can do to fix this problem: either tell the user that Canned Responses isn’t turned on or allow the users to add their own canned responses within the app.
In the first solution, the app can dynamically check to see if Canned Responses is turned off and tell the user as much, then instruct him or her on how to turn it on. It can also be a much simpler solution (and a much faster one): if there are no canned responses, display a message saying something like, “Looks like you have no canned responses, or it’s not turned on in GMail.” The latter would be very simple to do and improve the experience a great deal. However, I would actually prefer the second of my proposed fixes: allow the user to add their own responses.
Right now, you need to connect the app to your Gmail account to use the app. That’s a problem if you aren’t as open to allowing 3rd party apps to connect to your account as they’d like you to be. Since the canned responses are nothing more than text you copy and paste, there is nothing preventing the developers from simply giving you the option of connecting to Gmail or storing some responses locally to copy and paste – or both. This would also make the app appeal to a greater audience – namely, people who don’t use Gmail as their primary email account, or people who want canned responses for more than just email (SMS, for instance).
The other improvements are a bit more trivial:
- There is a play/pause icon and I have no idea for what purpose. For me, the app seemed to function the same either way.
- It doesn’t grab any HTML/formatting. This is probably fine in most cases, but I have links in one of my canned responses and they don’t come through, only plain text does.
This app has the potential to be a neat little utility for users. The improvements are obviously just suggestions, but I think allowing users to add their own responses from right within the app would really broaden the appeal and get more people to download it. Nonetheless, it’s still a useful tool and one you should download and try if you used Canned Responses on Gmail.