Alexander Huth

Multiple Autoresponders for Gmail with IFTTT

What if you can’t respond to a big number of emails in time? Simple answer: Just set up an autoresponder that automatically replies to the sender right away… But what if you’re using Gmail? Exploiting the out of office/on vacation autoresponse doesn’t work – the feature just replies to e.v.e.r.y. email you receive. Also, you’re not on vacation all the time. At least I’m not.

Multiple Autoresponders in Gmail with Canned Responses

With Gmail Labs, Google is providing cool extra features that enhance your Gmail experience1. One of them are Canned responses, allowing you to insert predetermined text into an email instead of having to type the same words over and over and over again.

Activating the labs feature also enables Gmail filters to send automatic replies using canned responses. For those who don’t know what filters are: Using all sorts of queries, Gmail users can generate filters to process emails automatically, e.g. archive or mark as read, star or mark as important, use a label, forward to another email address or delete.

Setting up a filter for automatic replies in combination with canned responses is easy:

  1. Click on the tiny arrow in the search bar in Gmail (next to the blue button)
  2. Define the search options that activate the filter, e.g. Subject is “Contact”
  3. Click Create filter …
  4. Tick the Send canned response box and choose one of your predefined answers
  5. Hit the Create filter button
  6. Done

Biggest problem with this way of handling autoresponses: To prevent a filtering/autoresonse loop, Gmail sends the autoreply using an alias called +canned-response. Which is ugly. And might give the recipient the impression, that you actually don’t care2.

Sadly, this behavior can’t be changed in the settings, so the feature becomes pretty much useless if you care about the email address. So: IFTTT to the rescue!

Multiple Gmail Autoresponders with IFTTT

IFTTT allows two web services (aka channels) to work together and uses triggers to trigger actions. To make it work with Gmail, you need to activate the Gmail channel (and connect your account). Gmail triggers could be attachments, senders, labels, search results or just any email in your inbox.

To set up the autoresponder we need to create a recipe that hooks the Gmail channel not with a different channel but with Gmail again, thereby triggering the action Send email to send an email via Gmail.

Here’s the recipe in short:
IF new email labeled “#Label” THEN send an email from email address

And here’s the long version, if you prefer a step-by-step explanation:

  1. Activate the Gmail channel if you haven’t
  2. Create new recipe
  3. Choose Gmail as the trigger channel
  4. Choose the trigger that fits your needs, e.g. New email labeled
  5. Complete the trigger. In our case: Enter the label name
  6. Hit the Create trigger button
  7. Choose Gmail as the action channel
  8. Choose Send an email as the desired action
  9. Complete your action by adding the recipient, the subject and the body. You can use so-called ingredients as placeholders for the date, the sender in all the fields
  10. Hit the Create action button
  11. View the summary screen and hit Create recipe
  12. Done.

In case you want to have multiple autoresponders, you need to repeat these steps for different labels. Important: For the autoreply to work, you must specify the original sender as recipient using the FromAddress ingredient in the To address field.

I also shared my recipe on IFTTT: Gmail autoresponder for labeled emails.

TL;DR: My colleagues from PR set up different email addresses for press inquiries using the awesome Gmail alias feature3. They wanted to send automatic responses to provide further information before they got back to the sender. In a cool way. So we created filters. The filters label every email that is received by a specific alias with this or that label. IFTTT then sees this newly labeled email and triggers the autoresponder action and sends the reply.

  1. Personally, I couldn’t live without the Undo send feature and the additional Mark as read button in my inbox.

  2. Well, you’re using an autoresponder, aren’t you?

  3. The alias feature works like this: address+alias@gmail.com