I often need to reply to messages with boilerplate text. Right now, I copy them from other messages, Word documents and for some I have set up some special signatures which include the message text as well.
Can I assume that Outlook has a better solution for this? If so, where?
Outlook offers various methods to reply with boilerplate text or other type of message templates.
The quickest way to do this is to use Quick Steps, which was a new feature in Outlook 2010 and also is available in Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2016.
Quick Step: Reply with message template
Creating a custom Reply Quick Step with boilerplate text is quite easy to do:
- Right click on any existing Quick Step and choose: New Quick Step
- Alternatively, you can click the expand icon in the Ribbon to open the “Manage Quick Steps” dialog and find a “New” button. From this list select: Custom
- From the “Choose an Action” list, choose: Reply
- At the top of the dialog, you can specify a more suitable name for the Quick Step.
- You can also click on the icon button next to it to change the icon of the Quick Step.
- Click on the “Show Options” link below the selected “Reply” action.
- Type in your boilerplate text.
- There is no need to type your signature; Outlook will automatically add this when using the Quick Step.
- There is no need to specify the “To:” field; Outlook will automatically fill in the address of the original sender when using the Quick Step.
- The “<subject>” variable will automatically be replaced with the original subject of the message.
- There are no other variables available and the “<subject>” variable does not work in the message text. For variable support you may consider a message template add-in such as Email Templates by Agave Software Inc or Bells & Whistles for Outlook by DS Development.
- Specify other reply options such as Cc, Bcc, Follow Up flag, Importance.
- Specify a keyboard shortcut and a description for the Quick Step which will be displayed as a Tooltip.
- Have the message sent automatically after 1 minute.
- Add additional actions such as moving it to a specific folder, assigning it to a specific category or marking it as read (which isn’t done automatically when replying via a Quick Step).
Overview of a Quick Step configured to reply with boilerplate text and to mark the message as read. The keyboard shortcut has been set to CTRL+SHIFT+1
Other methods and previous versions of Outlook
Aside from using Quick Steps, Outlook also offers other methods to quickly insert boilerplate text or use message templates.
Using Quick Parts or AutoText is a more flexible solutions than using a Quick Steps as it also support formatting such as fonts, colors, bulleted lists, etc…
Other solutions are using “Insert as Text, Drafts, oft-files, AutoCorrect or even rules.
For an overview about how to use any of these methods see the guide: Working with message templates