Gmail AutoResponder is a Better Alternative to Canned Responses

If you find yourself writing the same email response over and over again – like a technical support request asking for instructions on how to do something or a confirmation email to customers to let them know you’ve received their message – canned responses in Gmail can help you save both time and typing.

The idea is that you compose a email message with the ‘generic’ response and save it in your Gmail drafts. Later, you can quickly insert that pre-formatted template into the body of your email with a click without having to manually write the whole response.

There are however 4 big limitations with Gmail canned responses.

  1. You cannot include file attachments in your auto-response emails.
  2. Canned Response are only available on the Gmail website. If you use Gmail on Android or iOS, or use an email client like Microsoft Outlook, you’re out of luck.
  3. There’s no option to auto-reply messages in bulk. For instance, you cannot select multiple email messages in Gmail and respond to them all with the same template. You’ll have to reply one-by-one manually.
  4. You can easily setup Gmail filters for auto-replying to emails but the recipients will easily know that you’ve sent an automated response. That’s because Gmail adds ‘canned.response’ in the sender’s email. For instance, my email is amit@labnol.org but if I use automated responses, the sender will show up as amit+canned.response@labnol.org.

Meet Email Autoresponder for Gmail, a new Google add-on that works like Canned Responses but without any of the above limitations. Watch this YouTube video (mp4) for a quick tour.

How to Use Gmail Autoresponder

  • Create one or more draft messages in Gmail. You can apply formatting, include logo images, file attachments, and even put HTML signatures in your messages.
  • Install the Gmail add-on and then, inside the spreadsheet, go to Add-ons > Email Autoresponder > Create New Rule to get started.
  • Create mapping rules with the wizard much like how you create filters in Gmail.

For instance, you can have a rule that will auto-respond to all emails labeled “FAQ” with a particular draft message. Or you create an advanced rule that will send an auto-reply to only unread messages in your inbox that are newer than ‘n’ days and have the word ‘support’ somewhere in the subject line. In fact, you can use any of the advanced Gmail search operators to create such a rule.

Gmail Auto Responder

Once you’ve created the rules, the add-on will work in the background. It will activate once every hour, fetch any matching messages from Gmail and will auto-reply using the corresponding draft template. If you have multiple email accounts, like work and personal email account, you can choose to reply from any of your email aliases connect to Gmail.

The add-on runs once every hour but if you cannot wait that long, go to Manage Rules, select the relevant rule from the dropdown and choose Run to send the auto-replies immediately.

Once a reply has been sent, the Gmail add-on applies the label “Responded” to the email thread so you know that the email has been processed and it would be skipped in the next iteration.

Using Gmail Autoresponder on Mobile

If you have to reply to an email on mobile with a pre-written template, just open the email message and apply a Gmail label that you’ve specified in the run. When the add-on runs in the next hour, it will automatically reply to that message with the corresponding draft.

Gmail canned response on Mobile

After the rules are setup, you can close the Google Sheet and it will continue running the background. Simple.

Autorespond to Multiple Emails in a go

Say you have 10 emails in your inbox that you need to auto-reply with a message that is already saved as a draft in your Gmail. Apply any common label to all these messages and then create a rule for this particular label using the add-on. Next go to Manage Rules, select the rule from the dropdown and click Run to auto-reply to all the labeled messages in one go.

Also see: Mail Merge for Gmail with Scheduler


The story, Gmail AutoResponder is a Better Alternative to Canned Responses, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 24/08/2015 under GMail, Internet.

Adjust the Volume of your Android Phone without using the Buttons

Most Android phones have physical buttons on the side for controlling the playback volume and, whether you are listening to podcasts or watching Youtube videos, these keys are sometimes the only way to control the app’s volume. The hardware buttons are easy to use but they are not as convenient as, say, the Control Center on the iPhone where one can change volume using the on-screen volume slider.

Does something similar exist for Android devices that would allow you to control the volume without using the hardware buttons? The Google Play store throws up dozens of ‘abandoned’ software based volume managers but there are at least two Android apps that seem to solve the problem through widgets.

Here’s a 30-second demo video of the Android volume widgets in action.

Also see: Make a Desk Stand for your Phone

The first in the list is Virtual Volume, a free app from Italy. It adds a floating speaker icon on your screen and when you tap this icon, it opens up the Android volume slider to help you quickly adjust the device volume. You can control the size and transparency of the icon and it can placed anywhere on the screen.

The app has no complicated settings and you can configure the speaker icon to only show up when certain apps, like YouTube, are active. The ads only only show up when you are inside the app’s settings, not when you are using the widget.

Android Volume Control with Widget

Next in the list is Volume Notification that, as the name suggests, places the volume up and down buttons in the notification drawer of your Android phone. When you are watching a video in YouTube, pull-down the notification bar and tap the buttons to adjust the volume or mute the audio.

You can configure the notification widget to load on boot from the app’s settings. A volume slider would have been more convenient but, according to the developer, certain technical limitations in Android make it impossible to place a sliding volume bar in the Notifications window.

Android Volume Slider in Notification Bar


The story, Adjust the Volume of your Android Phone without using the Buttons, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 19/08/2015 under Android, Music, YouTube, Software.

Use Quick Look on Mac to Preview Live Websites

Mac OS X has a handy preview feature known as Quick Look that helps you view the content of any file without having to launch the associated application. Select a file inside Finder (or on the desktop), press Space Bar and Quick Look would be activated. You can preview files of most common formats including images, videos, zip archives, Office documents, PDFs and more.

Place a web shortcut on your desktop

Place a web shortcut on your desktop

Quick Look however isn’t just an option for previewing local files, it can also display live websites without you having to open the web browser. All you have to do is create a shortcut for any website on your desktop from the browser and then preview that shortcut in Quick Preview.

This can be useful in several ways. For instance, if you routinely check your favorite news website for the top headlines, you can place a shortcut to that website on the desktop and use Quick Look to instantly check the site for any new content. Or you can create a shortcut to a YouTube playlist and watch the videos inside Quick Look outside the browser.

While you are inside Safari or Chrome or any other browser on the Mac, drag the website link to the desktop (see how-to). It will create a .webloc file. You can select the file and press the space bar to preview the source website inside Quick Look.

Quick Look - web pages

Quick Looks previews the webpage inside a fresh browser session and uses none of the existing cookies or cache so the website will treat you as a new visitor. Also, it disables scripts on the page but loads all the CSS and images.

What’s inside a .WEBLOC file

When you place a shortcut to a web pages on the desktop, it create a .webloc file which is actually a simple text (XML) file. You can replace the string value to make that shortcut to point to any other webpage. For instance, here’s the a sample .webloc file pointing to this website.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<plist version="1.0">
<dict>
   <key>URL</key>
   <string>http://www.labnol.org/</string>
</dict>
</plist>

Also see: Essential Mac Apps & Utilities


The story, Use Quick Look on Mac to Preview Live Websites, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 10/08/2015 under Apple Mac, Software.

Get Fare Estimates for Uber Taxis on Twitter

How much will it cost if you are take an Uber taxi from point A to point B? Uber’s mobile app has a built-in fare estimator but you can now also Twitter to calculate the fare. Write your query in plain English (see example), send it to @WhatTheFare and the bot will let you know the approximate fare for your ride in less than a minute.

@WhatTheFare is a new Twitter bot that will help you estimate the cost of your Uber trip. You’ll get to know the fare as well the different types of Uber taxis that are available on that route. And you can use the bot to estimate fare for trips anywhere in the world where Uber service is available.

The bot’s response will also include a deep-link (see example) to Uber’s mobile website and it will directly populate the pickup/drop-off co-ordinates should you decide to book a taxi with Uber.

You can use the bot from anywhere in the world but the Uber prices are always provided in the currency of the pickup/drop-off address. Here’re some sample tweets that used the @WhatTheFare bot to know Uber prices.

Internally, like DearAssistant, the Uber bot is also written with Google Scripts.

It uses the Google Maps API to geocode postal addresses found in your tweet request, fetches the list of Uber taxis available for that route via the official Uber API and then tweets the response using the Twitter API. The taxis icons in the tweet are standard Unicode emojis supported by Twitter.


The story, Get Fare Estimates for Uber Taxis on Twitter, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 03/08/2015 under Twitter, Uber, Internet.

How to Create a Retweet and Favorite Bot for Twitter

This tutorial explains how you can easily make a Twitter bot that will automatically favorite and/or retweet tweets that contain particular keywords or #hashtags. You need absolutely no coding knowledge and your Twitter bot will be up and running in few minutes.

Before we get started, you may be wondering why would anyone write a twitter bot that mindlessly favorites or retweets tweets? Yes, bots are often used for spammy behavior but, if used right, they can also help grow your Twitter network. For instance, when people share a link from your website on Twitter, you can favorite that tweet and it will give an hint to the original poster that you are author of that page. A brand may like to retweet tweets that contain positive mentions of their product. The list goes on.

Twitter Retweet Bot
Also see: How to Write a Useful Twitter Bot

The first thing you need to do is define a search phrase and any matching tweets will be retweeted or favorited by the bot. Add as many search conditions as possible to keep spam tweets away from your list. Some examples:

1. Tweets containing links to your website, sans retweets
example.com min_retweets:5 OR min_faves:5 -RT

2. Mentions of particular hashtag, but no links
#WhatAnAwesomeHashtag -RT -filter:links

3. All tweets sent from a particular location
#hashtag near:”New York, NY” within:15mi

OK, next we need to build our Twitter bot app. I suggest creating a separate Twitter account to test your automated bots.

  1. Go to apps.twitter.com and create a new application. Fill in the mandatory fields (name, description, URL) and click the Create button. Next go to Keys and Access Tokens and click the Create my Access Token button. Twitter will generate the Consumer Keys & Access tokens that we will need in the next step.
  2. Click here to copy the Twitter bot script to your Google Drive. Replace the search phrase and Twitter keys that were generated in the previous step.
  3. Go to the Run menu and choose StartBot to initialize your Twitter bot.

That’s it. The bot will run in the background, every 10 minutes, and favorite / retweet matching tweets. It will fave/RT a maximum of 1 tweet per minute. If you wish to stop the bot later, go to Run again and choose StopBot.

Also see: How to Save Conference Tweets to a Spreadsheet

Use with care and, as always, the full source of the Twitter retweet bot is available on ctrlq.org under the “do whatever you like” license.


The story, How to Create a Retweet and Favorite Bot for Twitter, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 03/08/2015 under Twitter, Internet.

Evernote Drops Email-to-Note for Free Accounts, Alternative

Your Evernote account has a unique and secret email address. Any email messages forwarded to this address are automatically saved as notes in your Evernote notebook. The feature has been around for a while and is particularly handy for quickly archiving email messages and included file attachments into Evernote that can be retrieved later from any device.

Earlier this month, Evernote made a little change. The Email to Evernote feature still exists but only if you have a premium account. From the support page:

After July 15, 2015, you can continue saving up to five more emails into Evernote. After you send your fifth email, you won’t be able to save any additional emails into Evernote until you’ve upgraded to Evernote Plus or Premium.

In the meantime, Evernote has introduced a new Email Clipper for sending your Gmail messages to Evernote but it only works inside desktop browsers. How do you send email messages to Evernote from a mobile device?

A good alternative is IFTTT. Assuming that you have activated the Evernote and Gmail channels in your IFTTT account, here are the 2 recipes that will help you email notes into Evernote but without having to upgrade to premium.

  • Recipe 1 – Forward any email message to trigger@recipe.ifttt.com with #Evernote in the subject line and it will create a note in your default Evernote notebook.
  • Recipe 2 – Apply the label Evernote to any email message inside Gmail and it will magically appear in your Evernote notebook via IFTTT.

You will however miss the option to create reminder notes via email nor can your redirect notes to different Evernote notebook based on the subject line.

See more Evernote Tips & Tricks


The story, Evernote Drops Email-to-Note for Free Accounts, Alternative, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 28/07/2015 under Evernote, Internet.

Embedded Tweets can be Easily Faked

You can easily embed tweets in your website by adding a little HTML snippet to your site’s template. The embedded tweets are interactive in the sense that they’ve a follow button, they show live retweet counts, and you also use CSS to change the formatting of tweets.

Now CSS does help you control the tweet’s appearance but you may be surprised to know that it is also possible to change the other elements of an embedded tweet. For instance, you may modify the actual text of the tweet. The favorite & retweet counts can be altered as well. Let me illustrate that with an example:

This is the original tweet:

This is the same tweet, but altered with JavaScript:

Notice any difference? Well, there are quite a few.

The altered tweet uses a different font family, there’s minimal Twitter branding, the favorite & retweet numbers are made up, some extra words were appended to the tweet itself and the date has been replaced with custom text. And it is not a fake screenshot.

Embed Tweet

Also see: Learn Coding Online

How to Alter an Embedded Tweet

Twitter allows you embed tweets with JavaScript and when you take this route, you not only gain control over how the tweets are rendered but also over what’s rendered inside the tweet.

Here’s the complete JavaScript snippet that allows use to modify most of the elements of an embedded tweet.

<div id="tweet"></div>

<script src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js"></script>

<script>
  twttr.ready(function() {

    twttr.widgets.createTweet(
      
      // Replace this with the Tweet ID
      'TWEET ID', document.getElementById("tweet"))
      .then(function(el) {

        var e = el.contentDocument;

        // Change the tweet text
        var html = e.querySelector(".Tweet-text");
        html.innerHTML = "[How-to Guide] " + html.innerHTML;

        // Hide the Follow Button
        e.querySelector(".FollowButton").style.display = "none";

        // Change the retweet count
        e.querySelector(".TweetAction--retweet .TweetAction-stat").innerHTML = "123";

        // Change the favorites count
        e.querySelector(".TweetAction--favorite .TweetAction-stat").innerHTML = "999";

        // Replace the date with text
        e.querySelector(".dt-updated").innerHTML = "Contact the author of this tweet at amit@labnol.org";
      });
  });
</script>

You pass the tweet ID (line #11) and also specify the DIV element where the tweet will be rendered.

After the tweet is rendered, you can use standard DOM methods to change the various inner elements based on class names. For instance, you can change the innerHTML property of the element with the Tweet-text class to modify the tweet text. Similarly, if you set the display property of class FollowButton to none, the follow button is hidden.

Fake tweets are known to have crashed markets so the next time you come across an embedded tweet with unbelievable retweets or favorites, it may be a good idea to verify the numbers.


The story, Embedded Tweets can be Easily Faked, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 28/07/2015 under Embed, Twitter, Internet.

Bring Gmail’s Archiving Feature to Microsoft Outlook for Mac (without scripting)

The Archive feature in Gmail comes handy when you would like to preserve an email conversation forever but at the same time move it out of your main inbox. While a thread is selected in Gmail, you can press the Archive button, or hit the “e” keyboard shortcut, and the selected thread is removed from your inbox but continues to exists in the “All Mails” folder.

Microsoft has just launched a new version of Outlook with Office 2016 for Mac but there’s no built-in option to help you easily archive messages similar to what you have in Gmail. You can obviously move email messages to the Archive folder through the Message > Move > Choose Folder.. menu but that is no match to the simplistic option available in Gmail. Press ‘e’ and you’re done.

Add Gmail-like Archiving to Outlook

Here’s a step-by-step guide that will help you emulate Gmail’s archiving functionality in your Microsoft Outlook. The tutorial is for Office 2016 but it should work with previous versions of Outlook on Mac OS X as well.

Step 1: Open Microsoft Outlook, select any message in the inbox and press the keyboard shortcut Cmd+Shift+M to move the selected email message into another Outlook folder.

Step 2: A search window will pop-up. If you are using Gmail with Outlook, type All Mail in this window to select your Gmail’s archive folder (see screenshot). Or you can type the name of any other Outlook folder that you plan to use for archiving messages. Click “Move” to move the selected message.

Gmail Archive Folder

Step 3: From the Outlook menu, choose Message > Move and make an exact note of the highlighted menu item corresponding to the folder that you selected in the previous step. In this example, the menu is available as All Mail (email@domain.com).

Outlook Menu

Step 4: From the Apple menu, choose System Preferences, then click Keyboard. Click Shortcuts, select App Shortcuts, then click Add (+). Choose Microsoft Outlook from the Application dropdown, type the menu name exactly as noted in previous step and put Cmd+E as the app shortcut.

Create Outlook App Keyboard Shortcut

Click Add to create the app shortcut, switch to Microsoft Outlook, select one or more email messages and press Cmd+E. If you’ve followed the steps right, the selected email messages will instantly be moved to the Archive (All Mail) folder of Outlook, much like Gmail.


The story, Bring Gmail’s Archiving Feature to Microsoft Outlook for Mac (without scripting), was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 14/07/2015 under Apple Mac, GMail, Microsoft Outlook, Software.

How to Find the Wi-Fi Password of your Current Network

Your computer is connected to a Wi-Fi network but you do not remember the password that you had earlier used to connect to this particular WiFi network. Maybe you forgot the password or maybe the network administrator entered it directly without revealing the actual password to you.

You would now like to connect a second device, like your mobile phone, to the same WiFi network but how do you find out the password? You can either send a password request the WiFi admin or you can open the command prompt on your computer and retrieve the saved password in one easy step. The technique works on both Mac and Windows PCs.

Find the WiFi Password on Windows

Open the command prompt in administrator mode. Type “cmd” in the Run box, right-click the command prompt icon and choose Run as Administrator (see how). Now enter the following command and hit enter to see the WiFi password.

netsh wlan show profile name=labnol key=clear

Remember to replace labnol with the name of your Wireless SSID (this is the name of the Wi-Fi network that you connect your computer to). The password will show up under the Security Setting section (see screenshot).

If you would only like to see the password and not the other information, use the findstr command:

netsh wlan show profile name=labnol key=clear | findstr Key
If you do not see the WiFi Password

If you do not see the password, probably you’ve not opened the command prompt window as administrator

Show the WiFi Password on Mac OS X

Your Mac OS X uses Keychain to store the configuration details of the WiFi network and we can use the BSD command “security” to query anything stored inside Keychain, including the Wi-Fi password. Here’s how:

Open Spotlight (Cmd+Space) and type terminal to open the Terminal window. At the command line, enter the following command (replace labnol with your WiFi name), then enter your Mac username and password to access the OS X keychain and the Wi-FI network password would be displayed on the screen in plain text.

security find-generic-password -wa labnol

Reveal the WiFi Password on Linux

This trick for getting Wi-Fi passwords works for Linux too. Substitute labnol with the wireless name (SSID) of your network. The value of the field psk is your WiFi password.

sudo cat /etc/NetworkManager/system-connections/labnol | grep psk=

If you don’t know the network name, use the following command.

sudo grep psk= /etc/NetworkManager/system-connections/*

WiFi Password for Mac OS X

Start WLAN AutoConfig (Wlansvc Service)

If you are using this technique to retrieve the WiFi password on a Windows computer but getting an error that says – “The Wireless AutoConfig Service (wlansvc) is not running” – here’s a simple fix:

Click the Windows Start button and type “services.msc” in the Run box to access Windows Services. Here go to the WLAN Autoconfig service and make sure that the status is Running. Else right-click the WLAN AutoConfig service, select Properties and go to Dependencies. Check all the dependencies to make sure they are all running.


The story, How to Find the Wi-Fi Password of your Current Network, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 02/08/2015 under Apple Mac, Networking, Password, Wi-Fi, Software.

An Improved Gmail Clipper from Evernote

Evernote, the quintessential note-taking software, has released a new web clipper add-on for Chrome, Opera and Safari browsers. While the web clipper is primarily used for saving snapshots of web pages to Evernote, the updated version is much more efficient at archiving Gmail messages.

When you clip an email thread with the new Evernote clipper, it creates a de-cluttered view and re-formats the whole thread so it is more readable. And if you are clipping a lengthy email conversation in Gmail, you now have an option to select individual messages in the thread that should be saved into Evernote.

Save Gmail Messages without the clutter

Save Gmail Messages without the clutter

The Gmail Clipper for Evernote can also save the inline images and file attachments found in your email messages. For instance, if there’s a PDF document or an Excel sheet attached to a Gmail message, the files will be directly saved to Evernote in their native format along with the email message.

You can get the clipper at evernote.com/webclipper – you would need an Evernote account to activate the clipper in your browser.

In my testing, the clipper worked as advertised for Gmail. It could easily handle large threads with 20+ email messages, the file attachments were successfully saved and the rich-text formatting of HTML messages was well preserved in Evernote. If you are to share an email thread with someone, it may be a good idea to save it as a note in Evernote and then share the link.

Also see: The Best Evernote Tips & Tricks

One more thing. The web clipper helps you manually save your emails to Evernote. If you are looking for an automated way to archive multiple emails from Gmail into Evernote, you can use a Google Sheet.


The story, An Improved Gmail Clipper from Evernote, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 01/07/2015 under Evernote, GMail, Internet.