Increasing user productivity with Canned Responses

In Dovetail Agent 11, we introduced Canned Responses.

In a previous post, I gave an introduction to canned responses. Here, I’ll go into much more detail.




What are Canned Responses?

Canned responses are re-usable text snippets that you can use when logging emails or notes. Canned responses can save you time if you’re often typing similar responses. Users can create personal canned responses, and can also share canned responses to workgroups, or to everyone.

Canned responses save users time, increase productivity, and enable more consistent responses to customers.


Creating Canned Responses

From the User menu, click on the Canned Responses item:



Which will take you to the Manage Canned Responses page:



Click on the + sign in the My Canned Responses tab header to create a new one:



Canned Response Content

Now that we’re at the Create Canned Response page, we can populate the actual response content.

Give it a name, and set its status to Active.

Select an object type – either Case or Subcase. The Object Type is used for dynamic properties, which we’ll get to soon.

Now we get to the good stuff – the actual response.

The simplest use of a response is just some static text, such as:

Letting you know that we’ve received your case, and we’re looking into your question now.
We’ll be back in touch soon.


Click Create, and that saves it.


Using the Canned Response

Now that we’ve created a canned response. lets see how we use it.

From a case, start a new log email.

Click the Insert Canned Response icon, select the canned response that we just created:



and the canned response content is filled into the email body:




Insert canned response using the keyboard

When you’re writing an email or note, rather than having to use your mouse to click the Insert Canned Response icon, and then select one, you can quickly insert one by just typing.

Typing @@ (two at signs) will start an inline canned response picker. You can then start typing a canned response name to refine the picker and get to the one that you want.

For example, if I type @@my then the picker will refine the list of canned responses, and only show those that contain the word my:



This allows you to insert a canned response in context, while you’re typing, without having your fingers leave the keyboard. Very cool!


And don’t worry of you can’t remember the @@ shortcut – there’s a nice little help tip available to help you remember:




Now that we’ve seen the basics of of creating and using canned responses, lets dive into some of the cooler features.


Dynamic Variables

Canned responses can include dynamic variables, such as the Case Title, Status, or Customer information. 

When creating a canned response, one of the attributes is the Object Type – either case or subcase. This selection drives the list of available variables that can be used.

When editing a canned response, click the Insert Variable icon


This will present a list of dynamic variables that can be included within a canned response:



The list will show all available variables, and you can type to filter in place (as I’ve shown here by typing “Contact”).

Once you select a variable, it will show up in the response body, surrounded by square brackets.

Here’s an example of using the Contact First Name variable:



This square-bracket around variables syntax is the same syntax used in business rules.


There’s keyboard access for these as well.

Type an open square bracket “[“, and a variable picker will magically appear. Start typing a variable name to refine the list:





Variable Evaluation

When a canned response is picked for a log note or email, variable evaluation occurs. This automatically resolves the variable into its actual value.

If your variable is [Contact First Name], then when the Canned Response is picked, it will automatically be resolved into the first name of the contact for the case.


Variable Definitions

The list of available variables is the same as the list of business rule properties (excluding properties with a subtype of Alias).

Out of the box, there’s a boatload of available properties defined. And likely, you’ve already added custom ones for your system.

So if you have custom variables setup for business rules, they’ll automagically show up for canned responses as well.

And of course, using Dovetail Admin, you can create new variables easily:



Rich Text

Markdown is supported in canned responses, which means they can contain rich text (headings, bold, italic, etc.), tables, images, hyperlinks, etc.





Inline images are a super useful way to convey information.




Header Image

In a previous post, I showed how you could modify your email template to include a header logo in the email.

That method adds the header logo to every outgoing email.

If you don’t want to do that on a system-wide level for every email, you can also do it on individual emails, using a canned response.


Tip: You’ll likely want to be sure that image is publicly accessible.



By default, a Canned Response is personal, meaning its only available for your use. But canned responses can also be shared. They can be shared to everyone, or to one or more workgroups.


Shared to everyone



Shared to workgroups



Shared to me

If a canned response has been shared to me, it will show up on the Shared Canned Responses tab of the Manage Canned Responses page


If a canned response has been shared to me, I can use it, and I can view the details of it, but I can’t edit it.


Within the Canned Responses picker, a shared canned response will be indicated with an icon:


This makes it easy to distinguish shared ones.


Shared By Me

If I’ve shared a canned response, it will still be listed under My Canned Responses, but its availability will show as Everyone or as Workgroups.

If Workgroups, it will show how many workgroups it’s been shared to, and a mouse hover will  reveal which workgroups it’s been shared to.



Additional Navigation – from an existing canned response

On every canned response page, there’s an icon that takes you to the Manage Canned Responses page.


This allows for one-click navigation when setting up canned responses.

Of course, you can also use the Canned Responses menu item (in the User menu) like I showed earlier, but that’s two clicks.


Additional Navigation – from a log note or email

When logging a note or an email on a case or subcase, click the Insert Canned Response icon


This will open up the Canned Response picker. From here, there’s also a icon that will take you to the Manage Canned Responses page.



One thing that’s nice here is that clicking the Manage Canned Responses icon will open the Manage Canned Responses page in a new tab, so that you don’t lose context of the log that you may be in the middle of writing.

What’s even nicer – if you’re writing a log note or email, click the Manage Canned Responses icon, add a new canned response, and then go back to the tab where you were writing your note – that new canned response is immediately available. You don’t need to refresh the page or lose the context of writing the note. That’s pretty sweet.


What if you don’t have any canned responses?

Thinking about “first run experience” here – if a user doesn’t have any canned responses, rather than just showing an empty list (which could be confusing), we explicitly say that there are none, and we provide a Create Canned Response link which navigates you directly to a new canned response page (again, this opens in a new tab, so you don’t lose any notes that you may have already started typing).



Canned Response Examples

Here’s a few examples of canned responses that you might find useful (or hopefully trigger some cool ideas of your own!)


Enhancement Requests

Hi [Contact First Name],

Thank you for contacting Customer Support regarding “[Title]” (Case [Object ID]).

Your enhancement request will be reviewed by our product management and considered for a future release.

Please see our [Enhancement Request Process]( for how we handle enhancement requests suggested by customers.

We really appreciate your feedback and look forward to more ideas you have that will innovate the product even further.

Kind regards,
Product Management Team


No response from customer

Hi [Contact First Name],

We responded to you recently regarding Case [Case ID] titled “[Title]”, but haven’t heard back from you.

If you still need assistance, please reply to this email and let us know.

If I don’t hear back from you within the next few days, we’ll close this case. But don’t worry – we can always re-open it later if needed.


My Salutation and Signature

Hi [Contact First Name],


Annie McAgent
[My Company](


Linked Solution

The following solution should provide the information you need:
[ [Linked Solution Title] ]([Linked Solution ID])

Solution Title: [Linked Solution Title]


Linked Solution Content

The following [solution]([Linked Solution ID]) should provide the information you need:

## Title
[Linked Solution Title]

## Description
[Linked Solution Description]

## Workaround
[Linked Solution Workaround]



Can I apply multiple canned responses to one email or note?

Yes, you can apply as many as you want.
For example, you can use a Salutation and Signature response, and then an Initial Response one, and they will both be applied to the note.

Can I use the same canned response for a case and a subcase?

No. Because variable substitution is based on the object type, you will need different canned responses for cases and subcases.

Can I use canned responses as part of a Batch Log Note?

(i.e. logging the same note to many cases from the console)?

Short answer: No.

Longer answer:

We did consider allowing canned responses on batch actions, but with the variable substitutions in canned responses, that becomes a lot more complex when applying a canned response to many cases.

When you pick a canned response, the variable substitution occurs, and the user gets to see the exact details of what will be logged before it’s actually logged.

With a batch action, you wouldn’t get that. So, what might happen, is that the user would see the canned response as written, with un-expanded variables (such as [Contact First Name]).

We didn’t think this was very intuitive or expected. So we decided to roll it out without allowing canned responses on batch actions, and get some feedback from users, and perhaps kick around some different ideas to see how this might work, and still be intuitive to end users. So perhaps in a future release…

Does variable expansion honor the max length attribute of a rule property?

Yes, it does. Agent uses the same property expansion module as Rulemanager does. So if you have a property such as Site Name, and its max length is 20, then it’s possible that you may see long site names get truncated.  So double-check the max length values of your rule properties.

Are canned responses privilege enabled?

No. We’re considering this a core feature of the app, so everyone gets them.



I think Canned Responses are a great feature addition to Dovetail Agent. I know I’m already using them in our production support environment.

What really stands out to me here is all of the polish that’s gone into this feature, such as:

  • The @@ keyboard shortcut for picking a canned response
  • The [ keyboard shortcut for picking a variable
  • The navigation icons, making it quick and easy to move through common workflows
  • Inserting a canned response at the correct cursor position
  • Opening the Manage Canned Responses page in a new tab while composing an email or note, so as to not lose context or existing work
  • The first-run experience, when you don’t yet have any canned responses
  • Dynamically updating the list of available canned responses once you create one (while composing an email or note)

All of these things add up to a very polished feature.

Huge kudos go out to our dev team for paying attention to these types of interaction patterns, and being focused on delivering a feature that works as a user would expect it to.

Hope you dig canned responses as much as we do.

Rock on.