Outlook email templates: 10 ways to quickly reply to repetitive emails

This article showcases ten amazing features that you may not know about, but which may save you an enormous amount of time when dealing with routine emails.

If a major part of your online communication is repetitive emails, it would be only natural that you strive to optimize that part of your work. Replying with template can be a great alternative to composing emails from scratch in a tedious keystroke-by-keystroke way.

Outlook templates

Email templates in Outlook are like document templates in Word or worksheet templates in Excel. If you often send the same or very similar messages to different people, you can save one of such messages as a template by clicking File > Save as > Outlook Template (*.oft). And then, instead of composing an email from scratch, you start with a template, customize it if needed, and hit Send. The message goes out, but the template remains, ready for the next use.

By default, all Outlook templates are saved to the below folder. This should not be changed, otherwise you won't be able to open your template from within Outlook.

C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates
Outlook email templates

Advantages:

  • Easy to create and save.
  • The address fields (To, Cc and Bcc), Subject line, and even the sending account can be predefined.
  • Your message templates can contain attachments, graphics, and formatting such as fonts, background colors, etc.

Drawbacks: bothersome to use - to open a template, you need to dig quite deep into the menus.

Supported versions: Outlook 365 - 2010

In-depth tutorial: How to create and use Outlook email templates

Email templates in Outlook.com web app

The Outlook.com web app also has email templates. Compared to .oft files in the desktop version, these do not require a ton of menu clicks to open. However, the options here are not so extensive - a template can contain small images and basic formatting, but it's not possible to preset email fields or attach files.

Like many other useful features, this one is hidden from immediate view. To make use of it, this is what you need to do:

In the bottom right corner of the New Message window, click the ellipsis button (…), and then click My Templates.
Email templates in Outlook.com web app

The My Templates pane will show up with a few default samples ready to use. To make your own one, click on the + Template button and enter the template's title and body in the corresponding boxes. Or you can type and format text in the message window, and then copy/paste - all the formatting will be preserved.
Create a new template in in Outlook.com web app

To have the template inserted in an email, just click its name on the pane.

Advantages: simple and intuitive

Drawbacks: limited options

Supported versions: Outlook.com web app

Quick Parts and AutoText

Quick Parts are reusable snippets of content that can be quickly added to an email message, appointment, contact, meeting request, and task. Aside from text, they can also include graphics, tables, and custom formatting. While .oft templates are meant to constitute an entire message, quick parts are kind of smaller building blocks.

Quick Parts is the modern replacement of AutoText in Outlook 2003 and earlier. In recent versions, both types are available. The only difference between them is that the items reside in different galleries. In all other respects, Quick Parts and AutoText are essentially the same.

To create a new item, type your text in a message, select it and click Insert tab > Quick Parts > Save Selections to Quick Part Gallery.

To put a quick part into an email, choose the needed one from the gallery.
Outlook Quick Parts

Or, you can type the quick part name in a message (not necessarily the whole name, just a unique part of it) and press F3. In Outlook 2016 and later versions, when you start typing the name, a suggestion will pop up, and you can simply press the Enter key to inject the whole text.
Inserting a quick part into a message

Quick Parts are located in the in the NormalEmail.dotm file, which is stored here:

C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates\

To back up your quick parts, copy this file to a save location. To export to another PC, paste it to the Templates folder on another computer.

Advantages: very simple and straightforward

Drawbacks:

  • There is no search option. If you have multiple pieces in the gallery, it might be a problem to locate the one you need.
  • It's not possible to edit a quick part's content - you can only replace it with a new one.
  • It's not possible to add attachments.

Supported versions: Outlook 365 - 2007

Comprehensive tutorial: Outlook Quick Parts and AutoText

Quick Steps email templates

Quick Steps are sort of shortcuts that allow performing multiple actions with a single command. One of such actions could be replying with template or creating a new email based on a template. Aside from the message text, you can prefill To, Cc, Bcc, and Subject, set a follow-up flag and importance.

To make a quick step template, click Create New within the Quick Steps box on the Home tab, and then choose one of the following actions: New Message, Reply, Reply All or Forward. In the Edit window, type the text of your template in the corresponding box, configure any other options that you think appropriate, and give your template some descriptive name. Optionally, assign one of the predefined shortcut keys.

Here's an example of Outlook reply template:
Creating a quick step template in Outlook

Once set, your new quick step will immediately show up in the gallery. Just click on it or press the assigned key combination, and all the actions will be executed at once.
Replying with a quick step template

Advantages:

  • Different templates for new emails, replies and forwards can be created.
  • Not only the message text but nearly all email fields can be preset.
  • Multiple actions can be executed with the same quick step, e.g. replying to a message with template and moving the original message to another folder.
  • Can be quickly executed with a keyboard shortcut.

Drawbacks: email template can only be plain text.

Supported versions: Outlook 365 - 2010

End-to-end tutorial: Outlook Quick Steps

Outlook drafts as templates

Drafts in Outlook are nothing else but unsent emails. Usually, these are unfinished messages that are saved automatically by Outlook or manually by yourself. But who says a finalized draft cannot be used as an email template?

The beauty of this method is that you can create a re-usable draft email template exactly as you normally would - type the text in the message body, fill out the email fields, attach files, insert images, apply the desired formatting, etc. When your message is ready, do not send it. Instead, click the Save button or press Ctrl + S to save the message to the Drafts folder. If you have too many items in your Drafts folder, you could keep your templates in a separate subfolder(s) or assign categories to them.

The next time when you want to send a particular message to someone, go to your Drafts folder and open that message. The key thing is that you don't send out your draft, but forward it! When forwarding a draft, Outlook makes a copy of it keeping the original message for future use. Moreover, no header information is added above the draft's text, like it is normally done when forwarding an incoming email. The Subject line won't be prefixed with "FW:" either.

You may be wondering how to forward a draft in Outlook? Much easier than you may think :)

  • Open your draft message via a double click.
  • Place the cursor inside any email field, not in the body, and press Ctrl + F. Alternatively, you can add the Forward button to the Quick Access Toolbar and click on it.
    Forward an Outlook draft to keep it as a template for future use.

Advantages: very convenient to create, edit and organize.

Drawbacks: to keep your template, remember to forward a draft, not to send it.

Supported versions: Outlook 365 - 2000

More info: Using Outlook drafts as email templates

Outlook signature templates

Signature is a traditional element of written communication, and most Outlook users have a default signature added to their emails automatically. But there is nothing that would prevent you from having more than one signature and including information other than standard contact details.

You can create a signature as an entire email template and insert it in a message with literally a couple of clicks (Message tab > Signature).
Outlook signature as an email template

A word of caution! Apart from the message text, be sure to include your standard details in every signature you are creating. When you choose a different signature for a particular message, the default one is automatically removed.

Advantages: very quick and convenient to use

Drawbacks: you can only add information to the message body but cannot predefine email fields.

Supported versions: Outlook 365 - 2000

In-depth tutorial: How to create and use Outlook signatures

AutoCorrect

Though the AutoCorrect feature was not originally designed to be used as text templates, it does let you instantly insert certain text via an assigned keyword or code. You can think of it as a simplified version of AutoText or Quick Parts.

Here's how it works: you assign a keyword to some text, which can be as long as you like (reasonably of course) and formatted any way you choose. In a message, you type the keyword, hit the Enter key or space bar, and the keyword is instantly replaced with your text.

To open the AutoCorrect dialog window, head off to the File tab > Options > Mail > Spelling and AutoCorrect… button > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options… button.

To configure a new entry, do the following:

  • In the Replace field, type the keyword, which is a kind of shortcut that will trigger the replacement. Just don't use any real word for it - you don't want the keyword to be replaced with a longer text when you actually want that word itself. It's a good idea to prefix your keyword with some special symbol. For example, you could use #warn, !warn or [warn] for Important warning!
  • In the With field, type your template text.
  • When done, click Add.
Tip. If you want formatted text like in the screenshot below, then first type the replacement text in a message, select it, and then open the AutoCorrect dialog. Your template text will automatically be added to the With box. To preserve the formatting, make sure the Formatted text radio button is selected, and click Add.

Setting up AutoCorrect for template text

And now, type #warn in the message body, press Enter, and voilà:
The keyword is replaced with the formatted template text.

Advantages: one-time setup

Drawbacks: the number of text templates is limited to the number of shortcuts you can remember.

Supported versions: Outlook 365 - 2010

Outlook Stationery

The Stationery feature in Microsoft Outlook is used to create personalized HTML-formatted emails with your own backgrounds, fonts, colors, etc. Instead of or in addition to various design elements, you can also include text, and it will be automatically inserted in a message when you choose a stationery file.

You start with creating a new message, designing its layout, and typing the template text. It makes no sense to define Subject or any other email fields because when a stationery is used, this information will appear at the top of the message body.

When ready, save your message (File > Save as) as an HTML file to the Stationery folder here:

C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Stationery\
Save a message as an HTML file to the Stationery folder.

Once saved, you can select your stationery in the following way: Home tab > New Items > E-mail Message Using > More Stationery. The recently used stationery files will appear directly in the E-mail Message Using menu:
Using a stationery file as an email template

You can also choose a certain stationery as the default theme for all new messages you are creating.

Here's an example of what your Outlook stationery message template may look like:
Stationery email template

Advantages: a wealth of formatting options due to HTML support

Drawbacks: the number of clicks to save and access stationery files is a heck of a lot more than really needed

Supported versions: Outlook 365 - 2007

Custom Forms in Outlook

I will say it upfront - this technique is meant for professionals. Designing a custom form is a lot trickier than any other method discussed in this tutorial and may require VBA programming skills. To start with, enable the Developer tab in your Outlook. Then, click Design a Form, pick one of the standard forms as a base for your custom form, add fields, controls, and possibly code, set attributes and publish your form. Sounds perplexing and obscure? Indeed, it will take time to figure out that thing.
Creating a custom form in Outlook

Advantages: a very powerful feature with plenty of options

Drawbacks: a steep learning curve

Supported versions: Outlook 365 - 2007

Shared Email Templates

Believe it or not, this solution is a joy to use for novices and gurus alike. Beginners will appreciate the simplicity - getting started with Shared Email Templates is intuitive enough to jump into it right away. Outlook experts can leverage many advanced features such as creating personalized responses with the help of macros, configuring predefined, fillable and dropdown fields, pulling information from datasets, and a lot more.

Contrasting from the inbuilt features, Shared Email Templates brings all the functionality directly into the message window! You can now create, edit and use your templates at a moment's notice, without switching back and forth between different tabs and digging into the menus.

To create a new template, simply select the desired content (text, images, links, etc.) in a message and click New Template.

To insert a template into a message, click the Paste icon or double-click the template name.
Shared Email Templates

Advantages:

  • Quick and comfortable to create.
  • Insert in a message with a click.
  • Use personally or share with your team.
  • Add fillable text fields and drop-down lists.
  • Fill in email fields, insert images, and attach files automatically.
  • Apply basic formatting within the in-place editor to create sophisticated designs using HTML.
  • Link to your Drafts folder and use any of your Outlook drafts as email templates.
  • Use shortcuts for quick replies.
  • Access your templates from any device whether it's Windows, Mac, or Outlook Online.

Drawbacks: you are welcome to test and let us know :)

Supported versions: Outlook for Microsoft 365, Outlook 2019 - 2016, Outlook for Mac 2019 - 2016, Outlook on the web

How to get: Choose your subscription plan or download a free version from Microsoft AppSource.

That's how to create an email template in Outlook. Hopefully, our tutorial will help you choose your favorite technique. I thank you for reading and hope to see you on our blog next week!

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Category: Outlook Tips

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