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Yesterday I noticed that you can reply to your Facebook notification emails to answer wall posts and messages. Since I have decided not to use Facebook as actively as I used to now that Google+ is around, I thought I should use this feature to send an “out of Facebook” response to my Facebook friends.

Here’s how you do it, using canned responses and filters in Gmail:

  • To be able to send automatic replies in Gmail, you need to enable the “Canned responses” feature. Look in Gmails settings → “Labs” tab and make sure it’s enabled. Don’t forget to save your changes.
  • It’s time to create the automatic response. Start writing a new email. I wrote something like “Automatic reply: I have not been using Facebook very much lately. Please come see me at Google+ instead!”. Now, click the “Canned responses” menu (just below the subject line) and select “New canned response…”. Select an intelligent name for your response.
  • Now you need to find out which email address your notification comes from. Look in your inbox for a Facebook notification and look at the sender’s email address. It should look something like this: notification+xyz@facebookmail.com where xyz is a seemingly random string. Copy this address.
  • To tie it all together, create a new filter (there’s a link to the right of the search box). Enter the following settings:
    From: update+xyz@facebookmail.com OR notification+xyz@facebookmail.com (where xyz is the value you found in the previous step)
    Subject: “new messages from” OR “new message from” OR “commented on your wall post” OR “posted on your wall”
  • Click “Test search” to see if your filter matches the notifications you want to reply to. If it doesn’t, chances are that you don’t have English as your current language setting on Facebook. Either change it on Facebook or enter the equivalent subject lines in your language.
  • Final step: Click “Next step” and check the box next to “Canned response”. Select your message and save your filter.

Note: You can remove any of the strings in the subject line filter, to match only the kinds of notifications that you want to reply to.

Edit 2016: I’m pretty sure this no longer works, or that it worked for very long to begin with. Not a feature that made FB a lot of money, I suppose.

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André Laszlo


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