Review: GmailWiz is a productivity tool that might hurt your productivity

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder GmailWiz

    PCWorld Rating

    Trying out GmailWiz won't hurt your pocket, but it might hurt your productivity.

Many of us spend hours each day reading and writing emails. This activity, while essential, can often become quite repetitive. Sometimes, especially if emails are part of your work, you may need to reply to several emails with the same short sentence or response. This adds up to a large amount of time wasted doing the same work. A free Chrome extension called GmailWiz aims to take Gmail's own canned responses feature to the next level, by turning this time-intensive task into one that takes no longer than half a second and one click. Although it's a good idea, the current implementation is lacking.

The add-on adds four new buttons to your message interface, each stands for a different instant reply.

GmailWiz is built around InstantReply buttons, each containing its own instant reply. There are four of these buttons, pre-set with names such as "Like!", "Got it" and "Let's discuss", each with its own matching icon. You cannot change these icons or names, but you can change the actual text to match your most-used replies. Every time you want to use one of them, simply click on the appropriate button and the reply will be written and sent for you instantly. At least, that's the plan.

Reality is quite different, unfortunately. While GmailWiz shows lots of potential, it fails to deliver on its promise. To start, the add-on's website claims you can choose who will receive your InstantReply (reply only to sender or to all), and that "each InstantReply button can have its own setting". This is not the case, and switching between Reply to Sender and Reply to All affects all InstantReplies. In addition, you can add several versions for each InstantReply, but there's no easy way to switch between them except visiting the Options page again. Even if you go through the trouble of doing this, the replies don't actually change every time—it's more like trial and error.

Let's give GmailWiz a chance and assume you only want one possible reply for each button. A reply can be simple or formatted text, can include numbered or bulleted lists, and can include URLs that automatically turn into links. You can't however, include links with custom anchor text, or any custom HTML, and RTL support is only partial. So now that you've managed to create four (or less) InstantReplies, is using them painless, at least? Not quite.

Create your chosen reply for each button, and choose whether they reply to sender or to all.

Some of the time, GmailWiz works without a hitch. You click an InstantReply button, and your chosen reply is written and sent immediately, before you can even think about it. You're now free to move on to the next email, having saved considerable time. On other occasions, however, GmailWiz hiccups. Blank emails are sent instead of your chosen replies, or the reply is actually written, but the email is not automatically sent—it just sits there waiting for you to hit send. This last one is not so bad, giving you an opportunity to edit your email, but this lack of consistency is not something you want to see in a good app.

If these issues are not enough to deter you, this might: GmailWiz does not work with Gmail's new Compose feature. If you'd like to use it, you have to be using the old Compose, otherwise you'll be sending out blank emails left and right. Support may be added along with other features in the future, but all my attempts to contact the developer were in vain, and I failed to learn more about any future plans for GmailWiz, if any.

GmailWiz brings a bright idea to the table, and attempts to increase productivity by cutting the time you spend on repetitive emails. Unfortunately, as it stands, I recommend that you stay away from this add-on, and look for productivity elsewhere. The add-on is half-baked, and that's putting it mildly. Unless you somehow get it to work consistently, you'll be spending more time tweaking it and fighting with it than you would just writing the email yourself.

Note: The Download button takes you to the vendor's site, where you can install the latest version of the software directly into your Chrome browser.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Trying out GmailWiz won't hurt your pocket, but it might hurt your productivity.

    Pros

    • Introduces the idea of InstantReplies by a single push of a button
    • When it works, your replies are written and sent for you swiftly

    Cons

    • Unpredictable
    • Many features are too clunky to use or just don't work right
    • Can't customize anything in the buttons except the reply itself
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