One provides more automation, the other less.
Gmail Labs, a menu tab accessed through the Gmail Setting page, has begun testing Canned Responses. Gmail engineer Chad Parry describes it as "e-mail for the truly lazy."
"If you're sick of typing out the same reply every time someone e-mails you with a common question, now you can compose your reply once and save the message text with the 'Canned responses' button," Parry explains in a blog post. "Later, you can open that same message and send it again and again."
Canned Responses can be used conjunction with Gmail's filters as an auto-responder, replying automatically to messages with certain keywords.
In a change that makes Gmail less automated, Benjamin Grol, product manager for Google Contacts, said in a blog post that Google is revising the way that Gmail suggests contacts. "Up to this point, if you e-mailed someone five times, we'd automatically move them into My Contacts," he said. "Now, we'll no longer automatically add contacts to your My Contacts group. Instead, you can go to Suggested Contacts, select the contacts you'd like and move them into My Contacts."
Previously auto-added contacts that haven't been edited will be moved back to Suggested Contacts as part of this change, which is being rolled out over the next few days.
This represents the second recent de-automation of Gmail's contact handling. In July, Google created two contact groups, "My Contacts" and "Suggested Contacts," where there was previously just one, as a way to alleviate the clutter caused by automatically creating contact entries for people e-mailed frequently.
In addition to their organizational benefits, these changes to the way Gmail handles contacts should make Gmail a bit more secure. By requiring affirmative user action before adding an e-mail address to the My Contacts list, Google makes it less likely that an untrustworthy individual might slip through Gmail's spam filter and get inadvertently associated with known and trusted contacts.
It's also noteworthy that both of these changes were driven by user requests. When Google last week changed the way iGoogle worked, many users complained because they felt that the iGoogle changes were forced upon them and were driven by Google rather than by customer demand.