Creating the perfect email signature

You’ll typically find these template files in the %appdataMicrosoftTemplates folder. Make sure that Outlook is closed before you try to open normalemail.dotm, and remember to right-click on it and choose Open from the context menu, since double-clicking on a template causes you to create a new document based on that template rather than open the template itself.

Creating the perfect email signature

You select the Office Theme in Word by clicking Page Layout | Themes, and you can also select colours, fonts and effects from different themes, and save the result as a new custom theme.

You won’t see any change in the normalemail.dotm file, because it doesn’t have any text or other content – if you want to see what a theme does, you’ll have to try it out on another document first.

Stationery will apply horrid background images that make all your emails difficult to read

Incidentally, don’t confuse these Office Themes with the vestigial Stationery & Themes option that’s found in Outlook’s Options dialog. This is to be avoided at all costs: Stationery will apply horrid background images that make all your emails difficult to read, while Themes will hard-code ugly background and foreground colours, and strange bullets and lines into your emails.

What you should do is make sure that in Outlook’s File | Options | Mail | Stationery & Fonts | Font dialogs you have set the font to be +Body, which appears at the top of the list. Do this for both New Mail Messages and Replying and Forwarding, to ensure that the font used for emails follows that set in the Office Theme rather than being hard-coded.

Simple but effective

Now that you’ve set the Theme, you can design a simple but effective signature. You may prefer a simple valediction such as “Regards”, or a more formal one such as “Yours sincerely”, followed by your full name, job title and company name. You may then want to append your phone or fax number, the company address or slogan.

Stick to your Theme colours for any accenting colours, and consider de-emphasising less important items by using grey or a lighter tint. You can fit quite a lot of information onto one line by inserting “ | ” (space, vertical bar, space) to separate successive items, and you may also abbreviate “phone”, “fax”, “mobile” and similar as “p”, “f”, “m” to save more space still.

. Text effects such as shadows don’t work, while images and tables will go missing if you add the signature to a plain text email.

If, for instance, you included only your company logo, without its name also in text form, then the company wouldn’t be identified at all in a plain text version.

Be careful with tables, text effects and images, since there are certain restrictions regarding what may be included in a signature

Tables are handy for laying out different elements and also for using borders as dividing lines, but be aware that, when converted to plain text, each cell will come out as a separate line – try to line up headings and data using tabs, rather than putting them in separate cells. (Press Ctrl-Tab to insert a Tab character when you’re in a table, as pressing Tab alone will just move you on to the next cell.)

If you must include an image in your signature – a logo or mugshot for example – then you have the choice of embedding it into the email or adding it as a link to an image file stored on a public web server.

If you embed the image, make sure it’s small so as not to bloat the size of your emails. Crop and size images before embedding, and remember that screens are usually only 96dpi. If you choose a link to an image on a public website, your recipients will have to mark the sending address or domain as trusted before they can see it.

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