How to make Outlook link to images on the web in HTML mail

I had a note to describe this setting in a future blog
entry, but since I saw
this question
 I figured I'd put this ahead of the other items on my to-blog

By default, when you send HTML mail and include pictures
inline in the body,
creates Mime-HTML or MHTML which is a message that includes both the HTML text
as well as the inline pictures as part of the message. This of course does increase
the size of the message.

Note: This
is in regard to pictures displayed inline in the mail  - i.e. you
can see the picture when you're reading the mail - not image files that
are attached via Insert | File. While this might seem obvious to some, to Outlook
Express users it could be confusing because OE has a feature whereby it displays image
file attachments inline at the end of a message.

If you want Outlook
to send a reference to the file (<img src="">) instead
of including it:

1. Tools | Options |
Mail Format | Internet Format
2. Uncheck "When an HTML message contains &pictures located on the Internet, send
a copy of the pictures instead of the reference to their location"
3. OK out of the dialogs

The next time you send
a mail with an inline HTML image, Outlook will just include a reference to the image
in the HTML rather than attaching it.

Note #1: This setting applies regardless of where the
image exists - internet, local hard drive, intranet, fileshare, etc. So if you have
a web page on your intranet and you right click on a picture on that page and copy
it, and then paste that into an email, the recipient will receive a message with an
HREF to that intranet site. If the recipient doesn't have access to your intranet,
they will not be able to see the image. Similarly, if the image was copied from your
local hard drive, a reference to C:\foo.jpg will be included.

Note #2: If the recipient is using OWA 2003 or Outlook
2003 and has content blocking enabled and you are not on their safe sender's list,
they will not see the inline image until they click on the infobar and choose to enable
it or add you to the safe sender's list. Trust me when I say, to channel Martha, "this
is a good thing".

Note #3: To muddy the waters even further, when the
above setting is unchecked, there are still some ways to get Outlook to include the
image in the message, such as opening it in mspaint and copying it from there.


I hope this answers more questions than it raises. Let me know if not :-)

Comments (15)

  1. ML49448 says:

    Awesome, thank you very much!

  2. CAL4 says:

    This was helpful in understanding some of how Outlook works, but I have a few questions…

    I am trying to send a simple HTML e-mail newsletter to a few hundred people (at least for now) It seems that when I send it from Outlook, that the images are all of the "attached type." I have been editing it in MS-Word, saving it as an .htm file and then copying the content into an HTML message. I can view the source in my .htm file and it references an external source, but once I paste it into Outlook, it references an internal source…

    I have a few questions:

    1. My spam filter (MX-Logic) seems to hate the images I send and replaces them all with its own, transparent images when I send messages to myself. Is this normal?

    2. I get HTML e-mails from other professional sources that include nice pictures that my spam filter does not see as "risky" for some reason.

    3. Am I going to get the most people to be able to see my pictures if they are imbedded or referencing external images?

    4. Why did opening a .HTM file in IE, and doing a copy & paste into a message change the refernce from external to internal even after I did your little trick on the Internet options screen and exited & re-loaded Outlook?

    Thanks for your help!

    – Cal

  3. KC Lemson says:

    Sorry I didn’t respond when this was on, I just noticed this now.

    1. I don’t know how your spam filter works so I can’t comment on this.

    2. The pictures are likely attached in the message, rather than referenced. The "web beacon blocking" feature only cares about externally referenced files.

    3. As Outlook 2003 grows in popularity, you may want to move toward embedded images. But since each added file increases the size of the message, it’s a tradeoff. Do you think the UI of Outlook 2003 to show the pictures is simple enough that most users would be able to click in the right place to show the pictures?

    4. I can reproduce this when using Word as my editor, but not Outlook. When I use Outlook as my editor I get the expected behavior. I don’t know if this is the expected behavior or not for some reason (there are some quirks when dealing with Word as an email editor), and am not connected to the corporate network right now in order to look for a known bug.

  4. Steve G. says:

    I too have been struggling with this issue and do not seem to have any sort of "Internet Option" under my Tools/Options/Mail Format. Is this functionality even available in Outlook 2000? Or is there some sort of upgrade I can load?

  5. KC Lemson says:

    In Outlook 2000, check "Send pictures from the internet" on tools options mail format if you want to attach the pictures. Uncheck it if you want to only include a reference to them.

  6. Steve G. says:

    I tried unchecking the "Send pictures from…" before as well. It will allow me to email from Frontpage without attachements (there I can specify the file location on our ISP’s server), but sending from Outlook and Word still makes the pics into attachments for any recipient not using Outlook themselves (i.e., people with Yahoo, or Netscape Mail accounts, etc.). Is there any way to edit the HTML references in Outlook? I’m trying to create a sort’ve stationary that our technophobe users here can use that includes a linked banner and pics, etc. Thanks.

  7. KC Lemson says:

    Once the message leaves your outbox, the pictures are either attached or they’re not – it doesn’t make a difference what mail client the recipient is using (but it’s possible that different clients may render the message differently)

    I would suggest turning off word as the editor to see if it works the way you want then.

  8. KC,

    I have been trying to figure out how to keep Outlook from using the CID source for images, and your blog answered my question.



  9. dorutzu says:

    Hi! I’m working on an Outlook Addin, and I have the exact oposite problem – I want my pictures to be added inline in my message. The problem is that I’m generating a .html template file (and the image link is on my local drive i.e. c:addintemplatestest1.jpg), it looks ok in Outlook, before sending, but after I send it, in every mail client I checked, the image link still looks like c:addin…, and instead of the image I see a nice red X.

    Also, I noticed that for creating an inline image e-mail, all I have to do is paste an image(opened in paint, or whatever) into the e-mail editor…and outlook generates something like "cid:image001.gif@01C42807.D08166C0"…and looks ok on all e-mail clients.

    Clould you tell me how should I write in my template .html file to achive this, or what settings do I have to activate in Outlook (i.e.2003)

    Thanks for your time,

    Doru K

  10. KC Lemson says:

    Doru – do the opposite of step 2 above. Leave that option checked.

  11. J. Mack says:

    I have an issue whereby in a new HTML message, before it ever gets sent, when pasting an image from the clipboard into the message I get the broken link icon in the Outlook message (box with a red X). It didn’t use to do this. What is wrong? If I manually save the image on the clipboard to a file and then use the insert picture option it works fine but unfortunately adds 3 more steps.


  12. Chris Menegay says:

    Hi there, any ideas on how to make OWA include a reference to an image (IMG tag) in it’s signature? I’m using OWA 2003 and want to make my signature there mimic the one I have with normal outlook.

  13. julie says:

    Can you bear one more complaint about this issue?

    I too am trying to send an HTML newsletter to employees and my external mail service charges by email size, etc. After jumping through many hoops to reference pictures rather than attaching them, I’ve found a solution to only PART of my problem.

    In the newsletter template I have references to the images in the html code on our public website. I found the settings you mention above and they work great when sending just the template with my added text.

    The problem is if I want to add an additional picture, to the template before I send it. I set to use Word as my email editor, I select Insert | Picture | from file, and paste the URL of the picture on my public website. All is well until I select to SEND. The references to images that are a part of my template keep the appropriate reference, but the one I inserted into the message in Outlook (using Word as my email editor) is embedded.

    I am so frustrate with Microsoft adding so much extraneous code, thinking they know better than I do, what I want my code to be. Any ideas?

    Thanks a bunch.

  14. Bernie says:

    I continue to stumble across your blog as I do research or browse for information pertinent to my job. You’re obviously blogging about topics relevant to the MS Community.

    Thanks KC.


    brobichau (at)

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