Since the days of yore (whenever that was) Outlook has allowed you to add a signature at the end of each email message you compose. This saves you having to repeatedly type in your name, telephone number, vital statistics etc. But you may not have realised the full power of this handy feature. Here are a few tips I've thrown together to help you navigate through the Outlook Signature maze:
- To create, edit, delete or generally mess about with signatures in Outlook go to Options > Tools, pick the Mail Format tab then Signatures.
- New in Outlook 2003: you can create a separate signature for each email account you use, helping you keep your work and play personas at a safe distance
- You can also have a different signature for new messages and reply/forward messages. Tip: use a detailed signature for the former and a more basic version for the latter.
- If you have created more than one signature in Outlook right-clicking on your signature while composing an email in HTML or Rich Text mode allows you to swap it for a different one. This is very useful if you wish to use different signature information while sending from the same email account.
- You won't be able to specify formatting options in your signature if you use plain text as your default mail format. Change the default to Rich Text or HTML to be able to access the full formatting power of Outlook signatures.
- You can add a vCard (an electronic business card) to your signature if you like. This makes it easy for people to add your correct details to their contact list. Only use a vCard when sending mail to trusted recipients.
- If you edit your signature in HTML see this tip to help get the line spacing right.
- If you only wish to add a signature only occasionally (not by default) and use Outlook (not Word) to compose your emails you're in luck: you can simply choose Insert, Signature at any time to choose which signature to add to your outgoing email.
- When you create an HTML signature, Outlook automatically generates a Rich Text and Plain Text version. But these can be pretty ugly so may need editing to tidy them up. My colleague Eileen Brown has this helpful explanation of how this works.
- Add helpful links in HTML signatures so recipients can contact you with ease. The hyperlink code mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org adds a link that creates a new email to the given address. The hyperlink code sip:email@example.com will fire up an instant message conversation with the given address (provided the necessary IM client is installed).
- Signatures can be as long and complex as you like. If you regularly send out a standard email, say to confirm receipt of a customer's order, you could create a signature that contains everything you normally type in your email then simply edit the bits that need to change. Of course, using forms is often a more efficient way of achieving this but signatures are a viable alternative if you're not familiar with Outlook's custom forms.
- You can also be as clever as you like with your signature. I use a piece of custom artwork containing my photo and HTML links to my blog, my instant messaging service and a dynamic Windows Live Local map showing my office location. Just be careful to keep your email signature small - users on slow network connections won't thank you for sending them a giant graphics file in every email! And, if you don't believe me, here it is with the contact details masked (to protect the guilty):
Congratulations. If you've read this far you are now a blackbelt in Outlook Signatures. Go forth, my friend, and multiply those signatures.