There’s a wonderful feature in Microsoft Outlook which is worth the time to get to know. It’s the use of Signatures. Signatures, as the name implies, are blocks of formatted text and/or graphics that appear at the end of e-mails you send that identify yourself and your contact information. You can define many signatures for yourself – perhaps one for business use and one for sending e-mail to friends. You can tell Outlook to automatically append one of your signatures to the end of every e-mail you send, or you can select from your available signatures at will. Let’s explore this handy feature in a bit more detail using Microsoft Outlook 2002 as our guide, although it will work in similar fashion in other versions of Outlook, and even in Outlook Express, although the menu commands may vary.
Creating Your First Signature
You’ve seen people’s signatures before in e-mails you receive. They often contain the sender’s name, title, company name, phone and/or fax numbers, e-mail address, and company address. Sometimes a signature will contain a disclaimer block at the end stating that if you are not the intended recipient of the e-mail then you should disregard and delete the e-mail. You can scan in your real signature and use that, although that’s not done very frequently. For that matter, you could even scan in your own photograph, although I’ve never seen that done! The text of your signatures may be formatted using Font and Paragraph formatting commands if you wish.
Let’s create a signature for me for use in my consulting business. I want it to say my name, title, company name and e-mail address. I want this block of text to appear at the end of every new e-mail I send. I don’t want to include a closing, such as “Sincerely” or “Yours truly” – I’ll type that myself every time.
An easy way to create this signature is to type it once in a blank e-mail, get it formatted just the way you’d like it, then select the whole block, and press Ctrl+C to Copy it to the Clipboard.
Figure 1 – A new e-mail message with the signature entered and selected.
Now press Esc to exit the e-mail, select No if it asks you if you’d like to keep the Draft of the e-mail you were just composing.
Now back in Outlook, select Tools, then Options, click on the Mail Format tab.
Figure 2 – The Options dialog box showing the Mail Format tab selected.
Click the Signatures… button down at the bottom of the dialog box to see the Create Signature dialog box.
Figure 3 – The Create Signature dialog box.
Click New… and you’ll see the Create New Signature dialog box. Enter a Name for this new Signature, such as “Business”. Make sure “Start with a blank signature” is selected.
Figure 4 – The Create New Signature dialog box with selections made.
Click Next and you will see the Edit Signature – [Business] dialog box. Click in Signature Text box and press Ctrl+V to paste the text you had selected into the box. If you would like to do any more Font or Paragraph Formatting, you can do it here with the Font… and Paragraph… buttons.
Figure 5 – The Edit Signature dialog box with the Signature Text pasted in.
As an aside, the Advanced Edit… button will often bring up Microsoft
FrontPage, which you probably don’t want to bother doing, and especially
not for this example! Now we will not be covering vCards here, so ignore
them for now.
Press Finish and voilà – you’ve created your very first Signature!
Making your signature a default for all new messages
Click on OK now to go back to the Mail Format tab of the Options dialog and you will see two fields in the Signature section at the bottom – “Signature for new messages” and “Signature for replies and forwards:”. Here you can be sure to set appropriate automatic signatures to be included at the bottom of every new message you create and/or every message you create that is a reply or forward of a previous e-mail. In our case, let’s say we would like the “Business” signature to be included at the bottom of new messages, and no signature to be automatically included at the bottom of replies and forwards. So you would select the “Business” signature from the pull-down list for “Signature for new messages”. Now click OK, and you’re all set!
Figure 6 – The Options dialog box showing the Business signature selected as the “Signature for new messages”.
Taking it for a spin
You’ll see now that if you hit Ctrl+N to create a new mail message (or
Ctrl+Shift+M, or File / New / Mail Message) your signature will already be
included at the bottom of your e-mail. (By the way, if you don’t want the
signature to appear in a particular e-mail you are composing, simply select it
and delete it.)
Figure 7 – A new e-mail message with the Business signature displayed by default.
Now, to type your message, you should put your cursor above the signature block, and type in your message. (To many this will be obvious, but we don’t want to leave anyone behind!) Now you’re all set to hit Send and send this message on its way!
Figure 8 – The new e-mail message with the text entered and ready to be sent.
Making a selection from several available signatures while composing an e-mail
OK, let’s get a little fancy. Perhaps you would like to use several different signatures from time to time depending on the context of the e-mail. For example, in my case, I am involved with several different businesses and want to sign my e-mails according to which business I am acting as a representative of for each particular e-mail. There are several ways to do this, including using Outlook Forms (templates), however, we’re illustrating the use of Signatures in this article, so let’s see how we would use Signatures to accomplish this task.
I’ll assume at this point that you will have defined two Signatures, one for each business. In our example here, we’ll call them Soundside and Waterfront.
Figure 9 – The Create Signature dialog box showing the Waterfront signature.
We will set up Outlook so there is no default signature, and we’ll have to choose one explicitly as desired while composing the e-mail.
To set up Outlook so there is no default signature, select Tools / Options / Mail Format, and then select <None> for “Signature for new messages”.
Figure 10 – The Options dialog box with <None> selected as the “Signature for new messages”.
To instruct Outlook to allow us to select from our available signatures while composing e-mails, we must be using Outlook as our e-mail editor, not Microsoft Word. If you like to use Microsoft Word as your e-mail editor, this method will not work for you; instead you should make use of Word’s AutoText entries for your signatures, which is actually a more powerful feature than Outlook signatures.
But to continue with our example, let’s first ensure that Word is not selected as our e-mail editor. To do this, select Tools / Options / Mail Format, and at the top in the Message Format section, make sure “Use Microsoft Word to edit e-mail messages” is unchecked, then click OK.
Figure 11 – The Options dialog box showing the “Use Microsoft Word to edit e-mail messages” checkbox unchecked.
Composing an e-mail message with no default signature
Let’s hit Ctrl+N now to create a new e-mail message. It should not have
any default signature in it, since we selected <None> as the signature
to use for new messages. Now enter the text of your e-mail and put your cursor
at the end where you want your signature to appear.
Figure 12 – A new e-mail – we’re ready to insert our signature.
When you are ready, select Insert / Signature and choose Waterfront from the list. Outlook will plop in your signature at your cursor location and you’re ready to send.
Figure 13 – The new e-mail with the signature inserted.
By the way, if you have so many signatures that you can’t remember which is which, you can use Insert / Signature / More… to see the entire list of signatures with previews of each one.
We’ve delved a bit into the wonderful world of Outlook Signatures. We’ve learned how to create signatures, how to tell Outlook to use a particular signature on all new messages and/or on replies and forwards, how to tell Outlook not to use Word as our e-mail editor, how to create new messages with a default signature, and how to use Insert / Signature to select from our available signatures as needed. I hope you use this as a jumping off point to make good use of Outlook signatures, saving you time and effort and providing consistency to the way you sign your e-mail messages.
For further help with Outlook Advanced issues and VBA, check out our support group here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Outlook_Advanced/