Emails don’t have to be boring we show how to give yours an individual design
Sending email is one of the most popular uses of the internet, with an estimated two million messages sent every second. It’s also one of the oldest, as the first email was sent two decades before the first website at Cern appeared.
In many respects, email hasn’t changed much since those early days; many of us still send simple text-based messages. When compared with the colourful and complex designs of modern web pages, the reams of text in emails can be bland, impersonal and tedious to read.
This doesn’t have to be the case. Almost all email programs and services can be used to add a personal touch to your messages, changing them from a boring blank page of text into a well-formatted document. You can change the font sizes and styles, format your message with stationery and add a personal signature, perhaps with extra contact details. In this article we’ll show you how.
The right tool for the job
There are plenty of ways to read and compose emails, but most fall into two categories: software that runs on your computer, such as Microsoft Outlook Express, or Mozilla Thunderbird, and webmail services that are used through a web browser, such as Windows Live Hotmail or Google Mail.
Whichever type and whichever specific program or service you use, however, the chances are that it can be set up so your emails will stand out from the crowd.
Different versions of Microsoft Windows come with different free email software. Outlook Express is included with Windows XP and Windows Mail comes with Windows Vista. Microsoft now has a third email program, called Windows Live Mail, that supersedes both of these. Live Mail is given away as part of the Windows Live Essentials pack.
Add a signature
The simplest way to make your emails look personal is to automatically add a signature to the bottom of each one. It doesn’t need to be too long or anything flashy; a few lines of text is normally sufficient. You might want to include your contact details, perhaps, or information about a club or society that you run. If you’re using email for business then including details about your role can help lend some authority to the message above.
To set up a signature in Outlook Express, select the Tools menu then click on Options. When the Options window appears, open the Signatures tab. At this screen, make sure the ‘Add signatures to all outgoing messages’ option is ticked. Outlook Express also lets you prevent signatures appearing when replying to and forwarding emails, so keep this box ticked, as email conversations get very long if people’s signatures are repeated.
Create a new signature by pressing the New button. This moves the cursor to the Edit Signature panel, where you can enter some text. We added our name, company name, telephone number and email address, each on a separate line. You might want to click the Rename button to call your signature something more descriptive (‘work’ or ‘home’, perhaps). Click OK and your signature will be appended to the bottom of all future emails.
If you manage several email addresses in Outlook Express, perhaps one for personal messages and one for work emails, you can set it to apply a signature only to mail sent from a certain email account. Uncheck the box to ‘Add signatures to all outgoing messages’ then click the Advanced button. Ensure the box is ticked next to the name of the email account you wish to use this signature for, then click OK.
If you are using Windows Mail for email, the process is very similar. At the main window click Tools, then Options, then open the signature tab and fill in your signature in the way explained above. Again, you can set up multiple signatures for various email addresses.
In the new Windows Live Mail, the interface is different as there is no Options menu visible. Instead you’ll see three icons in the top right of the main window. Click the middle icon to display a menu, then select Options. This brings up the same options screen present in Outlook Express and Windows Mail, so you can add a signature in the same way.
If you are using the online Google Mail service signatures are a little more basic, but you can still create a few lines of text and add them automatically to all emails. Log in to Google Mail then click the Settings link in the top right. Under the General tab you will find a list of settings, and halfway down will be a section to create a signature. Enter the text you want then click Save Changes at the bottom to apply your signature settings.
Windows Live Hotmail looks different but the same principles apply. Click the Options link in the top right, then click More Options. The Hotmail Options page will then display. Under the ‘Customize your mail’ header, click on ‘Personal e-mail signature’. This will bring up a text-editing page, where you can add a short signature as before, but you can also use the options on the page to change the font style, size, colours and so on. Click the Save button to set your signature.
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