You can unleash your inner, digital John Hancock thanks to a few signature tools in email. As this section explains, you can end your messages with a custom signature, use homegrown art, or even include a digital business card.
8.2.1 Customized Signatures
Have you ever noticed how some emails feature a carefully constructed sign-off at the bottom of the message ‚ either no- nonsense information like the sender's name and phone number, or a pithy (or not-so-witty) saying or quote?
These personalized blocks of text are called signatures. And you don't have to retype them every time you send an email. Instead, you can set up your email software to automatically add a signature to your outgoing mail.
Both Outlook and Outlook Express can append signatures to the bottom of your messages. You can even create multiple signatures, and then choose among them depending on the recipient of your email. Writing the president of a bank? Use your standard signoff. Writing your garden club buddies ? Go flowery.
220.127.116.11 Setting up and using a signature in Outlook
To create a signature in Outlook follow these steps:
Choose Tools Options Mail Format Signatures New .
The Create New Signature dialog box appears. Enter a name for your signature ‚ something descriptive, so you can easily distinguish between multiple signatures, if you create them.
Decide whether you want to create your signature from scratch or modify an existing signature .
Select one of the options beneath "Choose how to create your signature," as shown in Figure 8-3. If you haven't yet created a signature, you'll probably want to pick "Start with a blank signature" which lets you start with a blank canvas. If you've already got a signature that you like, but you just want to create a slightly different version ‚ for example, a signature that includes your mailing address in addition to your name ‚ pick "Use this existing signature as a template:" and then select from the pop-up menu the name of the signature that you want to use as a model. "Use this file as a template" lets you import a file created in another program, like Word or Notepad. If you select this option you first need to create and save the file, which can only be a text file (one that ends in .txt); then click Browse to select the file. Once you've made your selection, click Next .
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Figure 8-3. When creating a new signature, you can start from scratch, customize an existing signature, or use a text file as a template.
Create your signature .
Regardless of which method you chose in the previous step, you'll create your signature in the "Signature text" box, as shown in Figure 8-4. You can also attach your own vCard ‚ an electronic business card that some email programs recognize ‚ to your signature (see Section 8.2.3 for more on vCards). Do so either by choosing a vCard from the pop-up menu or by selecting "New vCard from Contact."Click Finish, then OK.
Assign a signature to new messages and to replies and forwarded messages .
You should be on the Mail Format tab of the Options dialog box. If not, return there by choosing Tools Options Mail Format. In the Signature section, use the drop-down list to select which signature you want to appear at the end of new messages and which signature you want for replies and forwards (you can choose the same for both). You can also choose None.
Tip: You can manually add or a change the signature in any email by choosing Insert Signature and choosing from the list of signatures you've created.
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Figure 8-4. With signatures, you're not limited to the letters of the alphabet; you can use any character on your keyboard. So you might want to offset a quote with hyphens, as shown here.
18.104.22.168 Setting up and using a signature in Outlook Express
To create a signature in Outlook Express follow these steps:
Choose Tools Options Signatures New .
As you can see in Figure 8-5, Outlook Express automatically creates a blank signature, named Signature #1.
Enter your signature in the Text box. You can rename the signature by highlighting it, choosing Rename, and entering a new title .
Use a descriptive name for your signature so you can easily differentiate among the various signatures you set up.
Click OK .
From now on, whenever you send an email, Outlook Express adds your sign-off to the bottom of the message.
Tip: If you have more than one email address, Outlook Express lets you assign different signatures to each one. Choose Tools Options Signatures and highlight the signature you want to assign to a particular email address. Then click Advanced, choose the email address you want the signature to adorn, and click OK. To assign a different signature to another email address, repeat the process.
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Figure 8-5. Create a new signature using the Edit Signature text box, or use the contents of a text file by selecting the File button and browsing to an existing file.
8.2.2 Fancy Signatures
In lieu of, or in addition to, regular text you can also use pictures made entirely with keyboard characters , for your signature, like this:
'&` # # _# ( # ) / O \ ( === ) `---'
GuitarMania...Don't fret! We sell guitars ‚ strings attached .
The guitar is an example of ASCII art . (ASCII stands for "American Standard Code for Information Interchange.) ASCII characters are plain text characters you can type using your keyboard.
A number of Web sites post what's known as ASCII art, pictures or images composed entirely of ASCII characters. What's really sweet is that you can copy this artwork for free. A few good sources are http://www.chris.com/ascii,www.xs4all.nl/~svzanten/ascii/line_art, and www.ascii-art.com. To transfer art from a Web site into your signature, first copy it to the clipboard, and then paste it into your signature, or into a file you create in Notepad (Figure 8-6).
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Figure 8-6. Copying and pasting ASCII art from the Internet is an easy way to spruce up your email signature. Sometimes, the artist asks that you copy his or her initials with a drawing, although this site ‚ http://chris.com/ascii/ ‚ doesn't require it.
You can also create ASCII art from a drawing you already have on your computer. Start by downloading the shareware program Email Effects from http://www.sigsoftware.com. Then import your drawing into the program. Poof! Email Effects automatically creates a piece of ASCII art from the drawing. Email Effects also includes tools that make it easy to create your own ASCII art from scratch. It's shareware and free to try, but if you continue to use it, you'll need to shell out $15.
8.2.3 Using Digital Business Cards
Time was, you'd get a business card from somebody and you'd have staple it to a page in your Rolodex or hand-enter the info into your address book. Now, thanks to vCards ‚ electronic business cards that automatically input a person's details into most email programs' contact lists ‚ the process happens faster than a speeding bullet.
vCards are attached to email messages as files with the extension .vcd . When you receive an email message with a vCard attached, just double-click the attachment, and your address book copies the information in the vCard ‚ either creating a new entry or updating an existing one. You can use this feature with most email programs.
You can also attach your own vCard to outgoing email using either Outlook Express or Outlook.
22.214.171.124 Creating and sending vCards with Outlook
In Outlook, you can send your own vCard with every outgoing message or just the ones you specify. To attach a vCard to all your outgoing mail:
Choose Tools Options Mail Format Signatures .
This opens the same dialog box that lets you create signatures for your email. For more information about signatures, see Section 8.2.1.
In the Create Signatures dialog box, click New .
Although you'd typically use this screen to create a new signature, in this case, you're creating a vCard.
In the Create New Signatures dialog box that appears, type a name for your vCard and click Next .
Name it something descriptive, so you instantly recognize it when you choose it from a drop-down list. Also, it's a smart idea to include the word vCard in the name, so you remember the signature is associated with your vCard.
In the Edit Signature dialog box that appears (see Figure 8-7), click "New vCard from Contact." Then choose the contact information you want to attach as a vCard, click Add, and then click OK .
In the Edit Signature dialog box, the address you're attaching as a vCard shows up in the vCard options section.
Click Finish and then OK .
Outlook creates a vCard and automatically attaches it to all your outgoing mail.
Note: If you need to find your vCard in the future, Windows XP saves it in My Computer C: Documents and Settings [Your Account] Application Data Microsoft Signatures. (Your Account is your XP user name.)
If you want to attach a vCard to some messages and not others, rather than creating the card as outlined above, here's how. Open your contacts in Outlook, and highlight the contact information you want to use for your vCard. Then choose File Save As; for the format, choose vCard Files (*.vcf). Browse to the folder where you want to save the vCard, and remember this location. Then when you're sending a message and want to include a vCard, attach it as you would any other file, by clicking the paper clip button near the top of the screen.
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Figure 8-7. In Outlook, you can include both a vCard and a signature at the bottom of your email.
126.96.36.199 Sending vCards with Outlook Express
As with Outlook, Outlook Express lets you automatically attach a vCard to every email you send, or just to specific messages.
To send a vCard with all your messages, choose Tools Options Compose. The dialog box shown in Figure 8-8 appears. In the Business Cards section, turn on the box next to Mail, and choose your name from the drop-down list on the right. If you want to edit your data, click Edit and a form appears that lets you edit the information. When you're done, click OK. Now, every time you send an email message to someone, Outlook Express attaches a vCard.
To attach a vCard to messages on a case-by-case basis, don't turn on the box on the screen shown in Figure 8-8. Instead, open the Address Book in Outlook Express, highlight the contact information you want sent as a vCard, and choose File Export Business Card (vCard). Save the file to your hard disk. Then, whenever you want to attach a vCard to an email message, click the Attach button, browse to where you've saved the vCard, and attach it. Then send the mail as you would normally ‚ your vCard rides along as an attachment.