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How do I add a signature with a picture to my emails?

Summary: The ability to add a signature to email depends on the email program you use. Whether or not you can include an image also depends on that program.

How can I add a picture to my signature when I send out e-mails? I want it to be like a business card with my picture & signature at the bottom of the e-mail.

First, we have to realize exactly what a signature is: it's nothing more than some additional content automatically added by your email program to the bottom of the body of an email when you send it.

Which in turn means that there is no single answer to your question, since signatures are a feature of your email program, and how you do it will depend entirely on which email program you're using.

So we'll look at it at a high level, and hopefully that'll point you in the right direction for whatever program that might be.

First, if you want to insert pictures in the body of your email (and remember, the signature is just a part of the message body), then you need to be composing your email in HTML.

  • Outlook 2007 - compose a new message, and then in the Options tab of the ribbon, make sure that HTML is selected.

  • Outlook Express and Windows Live Mail - compose a new message, and then in the Format menu select Rich Text (HTML)

  • Thunderbird - if your default format is not HTML, then hold down the Shift key when clicking on the Write button.

  • Windows Live Hotmail - compose a new message, and if Plain Text appears above the From: line, click on that and select Rich Text.

"... signatures are a feature of your email program ..."

So now that you know how to create a message in HTML format, we need to back up a step and set up a signature.

  • Outlook 2007 - Tools, Options, Mail Format, Signatures... opens a dialog that will allow you to add and edit signatures. In particular, Outlook provides a rich text editor that will allow you to, among other things, insert pictures directly into your signature.

  • Outlook Express and Windows Live Mail - Tools, Options and then the Signatures tab. Click on New, and then below, you can edit your signature. The signature editing capability in Windows Live Mail appears to be only text. However, it will let you reference a file. If that file is a ".html" file, it can contain HTML referencing a picture by a fully qualified URL, stored out on the internet.

  • Thunderbird - Tools, Account Settings, then click on the account for which you would like to set a signature. On the right will be a checkbox Attach this signature: which lets it point to a text file containing the signature you want. If that file is a ".html" file, it can contain HTML referencing a picture by a fully qualified URL, stored out on the internet.

  • Windows Live Hotmail - Options (near the upper right), More Options, and then click on Personal e-mail signature. Windows Live Hotmail will allow you to create a Rich Text signature but it does not appear to support inserting a picture.

Since we've gotten this far, let's look at one little detail that pops up a time or two, and that's this "HTML" file that can reference a picture up on the internet. This turns into a three-step process:

  1. Upload the picture you want to use to a location on the internet. A photo sharing site, your own web site, anything where the picture can be publicly accessed by a URL. For example, I could use my masthead, since it's available publicly as

  2. Create a text file containing your signature, and referencing that image, encoded as a ".html" file. For example

    <p>Leo A. Notenboom<br />
    <img src="" /></p>

    Would create a signature that looks like this:

    Leo A. Notenboom

  3. Use that ".html" file in those email programs.

Now, it is possible to create that ".html" file in web authoring tools, but they tend to add a lot of HTML that you don't need, and frequently assume that you're creating an entire page instead of just an HTML fragment. But they can be a place to start. After which, you might hand-edit the resulting HTML in a text editor like Notepad.

Finally, be aware that people may not be able to see your picture unless they have pictures enabled in the program they use to read email.

The bottom line is that, as we've seen, different email programs expose different levels of functionality, and in different ways. What you're able to do, and how, will vary depending on exactly what tools you're using, and possibly your own level of technical comfort. Hopefully, with these few simple examples you'll be able to determine your own specific steps.

How do I add a signature with a picture to my emails? - Ask Leo!

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