BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 2005

  

 

BOOT CAMP 372 (12/04/05)

Creating a signature in Outlook Express, part 1

 

As you probably know you can add a ‘signature’ to your email messages in Outlook Express. Most people who use this facility include a line or two of text with extra contact details --email addresses, postal address, phone and fax numbers and so on -- but over the next two episodes of Boot Camp we’re going to show you how to do something a little more interesting.

 

The aim is to incorporate a photo or graphic -- maybe your actual signature -- into your email messages and in the process introduce you to the mysteries of HTML coding. Don’t worry, it’s really easy and you won’t need any specialist software or skills.

 

There are two stages: step one is to prepare your image, it could be anything, from a photograph shot on a digital camera or scanned into your PC, to an interesting graphic, icon or a piece of clip art from a web page. Step two is to write a short piece of HTML code but first let’s look at the Signature option in OE and see how it works for basic text. (see also Tip of the Week).

 

To create a simple text signature open Outlook Express then make your way to Tools > Options > Signatures. Click New, under Edit Signature make sure ‘Text’ is checked then compose your signature in the box. Tick the item ‘Add signatures to all outgoing messages’, click OK and it’s done. You can check that it has worked by clicking the Create Mail button and the message window will open displaying your text signature, and that’s all there is to it. Once you’ve got the hang of it go back to the Signature window, highlight and remove your text signature so you’ll be starting with a clean slate.

 

We are now readt to being and the first job is to select your image and for the best results I suggest that you choose something fairly simple -- a head and shoulders portrait for example - -and preferably one that is bright or well lit as it will end up quite small in the email message window. If you are starting out with a digital photo then it is important to reduce the file size as much as possible, preferably to 25kb or less. A typical digital photo file is between 1 and 2Mb in size and if you used it as-is your emails would take ages to send and receive. Reducing the file size does have an impact on quality but since it will be small it doesn’t matter too much. This won’t necessarily affect the physical size of the image and that will be determined by some simple HTML codes, which we will be looking at in part 2.

 

Begin by creating a new folder to store your signature files in. The reason for this will become clear next week and you will find it easier to make one in the root of your C: drive, so open Windows Explorer, highlight ‘Local Disk C:’ then go to File > New > Folder, rename the folder (‘sigfiles’ or something similar) and hit Enter.

 

Next, open your selected image in your preferred picture editing program. You don’t need anything fancy to do this and utilities like Microsoft Photo Editor (included with MS Office), and freeware programs such as Picasa (www.picasa.com) and Irfanview (www.irfanview.com/) will all do a splendid job.

 

For example, in Picasa open the image, right click on it and select ‘Export to folder’, set the ‘Image Size’ slider to the far left and save it in your sigfiles folder. In Irfanview open the image, select Save As on the File menu, make sure Save As type is set to jpg, click Options, set the ‘Save Quality’ slider to the left and once again save the image in your sigfiles folder. You may need to do a few experiments to get the best results and don’t forget to check the image file size in Windows Explorer to make sure the file is not too large.

 

To use Microsoft Photo Editor right click the image icon in Windows Explorer, select Open With > Microsoft Photo Editor and the image will be displayed. Now go to Save As on the File menu, click the More button and set the ‘JPEG Quality Factor’ slider towards the left side. Give the image a new name (i.e. sigpic’, make sure Save As Type is set to JPEG File, then select your newly created ‘Sigfiles’ folder in the Save In box and click Save.

 

If you have a scanner and would like to use a graphic of your real signature then write it out on a piece of white paper and scan it into your PC. You can usually determine the file size from the scanner’s control panel, otherwise follow the earlier steps using your picture editing program. If you haven’t got a scanner then ask a friend with one to help, or if your PC is set up to receive faxes you can send a fax of your signature to yourself. It’s quite difficult to write a signature using a mouse but it can be done with a graphics tablet. If you have a laptop (and small fingers) you could try writing it using the touch pad and the drawing tool in Windows Paint. Icons, graphics and clip art from web pages can be saved by right-clicking on them.  As before, reduce the file size as necessary then save it in your sigfiles folder as a JPEG file.  When that’s done you are now ready to try your hand at some simple HTML coding.

 

Next Week -- Creating a signature in Outlook Express, part 2

 

JARGON FILTER

 

FREEWARE

Programs, usually downloaded from the Internet that are free to use

 

HTML

Hypertext Mark-Up Language -- simple text based commands used to develop design and compile text and graphic elements in web pages, emails and documents

 

JPEG

Joint Photographic Experts Group (part of the International Standards Organisation). File compression systems used to reduce the amount of data in still image files

 

 

TIP OF THE WEEK

Your email text signature doesn’t have to be serious, a lot of people choose pithy or funny one-liners or famous saying to sign off their emails and there are plenty of suggestions on the web. The following sites have hundreds of ideas, divided up into subject matter: www.siglets.com/ and http://coolsig.com/ . For a more in depth article on creating sensible and informative text signatures have a look at: www.gadwall.com/articles/2000/1118.html

 

Part 2

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