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Clever Microsoft Outlook 2003 signatures

Our tutorial on how to make your emails more professional with signatures

You should add a signature to the end of every Outlook message you send. For businesses the reasons are obvious: you can include a motto or a sales slogan as well as your contact information. Even for personal use, it probably makes sense to include a snatch of personal information as part of your sign-off - reminding people of your phone number or address, perhaps.

You can create several different signatures for different uses, too, and select the one you want for a particular message. And if you have different email accounts associated with Outlook, you can set unique signatures for them.

First, though, you need to set up a signature to use. Use Tools | Options | Mail Format:

Click on the Signatures button; this will bring up a window summarising any signatures you've already set. Click the New button to bring up the Create New Signature box:

Type a name to identify this signature - it can be anything you want. Click Next, then type the text for the signature you want to create.

You can click Finish now, or highlight some or all of the text to use the Font and Paragraph formatting buttons (which sadly aren't available to users of earlier versions of Outlook):

If you want more advanced formatting, you can include all the formatting extras available under Microsoft Word. They include, for instance, inserted pictures, bullets, special characters, rules, background colours and so on.

Click on Advanced Edit, and you'll be warned that you are starting up and editor that is not part of Outlook. That's Word; and if you click Yes, Word should start up with the existing signature text pre-loaded. You can now make your changes.

When you're done, Save the new signature and exit from Word; the alterations should be reflected in the signature preview box.

When you've finished formatting and you get back to the Mail Format dialog box, you should see that your new signature now appears as the default for all new messages you send. If it isn't showing there, click the down-arrow in the box next to Signature for new messages and select it from the options available. You may as well select it as the signature for replies and forwards too, unless you want to create a separate signature for them.

And next time you create a new message, the signature should be already in the message, waiting for you to insert some text above it:

You can easily create a number of different signatures - any of which can be selected as your default for new messages or for replies and forwards.

You can also change the signature that appears on an individual message. With a new message form in view, go to Insert | Signature and you'll be able to choose from the same dropdown list of alternatives.

Click on More to see just what the signatures look like.

Changing the signature for an individual message won't replace the signature that has been put there already as the default setting for new messages; you'll have to erase that manually. It's just editable text, after all.

And because a signature is just editable text, there's no reason why you shouldn't use it to create a template for producing an instant reply:

This kind of message could be used to respond to incoming messages with no further additions:

Be careful when creating a fancy signature: it will only appear correctly if the recipient uses a compatible email program. And if they use Outlook, it won't appear correctly if they aren't set up to read messages in HTML format.

Some users elect to specify plain text only for incoming messages, partly because the simpler format means that messages won't be so large and perhaps because viruses can theoretically be embedded in an HTML message.

In those circumstances your beautiful signature might not display at all. At least you can check by temporarily setting your own copy of Outlook to 'plain text only' - go to Tools | Options | Mail Format and select plain text from the Compose in this message format options. Try composing a new message: a plain-text version of your signature should appear on your message. If it looks ok to you, it will be fine for plain-text-only recipients. If it doesn't, you should think about reworking the signature to make sure it works for everyone.

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