Easy Solutions for Common E-Mail Headaches

E-mail is the ultimate killer app. Even technophobes who hate everything digital reluctantly acquire e-mail accounts so that they can stay in touch with family and friends.

But e-mail clients (the programs that access e-mail) don't always behave the way they should. Here I answer three reader questions about making e-mail work better--or just plain work.

Have a tech question you'd like answered? Post it to the Answer Line forum.

Can I insert an image into my signature?

Lyman E. Bertsch, Bossier City, LA

A small .gif or .jpg above or beside your name gives you a professional image (a large one, however, just makes people mad). Different e-mail clients make inserting an image easy, difficult, or all but impossible. I'll give you instructions for the various Microsoft clients, as well as for Google Mail.

Outlook 2007 lets you add an image to your signature in just a few clicks.
Outlook 2007
This is the easiest one. Just select Tools, Options, Mail Format, and then click the Signatures button. The resulting dialog box has an editor into which you can easily insert an image by clicking the picture icon and selecting the image you want.

Outlook 2003
Click the New button to create a new message. In that message, design your signature, inserting the image and typing the text. Once the signature looks right, press Ctrl-A to select it, and then Ctrl -C to copy it to the Clipboard. Close the message window without saving it.

Select Tools, Options. Click the Mail Format tab, the Signatures button, and then the New button. Name your signature, select Start with a blank signature, and click Next. In the resulting text box, press Ctrl -V to insert the signature. Save it.

Outlook Express, Windows Mail, and Windows Live Mail
Setting up images in the signatures for these apps can be a real kludge. But hang in there: Once you have a picture set up, it's easy to use.

The first problem: These programs won't let you include an image in a signature, but they will allow you to include a URL that points to one. This means you must place the image on a Web site, where it will be accessible to your recipients already. If you don't have a Web site to store it, upload the image to a photo-sharing site such as Flickr or Picasa Web Albums.

Next, you have to create the signature as an HTML file. You can do this in your e-mail client.

1. In your Web browser, surf to the page displaying your image. If you're using Firefox, right-click the image and select Copy Image Location. If you're using Internet Explorer, right-click the image, select Properties, select the URL, and press Ctrl-C.

2. Start a new e-mail message. In the text-editing field, select Insert, Picture. Use Ctrl-V to paste your image's URL into the appropriate field. Close the dialog box.

3. Enter whatever text you wish in the signature, and otherwise get the signature looking as you want it.

4. When you're satisfied, click the Source tab at the bottom of the edit window. If you don't see such a tab, select View, Source Edit to bring it up.

5. In your message's source view, select the text between the bracketed BODY and /BODY tags. (Do not include the tags themselves.) Press Ctrl-C.

6. Launch Notepad. Once it's open, press Ctrl-V to insert the copied HTML code. Save as signature.htm.

7. Back in your e-mail client, select Tools, Options, choose the Signatures tab, and then click the New button.

Be sure to select the .html file type to locate your signature.htm file in Windows Mail.
8. Under Edit Signature, select File and tell it to use signature.htm. If you use the Open dialog box, make sure to select the HTML Files so that the dialog box will display .htm files instead of .txt ones.

Gmail
Neither Gmail's editor nor its signature tool supports inserted graphics. Neither does the free Firefox add-in Signature, which I use and recommend as an improved Gmail signature tool (see "How Do I Automate Boilerplate Text in My E-Mail?").

The solution is easy to set up, but a hassle to use. Create the signature as a Google Docs document, with both the image and text. When you want to insert it into e-mail, open the document, copy it, and paste its contents into your message.

Editor's note: A few Greasemonkey scripts are intended to add HTML signatures to Gmail messages. PC World tested several, but none performed reliably enough to warrant a recommendation. We can only hope our little jab will spur the creators of these scripts to make improvements. For more on using Greasemonkey scripts to add new features to your favorite Web sites, see Adam Pash's "17 Greasemonkey Scripts to Turbocharge Your Browser."

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