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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 http://ask-leo.com/images/askleonew.png

  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="http://img.askleomedia.com/askleonew.png" /></p>

    Would create a signature that looks like this:

    Leo A. Notenboom
    image

  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.

Article C3594 - December 17, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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16 Comments
Rob
December 23, 2008 8:18 AM

I have 2 minor issues with email signatures. 1) Photos in signatures take up a lot of room, and make my Exchange Server administrator grumpy. 2) In some email applications, a photo or image makes the message appear to have an attachment. I hate it when the paperclip appears, but I can't find the attached file!

Steve
December 23, 2008 8:24 AM

Form a business standpoint - HTML formatted emails make no snes to me. HTML formatting only increases the chances of some SPAM filter stopping your email. HTML emails are much larger in file size than plain text and thus take longer to send, longer to process, longer to traverse the net and longer to receive. Plain Text with a cincise signature staing contact information is a courtesy to your recipients.

I tend to agree. Some time ago I wrote about this in more detail on my "Taming Email" site: Use Plain Format - Substance Over Style.
- Leo
24-Dec-2008

P Van Dusseldorp
December 29, 2008 9:19 AM

The biggest issue I would have with an attached picture is "identity theft". With your name, e-mail address, and photograph the nasties out there are that much closer to "pretending" they are you.

Don
December 30, 2008 1:37 PM

On a related subject. I would like to tag my address book entries with photographs. I keep a wide list of contacts and sometimes memory fails. I use Thunderbird version 2.0.0.18. Is there a way to do this? If so, maybe you could share it at some point in the near future? Thanks Leo, I read your column/ email regularly, Don

lisa
March 4, 2009 10:01 AM

I have a jpg image I need to use in my signature file on a yahoo account... pls advise

Phoebe
March 19, 2009 1:22 AM

Adding an image to my signture has caused some servers to treat my emails as spam how do I stop this

Not trying to be a smart ass, but - remove the image. You have little control over what the receiving end thinks is spam.
- Leo
19-Mar-2009

Gibril Massaquoi
April 13, 2009 12:06 AM

Is it only on HTML that one can creat his signature and or place his photo? What of AOL, Gmail and Yahoo.

ESRAA
July 1, 2009 5:31 AM

my personal signature is inclusing a wisdom i want to attach a photo with this wisdom how to do it?
regards

Dean
August 19, 2009 5:28 PM

In MS Oulook, youI didn't have to upload picture to host. in OE, I created an HTML page including the picture, but the signature shows "X" in place of it. I put the exact location of the picture in the drive in the SRC clause, still picture does not appear. Any suggestion? Thanks

Kelly
February 26, 2010 11:42 PM

I go to the signature and I type in my signature, before I was able to cut and paste my photo, somehow I deleted it, I know you have to post it on the web, where? On an e-mail? Then how do you retreve it? Once I am in my signature there is no option to upload image like a millions of people have told me....I must be having another blonde moment, a 3 month blonde moment, please help me....I appreciate it,

Janet Bacon
September 19, 2010 5:50 PM

I have SmartZone for email, Windows 7. I cannot locate the signature box.. Any ideas!!

Debra Golden
July 28, 2011 7:34 AM

I have g-mail and I am trying to attach a picture to my signature. I have uploaded a picture and have clicked "save changes" but the picture still won't show up. What can I do? Thank you very much for any help. I read the article but honestly I didn't understand much of it. I need a 1,2,3 thing in layman's language -- not computer speak. Sorry!!

Andrew
August 3, 2011 8:55 AM

Adding a signature is reasonably easy, but my problem is that the picture/logo is missing and ll i have is a box with a red cross in the top left corner. I am using outlook 2003 and the image file is stored locally in the Signatures folder, but it will still not show the image. I have turned down the security but to no avail.
Any ideas?? Ta

Odette
November 11, 2011 2:33 AM

I'm using Open Office Outlook Express. I created an HTML page including the picture, but the signature shows "X" in place of it.

Any advice will be appreciated

Mark J
November 11, 2011 4:32 AM

@Odette
A picture can't be embedded into an HTML document. The HTML document creates a link to the picture file. If the file is not in the place where the link looks for it, it will produce an X. In order to show the picture, you would need to point the link to where the picture file is located.

Suyi
January 12, 2012 6:04 PM

Hi,

The logos do not appear in my signature. I have created html files. It works on google or chorm but not in my windows live mail. I have unchecked "download image" tab in security option. Pls help..

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