Software

How do I... Create easy-to-use Outlook e-mail templates?

If you create a lot of Outlook e-mail messages that contain standard text, you might save a little typing time by copying and pasting the text into the messages that need it. But a far more efficient approach is to create templates that already contain the standard text--and then put those templates on a custom menu for instant access. The process is fairly simple, but the payoff is huge.

This article is also available as a PDF download.

Do you find yourself typing the same text over and over again in certain types of Outlook e-mail messages? You might change some of the content based on the situation, but for the most part the text is basically the same. For example, you may regularly send technical notifications to network users that provide new information along with a series of precautionary steps that almost never change.

The typical way to handle this type of boilerplate text is with a copy and paste operation. A more sophisticated approach is to use Word as your e-mail editor and drop in AutoText entries for the standard text. But perhaps the most efficient approach is to design templates you can use to create standard e-mail messages. You can even create a menu containing your templates so you can instantly open a new message based on the template you want. Here's a look at how this works.

Before you start: Enable the Outlook e-mail editor

If you've configured Outlook to use Word as your e-mail editor, you'll need to temporarily switch to using the Outlook e-mail editor before creating templates. When you're finished, you can switch back to using Word and the templates will work just fine.

To make Outlook your e-mail editor, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Tools | Options and click the Mail Format tab.
  2. Deselect the Use Microsoft Word To Edit E-mail Messages check box (Figure A) and click OK.

Figure A

 

To switch back to using Word as your editor, just go back to the Mail Format tab and reselect that option.

Creating a template

When you're ready to create a template, open a new message window as you normally would. Enter the boilerplate text into the body of the message. If the message template will contain the same words in the subject line, you can fill in the Subject field as well. You can also fill in the To, Cc, and Bcc fields with addresses if you will always be sending the message to some of the same people (the Cc and Bcc fields are the most likely candidates for this).

Now, go to File | Save As to open the Save As dialog box and choose Outlook Template (*.oft) from the Save As Type drop-down list, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

 

Give the template a filename and take note of the folder in which the template is being saved. Initially, Outlook will use the default template folder, but you can change the location if you want. Just make sure you remember where you put it so you can link to it later.

After you save the template, the new message window will stay open. You don't need it anymore, so you can close it and click No when asked if you want to save changes.


Note

If you have Outlook configured to AutoSave unsent messages, you'll find a copy of the message in the Outbox. You can simply open the Outbox and delete the message.


The standard way to use an Outlook template isn't much quicker than using the copy and paste operation. You have to go to Tools | Forms | Choose Form. Then, you use the Look In drop-down list to locate and select the template. To streamline the process, we'll create a menu with options to open a template-based message.

Creating the menu

To create the menu, right-click on an Outlook toolbar and choose Customize from the shortcut menu to open the dialog box shown in Figure C.

Figure C

 

Now, click on the Commands tab, scroll to the bottom of the Categories list box, and choose New Menu. The New Menu item will appear in the Commands list box, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

 

Drag the New Menu item to the toolbar where you want your menu to appear. For this example, we'll place it at the end of the Standard toolbar. Once the New Menu item appears on the toolbar, right-click on the item to access the options shown in Figure E. Replace the default name in the Name field with E-mail Templates and press [Enter].

Figure E

 

Adding templates to the menu

With the drop-down menu in place, all that's left to do is add buttons that link to your templates. In the Customize dialog box, choose File from the Categories list box. Then, select Mail Message from the Commands list box and drag it to the E-mail Templates menu. When the menu opens, drop the Mail Message item on it (Figure F).

Figure F

 

Right-click on the item and replace the default Name field entry with the name of one of your templates (or a name that denotes the template; it doesn't have to be the actual template name). Then, click Assign Hyperlink at the bottom of the menu and select the Open command, as shown in Figure G. In the Assign Hyperlink: Open dialog box, locate and select your template file, as shown in Figure H, and click OK.

Figure G

 

Figure H

 

Just repeat these steps to add any other templates you want on the menu. When you're finished, close the Customize dialog box. Now, anytime you need to compose an e-mail message that will include a specific version of boilerplate text, pull down the E-mail Templates menu and select the appropriate template, as shown in Figure I.

Figure I

 

Variation: Create a dedicated toolbar

We took the easy route and put our menu on an existing Outlook toolbar. But if you prefer, you can create a new toolbar to hold your templates menu. To create a new toolbar, open the Customize dialog box. On the Toolbars tab, click New and enter a name in the New Toolbar dialog box, shown in Figure J. Click OK, and Outlook will create an empty toolbar. Now, you can click the Commands tab and follow the steps outlined earlier to create a menu and add buttons for your templates.

Figure J

 
20 comments
ColinIve
ColinIve

How do you do this using outlook 2010? We have used the feature on outlook version 2007, but can't figure out how to add the templates to the 2010 toolbar. I need it so that whenever I open new every email I send automatically has my corporate id and legal clause etc in place whenever I write an email. This was easy to set up in 2007 but in 2010!!!! ?

tom
tom

How do you do this using outlook 2010? We have used the feature on outlook version 2007, but can't figure out how to add the templates to the 2010 toolbar.

kashyap.vineet
kashyap.vineet

http://rapidshare.com/files/370940756/commands.jpg http://rapidshare.com/files/370940682/toolbar.jpg My question is that is it possible to have the above using VSTO (outlook 2007). I am trying to build custom toolbar with lots of mail items for templates or is there a way of building the whole lot in outlook as it is easy to setup(images attached) and then somehow export it as an addin or something else which can be easily distributed to other users. It is strange that the ability to create these toolbars and commands doesn't exist in visual studio and i don't want to spend time creating this pro grammatically. Even VS 2010 doesn't have this option or i am looking in the wrong place. Any help would be highly appreciated. Regards, Vineet

hackery
hackery

If you only use one or a few templates, there's no need to create a while new menu to hold them - you can drop the "File/Mail Message" command straight onto the "New" menu under the first "New [Ctrl-N]" item. You can also use the "&" notation in your new item's name to assign it a shortcut key (for menu navigation only, not an app-wide shortcut).

stephen_phipps
stephen_phipps

I have a multi-page template that fails to open correctly unless I go through the menu system....what's going wrong?

brucelloyd
brucelloyd

Thanks for all of the good ideas (templates, toolbars, signature, drafts--remember to Forward so you don't lose the original, AutoText, etc). Don't forget to try Word Mail Merge (Tools> Letters and Mailings> Mail Merge). It works great if you want to send a customized/personalized e-mail message to multiple people. The only limitation that I have found is that the Subject field can't be customized in the mail merge wizard. There are two critical components to a mail merge. 1. You need a database or spreadsheet of e-mail addresses and other fields of info that you want to insert into the body of your e-mail to personalize it. 2. You need a form letter with the body of info that you want to send to everyone. Sending a personalized mail merge to 50 people sure beats sending 50 separate build-from-scratch e-mails.

Jayanth
Jayanth

That was pretty useful. Hadn't known about this. Good tip from TechRepublic in a looong time :)

TEAP01
TEAP01

Instead of having to create a template and then create a new menu to get to the templates, I save the email as a Draft. Then to use it I just click on Drafts, select the draft I need, click Forward,enter any new text or recipients and send. Once I send the selected draft email the original is still in my Draft folder.

adennis
adennis

Why not use the Signature picker in Outlook - open a new signature, paste in your template text and save it with meaningful name. The toolbar button is standard in the email - much simpler???

JodyGilbert
JodyGilbert

Do you use templates to save time in Outlook? What other customization tricks do you recommend to colleagues and end users?

tmradius
tmradius

All these suggestions are excellent. Keep in mind that for the unchaning email, the template is excellent. When I need flexibility (the email may change from time to time) I use the Draft. Just save the new draft and delete the old one. I like the signature picker for identical text and signature in each message but changing Addressees. All three methods are good. I use the copy and paste too. I create a word document (or any text software) that stores all the likely paragraps(boiler plate?)I will need. I use a third party software that stores the paragraphs I want. to paste in the email. Frank

issy
issy

Create and save an email, like the article says. At the bottom of the Navigation Pane on the left side of Outlook, at the very bottom, click on the "Shortcuts" icon. Click "Add New Group" in the Navigation Pane and call it "Templates" or something you'll recognize. Drag your template file from the folder you created it in and drop it right into the new "Templates" shortcut you created. Anytime you want to use the message template, click on the Shortcut icon, click on your message in the "Templates" group. It opens a new message, just like the one you created originally.

Bvaldez
Bvaldez

I was trying to figure out how to do this just the other day and it works just like I wanted to. The only problem I had was if you didn't get you Hyperlink assigned on the first try and went back to complete this step, I had to add another new message from the commands toolbar and then it would again bring up the shortcut menu which allowed me to delete the templates I didn't need and complete the process of linking it to the email message I had previously created.

smhale
smhale

Everything worked fine, but unfortunately it puts my Signature ahead of the body of the message. I have to have my signature disabled for it to work properly. Any clues as to what I need to do.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

What else I do is to create buttons on the standard toolbar, and name them for the most commonly used templates. For less common ones I add them to a drop down menu. These save sooooo much time and I do not need to 'find to link them later', as the article suggests.

ray
ray

My most common need is to give standard responses to e-mails; the 'signature' method seems to be the only way to do this quickly - - I then have to personalalise each one (e.g. name /dates/ delivery method) - is there a better way? some VB script maybe?

weiland
weiland

No matter how I create the template it throws my default signature at the bottom of the note

Bvaldez
Bvaldez

I didn't have any problems with my signature appearing below the body of the text. I would suggest trying to recreate it with your signature in the email already. This seemed to work for me.

Nauthstar
Nauthstar

I created the template - which included my signature and found it added another oneat the end. Work around: Tools > Options > Mail settings - in the 'Choose Default Signatures' area for 'New Messages' I had to select (None) Sorry if the heading above aren't quite correct, I'm using Outlook 2010 now and it's totally different!

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