How do I... Create e-mail templates and signatures in Thunderbird?

Most business professionals have important information that they constantly need to put into e-mails. Many professionals and companies prefer to use a specific font or color combination for all of their correspondence -- usually business cards and marketing materials. Using your company's chosen colors and fonts from marketing materials in e-mail can remind potential clients of which company you represent and what you do. However, adding all that formatting and contact information every time you write an e-mail is cumbersome and time-consuming.

You can create e-mail templates in Mozilla's Thunderbird that will allow you to add any formatting you want when you compose an e-mail. Thunderbird can also be set to automatically enter signatures for each separate e-mail account that you use, allowing you to personalize or add a level of professionalism to all of your electronic correspondence.

This blog post is also available in PDF form as a TechRepublic download.

Getting started with templates

Open your Thunderbird e-mail client and choose Write from the toolbar. E-mail templates are designed in an e-mail, and then saved once it looks the way you want it to. From inside the e-mail, choose Format | Page Colors and Background from the toolbar. (Figure A)

Figure A

Page Colors and Background
Select Use Custom Colors (Figure B). From there you will click on the colored rectangles by each option for text, background, etcetera in order to make your color selections. You can preview how your choices work together in the little window on the right. It is important that all the text is visible and that the color choices do not cause eye strain -- busy people do not want to have to work just to read the e-mail text, or have a headache from your communications.

Figure B

Use Custom Colors

Once you are happy with your selections, click Okay.

A note about background images

If you would like to use a background image, you will need to have it saved ion your computer. You may consider creating a file somewhere labeled "E-mail templates and signatures" -- but remember, if you ever move this file, you will have to retell Thunderbird where it is by resetting your e-mail templates and signatures in Thunderbird.

To use a background image in your e-mail templates, click Choose File under Background Image in the selection frame from Figure B. This will have you select the image for use from the file you put it in earlier.

Saving your e-mail template

First, you need to name this template. Name the template by putting the template's name into the subject line of the e-mail form. Then, go to File | Save As | Template as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

Navigate to save your template

Thunderbird has now saved this e-mail template. You can preview it in the Templates folder, found in the folder list.

Using an e-mail template

To use an e-mail template, go to your Templates folder found in your folder list. Locate the template you want to use and double-click. This will open a usable e-mail form complete with the template. All of your templates are available to all of your e-mail accounts, providing you haven't changed the settings.

Creating e-mail signatures

Creating e-mail signatures in Thunderbird is very similar to creating e-mail templates, with two major differences. Before you can save e-mail signatures, you will have to create a folder elsewhere on your computer to save them in. The other difference is that it is possible to associate a signature with an e-mail account, and set Thunderbird to always include that signature when that e-mail account is used.

To create an e-mail signature, you will open a new e-mail composition field in Thunderbird, just as you do to write a new e-mail message. Compose the signature, including information such as your name, e-mail address, Web site, and phone number. Change text fonts and colors here as well.

Now, go to File | Save As | File and direct Thunderbird to save the signature into the folder you already created on your computer.

From your main Thunderbird window, go into Tools | Account Settings and choose the e-mail address you would like to associate this signature with from the left-side menu. Checkmark the box labeled Attach this signature as shown in Figure D and use the Choose button or type in the location of the signature file that you saved.

Figure D

Chose a signature

Click Okay and you're done! It is a good idea to send yourself a test e-mail with the signature, so that you have an opportunity to change or fix any problems, such as broken links.

Keeping it simple

While e-mail templates can be a valuable time-saving resource, and a fun way to add personality to your electronic correspondence, it is important to remember that not everybody is capable of quickly downloading large e-mails. For business professionals, overly colorful or wordy e-mail templates and signatures may be difficult to read, thus turning away potential clients.

It is also important to be certain that your e-mail templates and signatures are appropriate for your purpose and audience. It is fine to use a background picture of your child in your personal correspondence, but putting Jeremy's Dad in your business signature may cost you clients. Remember, you can keep templates and signatures clean and attractive and still add personality and fun -- you just have to play around with the program.

By Nicole Nash

Nicole Bremer Nash is Director of Content and Social Media for HuTerra, where she uses SEO and social media to promote charitable organizations in their community-building and fundraising efforts. She enjoys volunteering, arts and crafts, and conduct...