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Enhance Message Content in Microsoft Outlook 2016

This chapter from Microsoft Outlook 2016 Step by Step guides you through procedures related to personalizing default message formatting, applying thematic elements to individual messages, creating and using automatic signatures, incorporating imagery in messages, and changing message settings and delivery options.

Messages composed in and sent from Microsoft Outlook 2016 don’t have to consist only of plain text. They can contain diagrams and graphics, and can be visually enhanced by a judicious use of colors, fonts, and backgrounds. For more formal messages, you can attach a signature that includes your contact information, and perhaps a company logo.

You can add visual information to a message, contact record, or other Outlook item to bring it to your attention or to the attention of the recipient. For example, you can indicate that a message is of high importance or contains confidential information. You can also set options that notify you when a recipient reads a message or that prevent the recipient from forwarding or printing a message.

This chapter guides you through procedures related to personalizing default message formatting, applying thematic elements to individual messages, creating and using automatic signatures, incorporating imagery in messages, and changing message settings and delivery options.

Personalize default message formatting

By default, the text content of an Outlook message is shown in black, 11-point Calibri (a font chosen for its readability), arranged in left-aligned paragraphs on a white background. You can change the appearance of the text in a message by applying either local formatting (character or paragraph attributes and styles that you apply directly to text) or global formatting (a theme or style set that you apply to the entire document) in the same way that you would when working in a Microsoft Word document or Microsoft PowerPoint presentation. However, if you prefer to use a specific font and color for all the messages you compose, you can save your preferences so that Outlook applies them to new messages and to message responses.

You set your default font and theme preferences from the Personal Stationery tab of the Signatures And Stationery dialog box. You specify font formatting for new messages and responses (replies and forwards) separately. (Even if you want to use the same font, you have to choose it twice.)

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The default message fonts

The default settings use black Calibri for original messages and blue Calibri for responses. You can continue to use different colors to visually differentiate between original message content and your responses within a message trail. Or you might prefer to always use the same font regardless of whether a message is new—this simpler approach can help recipients to recognize message content from you.

When setting default fonts, you have access to the full range of options in the Font dialog box.

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You have access to the full range of font options for email messages

The font effect check boxes contain squares to indicate that the effects are neither on nor off (which is basically the equivalent of being off). You can leave these as-is or choose to specifically turn on an effect.

It’s best to choose a font face that is easy to read. Some aspects you might consider are:

  • Character width Narrow fonts can be hard to read, and wide fonts can take up a lot of space.
  • Uppercase and lowercase letters Some fonts display all letters uppercase.
  • Numbers that are easy to read For example, some fonts display the number zero and the lowercase letter “o” almost identically. If you select one of these as your default font and then send someone a password that includes a zero, they might have difficulty reading it.

The Preview area of the Font dialog box displays the words Sample Text in the font that you select. That doesn’t cover all the bases, so you might want to try out a few fonts in an email message before you make a selection.

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Some fonts aren’t good choices for default message fonts

When you set a default message font in the Font dialog box, it becomes the Body font. The Set As Default button doesn’t become active because, unlike when creating documents in Word or worksheets in Excel, there are no fonts to set other than the message font. You can’t change the font that Outlook uses in information fields such as those in message headers, contact records, and appointments.

Another font that you can set from this dialog box controls the way that plain-text messages you receive appear when you display them in Outlook. Many people send email messages from their smartphones, and they can configure messages to be sent as HTML or in plain text. (You can also choose one of these message types for messages that you subscribe to, such as package delivery notifications.) Plain text messages are simpler for software to render and to display consistently. If you don’t set a different default, plain text messages will appear in Calibri.

In addition to the message fonts, you can specify an email message theme (a preselected set of fonts, colors, and graphic elements) that Outlook will use when you create messages. Most themes include a colored or illustrated graphic background that you can include or exclude by selecting or clearing the Background Image check box.

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Email message themes include fonts, colors, page backgrounds, and inline graphic elements

Instead of choosing a complete theme, you can choose stationery (think of this as choosing a patterned paper on which to write letters). Some stationery options have quite pronounced graphic images (dozens of teddy bears parading across the page), whereas others are more subtle (green bubbles on a green background). Some stationery options have graphics across the entire page, whereas others confine the graphics to the left edge of the email “page” and leave a clear space for text and other email content.

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Stationery options range from subtle to busy

Your choice of stationery does not control your default message font; you must set that separately, as previously discussed in this topic. If you choose to use stationery (and I’d caution you to make this choice judiciously), take care to choose a font color that is visible against the stationery background and also visible to recipients who choose to block graphic elements of email messages. For example, it might be tempting to use clean white lettering against the brown background of the Jungle stationery, but for recipients who block graphics, the message will display white lettering on a white background—in other words, the message will appear to be blank unless they select the message content.

To open the Signatures And Stationery dialog box

  1. Click the File tab to display the Backstage view. In the left pane, click Options to display the Outlook Options dialog box.
  2. In the left pane of the Outlook Options dialog box, click the Mail tab.
  3. On the Mail page, in the Compose messages section, do either of the following:

    • To display the E-mail Signature tab, click the Signatures button.
    • To display the Personal Stationery tab, click the Stationery and Fonts button.

To change the default font for outgoing messages

  1. Display the Personal Stationery tab of the Signatures and Stationery dialog box.
  2. Do either of the following to open the Font dialog box:

    • To set the font for new messages, click the Font button in the New mail messages section.
    • To set the font for message responses, click the Font button in the Replying or forwarding section.
  3. In the Font dialog box, configure the font that you want Outlook to use for the selected message type. Then click OK.

To change the default font for the display of plain-text messages

  1. Display the Personal Stationery tab of the Signatures and Stationery dialog box.
  2. In the Composing and reading plain text messages section, click the Font button.
  3. In the Font dialog box, configure the font that you want Outlook to use when displaying plain-text messages. Then click OK.

To open the Theme Or Stationery dialog box

  1. On the Personal Stationery tab of the Signatures and Stationery dialog box, in the Theme or Stationery for new HTML e-mail message section, click the Theme button.

To specify a theme for outgoing messages

  1. Open the Theme or Stationery dialog box.
  2. In the Choose a Theme pane, click any entry that doesn’t end with (Stationery) to display a preview in the right pane.
  3. To display modified theme options, select or clear any of the following check boxes:

    • Vivid Colors
    • Active Graphics
    • Background Image
  4. After selecting and configuring the theme you want, click OK.
  5. If you want to use a font other than the theme font, do the following:

    1. In the Theme or Stationery for new HTML e-mail message section of the Signatures and Stationery dialog box, click the Font list to display the options.

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      You can override the theme font

    2. In the Font list, do either of the following:

      • To compose original messages with the theme font but use the font defined in the Replying Or Forwarding Messages section for responses, click Use my font when replying and forwarding messages.
      • To not use the theme font (but use the other theme elements), click Always use my fonts.

To specify a background stationery for outgoing messages

  1. Open the Theme or Stationery dialog box.
  2. In the Choose a Theme pane, click any entry that has (Stationery) appended to the name to display a preview in the right pane.
  3. After selecting the background stationery you want, click OK.