Tutorial Thursday

Now that I’m up and running on my Mac I decided to give the Apple Mail program a shot. It’s the built-in email solution that is bundled with Mac OS X, and also lets you do things like leave notes to yourself or manage a todo list. One thing that I quickly noticed was that it doesn’t directly include support for HTML signatures.

It’s kind of always boggled my mind as to why these email applications don’t support HTML signatures out-of-the-box. I don’t think that they need to make it all fancy, but they could at least let users enter a snippet of HTML code to use as a signature. I guess I was spoiled by Outlook’s rich text signature editor, and can’t help but compare Apple Mail’s signature abilities to it. Heck, even Mozilla’s Thunderbird lets you specify an HTML file that can then be used as a signature.

Anyhow, there is a method available for those of you who want to get an HTML signature in Apple Mail. It takes a little bit of work, but once it’s done you should be happy with the results.

  1. The first thing that you’ll want to do is create an HTML file that contains the code for your signature. You can do this using a fancy program like Dreamweaver, or something simple like Apple’s TextEdit. Preview your signature in a web browser to ensure it’s what you want, but you’ll be able to go back and make changes later if you want (it’s just not that easy to make changes).
  2. When you create a text signature in Apple Mail it doesn’t store it as an HTML file. Instead it uses a file storage type specific to Safari called WebArchive. To get around this you can open your signature in Safari, and go to File -> Save As. You’ll now be able to save your signature in the necessary WebArchive format.
  3. Open Apple Mail’s preferences, and switch over to the Signatures tab. Click the plus sign located near the bottom to create a new signature, give it any name you would like (you can easily change this at any time), and put something in the content box:
  4. You’re almost there! Now what we have to do is replace our awesome HTML signature with the temporary place holder form the previous step. To do this copy the WebArchive file from Step 2, and paste it into the ~/Library/Mail/Signatures folder (note: the tilde represents your user folder). See that other WebArchive file with the obnoxiously long name consisting of letters, numbers, and hypens? Just rename your signature file to match that super long name and you’re all set:
  5. If you already have Apple Mail running you’ll need to restart it before seeing the changes. Then when you go to compose a message the new signature should automatically be attached. If you need to make changes you’ll essentially need to start back over at Step 1.

I’ve been asked several times what the point of using an HTML signature is since so many email services block them. There is typically some confusion in that area because email services don’t block HTML… they just block images, and even still the viewer can normally enable them. That means without any trouble you are able to use well formatted hyperlinks, style the text, and much more without using images. However, spare us all from turning your signature into a mini MySpace page. And no, everyone doesn’t love a banner of animated smiley faces. ;)