Customize your email message

Creating an email message in Microsoft Outlook 2010 offers you the most options and configurations of any Outlook feature. No matter what type of message that you are composing, whether business or personal, you can always find a way to add your unique style.

Outlook 2010 uses an editor based on Microsoft Word 2010 for email messages. For detailed assistance with the editing features of this editor, start Word 2010, press F1, and then search in Word Help.

What do you want to do?


Set the delivery options



Assign the level of importance

You can set the level of importance for a message so that recipients can see the indicator in their Inbox before they open the item. Setting the level of importance also enables the recipients to sort their messages by importance.

  • On the Message tab, in the Tags group, click High Importance or Low Importance to switch the setting on and off. The selected icon will highlight to show it is engaged.

Tags group on the ribbon

Set the expiration date

When a message expires, the message header remains visible in Outlook folders with a strikethrough, and the message can still be opened.

  1. On the Options tab, in the More Options group, click the Message Options Dialog Box Launcher Dialog Box Launcher.
  2. In the Properties dialog box, under Delivery options, select the Expires after check box, and then click a date and time.

Delay sending the message

If you use a Microsoft Exchange email account, you can delay the delivery of a single message. Regardless of email account type, everyone can use rules to delay the delivery of all messages by having them held in the Outbox for a specified time after you click Send.

  • Exchange accounts only    
    1. On the Options tab, in the More Options group, click Delay Delivery. The Properties dialog box appears with the Do not deliver before check box selected.
    2. Click the delivery date and time that you want.

 Note    You must click Delay Delivery on each message that you want to delay. To delay all messages, see the next section, All email accounts.

  • All email accounts    

This process delays all messages for all accounts. You can customize the settings in the Rules Wizard to limit the criteria for when the delay is imposed.

  1. In any Outlook view, click the File tab.
  2. Click Manage Rules & Alerts.
  3. Click New Rule.
  4. Under Step 1: Select a template, under Start from a blank rule, click Apply rule on messages I send, and then click Next.
  5. Click Next again, and when you see the message This rule will be applied to every message you send, click Yes.
  6. Under Step 1: Select action(s), select the defer delivery by a number of minutes check box.
  7. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description (click an underlined value), click the underlined phrase, a number of.
  8. Enter a number between 1 and 120, and then click OK.
  9. Click Finish, and when you see the message This rule is a client-side rule, and will process only when Outlook is running, click OK.

 Note    This rule delays all messages that you send for the number of minutes that you enter in step 7. Outlook must remain running for that long after you click Send so that it can accommodate the specified delay before it sends the message..

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Change the appearance of your message



Add a background color, gradient, texture, pattern, or picture

  1. On the Options tab, in the Themes group, click Page Color.
  2. Click a color on the Theme Colors or Standard Colors palette. Click More Colors to get a more detailed palette. To remove the color, click No Color.
  3. If you want to add a gradient, texture, pattern, or picture, click Fill Effects.
  4. Select the fill options that you want.

 Tip    The color of the gradient, texture, or pattern is based on the color that you select in step 2.

Change the font

You can change the font in your message in several ways:

  • On the Message tab, in the Basic Text group, you can select the font, font size, font style (bold, italic, and underline), font color, and text highlighting.
  • On the Format Text tab, in the Font group, you can select the font and font size; increase or reduce the size by one increment; change the font style (bold, italic, underline, strikethrough, subscript, superscript); change the case, the font color, and the text highlighting; and remove all font formatting.
  • On the Mini toolbar that appears when you select text, you can select the font, increase or reduce the size by one increment, select a theme, use the Format Painter, select the font style (bold, italic, and underline), and highlight text.

Mini toolbar

  • On the Format Text tab, in the Styles group, you can select styles.

 Tip    Use styles to create professional-looking messages.

Add graphics

Graphics can get the attention of your recipients. Graphics can also increase the file size of your email message. Graphics should be used in moderation. To change the background appearance of the message, see the section, Add a background color, gradient, texture, pattern, or picture.

  • On the Insert tab, in the Illustrations group, click one of the following:
    • Picture     Browse to the folder where the picture that you want is saved, select the picture, and then click Insert. You can resize or rotate the picture with the picture drag handles. For additional picture options, right-click the picture, and then click a command.
    • Clip Art     Type a description for the art you want to search for, and then click Go. Select the Include Office.com content check box to include clip art available from Office.com. Click the image that you want to insert.
    • Shapes     Click a shape. For additional shape options, right-click the shape, and then click a command.
    • SmartArt     Choose a layout for a SmartArt graphic, and then click OK. Click the SmartArt graphic to add text. For additional options, right-click the SmartArt graphic, and then click a command.
    • Chart     Choose a chart type, and then click OK. In the Microsoft Excel 2010 worksheet that appears, enter the data for your chart. To close the spreadsheet, click the Excel button, and then click Close. For additional chart options, right-click the chart, and then click a command.
    • Screenshot     Click one of the previewed images or click Screen Clipping. Select the area of your screen that you want to capture.
  • To insert WordArt, on the Insert menu, in the Text group, click WordArt.

Add a numbered or bulleted list

  1. On the Message tab, in the Basic Text group, click the Bullets or Numbering command.
  2. Press ENTER to add the next list item.

Outlook automatically inserts the next bullet or number.

  1. To finish the list, press ENTER two times, or press BACKSPACE to delete the last bullet or number in the list.

Keyboard shortcut  Type * (asterik) to start a bulleted list or 1. to start a numbered list, and then press SPACEBAR or the TAB key.

Add a table

A table consists of rows and columns of cells that you can fill with text and graphics. Tables are often used to organize and present information.

Table used to present information in grid-like format

You can also use tables to create interesting page layouts, or to create text, graphics, and advanced table layouts.

Page layout created with tables

  1. Click where you want to insert a table.
  2. On the Insert tab, in the Tables group, click Table.
  3. Do one of the following:
    • Point to Quick Tables, and then click the table that you want. Replace the data in the table with the data that you want.
    • Click the table grid to determine the number of rows and columns to create in a new empty table.

Table picker

  • Select Draw Table to get a pointer that allows you to vary the sizes of the table cells that you add.
  • Select Excel Spreadsheet to have a new spreadsheet open on your message. You can use the handle points on the bottom and right edges to change the size.

 Note    When you select Excel Spreadsheet, a dialog box might appear asking if you trust the source of the Excel workbook. In most cases, especially if the document comes from the Excel loaded in your own computer, you can click Yes. If Excel is running from another source or network, contact your network administrator if you aren’t sure.

Add a signature

You can create a default signature to be added to all outgoing messages, or you can insert a signature manually into outgoing messages individually. Do one of the following:

  • Insert a signature automatically    
    1. On the Message tab, in the Include group, click Signature, and then click Signatures.

 Note    You can also access the signature options that are available on the Message tab after you click Reply, Reply to All, or Forward in an open message.

  1. In the Signatures and Stationery dialog box, on the E-mail Signature tab, in the Select signature to edit list, select the signature that you want. Or click the New button to create a signature.
  2. Under Choose default signature at the upper-right of the dialog box, in the New messages list, select the signature that you want.
  3. If you want to include a signature in messages that you reply to and in messages that you forward, in the Replies/forwards list, select the signature. If you don't want a signature in these messages, select none.
  4. Click OK.
  5. To add the default signature to a current message, on the Message tab, in the Include group, click Signature, and then select the signature.
  • Insert a signature manually    
  • On the Message tab, in the Include group, click Signature, and then select the signature that you want.

 Note    You can also access the signature options that are available on the Message tab after you click Reply, Reply to All, or Forward in an open message.

Add symbols, equations, and horizontal lines

You can use the Symbol command to enter the following:

  • Symbols that aren’t on the keyboard, such as ¼ and ©
  • Special characters that aren’t on the keyboard, such as an em dash (—) or ellipsis (…)
  • Unicode characters

If you are using an expanded font, such as Arial or Times New Roman, the Subset list appears. From this list, you can choose from an extended list of language characters. This includes Greek and Russian (Cyrillic), if available.

On the Insert tab, in the Symbols group, the Equation command lets you enter complex equations quickly.

The Horizontal Line command lets you break apart sections of your message.

  • On the Insert tab, in the Symbols group, click Equation, Symbol, or Horizontal Line.

Change the theme

A theme is a set of unified design elements and color schemes. A theme helps you easily create professional and well-designed messages.

When you apply a theme to a document, Outlook customizes the background colors and graphics, body and heading styles, lists, horizontal lines, hyperlink colors, and table border colors. Both the single-level and the multiple-level lists are also customized.

To quickly change the appearance of these elements, you can change the theme.

  • On the Options tab, in the Themes group, click Themes.

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Include an Electronic Business Card

Electronic Business Card Electronic Business Cards make sharing contact information easier. Electronic Business Cards can quickly be inserted into messages that you send and are immediately recognizable by the recipient. You can send your corporate Electronic Business Card or a personal one that you have customized. Alternately, you can send someone else's contact information as an Electronic Business Card. You can also forward the cards.

For more information about Electronic Business Cards, see Create and share contacts as Electronic Business Cards.

  1. On the Message tab, in the Include group, click Attach Item and select Business Cards, and then click a name in the list.
  2. If you don't see the name that you want, click Other Business Cards, click the name in the Filed As list, and then click OK.

 Notes 

  • The Business Card menu shows the last 10 contact names that were inserted as Electronic Business Cards in messages.
  • You can insert more than one Electronic Business Card in a message.
  • To help differentiate between duplicate names on the Business Card menu, click Other Business Cards. You see more information, such as a card preview, in the Insert Business Card dialog box.
  • If you drag a business card from Business Cards view into a new message, only a .vcf file is included when the message is sent. This attached .vcf file opens the contact form with all the information that the recipients can save to their Contacts lists. If a recipient is using Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 or Outlook 2010, the Electronic Business Card is visible in the contact form.

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Add tracking to your message



Flag a message

Flagged email messages help you better manage your mail. Flagged messages create to-do items either for you alone or for you and the recipients of the email message. For example, you can flag an email message that requests information that you want by a certain date. When the recipient receives the message, a flag appears with it, and a message appears in the InfoBar (InfoBar: Banner near the top of an open email message, appointment, contact, or task. Tells you if a message has been replied to or forwarded, along with the online status of a contact who is using Instant Messaging, and so on.) in the Reading Pane and at the top of the message when it is opened in Outlook.

A message that is flagged for yourself can help you track who has replied to the message. In the previous scenario, you sent a flagged email message requesting information by a certain date. By also flagging the message for yourself, you are reminded to check for replies. Outlook can even help you automatically find replies to the original flagged message.

  1. On the Message tab, in the Tags group, click Follow Up, and then select the follow-up due date, or click Custom.
  2. If you want a reminder about this flagged message, on the Message tab, in the Tags group, click Follow Up, and then click Add Reminder. If you want, you can change the reminder date and time.
  3. If you want, you can include a flag to the recipients so that they are alerted of a deadline. On the Message tab, in the Tags group, click Follow Up, and then click Flag for Recipients. To include a reminder to the recipient about this flagged message, select the Reminder check box, and then, if it is necessary, change the date and time.

Add voting buttons

It is easy to create a poll in Microsoft Outlook by including voting buttons in an email message.

  1. On the Options tab, in the Tracking group, click Use Voting Buttons.
  2. Click one of the following:
    • Yes;No     When all that you want is either a yes or a no, this is a good way to take a quick poll.
    • Yes;No;Maybe     When you don't want to limit the choices to yes and no, this voting option offers an alternative response.
    • Custom     Click this command to create your own custom voting button names. For example, you can ask your colleagues to choose among three days of the week for a recurring weekly staff meeting.
      1. When the Message Options dialog box appears, under Voting and Tracking options, select the Use voting buttons check box.
      2. Select and delete the default button names, and then type the text that you want. Separate the button names with semicolons.

Get a delivery or read receipt

A delivery receipt tells you that your email message was delivered to the recipient's mailbox, but not whether the recipient has seen it or read it. A read receipt tells you that your message was opened. In both cases, you receive a message notification when your message is delivered or read. The contents of the message notifications are then automatically recorded in the original message in your Sent Items folder.

However, don’t rely only on these receipts. The message recipient might determine whether a read request was requested and decline to send one. If the message is read-only in the Reading Pane, a read receipt might not be sent. In addition, the recipient's email program might not support read receipts.

  1. In the message, on the Options tab, in the Tracking group, select the Request a Delivery Receipt or the Request a Read Receipt check box.
  2. To turn on these options for all email messages that you send:    
    • Click the File tab.
    • Click Options.
    • Click Mail.
    • Under Tracking, choose the options that you want.

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Applies to:
Outlook 2010