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Creating Outlook HTML Email Templates

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Ross McDowall
Ross McDowall Senior Web Developer
Visual Lizard
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Ross McDowall Fearless Dwarven Warrior

We've had to do this from time to time in the past, and recently we were once again asked to create a set of HTML email templates for MS Outlook. When you look on the internet for the steps involved in creating such a template the majority of resources point at creating signatures or stationery. This isn't what we need, and finding the actual steps are extremely hard to come by. We are going to try to rectify that by providing the steps here.

Step 1: Creating your HTML template

Following the rules set out in the Email Standards Project and mentioned in a previous post about email templates you should create your HTML email template as you would any normal HTML page. The rules are relatively straight-forward for this. Use tables and nested tables like you would for a 1998 era web-page. No background images, limited CSS. The cool, fancy stuff you can do with CSS3 is out.

Step 2: Getting your template into Outlook

Once you've built your email template as an HTML document with all of its images and styles you'll need to open that HTML template in Internet Explorer. Once you have it displaying in IE you'll need to send it to Outlook. You can do this by opening IE's File menu and selecting Send. Hovering the Send option will give you the option of sending it as an email. Clicking this will open your new template in an Outlook Email window.

Step 3: Saving your template

This should be relatively straight-forward, however Outlook has an extraordinarily silly quirk when it comes to saving an email as a template. First you must File > Save. Wait, you're not done. Once you've saved the email you can then save the email template. Now you must File > Save As. Select the save as Outlook Template option in the selection list that appears in the dialogue that opens. You have now saved your template and can now use it.

You would think you could skip the first save step, however Outlook has its own way of doing things. You'll just have to live with it.