Most e-mail programs have a feature that allows you to automatically insert your name and other information at the end of each message.
The term for this process - “adding a signature” - is misleading. It probably discourages a lot of computer users from configuring, or setting up, this feature on their e-mail software. In addition to a name, a signature actually can include plenty of other information.
Business e-mails, for instance, might end with the sender's name, company name, street address, e-mail address, company Web page address, telephone and fax numbers, cell phone number, company and company slogan, or a marketing pitch. Personal e-mails might end with much the same information.
I've noticed personal e-mails with slogans, inspirational messages, quotations from The Bible or famous people. “Go Buckeyes!” “Michigan: No. 1” “Our days on the earth are as a shadow.” One e-mail last week echoed words of wisdom from Star Wars' Yoda, who taught Jedi Knights like Luke Skywalker: “Do or do not, there is no try.”
Using the signatures feature of e-mail software obviously can save a lot of time and keystrokes, especially when the signature content gets elaborate. Signatures add a professional touch to e-mails. They provide the same information that appears on business or personal letterhead stationary.
In addition, signatures lend a much-needed sense of reality to this process - new to us all - of communicating over the Internet. A signature emphasizes that the sender is not just a name on a server, but a real person who works and lives at a real address.
Most e-mail software allows you to create several different signature files, and designate one as the “default” signature. That signature that will be used in every e-mail unless you select another signature as the default. You also can edit existing signatures. With a mouse click, you can order the software to omit signatures. E-mail programs also allow use of signature files that you create with your word processing program.
Think about how much information to include in the signature. Do you really want to include your home telephone number in business e-mails? Do you want strangers to have your cell telephone number? How about your home address?
Here are instructions for setting up a signature on three popular e-mail programs: Outlook Express, Eudora, and America Online. The procedures may vary, depending on the specific version of the software on your computer. If in doubt, use the program's “help” feature.
Outlook Express: From the main menu, click on Tools. In the drop-down menu, select Options and click on the Signatures tab. Click on the New button. Give the signature a name, or leave the “Signature #1” default name. Names might be “Normal,” “PlusMessage,” “Home Office,” or “Regular Office.” Type the text in the designated screen. Click on “Add signatures to all outgoing messages.” Click on Apply and then on OK.
Eudora: From the main menu select Tools and then in the drop-down menu select Signatures. Depending on your version of Eudora, you may simply type in the signature or select New from a menu.
America Online: Select Mail Center from the main menu. Click on Set-up Signatures. Click on Create. In the Signature name box, name the signature. In the Signature box, type the signature, adding any desired styling features from the Style toolbar. You can create, save, and use up to five signatures for each Screen Name. Designate one as the default signature, which will be automatically inserted into every message. If you want a signature other than the default signature, click on the pencil-icon for Insert Signature File in the tool bar in the Write Mail screen. Pick the desired signature.
Michael Woods is The Blade's science editor.