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What is an Email Signature?

What is an email signature?

We’ve all seen them. They are the words and graphics that some people include at the bottom of their emails.

They are names, logos, titles, and contact information. They are paragraphs of legal disclaimers from our attorneys. They are inspirational sayings. They are suggestions that we “consider the environment before printing,” and they are advertisements for the device from which we are emailing (“sent from my iPhone”).

Should you include a signature below your emails? What information should you include?

Here are some things to think about:

  • Your contact phone number and a link to your website, if appropriate, can be very helpful.
  • Your personal insights or favorite quotations — which are likely not universally shared — may not be appreciated.
  • Graphics/logos are memorable if they are visually pleasing and appropriately sized.
  • Advertising the device from which you are sending (“sent from my iPad”) is just that, an advertisement. If you think that your typos will be excused because your recipient now knows that you are typing from a mobile device, think again.
  • Multiple signatures — one for business and one for personal use, for example — are a good idea, if your email program allows.
  • If you don’t want your signature in a particular email, you can delete it.
  • Some signatures are treated as attachments; recipients might think you attached something they cannot find.
  • If your email address is ever “hijacked” (spoofed), the absence of your ever-present signature will confirm that the email was not really from you.

If you do not know how to set up a signature for your particular email program, you can do a web search for the name of your email program (bellsouth, gmail, aol, comcast, etc.) and “set up email signature.” Each email program differs slightly.

You can also create a signature in your smartphone and tablet, although in some devices signatures are limited to text only, unless you purchase a third-party ap that allows you to include a graphic or multiple signatures.

To decide what to include in your signature, think about the signatures that you have received and how you wish to present yourself.

Emailing Pictures

I am often asked how many pictures (or documents) can be attached to a single email. The answer: it’s not how many, it’s how big.

Each email service provider limits the size of any one email you can send (typically 25 megabytes); the smaller the pictures, the more of them you can attach to a single email.

Pictures generally range in size from small (150 kilobytes) to large (1 megabyte, or 1024 kilobytes). Thus, you can attach up to roughly 15 large images — or many more smaller images — to any one email. (In addition to attachments, the overall size limit of the email includes the room taken up by text, formatting and signatures).

How do I know what size my pictures are and whether I’ve reached the limit?

In most email programs, the size of the file is displayed when you attach a picture; as you attach more pictures, each file size — or the cumulative file size — is noted.

Can I change the size once I determine what it is?

Yes. If you wish to reduce the size of an image, you can detach it from the email and open it in a photo editing program. Or, if your email program allows, you can change the size of the attachment within the email itself. Some mobile devices will ask you if you wish to send the attachment as a “small,” “medium,” or “large” file size.

Note that image size is not just the dimensions, it is also the number of “dots per inch” (dpi). Reducing the size of an image does not necessarily mean cropping out some of the content (although that will certainly reduce the file size), it means changing the overall proportions of the image in conjunction with reducing the number of dpi.

Shouldn’t I just always send the smallest size so I can attach more pictures and reduce the upload and download times?

No. There are reasons to send large images and reasons to send smaller ones. Determine which to send by how you think the recipient will use the image(s).

If you send your friends a few pictures from your vacation or you send your insurance agent some pictures of the dent in your car, you need only send small images; the recipients are likely to only view the images on their computer screens. If however, you are sending a picture that might be printed in a book, a program, or a brochure, for example, you should send a larger image. Print images need to be about 300 dpi to be really crisp, compared to screen images that need only be 72dpi.

Of course if you find yourself up against the file size limit of a email, just send more emails, each with fewer attachments.

When was this Picture Taken?

If you haven’t already, you should set the date in your digital camera to the correct date.

¬†“How would I do this?”
“Why would I do this?”
“When would I do this?”

The “How?” depends on your specific¬†camera so you’ll have to consult the manual, look it up online, or ask one of your kids.

The “Why?” is the reason to bother at all.

When you take a picture, your camera records more than the subject; it records raw data about the image: resolution, file size, focal length, aperture, shutter speed, and the date you took the picture.

Perhaps you won’t need any of this information. But, when you upload these pictures to your computer using iPhoto, Picasa, Windows Live Photo Gallery, or your camera’s software, your pictures will be sorted into folders labeled by the date taken. If the date in the camera is incorrect, all your summer vacation pictures, for example, might be filed with a December date. This can be confusing.

Even more confusing would be uploading pictures from a different camera and/or from your phone, which does have the correct date. These pictures will be out of sequence with the ones from your camera. If your family pictures from Thanksgiving 2012 are listed in your computer before the pictures from Thanksgiving 2010, you’ll know why.

Setting the correct date in the camera, however, is not the same as setting the camera to display the date stamp. A date stamp is the date imprinted on the corner of the image itself. This print is often larger and brighter than you might wish and could be a distraction from the image itself.

If you do choose the date stamp option, make extra sure that you set the correct date in the camera.

Fortunately, if you already have photos in your computer with the wrong date, you can correct them. And, if you already have photos with date stamps on them, you can “Photoshop” them off.

The “When” to set the correct date is before you take your next picture and every time you change the camera’s batteries.

Lock your Devices!

Laptops, tablets, and smartphones can be passcode protected (locked electronically) to secure your information and to act as a theft deterrent.

If you lose your portable device (or it is stolen), you would feel really terrible, but not as terrible as you’d feel if the person who found/stole it had access to all of your information.

Lock your device.

If you travel with a portable device and, for example, a hotel housekeeper thinks about lifting it, he/she might first turn it on to see if it is passcode protected. If it is, it is much less desirable and perhaps not worth stealing at all.

Lock your device — despite a few downsides:

  1. You have to unlock it every time you use it. This can be annoying at first, but will become routine quickly.
  2. No one else can use your device. Share your passcode with those you choose.
  3. You have to remember the passcode. There is no easy way to be reminded of it or to reset it.

Lock your device … anyway.

(Note: Smartphones allow you to answer an incoming call and call “911” without unlocking. Newer smartphones also allow you to take a picture without unlocking).

To lock your device:

  • Locate the area that controls the passcode lock features. (It is different in each device but tap “Settings” and look for “General” or “Security.”)
  • Enter a passcode. (It’s usually a 4-digit number; you might have to enter it twice.)
  • Set the amount of time that you want the inactive device to wait before the lock engages (sometimes called “Autolock”)
  • Turn off your device.
  • Turn it back on to verify that you need to enter your passcode before you can access your information.

If you think the benefits outweigh the downsides, passcode-protect your portable devices … and store your passcode reminder anywhere but in the device itself!