Automatically Inserted Signatures — Reinvented

Update 12/2011: The manual has a short updated chapter on this subject.

The latest version of MailMate is the first one to support automatically inserted signatures. This includes configurable top/bottom placement of signatueres. In the following, I will describe how it works in MailMate which is not how it works in most email clients.

Automatically inserted signatures is one of those features which sounds really nice on paper, but rarely works well in practice. I never continued to use this feature in other email clients and the main reason was that I most often replaced the inserted signature with something else. One problem was that my default signature was a relatively long signature which was appropriate for a new email or a first reply. In practice, most of my emails were to people I knew very well where I did not want to include an impersonal signature, but I did not even use the same signature for all of these people. In the end, it was easier to have no signature inserted and then use a text expander instead.

How it usually works

In many email clients, a selection of signatures can be configured. For example, Thunderbird supports a single signature for each identity/account and Apple Mail supports multiple signatures for each account. A signature is inserted into new emails and it may then be possible to manually select a different signature (Apple Mail). The placement of the signature (top or bottom) is a separate preference option.

How it works in MailMate

MailMate takes a different approach to the problem. The choice of default signature is based on the main recipient of the email rather than the account/identity used. MailMate simply looks for the most recent email to the same recipient and reuses the choice of signature. The same is done for the choice of top or bottom posting. Changing these choices will then affect any future emails to the same recipient since the email will become the new most recent email. If no previous email exists (with a choice of signature) to the recipient then MailMate falls back to choosing the most often used signature sent using the same identity.

Custom stylesheet

Example: After using this system for a while, I’ll be able to have my preferred signature and signature placement chosen by default in all of the following cases (using a single identity) as long as older messages to the same recipients exist:

  • An email to a family member has a short, personal signature, and uses bottom posting.
  • An email to a business relation has a formal signature and uses top posting for those who insist on such usage.
  • An email to the MailMate bug-tracker has no signature and uses top posting.
  • An email to a recipient of Danish origin (and therefore written in Danish) has a signature in Danish.

The list could be much longer and it does not involve any configuration other than explicitly selecting a signature and top/bottom placement for any emails where the default choices are not desired.

Auto-learning features as the above can be difficult to implement such that it works as expected for all users. Therefore, feedback is very welcome on the subject of improving the choice of default signature.

Note that MailMate does handle the following caveat: If you change one of your existing signatures, for example by updating a phone number, then this will work as expected even when the signature is used in a new email where previous emails to the same recipient uses a signature with the old phone number.

12 comments.

  1. This is a feature I’ve been missing in mail clients for the Mac since I switched in 2003. On Windows I used to use The Bat, which, I believe, managed signatures in this way too. Perhaps they were your inspiration ;)

    I also like that MailMate lets you determine bottom- or top-posting depending on the recipient. My “less email-savvy” recipients tend to top-reply while the more “geeky” people usually bottom-reply. Setting this depending on the recipient prevents a discussion that goes through several back-and-forths to get all messed up.

    In any case, this way of handling signatures is far superior to any other approach I’ve seen so far. Why hardly anyone implements it in this way is a mystery to me.

    I wish you the best with MailMate and look forward to the 1.0. I’ll be adding MM to dashkards.com, my cheat sheet site :)

  2. Thanks for your comments. I have actually never seen or tried The Bat. The signatures feature is simply based on how such a feature would be useful for myself :)

  3. [...] Dynamic signatures, meaning different signatures are automatically chose and inserted based on your previous usage. (More on this.) [...]

  4. Is it possible to insert a graphic in a signature, as a company logo?

  5. @Alex: No, the composer in MailMate is plain text only and that includes the signature. An image (like a company logo) would either require HTML or so-called inlined images, but inlined images would not allow text to the right (or left) of the image, so that is not a general solution. HTML could be placed in a separate body part which would work in theory, but it would probably not work well in practice – at least not when top-posting (writing a reply in the top of a message).

    The next update of MailMate provides a way to reference a server-hosted image within a plain text message which would then be shown inlined in an automatically generated HTML body part. That is the best I can offer you for now. Write an email if you would like to try a beta.

  6. Hello Benny, just started using MailMate and so far am very impressed. I would like to know more about referencing the server hosted image that you referred to in your reply to Alex in December 2011 – shown below. We would like to use our company logo in our signature, which we have been doing in Postbox. We are looking at changing client as we have had some issues with Postbox crashing on sending messages with large attachments.

    The next update of MailMate provides a way to reference a server-hosted image within a plain text message which would then be shown inlined in an automatically generated HTML body part. That is the best I can offer you for now. Write an email if you would like to try a beta.

  7. @Allan: I was referring to the Markdown support now available in MailMate. I’ll write you an email about how it works.

  8. I second the ability to insert an image/logo in the signature. If you have any information about how to do that, please let me know

  9. Just trying out your email client – at first sight it looks great But I do need to have capabilities to have graphics (company logo) in one email signature so I’d like to ask if that support for server hosted image is close?

  10. @Geoff: It is still only possible if using Markdown (plain text syntax). If that is sufficient then it’s possible now. I cannot make any promises about the time frame of any other solutions. (But I’m aware that this is a very frequent problem for users.)

  11. Is it possible to insert an html email signature now?

    I have one with text to the left and an image to the right. I there a support article that would help me, with instructions on how to do so?

    Thanks

  12. @John: Yes, HTML signatures are possible now with and without the use of Markdown. You simple define an HTML alternative for any existing plain text signature and MailMate automatically generates an HTML body part with the HTML signature inserted (while still using the plain text variant in the plain text body part). There is also a bit about it in the manual.

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