Pin Me

Composing HTML Emails on Thunderbird

written by: S Wood•edited by: Amber Neely•updated: 9/16/2010

HTML e-mail is here to stay, although it has drawbacks. Find out what HTML e-mail is, its benefits and disadvantages, the benefits of Thunderbird as a desktop e-mail client, the advantages of HTML e-mail templates and the four methods to create the HTML codes for e-mail on Thunderbird.

  • slide 1 of 3

    A Primer on HTML E-Mail and Templates and Thunderbird for Creating HTML Codes

    Create the HTML codes for e-mail on Thunderbird in four ways: 1. Start from scratch and type the HTML tags and their attributes in the Insert HTML dialog of that e-mail software. 2. Copy the code, for example, of an HTML e-mail template, and paste the same in the above dialog. 3. Use the WYSIWYG editor of Thunderbird. 4. Use software like Dreamweaver or HTML Editor like Coffee Cup. Here is some intro first.

    What is HTML E-mail?

    An HTML e-mail message is a web page, which can have elements that include text, photos, clipart, tables, charts and animation. Polls and surveys are also part of some HTML e-mail. You can also embed audio and video links in such messages. In essence, use HTML e-mail to compose messages that are rich in visuals and or have interactivity. Here is a sample HTML e-mail:newsletter  When you create an HTML e-mail in Thunderbird through its WYSIWYG feature, it in the background creates the HTML code. What happens when the recipient opens your HTML e-mail? The desktop or web-based e-mail client the recipient uses will process the HTML codes in the background and displays the content.

    At what speed does the software open an HTML e-mail? You have to wait usually for only a few seconds to view the mail. How fast the content appears on screen depends on how graphic intensive is the mail and the type of connection you use for internet access.

    Advantages and Disadvantages of HTML E-mail

    If you wish to send e-mail messages with rich visuals and links to video and audio, then HTML e-mail is the answer. Such messages have the potential to draw and sustain the interest of the readers. Whether you want to inform or persuade to buy your products and services, HTML e-mail is a powerful tool you can leverage to accomplish your goals. A well-designed HTML e-mail can engage the user with the message through targeted content and interactivity features like links, newsletter archives, surveys and others.

    HTML e-mail messages file size can be large because of the size and number of images it may contain. The time, therefore, to download graphic-intensive message will be more relative to text-only mail. Today, many users have broadband access to the internet, so speed is not a barrier. Yet, bandwidth- and security-sensitive companies and individuals and dial-up users would dislike HTML e-mail.

    A challenge that you’ve to deal in your HTML e-mail campaign is compatibility. What looks perfect on your e-mail client may not be the case with one or more of other desktop and web-based e-mail software. For example, images may not appear on some e-mail software. Why? The reasons include that graphics may be not be linked properly or the web-based e-mail service may have blocked the images for security reasons.

    How do you overcome compatibility issues? Follow the mantra, “test, test early, and test often" to the core. Overcome the HTML e-mail roadblocks through strategies like letting the user to opt for text or HTML mail, using text and colors creatively for the newsletter masthead instead of images, giving the option to view the newsletter on your website and using a third-party e-mail testing service.

    Advantages of Thunderbird as a Desktop E-mail Client

    Here are some of the benefits of this versatile e-mail software:

    Thunderbird is a free, full-fledged open source e-mail software available for the three main operating systems Windows, Linux and Mac. Use Thunderbird to operate your multiple e-mail accounts effortlessly. This desktop e-mail client’s adaptive junk mail control stops spam mail in their tracks. Thunderbird can also fight phishing attempts: It alerts you if a message is a potential e-mail scam.

    Want to setup filters to handle incoming e-mail? Use the powerful Message Filters option of this smart e-mail client to establish one or more filters. These help you better organize and manage your messages.

    The signature feature of Thunderbird is versatile. Add an image, HTML elements, or even an HTML file to your signature.

    HTML E-mail Templates vs. Thunderbird HTML Editor

    Why re-invent the wheel when you can use free, HTML e-mail templates? In a template you’ve to just remove some of its elements or tweak its code to derive an HTML e-mail layout that meets your needs. Just plug-in your images, links and text, and you’re all set.

    If you try to write the HTML code from scratch in the Thunderbird HTML editor, you’ll find it to be primitive. You have to type each and every HTML tag, as that editor doesn’t have, among others, the feature to insert markups and their attributes.

    Two of the excellent resources for free HTML e-mail templates are Campaign Monitor and MailChimp. A salient feature of the templates available from those two sites is that the templates are tested on a number of e-mail clients.

  • slide 2 of 3
    You have four ways to create the HTML codes for e-mail on Thunderbird: Create the code direct in Thunderbird, use its WYSIWYG editor and indirectly create the code, copy the code of an HTML template, or use a software like Dreamweaver or an HTML editor like CoffeeCup. Which method you should use depends on your goals and how fast you need to create the HTML e-mail.
  • slide 3 of 3

    Four Methods to Create HTML Codes for E-Mail on Thunderbird

    How to Compose HTML E-mail for Use in Thunderbird?

    1. Create HTML e-mail in Thunderbird: A way to create an HTML e-mail is to directly compose your message in Thunderbird with its WYSIWYG editor. Type the text and or click the image button to insert a link, an anchor, an image, a table or horizontal line. Thunderbird automatically creates the HTML codes for those elements.

    How can you see the HTML codes for e-mail on Thunderbird? In the message composing window, press Ctrl+A to select the entire message. Next, click Insert HTML. The Insert HTML dialog appears. In it you can see the HTML code. If you wish you can tweak the code to customize the look and function of your HTML e-mail.

    Here’s the HTML code for the above sample e-mail newsletter:

    html code 

    Add or edit attributes through the Advanced Property Editor. Say you want to change the properties of a cell of a table. Here’s how you go about the task:

    • Double-click the cell. The Table Properties dialog with the Cell tab selected appears.
    • Click Advanced Edit. The Advanced Property Editor dialog displays.
    • Click an attribute to edit it or enter a new attribute and its value in their respective fields
    • Click OK

    2. Use the Insert HTML dialog: Type the HTML code in the dialog. This method is cumbersome and error-prone.

    3. Use an HTML e-mail template: If you have such a template or use a third-party template, copy its HTML code and paste it in the Insert HTML dialog.

    How to copy the HTML code from the template? Here are the steps:

    • Open the template, which is an HTML file, in your browser
    • Click View > Page Source. The HTML code displays in a separate window.
    • Press Ctrl+A to select all the code
    • Press Ctrl+C to copy the code
    • Paste the code in The Insert HTML dialog of Thunderbird
    • Click Insert

    Voila, your HTML e-mail is ready and appears in the composition window!

    4. Create HTML e-mail with other software / HTML editor: Use web design software like Dreamweaver or FrontPage or use an HTML editor like Komodo Edit or CoffeeCup, create the template, copy the code and paste it in the Thunderbird Insert HTML dialog.

    Test your HTML E-mail before you Hit the Send Button

    The WYSIWYG editor of Thunderbird or a HTML editor makes it easier for you to create the HTML codes for e-mail on Thunderbird. When you view the message in that e-mail application everything may look pretty and would function the way you want. So, should you click the Send button? No! From Outlook to Eudora, Yahoo! to Google Mail, there are over 15 web-based and desktop e-mail clients. And, not to forget the e-mail software for cell phones.

    Will your HTML e-mail look the same on all e-mail clients? It most likely will not. Run the tweak-test-tweak routine until you find an acceptable solution.

    You’ve to test on most, if not all, of the e-mail clients, based on your target audience and goals, for visual and functional consistency. Then, you’ve to worry about how your message looks and behaves with the same web-based e-mail service on different browsers. For example, you’ve to test your HTML e-mail on Yahoo! Mail in IE, Firefox, Opera and others.

    As though the above aren’t enough pain, you should also work on clearing a potential trap for your HTML e-mail: the Junk folder of recipient’s e-mail software. Don’t let your hard-worked message land in it. Check if your e-mail has spam traits with a free online service like Site Build It SpamCheck.

    After you’re done with the initial testing phase, fine-tune your e-mail to fix problems. When you have the near final version of the HTML codes for e-mail on Thunderbird, you’re ready to launch full-fledged testing with an e-mail testing service. Campaign Monitor and MailChimp are among the services you can use to test your template.