Depending on what email program you use, putting an image into the body of an email can be easy, difficult, or nearly impossible.
- Outlook Express: while composing a message, click on the Format menu item, and then click on Rich Text
- Thunderbird: if your default format is plain text, hold down the Shift key when clicking on Write to compose a new message in Rich Text.
- Windows Live Hotmail: the default appears to be rich text.
- Yahoo Mail: To the right of the subject line is a link that says Rich Text or Plain Text which is the mode to switch to. Thus if it says Plain Text, you are composing in Rich Text.
- GMail: just above the message body is a link that says Rich Formatting if you want to switch to Rich Text.
As you can see, each is just a little different, and other mail programs may well be even more different.
One thing that most will include when you are composing in Rich Format is a toolbar similar to this one: This toolbar allows you to control the formatting of your rich text email, setting things like bold, italics, font sizes, links and the like. Some toolbars will actually include an icon specifically for inserting a picture: Click on that and you’ll be asked for the location of the picture to be inserted into your email. Indicate the image, perhaps specify a caption, and you’re done: the image is placed into the body of the message you’re composing. Unfortunately, most web based email services don’t seem to support putting images directly into your email. In fact, as I researched the toolbars above I found that neither Hotmail, Yahoo mail or GMail will officially allow you to place an image in the body of your email. The only supported way to send an image using these services is as an attachment.
Another approach that works in many email programs is to copy/paste the image into your email. The process works like this:
- Open the image you want to use in an image editor or viewer like Microsoft Paint.
- Use that editor’s Select All function to select the entire image. In many programs, typing CTRL+A will do this.
- Use that editors Edit, Copy command to copy the image to the clipboard or type CTRL+C.
- Switch to your email program, where you are composing a new email. Click in the body of the email and type CTRL+V or use the program’s Edit, Paste function.
- If your email program supports it, the picture should appear in the body of the email.
This approach actually works in most machine-based email programs like Outlook Express, Outlook, Thunderbird and the like. In fact it’s the technique I use most often. I have heard reports that this technique may sometimes work with web-based email services, but I could not get it to work in my experiments.
There’s one last approach that works in a few email programs, but not most, and that is to hand-edit the HTML. If your email program allows you to edit the HTML that is used “behind the scenes” to send rich formatted email, you can:
- Put your image on a photo sharing website
- Pull in that image with some simple HTML in your email.
Here’s an example of some HTML that does exactly that:
Here’s the new <a href=”http://ask-leo.com”>Ask Leo!</a> logo:<br /> <img src=”http://img.askleomedia.com/askleonew.png” />
which, when displayed in an email would look like this:
Here’s the new Ask Leo! logo:
You can see that the “img” tag is referencing a specific image file from another site on the internet. Remember that the image must be publicly visible on the internet. If it’s on a local machine that can’t be seen from anywhere on the internet this will not work.
A couple of important caveats: Realize that even if you are successful, the recipient may still not see the image, or see it where you placed it. Some email programs display embedded images as attachments. Some don’t display them at all until or unless your recipient requests it – and they typically do not. (Because of privacy concerns surrounding viewing remote images, many people are reluctant to turn on image viewing in email unless they’re absolutely certain it’s safe.) Make sure that the image is an appropriate size for the email. Huge images will cause the email to display oddly and slowly. Take the time to resize your images so that they’re appropriate for the context of the email. Consider whether it’s really worth the hassle. As I mentioned before, plain text email, even with attachments, is often preferable for deliverability and other reasons.