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Outlook — creating OFT files for email newsletters

OFT files are Outlook Templates, also sometimes called Outlook File Templates. You can make email templates from them, but as with most Microsoft products the quality can be quite flaky if you are not careful. I have had to create many OFT files for clients and if you go back in time and code to 1996 web standards you can get them to look pretty decent.

UPDATE: Using Outlook 2010? Check out my updated article.

There’s too ways to create OFT files. One is to save the email from the Save As menu and select OFT under the Save as type: drop down. This means you already have the email in your inbox, which means mailing the html with a 3rd party program.

There’s an easier way to do this which will allow you to skip the step of sending yourself the email. The OFT process could even be handed off to the business people that need the OFT.

Top menu go to,

View / Toolbars / Web.

You should now have an input field at the top that says something like outlook:Inbox

Here you can type / paste any web address and it will load the page in Outlook. Once this is done, in the menu go to,

Actions / Send Web Page by E-mail

Now you will see the page in a new mail window. If the webpage was not to complex and created using tables, it should look okay. Pure css and more complex designs will not work at all and really shouldn’t even be considered for any email deployments. I’m a strong supporter of web standards, unfortunately some major email platforms are not.

The next step is to save the email as an OFT. Go to,

Giant windows bubble (AKA Office Button) / Save As

Select OFT, name the file and save.

You should now have an OFT file. You can test this by double clicking it which will open Outlook. You can now edit the text and send to other people. OFT files can be a cheap internal alternative to full blown email deployments. I would only recommend OFT files for small internal newsletters. OFT’s may not work properly on other email clients and are proprietary.

45 Comments to “Outlook — creating OFT files for email newsletters”

  • Brian

    Every time I learn how easy it is to do things like this, I get so mad that it takes my marketing dept so long to do something so simple.

    thanks for this

  • Alek Vuckovic

    Dont know if you can help, but i have set up.oft templates on various workstations and on one machine in particular instead of loading the template into an e mail message window it actually attaches to the message instead as an attachment. cant seem to find out why. Any ideas would be much appreciated

    alek vuckovic

  • Ian Hoar

    Hi Alek, that’s odd, if it has an oft extension just double clicking it should automatically load it into the client. Was the oft file made in the same version of Outlook that it’s being used with. Outlook 2007 uses word as it’s render engine. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

  • Mishka

    Hi Brian,
    As an employee of a marketing department and a graphic designer, I will say that Microsoft programs are not on our big list of things to design for. In fact, designing in microsoft is extremely frustrating for us creative folk. Give us a break eh – we have to learn how to use the limiting software before we can create wonderful things.

    • TK

      As a fellow web developer I must agree. Using Microsoft products and designing for Microsoft Products (case in point Internet Explorer!) is a complete headache.

      I wish Microsoft would get off their high horse and join the rest of the web community in being standards compliant!

  • Ian Hoar

    I think MS damages their reputation more by trying so hard to get people to use their proprietary specs. The Internet is open and massive, and it always will be. They are never going to own the Internet space like they once did the desktop market space.

  • Peter

    Alex,
    Have you checked on your machine to see that the default mail format is HTML and not plain text? That might explain why your OFT file loads as an attachment instead.

  • Mona

    I’ve attempted to use outlook express with your above instructions, but no luck. Is it possible to create an OFT from HTML with Outlook Express?

  • Ian Hoar

    Hi Mona, these directions are specific for Outlook, not Outlook express. There is a way however to turn on an HTML view in Outlook Express and then you can paste your HTML directly into Outlook Express. I used this method years ago and cannot remember the exact steps. If you are sending HTML directly you may want to try something like MaxBulk Mailer. I use this at work for testing all our email campaigns.

    If you are set on using Outlook Express try searching Outlook Express HTML view. Hope this helps.

    • Mona

      Ian,
      I am attempting to insert a PDF with a link into the file and save out as an OFT. But in the save process, I am losing the link. Is there a way to re apply this link to the inserted PDF image or to maintain the link in the OFT file.
      Thanks! Mona

      • Ian Hoar

        If you are trying to embed that PDF right into the OFT I don’t think you can. You can host the PDF on a website and then link to it that way. A link can also be added within the OFT while editing it.

  • Mike

    This was a great help, but now client wants images embedded. Can embed normal images by clicking on them and re linking. But can’t select background image to do this. Tried a couple experiments, but none of them work. Any idea how to do this?

  • Ian Hoar

    Hi Mike, I don’t think you can do this in outlook, especially outlook 2007 and up since it uses MS word as its HTML rendering engine. This means no background images even declared in CSS or HTML.

    I also wouldn’t recommend embedding anyway since you may not have predictable rendering in all email clients. If Outlook is your only concern then this may not be an issue though.

  • Mike

    Thanks for the reply! I completely agree with not embedding images, and tried to talk the client into it. Well, I’m subcontracted for this, so I’m even more removed unfortunately. I’m going to say no background images in the design if they want them embedded. Thanks again!

  • Frustrated Mary

    I first created an HTML for my newsletter…it contains simple anchor links…so the reader can go back up to the top of the page…etc. Some reason Outlook converts the anchor links into full path to the webserver I placed the HTML into…so it launches a browser page when I save it out as an OFT file. Is there any coding tricks or Outlook setting I should set so that it won’t take my anchor links and convert them?????!!!!

    Thanks!

  • Ian Hoar

    Hi Mary, I’m not sure why it’s converting them, I’m not sure why Outlook does half the things it does, but anchor jump links have always been a little flaky with email. I usually recommend against them as I have seen them do weird things in some web mail clients too. If you really must have them then it might be a good opportunity to jump the users to the landing page equivalent. Once you have your users on a web page you obviously have much more flexibility.

  • Anne Marie

    Hi, Ian. Thanks for your site. I’m unable to save an email as an .oft file. I’m trying to create a template for an “out of office” reply to be generated automatically. I have Outlook 2003. Is this version too old to be able to do this?

  • Ian Hoar

    Hi Anne, I’m pretty sure you can do an OFT with Outlook 2003, but I haven’t played with Outlook for awhile, so I’m not sure how you do it, but I believe it’s very similar.

  • Anne Marie

    You responded pretty quickly, which I really appreciate, but I actually continued to do some research on this issue after I left the message on your blog and I found the answer, and it worked!

    Link: file:///C:/Users/Act%20and%20Office/Documents/Create%20email%20Template/HA010917681033.aspx.htm

    Even though that link tells you how to make email templates for sales letters, I was able to follow the directions to make an “out of office” template.

    Thanks!

  • Ian Hoar

    Glad you figured it out. Microsoft software can be a beast sometimes. 🙂

  • Jay

    I created a html page.. which I then inserted into a new message and then saved it as a OFT..

    How can I set it up so I can use the template whenever I want?

  • Osama

    i can’t find outlook templates in save as type ????????? in outlook 2003

  • Ian Hoar

    Osama, should be the same as 2007, but maybe it’s under export or something. I don’t have a copy of 2003 so I can’t check, but I do know 2003 has OFT support.

  • Aaron

    Hi Ian, I’m making a corporate template for our company.. I tried your method but when i send it, the images doesn’t show on other computers/workstations even on other other mail clients, but on my end, it’s pretty fine..

    Hope you can help me with this.

  • Ian Hoar

    Hi Aaron,

    Unfortunately OFT files are designed for Outlook. If you need your email to work in all clients then you are going to need to make a regular email newsletter. Basically stick to tables for email newsletters, and link everything with absolute paths to your server. There are some other newsletter tips on this site. You can find them here.

    http://www.ianhoar.com/email-newsletter-tips/

    Hope this helps.

  • Jamie

    I’ve created a template but I now need to make changes to it. How do I save the changes?

  • Ian Hoar

    Hi Jamie, you should just be able to open the OFT and edit it and then save. It’s probably safer to edit the original html though and re-create the OFT again.

  • kserra

    Hi Jamie,
    I can’t seem to figure out how to do this with Outlook 2010. What am I missing?

    Thank you,
    k

  • Dom

    Hi Ian,

    Would you be able to update this for Outlook 2010? Seems trickier…

  • Iulian Daniel

    Hello,

    I am searching the answer for this problem since last year.
    Can anyone tell me how to use mailto protocol in order to send the mail directly from my Custom Template. I am sending A LOT of E-mails to very different employers, and i just want , when I click there e-mail link, to open a new message with my cover letter, atachments allready made, subject, and address writen. Please don’t suggest to make a list of addreses because I never know what address is next. So , in short, do I have to modify the new message form?
    Or what other solution exists.

    Thank you .
    Excuse my english.

    • Ian Hoar

      Hi Iulian,

      Are you saying you want to click their email address? I don’t see how this could be done unless you wrote a custom macro for office. I don’t have experience with MS macros, but you might want to target your search in that direction.

  • Iulian Daniel

    I am using 2010 Outlook.

  • Suren

    Hello,

    I use Microsoft Office outlook 2007. Is there any way that I can create spreadsheet/document hyperlinks on toolbar.

    Thanks
    Suren

  • Erin

    Hi Ian,

    Thanks for this, I was looking for a way to convert to OFT and found a whole bunch of macro based routes but I’m useless with macros at the best of times.. your tut does the job in the simplest possible fashion, thanks! Now the only problem is ironing out some of the display issues it creates after sending… can’t help but blame the software as the HTML variants work perfectly when sent as tests via campaign monitor.

    Cheers 🙂

    • Ian Hoar

      Hi Erin,

      I’m glad the tutorial helped. As to the program crashing it could be a number of issues. Do other HTML pages make Outlook crash? If so it could be something wrong with your install. If not the way I usually troubleshoot bugs like this is by eliminating one chunk of code at a time and then re-testing. Repeat the process until you can find the culprit.

      I also have another tutorial for Outlook 2010 which uses Internet Explorer to send the webpage to Outlook. You could try using that method with Outlook 2007.

      http://www.ianhoar.com/2011/02/06/creating-oft-templates-for-outlook-2010/

  • Michele ODell

    I have an oft created in Office 2007 with images in it. The image paths are fully qualifed as http://www.ch2m.com/enewsimages/chtwitter/header-bullet.gif.

    When I open the oft, make text changes and send it as an email, the image links are all broken. When I look at the source behind the sent email, it took the image path and stuck it in the alt path. What’s up with that?

  • Harsh Parekh

    Hi Ian,

    I have migrated from outlook 2003 to 2010. I had bunch of templates created in outlook 2003 with particular format. When migrated the templates in outlook 2010 does not seem to have preserved their format. Any suggestion? I tried overwriting them in 2010 but no luck.

  • Deanne

    Hi, I have created many templates in Outlook 2003. Now that our company is upgrading to 2007, many people that are opening, receiving and forwarding them are experiencing formating issues where the fonts are all whacked out. Any resolutions or explanations for this? Anywhere to point me to to research further would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks

  • Shantibhushan

    Hi,

    I am using Outlook Express and I want to convert HTML to oft format for it, can anyone guide me how to convert it for outlook express.

    Thanks,
    Shantibhushan

  • Joe

    By the way, if you’re using a website to link a .oft file, it will not work if the target .oft file is a shortcut. We just figured this out while linking to e-mail templates for our colleagues on our internal helpdesk website. We had to copy and paste the target of that shortcut into the same folder and have the HTML hyperlink target that original, non-shortcut file. Just in case you’re browsing for an answer to that 😉

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