Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Guide to the Perfect E-mail Signature - DOs and DON'Ts

Like a lot of business people, I receive hundreds of e-mail messages every day. While I employ a variety of junk mail filtering technologies (a good topic for another blog post), in the end there are still plenty of real e-mails from clients, business partners, friends, and family that I need to address. Also, like most of us these days, I read a high percentage of my e-mail on my smartphone as I travel from place to place, wait for appointments, or just occupy idle time at home. One of the most useful features of e-mail that everyone has but not everyone uses, is the lowly e-mail SIGNATURE.

The e-mail signature is the bunch of stuff that appears below your e-mail message whenever you write or reply to an e-mail. Every e-mail service, software, and mobile app allows you to create an e-mail signature. Search the help in your e-mail system for "signature" and you will find instructions for setting up your own e-mail signature. A GOOD signature helps the recipient to know exactly who is writing to them, and, most importantly, to respond easily to your message. A BAD or, worse yet, MISSING signature makes life more difficult for the recipient - especially if they are reading and responding to your message on a mobile device.

Here are my DOs and DON'Ts for effective e-mail signatures:

E-mail Signature DOs
  • Place your name, e-mail address, web site address, and PHONE NUMBER in your signature. Most e-mail programs make electronic addresses "clickable", and, if you view e-mails on a smartphone, they often make phone numbers click-to-dial as well. This will make it easier for your recipient to respond to your message promptly, wherever they are, through a variety of means.
  • Include ONE company logo graphic that is relatively small. This helps with branding your message, but a small graphic does not add much to the download time for your message - even on a slower Internet connection.
  • Include LINKS to your social media pages - particularly LinkedIn and Twitter for most businesses.
E-mail Signature DON'Ts
  • Do NOT include text at the bottom such as "Sent from my iPhone" or "Sent from my blah blah blah Wireless 4G LTE mobile phone". This tells everybody you don't know how to edit your signature, it advertises the type of phone you have (nobody cares), and it wastes space for no good reason. I have heard some people use the excuse that this helps to excuse typos they might make when sending business e-mails...it doesn't. If you are writing a business e-mail, you should proofread it wherever you are doing the writing - phone, iPad, laptop, wherever. If you have trouble touch-typing on your phone or tablet and are writing a lot of business e-mails, get an external keyboard.
  • Do NOT include social media graphic logos, logos of awards your company won, logos of partner companies, maps to your office, seasonal graphics, etc. Having lots of graphics makes your e-mails harder to read, slower to download on mobile networks, and communicates information that is either (a) useless, or (b) gleaned easily from your web site. This is simply not the place for a bunch of excess graphics.
  • Do NOT use fancy, colorful backgrounds. You may think they look nice, but they make your messages harder to read - especially on mobile devices. Save the pretty graphics for your web site and keep your e-mail communications simple and clear.
  • Do NOT include a bunch of your favorite quotes or other "colorful" stuff; if you must - pick ONE quote to put at the bottom - such as a company slogan, or a reminder of your new location...things like that. Remember that e-mail is about the RECIPIENT and not the sender! So PLEASE don't weigh down your messages with too much information that most recipients won't care about.

So if you follow these tips, you might end up with a signature that looks something like this:


This tip has nothing to do with an e-mail signature, but is more of an e-mail annoyance. ALWAYS include a Subject for your e-mail messages; however, PLEASE do not put your message content in the Subject line for your e-mail instead of the body. Leaving the Subject blank makes it hard to sort and review your e-mail messages, but some people treat this area like it's a text message. For example:

To: Jim Smith
From: Jane Doe
Date: November 25, 2014 14:26:28
Subject: This is an example of putting the content of the message in the subject line instead of the body of the message.

Jane Doe

This is bothersome because for two reasons:

  1. The formatting of the Subject of an e-mail on a mobile device can often make it hard to read the full text of a long subject line. It is much easier to sort and review messages with short, descriptive, but NOT blank subjects.
  2. Phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and web site addresses that e-mail programs make "clickable" in the body of a message are almost always NOT clickable when they are in a Subject line. This makes it harder to respond to and follow up on your e-mail messages (see some of the DOs and DON'Ts above).

I hope that these tips are helpful to you in making your e-mail communication more friendly and useful!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

LogMeIn’s Free Service Discontinued

LogMeIn has been a popular way to get remote access to your systems for more than ten years. Earlier today, they announced that their popular free service will be discontinued and users will have to transition to one of their paid subscription products, or find another free remote access solution (see LogMeIn's Blog for more info).

For those of you unfamiliar with LogMeIn or other similar products, they allow you to install a small program on a computer you would like to access remotely – called a “Host” – and then gain access to it from other computing devices, called “Clients”. For example, you could install LogMeIn on a computer in your office, then access it remotely from Home, your laptop, or even your iPad or smartphone.

LogMeIn used to offer their “Host” service free, for non-commercial use (although many business people used the free software anyway). They also offer a variety of paid service products that historically have targeted technology professionals – products for remote technical support, secure networking between servers, remote updating of systems, and so on. Now, LogMeIn Pro accounts will start at $49 per year for two “Host” computers – a 50% discount off the price paid by current LogMeIn Pro customers. You have just seven days to upgrade to Pro after your next login to LogMeIn Free (see below).

LogMeIn Pro offers several benefits versus the formerly free product, most notably the ability to print on a local printer from a remote computer, support for mobile apps on iOS and Android, and an easy way to transfer files between Hosts and Clients. Even at $49, it’s still a pretty good value.

However, if you feel strongly about using a free solution, there are a number of options I can recommend:

  • TeamViewer – Operates much the way LogMeIn does, and offers support for Windows, Mac, Linux and mobile devices. It also has an “ad hoc” version that makes it easy for you to have a screen sharing session with a friend whenever you want. TeamViewer is free for non-commercial use, but they expect businesses to pay for one of their more advanced products.
  • Chrome Remote Desktop – Through an add-in to Google’s Chrome browser, you can establish on-demand or permanent remote access to a computer. Chrome works with desktop and laptop computers, Chromebooks, and even mobile devices. This option is 100% free and just requires a free Google (Gmail) account to set it up.
  • Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection – Windows systems have had a built-in ability to set up remote access since Windows XP Professional came out more than ten years ago. This is the same “terminal services” technology used for quick, easy server support by IT professionals for many years. It’s free and built into just about every copy of Windows that’s out there. However, this is almost entirely a Windows technology, and for most users, setup generally requires technical assistance.

Whether you stick with LogMeIn or choose a free option, Remote Access software is an invaluable tool for keeping you productive whenever and wherever you like.