One of the major pieces of work the OfficeArt team did for Office 2003 was add Tablet PC ink support.  In this post, I'll show you how to create a signature that looks handwritten and stick at the bottom of your emails. Although you'll get best results with a Tablet PC, one isn't necessary to do this.

What you'll need

If you have Office 2003, you probably have everything you need, but here are the specifics:

Generating the ink

For those like me who aren't fortunate enough to own a Tablet PC, here's a secret. For backwards-compatibility, PowerPoint 2003 lets you generate Tablet PC ink even without a Tablet.  It's not as pretty as ink generated on a Tablet because the computer can't capture the pressure information that a pen would generate, but it's close enough.

Here's how to do it.

  1. Launch PowerPoint 2003.
  2. Hit the F5 key to enter slideshow.
  3. Move the cursor around or hit Ctrl-A until you see the four icons in the lower -left corner.
  4. Click the icon that look like a pen. Select a pen type and your favorite color.
  5. Sign your name anywhere on the slide using your mouse.  Or, if you have a Tablet (lucky duck), use your pen to sign your name.
  6. Exit out of slideshow by hitting Esc. PowerPoint will ask if you want to keep the ink you just drew. Of course you want to keep it!
  7. Unless you naturally write really small, while you're here, you should resize the image so it's at a good email size.  You can also change the ink's line thickness and color. Just double-click the ink to see and change all these options.
  8. When you're done fiddling, select the ink and Copy it to the clipboard.
  9. Go to the Edit menu and choose Paste Special. Select Picture (GIF) and hit Ok. This is necessary to convert the ink into a GIF so that it shows up in ok in most email readers.
  10. Finally, Copy the picture that you just pasted.

Set your signature

  1. Launch Word 2003.
  2. Go to:
    • Tools | Options
    • General tab
    • Click the Email Options button
    • E-mail Signature tab
  3. Give your signature a name by typing in some text in the top textbox.
  4. Paste in the ink you created earlier by hitting Ctrl-V.
  5. Clicking the Add button to add this signature. Select it as your Signature for new message.
  6. Ok out of the dialogs and exit Word.

Use it

Finally, fire up Outlook and start a new message. The signature you created should show up.


Uh, I could have done that with Paint, Wayne

This might have been overkill for this task, but ink in general has a few advantages over just using Paint:
  1. With a Tablet PC, the pen records pressure information that makes the ink look more realistic than anything you can draw with a mouse.
  2. Since the ink is recorded as an OfficeArt shape, you can change the ink's color and thickness without too much hassle.

Many steps, but hopefully it was worth it.