How do I create documents for emailing to my constituents?

How do I create documents for emailing to my constituents?

Some of this material is also covered in How-to videos.

Email Format
The body of an email message can be formatted as a plain text document, a picture, or an HTML page. Sumac supports all these formats.

Plain text documents can be created using any text editor, or created with a word processor then saved as a text-only document. Few people send plain text emails because the appearance is rather boring: no pictures, colours, styles, fonts.

Sending a picture as the body of an email can be quite effective. For example, you may send a flyer or poster that announces an upcoming event. The problem with this is that sending a picture is a common spamming technique, so many spam filters block emails whose body content is a picture.

Therefore it’s better to sent bulk email as HTML pages. HTML is a standard way of formatting data so that email programs and web browsers can display the data. In fact, a web site consists of many HTML pages linked together.

Creating An HTML Page
You create an HTML page much like you create a word processing document. Only instead of using a word processor like Word or OpenOffice, you need a program that edits HTML pages.

You may be tempted to use Microsoft Word to create a page, then save it as HTML. Don’t do this. It won’t work. The HTML produced by Microsoft products is non-standard; it only works with a few email client programs, so many of the recipients of your email will not be able to read it properly.

Get An HTML Editor
If you already have a favourite HTML editor, perhaps for maintaining your web site, you can use it. If not, we recommend SeaMonkey (for Linux, Macintosh and Windows), a good HTML editor that produces standard HTML that can be displayed correctly by virtually all email programs. Click here to download SeaMonkey.

Then you need to install it. SeaMonkey is an integrated web program: it does browsing, email, address book, chat, and HTML page composition. You probably do not need to use it for anything except page composition. To eliminate all but the page composition functionality, when you first run SeaMonkey, choose Edit/Preferences, click Appearance, then click to turn off all but the Composer, then click OK to save the preferences. Quit and start again, and you will have an empty HTML page to edit.

Use The HTML Editor
Entering text into your document is much like putting text into a word processing document. Type the text, select and change its appearance.

Pictures are done differently. While it is possible to embed pictures into an HTML page, this is usually a bad idea because it delays email download time, and also runs into trouble with spam checkers. Instead, you put the image (e.g. a jpg or gif file) on your web site, in a folder that is not generally viewed by web browsers. Then you choose Insert/Image to insert a link from your HTML page to the image.

For example if your web site is www.charity.org, and you put the images in a folder on your web server that is named newsletterImages, and the particular image file is named logo.jpg, then you would specify this example link to cause your page to show the specified image:


Putting Pictures On Your Website
Website content, like pictures, is usually put on a website by transferring files from your computer to the website server. This is typically done using FTP: file transfer protocol.

To manage files on your website using FTP, you need to install a special FTP program. We recommend Filezilla client, which you can get here.
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