Type into a template, output an html table (for newsletter)? Help!
January 29, 2015 4:33 PM   Subscribe

Hi everyone. I am responsible for sending out an email newsletter. Beyond plain text and PDFs, it has proven fiendishly difficult to come up with relatively simple formatting that is going to look the same to every recipient. I had the idea that I might be able to do it with HTML: Putting each item into one cell of a one-column table. Surely, there must be an easy way to do this?

The email news letter will mostly comprise items like this:

If what are called material purposes were the only end to be served, a [simple] mechanism would be sufficient. But, instead of simplicity -- instead of the principle of parsimony -- we have prodigality of relation and adaptation, and this apparently for the sole purpose of enabling us to see things robed in the splendor of color. Would it not seem that Nature harbored the intention of educating us for other enjoyments than those derivable from meat and drink? www.linkgoeshere.com

So, like I said, I figured I could probably send it out as an html email, with a one-column table, and each of those items in one cell. But what is the best way to do that? Is there some kind of template I could type those items into, then click a button and have it spit out a properly formatted HTML page?

(And actually, once that is done, how do I turn that into an Outlook email message? Would simple copy-and-paste do it?)

Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated!!
posted by Alaska Jack to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Quick question - is something like Mailchimp an option for you? It makes things really, really easy.
posted by three_red_balloons at 4:46 PM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

This is really just a search & replace problem. If you have access to a text editor with GREP (such as text wrangler), you can type this all into a spreadsheet set up with "headline" "blurb" and "URL" columns, save it as tab-separated values, open it in your text editor, and then use a pattern like this on it:


-----\r<h2>\1</h2>\r<p>\2 <a href="\3">\3</a></p>\r

You will need to change it if you have more than 3 columns.
posted by adamrice at 5:01 PM on January 29, 2015

If it's text only, how about something simple like Tiny Letter?
posted by biscuits at 5:07 PM on January 29, 2015

Yeah, don't do this with tables. It's probably going to look terrible on mobile and OK on bigger screens at best.

Use one of the themes on a site like Mail Chimp. You will get banned from Mail Chimp if you spam people though. They, and other legit services, like Constant Contact, take this pretty seriously.
posted by paulcole at 6:05 PM on January 29, 2015

Who are you sending this newsletter to? If it's people who agreed to be emailed by you, sign up for MailChimp. It's super easy to use and the templates are great.
posted by radioamy at 6:21 PM on January 29, 2015

HTML isn't going to look the same to every recipient - it depends what they are reading it on.

If you're using Outlook, you can almost certainly find a template for a newsletter online. Still, not going to look the same for everyone. A .pdf document is probably your simplest way to get more or less the same formatting for everyone, particularly if you stick to basic formatting and embed any fonts you use.

I don't know much about Mail Chimp but have heard good things about it. A dedicated application will give you lots of other functionality around managing mailing lists and tracking who reads the newsletter etc.
posted by dg at 2:22 AM on January 30, 2015

You might want to reconsider your goal if possible. It would be much better to focus on getting everyone an email that is readable and looks good than trying to get everyone's email to look precisely the same.

As for getting the HTML into Outlook (which I'm guess is for sending), you could try this. But if possible I would recommend that you consider using a sending service such as TinyLetter. Since you're currently sending from Outlook you probably have a fairly small list and TinyLetter would then be free and also have a layout/editing tool. Although they do paste on a little footer at the bottom of your email.

If you are determined to do the sending yourself then read on:
HTML & email is tricky because different mail clients & webmail clients have widely different capabilities. Despite some comments above, tables (with CSS) are the de-facto way you layout HTML email newsletters.

Are you somewhat comfortable with HTML? A somewhat popular basic template is Zurb Ink. Some of the email sending services have their own email templates as well, such as Mailchimp's email blueprints or CampaignMonitor's email templates.
posted by bjrn at 4:02 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

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