The Rewards and Risks of Using Outlook File Templates (.oft)

Do you have the need to send the same e-mail over and over? Microsoft Outlook has a convenient file format called Outlook File Templates (.oft). These are beneficial for sending e-mails that have the same look and feel. Just like a template in Microsoft Word or Microsoft PowerPoint, these files provide a foundation for your document with most of the legwork already completed.

Anyone with a Microsoft Outlook e-mail account can send an e-mail from an .oft file. If you frequently send e-mails with the same layout, links, images, and content, this is a great way to save time. For example, if a salesperson is constantly sending marketing e-mails explaining the benefits of their company’s services, then an .oft might be the best bet. For the most part, the benefits wouldn’t change from e-mail to e-mail, but the salesperson could make minor modifications to personalize the e-mail for the recipient. Depending on our circumstances, using .oft files can be a great time-saver. 

How to use an .oft file

  1. Navigate to the .oft file on your computer
  2. Open up the file
  3. Type in your recipient(s) e-mail address(es)
  4. Add in a subject line, if none is present
  5. Click Send

Another suitable example of using an .oft would be if a sales rep is inviting recipients to an event. The event’s main details wouldn’t change, but the sales rep could make minor modifications on the .oft file such as the updating the RSVP date in the text.

The rewards

  • Saves time—Using a template saves time since composing and editing the e-mail has already been completed.
  • Can prepare an e-mail for someone else to send—An administrative assistant, for example, can compose and save an .oft file for another person to send from his or her e-mail account
  • More personable—Since the e-mail is coming straight from the user’s e-mail account, the from name and from e-mail address is more personal.
  • No technical skills required—As you can see from the simple steps above, anyone that can send an e-mail can use an .oft file.  

However, it is not always the best method for sending marketing e-mails. You should be aware of the limitations with sending e-mails using .oft files.

The risks

  • Difficult to replace images—Images are difficult to replace because they must be the same size, to prevent skewing. Also, if they are not hosted online, they will become an attachment in the e-mail, which will bloat your e-mail size.
  • Difficult to make design changes—Trying to modify content elements, such as paragraphs and bulleted lists, can be difficult because of Microsoft Outlook’s rendering engine.
  • Rendering issues—Because you are deploying your e-mail via Outlook and not through an ESP, there is an increased risk with rendering issues across multiple e-mail clients. Microsoft Outlook adds code in between elements which, at times, is tough for other e-mail clients to understand.
  • The sender must send from Outlook—Microsoft Outlook is the only e-mail client that recognizes .oft files, so the sender must have Outlook to deploy the e-mail.
  • Lack of e-mail stats—When sending through an ESP, you can pull e-mail metrics such as opens and click-through stats. When sending an e-mail through Outlook, these metrics are lost.
  • Deliverability issues— It may be tempting to use the blind carbon copy (B.C.C.) line to send to a large list, but this may just jeopardize your deliverability rate. On the other hand, using the C.C. line could jeopardize your trust with your subscribers.
  • Double signatures—Remember to deactivate any signatures you have set if you do not want your signature to be a part of the message.  

As with all marketing e-mails, you must adhere to the CAN-SPAM guidelines by having an opt-out link in your e-mail. When deploying e-mails yourself, I strongly recommend sending yourself and someone else a test prior to deploying to confirm there are no issues. As with any e-mail marketing project, testing and debugging should always be a part of your workflow.

As tempting as it may be, I would not recommend using an .oft file for a newsletter since the content would vary too much from issue to issue. Newsletters are best to be coded with an HTML editor and deployed through an ESP. Also, I highly advise against sending e-mails to a massive list from Outlook. Your IT department will not be happy.

In a nutshell, .oft files are great for if you are a sending to a small group of people, just need to make minor modifications to the template, and are not concerned about the e-mail stats. It can be a huge time-saver if these conditions are met. For all other e-mail marketing needs, it is best to use a HTML-code e-mail and an e-mail service provider.

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