Linking/Embedding Images in HTML Emails

If you want to send images in emails using HTML then you have two choices. You can either link to the images from your email or you can embed the images into the email itself. Not all email programs provide both choices in an obvious way but there is usually a means of attaching emails using either method. When you link to images then the images will have to be available either on a public web site or on the recipient's own computer (in a known location) for the images to appear in the email, this limitation does not apply to emdedded images.

So what are the advantages and disadvantages of linking to an image instead of embedding it into the email itself? Well the advantage of linking is that the email itself will be smaller and therefore will download faster onto the recipient's computer. This means that:

  1. if the recipient decides not to read the email they save the time taken to download the images,
  2. if they read the plain text version of a multi part email instead of the HTML version then they save the time taken to download the images,
  3. and where you and the email recipient are using the same email client (eg. Outlook Express) and the images you are using are in the common stationery library provided with the email client and you both have the program installed in the default location as this means that they can use their copy of the images instead of yours, again saving them the time taken to download the images.

The disadvantages of linking are that if the images are on the internet:

  1. they will have to be downloaded every time that the recipient opens the email,
  2. they will have to be online to view the email complete with images,
  3. if you ever delete or move the images from their location on the internet the images will no longer appear in the email,
  4. and finally because accessing an image from the internet can be used by senders of SPAM to verify your email address actually exists many people have linked images turned off in their email programme which means that they wont see the linked images.

If locally stored image links are linked and the recipient has the appropriate email client installed to a different location or does not have the appropriate stationery installed then they will not see locally linked images,

The advantages of embedding images in your email are:

  1. that the images are provided with the email so that the recipient will be able to see them every time they view the email whether connected to the internet at that time or not,
  2. the images will be visible even when the recipient has linked images turned off,
  3. and the entire content of the email is available in one place so it is not dependent on anything external to the email in order for it to appear as intended.

The disadvantage of embedding images is that:

  1. some online email services (such as many mailing lists) do not allow embedding of images and
  2. if the recipient doesn't view the email or views the plain text version of a multi part email then the images have made the email bigger and slower to download without adding any benefit to the recipient.

Given the advantages and disadvantages of both methods, I would suggest that there is nothing to be gained by linking to images except where they are locally stored images in the same location on both your computer and the email recipient's computer. Where you know that they definitely have the appropriate image installed in the right place then linking to it will save you both the extra time required to send the email with the image embedded. In most other instances if the recipient has appropriate security installed on their computer then they wont see any linked images.

Embedding images into the email itself is the way to go if you know that the recipient (or most of the recipients if there are more than one person you are sending to) will be viewing the HTML version of the email and those who view the plain text version don't need to see the images in order to make sense of the email. Of course if you are using an online facility that doesn't cater for embedded images then you won't have this option.

In many instances you might find that neither method is appropriate because the disadvantages of both outweigh the advantages. In this instance you might consider attaching the images to the email so that everyone can see them as attachments instead of their only being visible in the HTML version. Alternatively you might consider placing the relevant information on a web page and providing a link to that in an email instead of providing the information in the email itself.

Having decided whether that you want to link or embed your images, how do you tell your email client what to do? With Outlook Express there is a simple way to tell the program which method to use. Go into the Format menu and you will see an option called Send pictures with message. If this option is checked then the images will be embedded, if it is not then they will be linked. You then select Picture from the Insert menu to select the image to be embedded or linked. To embed images in Netscape and Mozilla mail you select Image from the Insert menu and select the image to embed. If instead you want to link images you select HTML from the Insert menu and type in the image link tag yourself.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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