Design message content using the graphical editor


Updated: November 1, 2016

Applies To: Dynamics Marketing


Microsoft Dynamics Marketing is scheduled to be retired on May 15, 2018. After that date the service will no longer be available. Please plan accordingly. For details, see the blog post Microsoft Dynamics Marketing service will be discontinued, and learn what’s coming next.

Use the graphical editor to design your marketing email content using our easy, drag-and-drop interface. You can create graphically-rich email layouts without needing to know anything about HTML or CSS design.


Do not run Dynamics Marketing in multiple browser tabs or windows because this will interfere with the way the system handles your session and may result in lost settings, missing record updates, and other unpredictable behavior. This is especially important when working with the graphical email editor, where you risk losing your email design if you have Dynamics Marketing open in multiple tabs or windows. More information: Browser and system requirements

To use the graphical editor, you must create a marketing email based on a template that is pre-programmed to use it. That means either starting with the “blank email” template or with a predesigned template that was created with the graphical editor. The editor is available from the Edit Content top-level tab on the maintain-email page for a given message.

For complete details about how to create a marketing email, apply a template, and then use the top-level tabs, see Create or view email marketing messages.

The graphical-editor interface is divided into two panes: the layout pane and the control pane.

The layout pane is the large area on the left. This is where you will place and arrange your content

The control pane is to the right of the layout pane. This area includes three tabs:

  • Content: Contains buttons for the basic types of content that you can add to your layout. There are two types: Content (text, image, and HTML) and Layout (1, 2, or 3 columns). Start by placing layout items, and then place content items into the layout. Each layout item takes the full width of your layout, but you can create rows by placing additional layout elements.

  • Styles: Styles apply layout options to whatever content item is currently selected in the layout. If no item is selected, then you will be styling the overall page (body) properties. The options available depend on which type of content you have selected. You can apply styles that affect text color; font and size; background color or image; spacing; padding; border style; thickness; color; and more. Note that the tool provides very fine-grained selection possibilities, allowing you to select individual columns or full-width layout blocks, individual images, and individual text blocks.

  • Settings: Make the following important settings here (several of which are required):

    • From: Establishes the “from” address for the email, based either on an existing contact in the databases or on an expression; this is required for the email, and can also strongly affect the open rate for the message, since contacts will see this and consider it before deciding whether or not to open it. Your message will fail validation and not be sent unless you have a valid setting here. To specify a contact from the database, select the Contact radio button and then start to type the contact name in the field; type-ahead suggestions are provided. To use an expression (using Razor syntax), select the Expression radio button and enter your expression in the field. Often, your Expression code will include field values; you can see examples of these by making selections from the Insert Field drop-down list.

    • Reply To: Usually, when somebody replies to an email message, their email program creates a new message that's addressed to the original sender (the "from" address). To use an alternate address for replies, enter that address here. Leave this blank to use the from address as the address to reply to. For example, you might use an unmonitored address (such as "") as the from address and the personal address of a sales rep as the reply to address.

    • Subject: Establishes the “subject” line for the email. Like the “from” address, this is required for the email and can also strongly affect the open rate for the message. Your message will fail validation and not be sent unless you have a valid setting here. Note that you can include field values here, such as the contact’s first and/or last names. To do this, enter a field expression using the same syntax as you see when entering field values into your body text using the Insert Field drop-down list (@EntityName.FieldName), for example: @Contact.FirstName.

    • Font Direction: Sets the reading direction of the text. For most European languages, this is left-to-right (LTR), but if you are using a language such as Arabic or Hebrew, you should set this to right-to-left (RTL).

    • Content Language: Choose the language you are using to write your message. If your message body includes one or more dynamic field values set up as a categories (drop-down lists), then these can include translations for each available value. The language you choose here will control which language is used for category values such as these. One field where this is likely to be useful is @Contact.Salutation, which might provide options for “Dear Ms. ”, “Dear Mr. ”, and “Dear Dr. ”, with translations of each in several languages. More information: Create custom drop-down values and folders


One way to use the Expression setting for the From address is to set this to match the primary sales contact for each recipient. This can mean that the recipient will recognize the sender’s name and will therefore be more likely to open the email. To set this up:

  1. Go to the maintain-contact page for one of the contacts you will be sending the email to.

  2. Open the Team related-information tab for the contact. Here you can see various members of the sales and marketing team that are supporting this contact. Make sure the contact has a team member whose Role is set to Primary Sales Rep. Add a team member for this role if one is not already set; the sales rep you choose must have a valid email address.

  3. Check each of the other contacts that you will be emailing to make sure they all have a sales rep on their team. Any contact that does not have a sales rep set up will not receive your email.

  4. Go to the maintain-email-marketing page for your email design, then open its Design top-level tab, and finally, open the Settings tab for the design.

  5. Set From to Expression and enter the following:
     @Contact.PrimarySalesRepresentativeFullName [@Contact.PrimarySalesRepresentativeEmail]

Another way to use the Expression setting is to specify an email address that does not necessarily belong to any contact in your database. To do this, set From to Expression and enter a code such as: DisplayName [EmailAddress]. For example:
 Melvin Jerome []

To delete any content element, select it, and then click the Delete toolbar button in the right pane. You can duplicate any element by selecting it and clicking the Copy button here.

The best way to get to know the editor is to experiment with it. Try out all the different layout and content types; select various items and apply styles to them. Try going to the Preview top-level tab to see how your design will look at various screen sizes. Try doing a test send to yourself to see how the message actually looks in your email client.

All of the content of your email must be placed inside of a column layout, so your first action when creating a new design is always to drag a 1, 2, or 3 column tile from the Layout area to the canvas. Thereafter, you can drag Text, Image and/or HTML tiles into your various columns. You can stack as many rows of columns on top of each other as you like, and use different column arrangement for each row.

By default, the 2 and 3 column tiles create columns of equal widths, but you can change these to use asymmetrical layouts. To choose one of the asymmetrical options (and make other style settings for a row), do the following:

  1. Place your mouse cursor several pixels (for example, 10 or so) above the row you want to work with and then slowly move the mouse down towards to the row until the entire row shows an outline around it (if one of the individual columns or its content becomes outlined instead, you have moved too far; backup and try again).

  2. Click on the row outline while it is shown.

  3. The Content tab (to the right of the design canvas) now switches to the Styles tab, which shows the style options for your selected row.

  4. Expand the Columns section of the Styles tab. Here you can see a set of radio buttons with options for various column weights. You can hover your mouse pointer over one of the column-layout graphics to read its exact proportions in a tool tip (for example, 40, 20, 40 %). Choose the radio button for the column layout you want to use.

Row styles with asymmetrical column options


Use techniques similar to those outlined in this section to select and style all types of elements in your email design.

When you drag a Text item onto a Layout column, you will create a text box containing some placeholder text. The text will take the full width of the column in which it is placed, but you can create additional rows of text by adding new text items to the same column.

To enter and style the text for a text item, click once to select it in the layout. The right-side pane updates to show text controls, which provides two tabs: Content and Styles.

The Content tab provides a text-input area and a set of word-processor-like tools for styling that text. Type your text into the text area and use these tools to apply formatting to any text selection in the window. In addition to the formatting tools are the following special drop-down lists:

  • Insert Plug-In: Places a plug-in placeholder at the cursor position. The placeholder will be replaced with plug-in code when the message is sent. Microsoft Dynamics Marketing provides several types of plug-ins, which will make your work more convenient. Some of these are required, such as a subscription center and physical address. Others are optional, such as forward-to-a-friend, view-as-webpage, and one-click subscribes. When you place a subscription center or forward-to-a-friend plugin, then you must specify the plug-in on the Summary top-level tab for your message, where you can change these at any time.

  • Insert Field: Places a short piece of code that will be replaced with text drawn from each individual recipient’s contact record. Use this to add a personal greeting and to add other personalized information.

  • Select URL Type and Insert URL: To see these drop-down lists click the fold-down arrow to the right of Insert Field. Use these to add managed links to the email, such as landing pages, offers, and webinars. To use one of these, you must first set up the required entity using the relevant settings of Microsoft Dynamics Marketing. To insert the link here, first choose a type from the Select URL Type, and then select your configured entity of that type from the Insert URL list.


Do not use the Insert Link button Insert link button (which also edits links) on the text-editor toolbar to edit the managed links added using the Insert Plug-In and Insert URL drop-down lists. If you do, then the link will break and will no longer be managed by Dynamics Marketing—even if you choose Cancel from the Insert Link dialog that opens when you click this button. If you do this by accident, then delete the link entirely and reinsert it using the correct drop-down list.

To apply general styling to a text block, select the block, and then go to its Styles tab. Here you can set things like background, padding, and border for the block.

The rich text editor provides a selection of common fonts for styling your text. Behind the scenes, each font is set up using a best-practices coding technique called font stacks, which define a set of fallback fonts for the primary font. This technique helps compensate for the fact that not all fonts are installed on all computers; when your email is shown on a computer that does not include your preferred font, then the defined second-choice font, will be shown instead; additional fallbacks are often provided too, depending on the font. Each stack is carefully selected to include families of commonly available, closely related fonts, prioritized by decreasing similarity. This technique helps ensure that your design looks as close as possible to your intentions, regardless of where recipients view it. The following table lists the fonts and font stacks provided by the graphical email editor.

Primary font

Fallback fonts (font stack)


Arial, Helvetica Neue, Helvetica, sans-serif

Comic Sans MS

Comic Sans MS, cursive, sans-serif


Calibri, Candara, Segoe, Segoe UI, Optima, Arial, sans-serif

Courier New

Courier New, Courier, Lucida Sans Typewriter, Lucida Typewriter, monospace


Courier, Lucida Sans Typewriter, Lucida Typewriter, monospace


Garamond, Baskerville, Baskerville Old Face, Hoefler Text, Times New Roman, serif


Geneva, Tahoma, Verdana, sans-serif


Georgia, Times, Times New Roman, serif


Helvetica, Helvetica Neue, Arial, sans-serif


Impact, Haettenschweiler, Franklin Gothic Bold, Charcoal, Helvetica Inserat, Bitstream Vera Sans Bold, Arial Black, sans serif

Lucida Console

Lucida Console, Lucida Sans Typewriter, monaco, Bitstream Vera Sans Mono, monospace


Lucida, Lucida Grande, Lucida Sans Unicode, sans-serif


minion-pro-1, minion-pro-2, Times New Roman, serif






Palatino, Palatino Linotype, Palatino LT STD, Book Antiqua, Georgia, serif


Tahoma, Verdana, Segoe, sans-serif

Times New Roman

Times New Roman, Times, Baskerville, Georgia, serif

Trebuchet MS

Trebuchet MS, Lucida Grande, Lucida Sans Unicode, Lucida Sans, Tahoma, sans-serif


Verdana, Geneva, sans-serif

If your site language is set to Japanese, then the rich text editor provides three additional fonts that are especially popular in Japan but are not normally used elsewhere. The site language is used as the default for new users, but each user can also choose their own personal language if they want (More information: Configure your preferences, Configure site settings). When the site language is Japanese, the extra fonts are available to all users, regardless of their personal language settings. Likewise, these fonts will not be available to users whose personal language happens to be Japanese unless the site language is also Japanese. The following table lists the Japanese-only fonts and their associated font stacks.

Primary font (Japanese only)

Fallback fonts (font stack)

ヒラギノ角ゴ Pro W3 (HiraKakuProN-W3)

"ヒラギノ角ゴ Pro W3", "Hiragino Kaku Gothic Pro",Osaka, "メイリオ", Meiryo, "MS Pゴシック", "MS PGothic", sans-serif

MS Pゴシック (MS PGothic)

'MS Pゴシック', 'MS PGothic', 'メイリオ', Meiryo, sans-serif

MS ゴシック (MS Gothic)

'MS ゴシック',"MS Gothic", courier, monospace

In addition to the managed links, which you add to your email messages using the Select URL Type and Insert URL drop-down lists, you can also add standard links to any type of Internet resource.

To add a new link to your message:

  1. Place a text block and open the rich text editor as described in the previous section.

  2. Place your cursor at the point in the text where you want the link to appear. If you have already typed the link text (the text contacts will click to open the link), then select this text; if not, then just place the cursor.

  3. Click the Insert Link button Insert link button on the text-editor toolbar.

  4. Enter the following values in the Insert Link pop-up window that opens:

    • URL: Enter the target address for your link.

    • Title: Enter the link display text as it should appear in your message. If you selected some text before opening the Insert Link pop-up window, then the text you selected will already appear here.

    • Open in a new window/tab: Select this check box if you want the link to open in a new window or tab. Clear this check box to open the link in the same window or tab where your contact is reading the email. Usually, this setting only has an effect when a contact opens the message in a web-based email client.

  5. Click OK to save your link.


Dynamics Marketing redirects all standard links that you add using this procedure. The resulting links, as your contacts will see them, will target your Dynamics Marketing email-marketing server instead of the address you specified. When a contact clicks one of these links, Dynamics Marketing logs the click and immediately forwards the contact to the address you specified when adding the link. This is what makes click tracking possible. The redirect link generated by Dynamics Marketing uses a shortened format, so even if your original link features a very long URL and path, the link generated by Dynamics Marketing will be relatively short. Dynamics Marketing first generates the redirect links when you send or activate the message; once you have done this, you will be able to see the list of redirected links on the Summary page for the message (see also Create or view email marketing messages).

To edit or remove an existing link, place your cursor somewhere in the highlighted display text in the rich text editor, and then click the Insert Link button Insert link button on the text-editor toolbar. Then use the Insert Link pop-up window to edit or remove the link.


Do not use the Insert Link button Insert link button to edit managed links added using the Insert Plug-In and Insert URL drop-down lists. If you do, the link will break and will no longer be managed by Dynamics Marketing—even if you click Cancel in the Insert Link dialog that opens when you click this button. If you do this by accident, then delete the managed link entirely and reinsert it using the correct drop-down list.

To add an image, drag an Image tile from the Content pane to a layout column already placed in your design. Initially, an image placeholder will appear. To load an image from your asset library, click the placeholder. A pop-up window will open, where you can browse your library and select an image. When the image is placed, select it to make Content and Style settings for it in the right pane. See Find, organize, and upload files in the file browser for more information about how to upload and work with digital assets in Microsoft Dynamics Marketing.


We strongly recommend that you use images that have the exact height and width (in pixels) that you need for your design. Downsizing larger images using the style controls or HTML attributes not only uses up your contacts’ bandwidth, but may also break your layout when rendered in some email clients—especially desktop and web-based clients. Smartphone and tablet clients are generally more modern and better at downsizing images, so it’s OK to size them for desktop resolution and allow them to downsize on other screen sizes. Likewise, upsizing small images will produce a jagged, low-quality result.

To add a block of HTML code, which can also include CSS and Razor syntax, drag an HTML item from the Content pane to a layout column already placed in your design. Your HTML block is represented in the design using a placeholder. To add or edit code for your block, select the HTML-block placeholder and work in the Content pane, which provides a code editor. The editor supports code-coloring and completion features. It also provides drop-down lists for inserting plug-ins and contact field values into your code.

When you send your email, Dynamics Marketing applies some post-processing to your text. This lets the system, among other things, replace placeholders with database values (such as contact names), insert plug-ins, execute Razor code, etc. These processing types are triggered by special characters included in the body text; you may already have seen an example of this if you’ve tried the Insert Field drop-down list in the text editor. See the following table for more examples of special characters and their effects when included in email text in Dynamics Marketing.

Character combinations

How to handle them

[ … ]

Text without spaces surrounded by square brackets (including the brackets) will be removed from the output. To keep the text and brackets, escape the first bracket like this: [[ThisTextIsKept]; in this case, only the first bracket is removed from the output. This rule does not apply if you include a space between the brackets.

[- … -]

All text between these characters (and the characters themselves), including spaces, will be removed from the output. You are not able to escape the first bracket like you can in the previous example.


An @ preceded by a space or carriage return marks the start of a code block. As mentioned above, you will see this if you place field values using the Insert Field drop-down list in the text editor. However, you can freely include email addresses because an @ in the middle of a word does not trigger any special processing.

To display an @ character anywhere and prevent all post-processing of it, escape it as @@.

//this is pure C# code!

The character pair @{ (preceded by a space or carriage return) is interpreted as marking the start of pure C# code to be executed before the email is sent. The end of the code block must be marked with a }. The code and its surrounding @{ } tags will be removed from the email and replaced by output from the C# code (if any).


These are all reserved words for CSS3, and are therefore likely to appear in <style> tags. Dynamics Marketing recognizes and handles these automatically so you do not need to escape them or do anything else special; they should work as expected.



These rules can also apply to substituted database values, so for example, if you include a company name in your email with @Contact.CompanyName, and that name includes square brackets, then these characters will be removed in the output.

In the previous sections of this topic, you have seen a few examples of using Razor syntax to add dynamic content to your email designs. Razor provides a way of embedding C# code as follows:

//this is pure C# code!

Similarly, you can often reference C# variable names in your design by prepending a variable name with @. The most visible example of this in the UI is the feature for adding field names using the Insert Field drop-down list in the rich text editor, which places a short piece of Razor code in your message. For example, if you choose “First Name” from the Insert Field drop-down list, Dynamics Marketing inserts the text “@Contact.FirstName” into your message.

When working in an HTML block, you can insert razor expressions into your hyperlinks, image links, and other HTML tags and attributes so that they include dynamic values drawn from the recipient’s contact record. The syntax is the same as that shown when you add a field value into body text using the drop-down list (@EntityName.FieldName). For example:

<a href="">Link 1</a>
<img src="@Contact.CustomFields.UdField1" />

You can design your messages so that the content changes based on the segment of each given contact. To do this:

  1. Make sure your message has a Designation setting of “commercial” or “transaction”. (This feature is not supported for campaign-automation of A/B testing.)

  2. Use the Lists related-info tab of the Settings top-level tab to add marketing lists to the message. These lists hold the contacts to which the message will be sent when you activate it. Each static list is considered a segment to which you can, potentially, target different content. The segmentation system works such that you can designate parts of the message to appear only for contacts in a given static list, which means you need to have at least two static lists for the feature to have any effect. If a contact appears in more than one static list, then that contact will receive only one version of the mail, which will include the content associated with the higher-ranking list (the lists are ranked in the order they are listed on the Lists tab).


    You can’t use queries to define segmented content, only static lists.

  3. Go to the Edit Content top-level tab and start designing your message. Here you will see the Content segment drop-down list, which by default shows “Default content”, which refers to content received by all contacts; usually, you will design most of the message using this setting. To add content that only one segment should see, select the static list corresponding to that segment from this drop-down list, and then go back to working with the content and layout controls. Segmentation also applies to the Settings tab, so you can use different subjects and “from” addresses for different segments.

  4. Continue working until your design is finished. Note that the Preview tab also provides a Content segment drop-down list so you can preview the content for each segment. Also, when you validate the message, you will need to read and respond to error messages separately for each segment.


The instant you make a selection from the Content segment drop-down list, your default content will be copied over to the design for your new segment—the segmented content does not remain linked to the default content, so any changes you make to the default will no longer be part of the segmented content. If you need to make significant changes to the default content and want to apply these to all segments, then you need to delete the affected segment designs and start over. To do that, go to the Summary top-level tab, and then open the Lists tab. Remove the list(s) for the segments you want to reset, click Save, and then re-add them. We recommend you always complete your default content before going on to design individual segment content.