Email Composer, the Drag-and-Drop Template Builder

Our drag-and-drop email editor makes it easy to create beautiful messages that can be used for a wide variety of email sends: a newsletter, product announcement, promotion, or triggered email, like welcome series or order confirmations.

In Sailthru, Templates are used as the blueprints for all emails, and Email Composer is the easiest way to build them and to craft the content that will be sent to your recipients. Its drag-and-drop interface enables you to produce a well-designed message with a number of built-in features:

  • No knowledge of HTML is required, yet the addition of custom HTML is supported
  • Emails adapt automatically to smartphones and other small-screen devices
  • Open-tracking is automatically turned on; no need to embed a Sailthru beacon
  • Add special links with the click of a button, including links to user-specific unsubscribe pages and to web views of email content.

Email Composer is currently great for fulfilling ad-hoc email needs, but for emails that will include dynamic article or product recommendations, or require custom Zephyr logic or CSS styles, we recommended that you instead use Sailthru’s HTML Template Editor.

If this is your first time building templates for Sailthru, or you’re building a new type of template for the first time, be sure to discuss your plans with your Customer Success Manager. Your CSM can ensure you are using Sailthru’s best practices for template design and email strategy.

How it Works: An Overview

Within the Sailthru interface, email templates created with Email Composer are labeled as visual templates while others are labeled HTML templates, but both can be selected and used by our system in the Campaign workflow, Lifecycle Optimizer, and API.

Here’s a high-level look at the process of building a new email with Email Composer.

  1. In My Sailthru, on the Templates page, create a new visual email template.
  2. In Email Composer, drag in the desired structure blocks (to represent the email layout), then drag content blocks into them as needed. Common content blocks are text areas or images.
  3. For each content block, you can edit the content–write text, select an image, etc.
  4. Preview the template in both desktop and mobile formats, then send a test email to yourself or your team.
  5. For a one-time send, create a Campaign and select your newly created template. To set up the template to send as-needed, based on user status or behavior you can use one of the following methods:
    • Select the template in a Lifecycle Optimizer flow.
    • Have a developer use the Sailthru API (from your server) or JavaScript functions (from the user’s browser) to send the template in response to certain actions.

Build a New Template

  1. In My Sailthru, from the Communications menu, select Templates.
  2. Click New Template.
  3. Enter a Template Name in the New Template box and select the Template Type “visual email”.
    • Optional: If your account has Teams enabled, you can restrict this template to certain teams.

      • To add a team, click the gray bar and select a team. Repeat to add more teams.
      • The template is visible and usable by all employees in your Sailthru account if you don’t select teams.
  4. Click Create Template. The new template opens in Email Composer.
  5. Set a Subject Line and Preview Text:
    1. Click “Not Set” under Subject Line and Preview Text to open the editor.
    2. Enter your preferred Subject Line and Preview Text.
    3. Click Apply to add them to your template.
  6. Set a From name, From email address, and optional Reply-To email address:
    1. Click “Not Set” under From to open the editor.
    2. Enter your preferred From name and From email address. You can also enter a Reply-To email address in this editor.
    3. Click Apply to add them to your template.
  7. Finish designing your email with Email Composer.

You can find your email by the Template Name you set in the first step. It will be referred to by the Template Name throughout the Sailthru platform.

Drag and Drop Builder

Email creation and editing is divided into two main areas. The Canvas, where you will drag and drop content and structural elements to view the progression of your email’s design, and the Configuration panel where the drag-and-drop options and their properties live.

email composer layout

The Configuration panel has three tabs to help control the appearance of your email: Structure, Content, and Body.


On the Body tab, you can set global properties for your email.

  • Content area width – Set the width, in pixels, for your email’s body. This is a fixed width and only applies to desktop. When viewed on a mobile device, your structure is converted to a single column that matches the width of the user’s device.
  • Background color – Set a default color to apply to the background of your email. Choose transparent to not set a color.
  • Content area background color – Set a color to apply to the content width area of your email. When used in conjunction with the background color it can create a distinct area to highlight your message.
  • Default Font – Global font used for all text, except any text blocks where you have specified a different font.
  • Link Color - Set all links, including newly created links, to a specified color.


Next, you’ll set up the layout of your email using structures. Structures serve as containers for the content in your email, including text and images. The following are available on the Structures tab:

Single Column section-1-single
Centered Double Column section-2-centered-double
Left-Offset Double Column section-3-left-offset-double
Right-Offset Double Column section-4-right-offset-double
Triple Column section-5-triple
Quadruple Column section-6-quadruple

Every new template starts with a single-column structure in place, ready to receive a content block. (This is covered in the next section, Content. For example, you might drag in an image to create a hero image.)

The structures can also be stacked on top of each other. For example, a three column structure could be placed beneath the hero image’s single column, to display three featured products or articles.

The use of the editor’s column structures helps ensure mobile responsiveness without any extra configuration or code. By default, adjacent columns will stack on top of each other when the email is viewed on a small screen. Columns that run left to right will display top to bottom. There is, however, an option to disable stacking for any email.



Now that the layout of your email is in place, add the visual components by dragging them from the Content tab into a structure. Multiple Content blocks can be added into one structure.

Content blocks already in place can be reordered or moved to a different structure by selecting them, then clicking and holding the access arrows email-composer-arrows  while dragging to the desired location.

The content blocks create the primary visible elements of your email body. Each of the content types is described below: Text, Image, Button, Divider, Social Icons, Video Link, and HTML Block.

Every block’s padding, or separation, can be set in its Properties panel under Block Options. You can also be set to be hidden when the email is opened on a smaller mobile screen.


To add text to an email, select the content tab and drag the Text content block into a structure. You will see the following text appear.

“I’m a new Text block ready for your content.”

Click anywhere on that sentence to edit the text (you can triple-click the text to highlight and replace it). A number of text formatting tools is displayed:

  • font family
  • font size
  • bold, italics, underline, and strikethrough
  • text alignment
  • numbered and non-numbered bullets
  • text and background color
  • link text
  • special links are also available here for:
    • User-specific unsubscribe
    • View online
    • Forward to a friend
    • Anonymized link for sharing


Note that if you set the font family to Global Font, it will inherit the font family selected under the BODY tab. This allows you to change the font family for multiple elements at once just by changing that property in the Body tab.


The Image block comes with an image uploader to receive your images. You can either drag an image file on top of this block or click “Browse” to reuse images from your account or other services. You will have several methods for uploading images, including a file upload, upload from a URL, import from services like Instagram, as well as a free image search.

By default, images will automatically be sized to fit the structure within which they are contained. This is the recommended setting to ensure images resize correctly for any screen. However, you can disable automatic sizing and set the image to be a percentage of the structure’s column.

Use the Properties panel to set the alternative text as well as any destination URL. If you intend on populating the image with a dynamic image like a countdown timer or an advertisement, you can select “dynamic image”. This will allow you to set a dynamic image for the send while still viewing a sample image in the composer.


Insert a call-to-action button that can open a web page in the user’s browser. Alternatively, buttons can be set to send an email, make a call, or send an SMS from the user’s device to your chosen recipient.

Selecting the text of the button in the canvas will provide a limited text editor. The action and destination URL are set in the Properties panel, where you can also set the button’s background color and text color, border, width, and roundness.


A customizable horizontal rule. For an invisible spacer, set to Transparent.


A configurable set of social network buttons. Choose a design in the Properties area, then configure which networks to include and your ID/address for each.


Using your own code may affect how the message is rendered. Make sure to use correct and responsive HTML. Where possible, is recommended to build with the editor’s options instead, to ensure code is valid and the design is responsive.


Add a YouTube or Vimeo URL to automatically generate a preview image. The image will link to the provided URL in a new tab.

Previewing Email

You can quickly check what your email will look like on desktop or mobile sized screens. In the dropdown on the save icon, select “preview”. This will take you to a new view where you can toggle between a larger desktop view and a 320px mobile screen. 

To test the email in real email-client apps or share it with other stakeholders, you can send a test email. In the dropdown on the save icon, select “test send”. These sends have the word [TEST] prepended to the subject line and will not contribute to any reporting. However, in most other respects, they will resemble production sends. When you click “test send”, you can specify the recipient address.

Using Templates

Once an email template has been created, visual or html, it can be used in the rest of the Sailthru system.

Lifecycle Optimizer

You will need to select templates in Lifecycle Optimizer for any of its email-related actions. Lifecycle Optimizer is ideal for user-specific triggered or transactional emails like a welcome series, purchase confirmation, winback message, or password reset.

To start a flow from an email send, open, or click you will need to select the relevant starting action. You will be presented with a list of the templates in your account representing your emails. Choose the appropriate email’s template. To send an email as an action, you will again be presented with the list of templates in your account including both visual and html emails.


Individual mass mailings can be built from scratch in Sailthru or they can be partially created using a template to configure the email. Campaigns will accept both visual and html templates, however, Campaigns don’t support the Email Composer tool so subsequent changes will be HTML only.

To use a template in campaigns, create a new campaign. Name it and select the type of campaign. Templates are supported in all campaign types: Regular, A/B Tests, and Recurring. After your campaign is created, navigate to the Configure tab. The first option is to “Build Your Campaign From a Template”. Select this and choose the template from the dropdown. Choose “Dynamic” if you want the email rendered uniquely for every user or “Static” if any dynamic elements should be rendered before the send. If you do not know, dynamic is generally what you will want.

Choosing a template will overwrite the existing campaign fields with the template’s settings. This includes the subject line, from name & email, as well as the HTML of the email. This however does not happen in the other direction. Changes made in the campaign builder will only apply to that campaign and will not affect the template.


Triggered/transactional email can also be sent using the Send API when specifying one or more recipients and the name of a Sailthru template. See the documentation for more details on the Send API.