Setting up a Corporate Signature

Within a company, you usually want to control the signatures that users are using when sending mail outside of the company. Most companies want to include at least a “disclaimer” text, others want to control the amount of contact details as well and still others want to control the entire look and feel of the signature.

Outlook offers no direct means to do this since the Signature feature in Outlook is a client side feature and thus users can create and modify their own signature. You can lock down the access to the Signature feature by using Group Policies but that still doesn’t take away the issue of creating/generating a standard signature in the first place and deploying it to the users.

This guide discusses the features that Exchange offers to create and manage signatures at server level. Also, additional methods are being discussed to manage it without an Exchange server or when using earlier versions of Exchange. Finally, an overview of 3rd party solutions is provided for alternative solutions.


Exchange 2000 and Exchange 2003

Exchange 2000 and Exchange 2003 do not directly offer features to set up managed signatures and disclaimer text. A supported method is to use an SMTP transport event sink. Microsoft has provided the required code for this in order to achieve that via Visual Basic or VBScript.

Exchange 2007

Exchange 2007 has the Transport Rules feature which you can use to set up a default disclaimer for each outgoing email message.

  1. Open the Exchange Management Console.
  2. In Organization Configuration select Hub Transport and then select the Transport Rules tab.
  3. In the Actions Pane click New Transport Rule…
  4. Name your rule and optionally add a Comment. For instance;
    Name: Corporate disclaimer
    Comment: This transport rule adds a standardized disclaimer text to all outgoing emails.
  5. Press Next.
  6. On the Conditions screen select the following 2 conditions;
    • from users inside or outside the organization
    • sent to users inside or outside the organization
  7. In the bottom pane, modify the conditions so that they read;
    • from users Inside the organization
    • and sent to users Outside the organization
  8. Press Next.
  9. In the Actions screen select the action;
    • append disclaimer text using font, size, color with separator and fall back to action if unable to apply.
  10. In the bottom pane you can modify the conditions to your preference.
    • Click on disclaimer text to set your default text.
      Note that the disclaimer text is Plain Text only so you can’t type HTML code. If you want to add a link, you’ll have to type it in full.
  11. Once done, press Next.
  12. You can set any exception as you see fit. You can continue without any exceptions as well.
  13. Press Next.
  14. On the Create Rule screen you’ll see the PowerShell command that will be executed when clicking the New button.
  15. After pressing the New button the wizard has been completed and a summary is shown. Assuming it completed successfully, your Transport Rule has been created and is active now. Clicking Finish will close the New Transport Rule dialog.

Disclaimer options in Exchange 2007
Disclaimer options in Exchange 2007

Exchange 2010

Exchange 2010 also has the Transport Rules feature just as Exchange 2007 but has support for some additional customization as well. The most notable regarding signatures is that HTML code is now supported and that you can also use user information that has been stored in Active Directory to construct the signature dynamically.

  1. Open the Exchange Management Console.
  2. In  Organization Configuration select Hub Transport and then select the Transport Rules tab.
  3. In the Actions Pane click New Transport Rule…
  4. Name your rule and optionally add a Comment. For instance;
    Name: Corporate signature
    Comment: This transport rule adds a standardized signature and disclaimer text to all outgoing emails.
  5. Press Next.
  6. On the Conditions screen select the following 2 conditions;
    • from users that are inside or outside the organization
    • sent to users that are inside or outside the organization, or partners
  7. In the bottom pane, modify the conditions so that they read;
    • from users that are Inside the organization
    • and sent to users that are Outside the organization
  8. Press Next.
  9. In the Actions screen select the action;
    • append disclaimer text and fall back to action if unable to apply.
  10. In the bottom pane you can modify the conditions to your preference.
    • Click on disclaimer text to insert your default disclaimer text and add variables to include user information (see below for an overview of variables which you can use).
      Note that the disclaimer text allows you to use HTML code (including in-line CSS). This will allow you for instance to set different font size and colors for the signature and disclaimer part, add a horizontal line, hyperlink text or include a logo.
    • You can use up to 5000 characters
    • When a Plain Text message is sent, the HTML tags are automatically stripped off.
  11. Once done, press Next.
  12. You can set any exception as you see fit. You can continue without any exceptions as well.
  13. Press Next.
  14. On the Create Rule screen you’ll see the PowerShell command that will be executed when clicking the New button.
  15. After pressing the New button the wizard has been completed and a summary is shown. Assuming it completed successfully, your Transport Rule has been created and is active now. Clicking Finish will close the New Transport Rule dialog.

Supported variables
You can use the following variables in your disclaimer text. When using them, place them between %% characters.
Example: %%DisplayName%%

UserLogonName
DisplayName
FirstName
Initials
LastName
 
PhoneNumber
OtherPhoneNumber
HomePhoneNumber
OtherHomePhoneNumber
PagerNumber
MobileNumber
FaxNumber
OtherFaxNumber
Email
Street
POBox
City
State
ZipCode
Country
 
Title
Department
Manager
Office
Company
 
Notes
CustomAttribute1 – CustomAttribute15

 
Disclaimer template text in Exchange 2010
Disclaimer template text with HTML and variables in Exchange 2010

Outlook Signature deployment via script

If you are not using Exchange or are looking for a client (Outlook) level solution to generate your signatures, you can do this via a script. There are various ways to do this of course but there are a couple of common things to keep in mind when going for a custom script;

  • The signature has to end up in the user’s Signatures folder.
  • A single signature contains a Plain Text, HTML and Rich Text version of your template with their corresponding file formats;
    *.txt, *.htm and *.rtf
  • You’ll need to query Active Directory via LDAP if you want to include user specific information.
  • Consider how you want to update the signature. For instance;
    Are you going to run the script each time at logon or only once and then users can run the script manually via a Start Menu shortcut?
  • Are you going to disable access to the Signature feature via Group Policies?
  • Note that you cannot set the deployed signature as the default via Group Policies; this requires an additional one-time Registry modification (see below script example for further details).

Below you’ll find a sample script to help you on your way, it is not intended for use as-is.


Click in the area above and press CTR+A to select all. Press CTRL+C to copy the code.
Open Notepad, paste the code in the editor and save the text document as a vbs-file.

Set generated signature as the default signature
As mentioned before, you’ll need to set and remove additional Registry values in order to have Outlook use the deployed signature as the default for newly created emails and replies and forwards.

  • Remove the First-Run value name from:
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\<version>\Outlook\Setup
  • Add the NewSignature and ReplySignature value names to:
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\<version>\Common\MailSettings
    Their string values need to be set to the name of the signature.

After Outlook has been started, the First-Run key is being added back again and the NewSignature and ReplySignature values are automatically being removed. When multiple mail accounts are configured, they will all have their new and reply/forward signature set to the ones specified in the Registry file.

The example below makes the appropriate Registry modifications for Outlook 2010 and the signature name of “Standard Signature”.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Outlook\Setup]
"First-Run"=-

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Common\MailSettings]
"NewSignature"="Standard Signature"
"ReplySignature"="Standard Signature"

3rd party solutions

If all of the above solutions do not fit your needs, not to worry! There are plenty of 3rd party solutions available to manage corporate signatures at either Exchange or Outlook level. A short list can be found below;