Author Archives: Adam

Problems with email signatures in Office 365

Problems with email signatures in Office 365

[Update]: This article was first published on January 27, 2017. It was updated with new problems and their solutions.

In Office 365, there are some situations in which your email signatures stop working. Here is a quick access list of the most frequent email signature management problems, with solutions:

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How to have an Office 365 email signature inserted only into new emails?

[Update]: This blog post was first published on July 13, 2017. It’s been updated to reflect the current steps required for a proper mail flow rule setup in Exchange Online.

Do your email signatures pile up at the bottom of your conversation threads? Well, I have bad news and good news for you. The bad news is that this is the default setup for Microsoft 365 / Office 365 email signatures. The mail flow rule responsible for appending email signatures can insert them at the very top or at the very bottom of the entire email thread. The good news is that there are ways to work around this. Let’s get right into the details.

Signature inserted only into new emails

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How to create company-wide email signatures and disclaimers in Office 365

How to create company-wide email signatures and disclaimers in Office 365

[Update]: This blog post was first published on July 7, 2016. It’s been updated to reflect the current steps required for a proper configuration in the Exchange admin center.

In this article, you can find out how to set up your own server-level automatic email signature or disclaimer in Office 365. Like most of today’s email signature solutions, it supports HTML content such as tables, images and font formatting, but in contrast to e.g. Google Workspace (G Suite), it also allows for automatic personalization of individual signatures. However, there is no option to e.g. insert the signature directly below the latest reply/forward, or preview it in the user’s mailbox.

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Active Directory user attribute placeholders for central signature management

List of Active Directory user attributes for email signatures

[Update]: This article was first published on October 19, 2015. It was updated to include more useful information.

Active Directory (AD) and Azure Active Directory (AAD) are databases that contain a lot of information about a company, especially its employees. There is a lot of different ways to access this data and even more ways in which you can use it. Pretty much every app and service for Microsoft 365 or Exchange Server uses at least some information from this data treasury to offer better collaboration, automation, etc. In a nutshell, AD user attributes are there to make your job easier. That’s why it might help to know which information is easily accessible and how to get it from your user directory.

In this article, I’ll focus on using Active Directory data to personalize a global email signature across an organization.

What is a global email signature?

A global email signature is a way to manage email signatures in an organization. The general idea is to use one signature template and automatically personalize it for all users. Thanks to this, every mailbox can get a professional, company-controlled signature, without the need for users to do anything. Personal info and contact data used to personalize the template is taken straight from Active Directory (for Exchange Server) or Azure Active Directory (for Exchange Online).

There are two most common ways to create a global email signature in Microsoft 365 and Exchange Server:

It’s crucial to know what user attributes are available for signatures and how exactly to use them. And that’s precisely what you’ll learn below.

Active Directory user attributes in signatures: available placeholders for mail flow rules and VBScript

When deploying email signatures for multiple users from a central place, you need a way to easily include these users’ personal information like names, titles, departments, addresses, etc. in the signatures. This is achieved using placeholders integrated with a central directory that stores users’ personal details (e.g. Active Directory), and including the placeholders in signature templates.

Both Microsoft Exchange Server’s and Microsoft 365’s built-in email signature management solutions do exactly that, i.e. download data from Active Directory (or Office 365 user directory) into the signature based on who is the sender of the given email.

Unfortunately, Microsoft 365 and on-premises Exchange do not support all AD user account attributes. However, those which are available should be enough to create a simple email signature.

Here is the full list of attributes supported by Exchange’s and Office 365’s email signature management solutions. I divided them into sections that correspond with tabs in the Active Directory Users and Computers object Properties window. In the right column I’ve put the Active Directory Domain Services names of attributes (use them when deploying the signature template via a VBS script).

IMPORTANT: When setting up email signatures in hub transport/mail flow rules in Exchange 2019, 201620132010 or Microsoft 365, remember to enclose the ADAttribute (left column of below table) with double percent signs, like shown in the table. The “%%” part is not for show.

List of Active Directory user attributes available for email signature rules and VBScript

Active Directory attributes in Exchange and Office 365 email signatures

Used in mail flow rulesUsed in a VBScript
%%DisplayName%%AD DS: displayName
%%FirstName%%AD DS: givenName
%%Initials%%AD DS: initials
%%LastName%%AD DS: sn
%%Office%%AD DS: physicalDeliveryOfficeName
%%PhoneNumber%%AD DS: telephoneNumber
%%OtherPhoneNumber%%AD DS: otherTelephone
%%Email%%AD DS: mail
%%Street%%AD DS: streetAddress
%%POBox%%AD DS: postOfficeBox
%%City%%AD DS: l (as in "location")
%%State%%AD DS: st
%%ZipCode%%AD DS: postalCode
%%Country%%AD DS: co
%%UserLogonName%%AD DS: userPrincipalName
%%HomePhoneNumber%%AD DS: homePhone
%%OtherHomePhoneNumber%%AD DS: otherHomePhone
%%PagerNumber%%AD DS: pager
%%MobileNumber%%AD DS: mobile
%%FaxNumber%%AD DS: facsimileTelephoneNumber
%%OtherFaxNumber%%AD DS: otherFacsimileTelephoneNumber
%%Notes%%AD DS: info
%%Title%%AD DS: title
%%Department%%AD DS: department
%%Company%%AD DS: company
%%Manager%%Returns the common name (cn) of the object defined
in the manager AD DS attribute
Attribute Editor*
(e.g. %%CustomAttribute1%%)
AD DS: extensionAttribute1 through extensionAttribute15

Note: Some Active Directory attributes (e.g. otherTelephone, otherHomePhone, otherFacsimileTelephoneNumber and postOfficeBox) support multiple values. In the case where more than 1 value is provided, the output will include all values separated by semicolons.

* To see this tab in AD Users and Computers, switch on Advanced Features. Custom attributes can also be defined via Exchange Management Console (in users’ Mailbox Properties) or Exchange Management Shell.

Advanced email signature management

While mail flow rules and VBScript let you manage email signatures in a company, they are not ideal. No matter if you use them in on-premises Exchange or Microsoft 365, they have their dark sides. I list some of them below:

Mail flow rule signatures

  • Need to be managed by IT.
  • Offer no signature editor (you need to use raw HTML code).
  • Signatures are added either at the very top or the very bottom of an email conversation. In other words, they work well(ish) only for a first message and not for replies and forwards.
  • Only online images can be used. Most email clients block those images by default.
  • There’s no way for users to see their signatures before they send an email or even in Sent Items. This usually results in more tickets to IT (‘my signature is missing’ / ’I have double signatures’).
  • No way to convert emails to HTML format. Simply speaking – if users send emails from mobiles, they’ll only get a broken plain text signature.

That’s only a few of the limitations. For a complete list of limitations, see this article.

VBScript email signatures

  • Work only for Outlook for Windows.
  • Require you to have at least some scripting skills.
  • Require a local Active Directory.
  • Are difficult to update.

If you want to change your email signature management method to easy, effective and free from those limitations, check out those tools.

Email signatures with photos: Is the game worth the candle?

Signatures with photos blog

Using imagery has always been an instinctive way of communication for people – no matter if you think of 30k years old cave paintings or football hooligans’ doodles in your neighborhood. Let’s face it: humans are visual animals by nature.

That’s also the reason why the Web is becoming more and more visual. And the same applies to email signatures. While, in the era of 56 kbit/s connections, a signature could be a line or two lines of a text, now it can be much more than that. Banners, social media links, one-click surveys – you can have it all. And a photo? A photo or a headshot (any FPP game fans there?) is definitely a good idea! Read on if you want to learn why.

Email signatures with photos - examples
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Make your email signature look perfect on retina and 4k displays

Nowadays it is quite hard to find at least one smartphone or tablet which is not equipped with a high-resolution display or, in the case of Apple’s devices, the so-called “Retina display”. Also, more and more laptops are getting these onboard. The real power of a high-resolution screen is that it displays the same area as a conventional screen, but uses up to three times more pixels to do so.

Hi-res email signatures

This approach gives ultimate sharpness and depth to everything you can see on your display. The same applies to email signatures. You may have already noticed that images with low pixel density appear a bit blurry on high-resolution displays. And if we zoom in a little bit more – they just look really bad.

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Proper formatting of email signatures

At first glance, email signatures may not seem that important, especially if you compare them with other things going on in your company. But if you delve deeper into this, you will find out that email signatures play a significant role when it comes to marketing, branding or maintaining a good relationship with your customers. What is more, disclaimers added to these email signatures may also prevent you from legal issues. Keep in mind that even the best-written email may not do its job if you are not confident enough about the company you are dealing with, so gaining a client’s trust should be a priority for each employee in your company. Certainly, a fine-looking email signature that contains useful information is a nice try to make a good impression. And if you combine a fine-looking signature with an attractive marketing banner, the results may surpass your expectations.

Proper formatting of email signatures

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How to standardize signatures in your business emails – a step-by-step guide

[Update]: This blog post was updated on August 12, 2020.

If you are reading this, I guess you are already well aware of how important it is to have a corporate email signature inserted into your business emails. That’s great, but does the rest of your co-workers realize that too? You can use your online correspondence as a platform to promote your brand and spread your company’s values. However, it will not be effective if all employees create email signatures on their own. How to solve that? All you need is an official, standardized email signature template for your company. Then, you need to implement it for all users. In this article, I will guide you through an easy email signature standardization process.

Standardize signatures in your business emails

Unify your email signature design

Your brand image is your selling point, so it is crucial to include it in every outgoing business email. To solidify your brand identity, you need to create an original and consistent portrait of your organization to show in email communication. To do that, you can:

  • Delegate one person to manage all users’ email signatures.
  • Get rid of decorative fonts, inspirational quotes, and unproper pictures of employees’ in emails.
  • Make sure the email signature template isn’t too long but includes all necessary details.
  • Analyze the relevance of every single item included in your email signature block.
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