Setting up a server-side email signature on Exchange 2016

Setting up a server-side email signature on Exchange 2016

How to set up email signatures on Exchange Server 2016

Possibly the biggest surprise brought about by the release of Exchange 2016 is… how similar it is to Exchange 2013. In fact, in terms of email signature management it’s pretty much identical (if you’re familiar with the 2013 version of Microsoft’s email server, you’ll see what I mean). However, many of you may have never had the opportunity to poke around Exchange 2013, so let’s get to work:

NOTE: This solution comes with several limitations, which I discuss in the last section of the article.

Steps to set up signatures in Exchange 2016

  1. In an internet browser access your Exchange admin center (typically it will be available under: https://<CASServerName>/ecp or using Transport Rules administrator credentials.
  2. In the feature pane on the left select mail flow and then select the rules tab:

    Exchange 2016 ECP: Accesing mail flow rules

  3. Click the new rule button (+) and select Apply disclaimers…*:

    Exchange 2016 ECP: Creating an 'Apply disclaimers' rule

    * This is a minor shortcut. If you select Create a new rule…, you will have to navigate to manually select the Apply disclaimers action in the subsequent new rule window, that’s all. Regardless which option you choose, the new rule window always gives you the option to change the action to another one.

  4. Type in a name of your signature rule (in the example below it’s “External signature”) and in the *Apply this rule if… section select the condition you want emails to meet to trigger the rule.

    Since I want the signature added to all emails going out to external contacts, I’ll go with The recipient is located… and in the resulting window select Outside the organization.

    Exchange 2016 ECP: Configuring conditions for a mail flow rule

    NOTE: If you want to add more conditions or exceptions, click More options… at the bottom of the new rule window.

  5. The *Do the following… section should already have the Append the disclaimer… action selected (if it doesn’t, use the dropdown to add it), so just click Enter text…:

    Exchange 2016 ECP: Entering the text or HTML code of a disclaimer

  6. In the resulting specify disclaimer text window provide your email signature text or HTML code.

    Exchange 2016 ECP: The 'specify disclaimer text' window

    Keep in mind that you can use Exchange mailbox variables formatted this way: %%[name of variable]%%.

    List of available variables

  7. After saving the disclaimer text, click Select one… and decide what action should be taken if a message cannot be processed by the rule (this can happen when the email is e.g. encrypted).

    Exchange 2016 ECP: Selecting the fallback action for a mail flow rule

    The available options are:
    Wrap – The original message is added as an attachment to a new email, which is then processed by the rule.
    Ignore – The original message is sent to the recipient without being processed.
    Reject – The original message is rejected.

  8. In the Properties of this rule section, you can modify the default settings. Those settings are:

    The rule’s priority in relation to other rules (0 is processed first, 1 second, etc.):

    Exchange 2016 ECP: Setting mail flow rule priority

    The rule audit setting (this lets you track the rule’s performance via Exchange reports, a feature available only in Exchange Online so far):

    Exchange 2016 ECP: Setting mail flow rule audit level

    Choose one of the 3 modes in which the rule will be saved:

    Exchange 2016 ECP: Choosing the mode of a mail flow rule

    Enforce – The rule is active upon saving.
    Test with Policy Tips – Applies only to DLP rules (more in this Microsoft article).
    Test without Policy Tips – The rule is not active upon saving. Note that, to actually be able to test it, you will need to add the Generate incident report… action to your rule (learn more about adding multiple actions to rules).

  9. Click Save in the lower-right corner of the window and test your rule.

    Exchange 2016: Testing a disclaimer added by a mail flow rule

More options…

If you want your rule to include multiple conditions, exceptions and actions, click More options… at the bottom of the rule editor window:

Exchange 2016 ECP: Enabling additional options of a mail flow rule

Having done this, you will notice that you are now able to add more than one condition, action and exception to your rule.

The rule editor will also now allow you to:

  • define the rule’s activity period (no recurrence setting unfortunately),
  • decide whether subsequent rules should be processed or not,
  • decide if the message should be deferred if rule processing doesn’t complete
  • define whether the sender should be matched based on the message header, envelope or both,
  • and provide comments for the rule.

Limitations of the native Exchange 2016 email signature solution

In terms of limitations, not much has changed since the previous edition of Exchange Server. Exchange 2016 mail flow rules still do not allow for, e.g.:

  • Adding signatures directly under latest emails;
  • Displaying the signatures in users’ Sent Items folders;
  • Embedding images in signatures;
  • Using other Active Directory variables than the ones corresponding with the variables I listed above.

To be able to overcome these limitations, as well as enjoy features such as limited remote access to email signature rules and a WYSIWYG HTML template editor, use CodeTwo Exchange Rules 2016.

17 thoughts on “Setting up a server-side email signature on Exchange 2016

    1. Kamil Glaser

      Hi Tenny,
      To add a logo, you can insert an <img src="your-logo-url"> element in your HTML code.
      If you want to make it easier, you can use the free email signature generator which provides you with a ready-to-paste HTML code with the right AD placeholders.
      This native solution supports only linked (hosted) images. If you need to use embedded images (so that the logo is visible for recipients without the need to click anything) or overcome any other limitations of this method, you can take a look at a third party solution: CodeTwo Exchange Rules

    1. Kamil Glaser

      The invalid macro name error appears whenever a wrong placeholder is used inside the disclaimer. You could make the task easier by using our free email signature generator. One of its features is to automatically insert the right AD placeholders into the disclaimer.

  1. Kim

    I have followed everything step by step but I keep getting the error message
    “The disclaimer text contains an invalid macro name: ‘%%First Name%%’.
    Can someone help me please to overcome this issue?

    1. Kamil Glaser

      Hello Kim,
      This error is probably caused by the wrong placeholder. AD placeholders have no spaces in them. Try changing %%First Name%% to %%FirstName%% and review other placeholders in your signature design.

  2. Neil Anthony Noronha


    What is the html script used for replies / forwards for signature or how do i set it for replies and forwards – i don’t get a signature if i try to replay or forward a mail to others.


    1. Kamil Glaser

      By default, the native server-sided email signature is added to each email, including replies and forwards. The problem is that the signature is added at the bottom of the conversation. To add a server-sided email signature directly below replies and forwards, you can use a third-party tool, CodeTwo Exchange Rules.

      1. Neil Anthony Noronha

        Thank you Kamil.

        is there no other way through exchange that it can happen – without purchasing the license.

        1. Kamil Glaser

          Although there are some limitations to the native server-sided email signatures, some companies still use it. Fully-functional server-sided email signatures; however, require a third-party tool like the one I have mentioned.

  3. Reidar G. Henricks

    Will this apply to emails that allready have the signature applied upon replies? I`ve sometime seen that at the bottom of some emails, there is the same signature repeted for each time the email have been replied to and gone back and forth….

    1. Kamil Glaser

      Hi Reidar,
      Yes, by default, the rule applies to all messages, including replies and forwards. This often causes the signatures to stack up at the bottom of conversation. A workaround for that is to add an exception to the rule so that the signature is not added when its fragment is already found in an email. If you are looking for a solution which makes server-sided email signatures appear directly below each reply & forward, you need a third-party tool, like CodeTwo Exchange Rules.

  4. jose

    thank you this is awesome, there is a way to make this signature only be posted in the mails?, because once is activated the signature is attached to the comments in Planner too when some one make a comment

    1. Kamil Glaser

      Hello Jose,
      You can experiment with exceptions so that no emails sent to Planner groups will have a signature added. To add the exception, click the more options button and select if the recipient is the planner group.


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