Microsoft Outlook is the go-to email client for most businesses and enterprises. This is no surprise, as it has been around for decades and managed to become the ‘gold standard’ of this software category in the meantime. Outlook has evolved a lot since its first appearance, leading to its supposedly final form, “Outlook 365”. In this article, I’m going to quickly explain what Outlook 365 stands for and how to set up email signatures in this Microsoft-365-powered email client.
Outlook 365: Outlook for Microsoft 365 vs Outlook on the web (OWA)
It might come as a bit of a surprise, but officially, there’s no such thing as “Outlook 365”. There are two Outlook versions which this name may relate to: Outlook for Microsoft 365 and Outlook on the web. Both come as a part of the Microsoft 365 subscription, which is probably the reason why so many users came to name them “Outlook 365”. This can be very confusing, especially since the name doesn’t explain whether the user means the app installed locally or the webmail version. The name stuck nonetheless and nowadays can be found all over the Internet, including tech community forums and specialist websites.
To be precise, Outlook for Microsoft 365 is the version of the app installed on desktop or laptop computers. It’s the most recent iteration, originating from a long line of apps included in Microsoft Office suites and standalone programs, so you might say it’s the longest known, as it brings to the table all the features and improvements implemented over the years.
Outlook on the web, on the other hand, is the webmail version of Outlook, allowing you to access your email account through your web browser. Besides being part of a Microsoft 365 subscription, it’s also available for organizations using on-premises Microsoft Exchange Server 2016 & 2019. By the way, the name “Outlook on the web” is being used interchangeably with “OWA”. The abbreviation actually stands for “Outlook Web App”, which was the official name of the app used with Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 & 2010, formerly called “Outlook Web Access” in case of Microsoft Exchange Server versions older than 2010. The biggest difference in comparison to Outlook for Microsoft 365 is that you don’t have to install anything on your computer or mobile device to use Outlook on the web.
Now, let’s dive in and have a look at individual processes of setting up email signatures in Outlook for Microsoft 365 and Outlook on the web.
Outlook for Microsoft 365
Follow the steps below to set up an email signature in the desktop Outlook 365:
Open the Outlook for PC app from the Start menu or from the taskbar.
In Outlook, click File > Options.
In the Outlook Options window select the Mail tab and click Signatures in the Compose messages section.
Note: Another way to start configuring your signatures is to open a New Email message, click Signature in the Include group and again Signatures.
In the Signatures and Stationery window, click New and provide a name for your signature.
Create your signature in the Edit signature section. Use available formatting tools to modify its appearance.
Note: The formatting tools offered in the Outlook signature editor are quite basic. If you wish to achieve a more sophisticated and polished design, you can use a free email signature generator to create an advanced signature template. Simply choose Outlook as the target email platform, select one of the many available templates, adjust it to your needs and there you go. Your signature is ready to be copied and pasted into the Outlook editor.
The Choose default signature section can be used to define which email account should get the signature (in case there is more than one email account set up in Outlook), and whether it should be added to new messages and/or replies/forwards. Once you are done, save changes by clicking OK.
In case you selected your signature to be treated as default for new messages, you will see it every time you compose a new email.
Note: If you didn’t select your signature as the default one, you will still be able to add it manually every time you write a new email. It will be available after clicking the Signature button in the Include group.
That’s all there is to it. If you wish to create more Outlook signatures, simply follow the steps from point 3 onwards. You can create as many of them as you need – they will appear on a list visible after clicking the aforementioned Signature button.
Outlook on the web
The steps required to configure email signatures in the ”Outlook 365” webmail client are a bit different than in case of the desktop app:
Open your Outlook on the web either by selecting the Outlook App in your Office home page, or by using this direct link.
Click the Gear icon in the top-right corner and select View all Outlook settings.
In the navigation pane on the left, go to Mail > Compose and reply. You can also use this direct link to reach the signature editor panel. Use the provided editor box to enter your signature text, apply formatting as well as to add images or links.
Note: If you wish to achieve a more refined appearance, you can use a free email signature generator with lots of advanced signature templates that you can fill in with all the necessary details and copy into the editor box in Outlook on the web.
The two drop-down menus under the signature editor let you decide whether the created signature should be added automatically to your new messages and replies/forwards respectively.
Note: It is possible to create and use multiple signatures for a single mailbox – similarly to the Outlook desktop client. Just click the New signature button after you have saved your first signature to create another one.
Once you are done, save changes and close the settings window.
If you select your signature(s) in one of or in both drop-down menus, it will appear in the compose message window as you type your email in the appropriate scenario. In case you left the menus’ default settings (No signature), you will still be able to add your signature manually while composing email.
Limitations of signatures set up by users
As you can see in the above guides, setting up a professional email signature is a fully manual process. From the company’s viewpoint, it comes with some limitations and risks:
If a company cares about their brand and wants to have unified look of their emails, the process needs to be repeated individually for or by everyone within the organization. It’s highly time-consuming, especially when you consider some less proficient users who will require support to properly apply their signatures. Not to mention the recurring efforts in case of any signature updates in the future.
The more users requiring signatures, the higher the risk of incomplete or outdated data, inconsistent design, missing legally required information (no disclaimers or company data).
Creating original, visually appealing (and working properly across different email clients and devices) signatures requires advanced HTML and CSS skills.
Nothing stops users from using wrong personal information or applying custom layout.
Being aware of those limitations, you may want to change the way email signatures are managed in your organization. Instead of leaving this task to users, many companies decide to manage email signatures centrally.
Central management of email signatures
Building and promoting a company’s brand is a continuous process and every employee interacting with customers or business partners needs to be seen as a brand ambassador. Email correspondence takes up a considerable part of that professional interaction, therefore email signatures should not be underestimated. They are a powerful way to convey the sender’s professionalism and tell the recipients whether the organization cares about its image.
Managing email signatures centrally ensures that they are kept under control and stay up-to-date, consistent in design and aesthetic and are personalized across the whole company. This way, email signatures can be carefully crafted (and implemented organization-wide) to send a strong message that helps the brand, promotes offers and supports the business.
It also allows for automation of a rather unexciting task, letting employees focus on their own work instead. Not to mention getting rid of issues connected to user carelessness or lack of technical skills.
Central management via Exchange Online
Exchange Online allows for central management of email signatures and disclaimers for the entire Microsoft 365 organization. It is possible to set up email signatures and legal disclaimers, which are added to email messages that enter or leave your organization. To achieve this, it is necessary to create a mail flow rule (with the Append the disclaimer action specified) that adds the required information to email messages. And since mail flow rules may include many different conditions and exceptions, it is also possible to create separate signature templates for different departments or even specific users.
However, the process might turn out to be troublesome for someone doing this for the first time. That is why we’ve prepared a short video guide explaining:
How to set up an email signature rule in the Exchange admin center.
Where to get the HTML code with Active Directory placeholders for the signature template.
How the global email signatures work from the user’s perspective.
What the limitations of signature rules are.
What tricks are possible to make the signature-adding-rule more useful.
Besides the Exchange admin center, it is also possible to achieve similar results using PowerShell and VBScript. The immediate drawback of these two methods is that the former only works for Outlook on the web (OWA) and the latter only for the desktop client.
Although those management methods are better than setting up all email clients separately, they are still not perfect. They come with a lot of limitations:
Lack of a dedicated, user-friendly HTML editor.
No automatic users’ photos in email signatures.
Delegation of signature management is impossible.
Signatures don’t show up directly under replies/forwards.
It’s not possible to use embedded images.
Signatures not visible while typing or in Sent Items.
Blank spaces in signatures in case of missing Active Directory values.
Central management via CodeTwo Email Signatures 365
While the above list seems a long one, overcoming all those limitations is easier than you might think. Although they cannot be fixed natively, a dedicated tool, such as CodeTwo Email Signatures 365, can solve all related issues and do much more for your Microsoft 365 email signatures.
The service reinvents handling email signatures in Microsoft 365 organizations:
Manage all signatures centrally You can use a single rule to apply personalized email signatures to everyone in a Microsoft 365 organization. Signatures are added to emails sent from every device and email client. You can adjust signature templates to look differently for chosen departments or users.
WYSIWYG HTML template editor Easily create advanced email signatures that work on all email clients and mobile devices, automatically convert your signatures into HTML, Plain Text and RTF formats, insert Active Directory placeholders, edit signature layout, change colors and fonts, insert images, logos or Microsoft 365 users’ photos, etc.
Signatures visible while composing emails and in user’s Sent Items folders CodeTwo Email Signatures 365 is the first email signature management software for Microsoft 365 that allows you to preview signatures that will be added in the cloud and to display signatures in users’ Sent Items folders across various devices and email clients.
Support for AAD fields and custom attributes Besides the fields available in Azure Active Directory, you can add custom attributes that are not available in Azure AD, or you can let your end users update their signature information themselves (without impact on the original values stored in AAD).
Embedded logos and images Add company logo and marketing banners as inline attachments. This way, images are not blocked by recipients’ email clients on receiving an email.
User photos in email signatures Add Microsoft 365 users’ photos to email signatures.
Canned responses can make your job much easier. They save you from having to do repetitive work and make it quicker to provide helpful answers to recurring questions. This article shows how to use canned responses with Outlook email templates (OFT files as well as with the My Templates add-in) and with email signatures. At last, I’ll show you how to manage canned responses for the whole team or organization at the same time.
This is the second part of the article about canned responses in Outlook. See part 1 in which I explain how to use Outlook Quick Parts.
Outlook templates (OFT)
There are two kinds of Outlook templates: OFT and My Templates. I’ll dive into the first variant first, as it is the better-known one.
OFT (Outlook file template) is a separate file which contains not only the email body but can also include a subject that you define. Here’s how to use them:
To create a new OFT file, start composing a new email in Outlook. Once you prepare your email contents, click File and Save as.
Now, from the Save as type dropdown, choose Outlook Template. Type in a file name and save the file.
To use a saved Outlook email template, click New Items > More Items > Choose Form.
Finally, from the Look In dropdown, choose User Templates in File System, click the appropriate template and then click Open.
Pros and cons
They support all the formatting options.
Fine for new emails.
Can be used in Outlook rules as an automatic response.
Extremely troublesome to use them for replies and forwards (and canned responses are, by definition, replies).
No way to insert them directly into a reply.
Don’t work in Outlook on the web.
No way to centrally manage them for a team or the whole organization.
My Templates in Outlook
My Templates is a built-in Outlook add-in which lets you add canned responses similarly to Quick Parts, but I find it a bit more intuitive. Here’s how it works:
In a message composing window (it works in email preview, too), click the View Templates button. In the desktop Outlook, it’s located in Message > My Templates, while in Outlook on the web, you need to click more options (the three dots icon) and then My Templates.
In both Outlook email clients, clicking this option will show up a new pane to the right. To add a new canned response, click the plus (Template) icon.
Now, the My Templates editor has no formatting options. You can use keyboard shortcuts to make slight adjustments (like Ctrl+B for bold), but it’s easiest to simply compose your canned response in the standard Outlook new message window and paste the contents here. Click Save when you’re done.
After your template is saved, all you need to do is open the My Templates add-in and click the template you want to use.
Pros and cons
Similarly to Outlook Quick Parts, it’s easy to use.
Can be used if you reply in the email preview pane (you don’t need to open the message in a new window).
Works for both desktop Outlook and Outlook on the web.
The editor does not support any formatting options. You can paste formatted text and images into the add-in pane, but it will not be displayed correctly in the preview box.
There’s no way to centrally manage canned responses for a team or entire company.
I won’t elaborate on how to add and use email signatures. You can refer to this guide if you need instructions on how to set them up.
The email signature feature is usually used for your professional HTML email signature. They often include contact details, company branding, a marketing banner, maybe a legal disclaimer. But if you dare to think a bit out of the box, the signatures feature is perfect for canned responses.
Pros and cons
Support all the formatting elements and images.
Work in desktop Outlook and Outlook on the web.
Can be managed centrally for a team or entire organization!
By default, you can set up only one email signature in Outlook on the web. However, in the next section I will show you how to fix that with a third-party tool.
Centrally manage canned responses for your team
If you want to centrally manage canned responses (via email signatures) for your team using native options, you can use the following solution:
VBScript: create an HTML Outlook email signature for the whole company – this method uses GPO to create personalized HTML email signatures for the whole company. You can use it to deploy canned responses as well. It deploys signatures to Outlook for Windows. The problem with this solution is that it requires some scripting and HTML knowledge. It also personalizes signatures based on local AD, which is a problem if you use Azure Active Directory. It’s also quite problematic when it comes to updates.
Fortunately, there is a third-party alternative which doesn’t suffer from those limitations.
One of the out-of-the-box examples of use is to manage canned responses for a team or the whole company. You can set up as many canned responses as you need. They can include the message body itself as well as a signature and a relevant disclaimer. Each user (or users belonging to certain groups) will be then able to pick the canned response directly in their Outlook or Outlook on the web.
For some people,
animated gifs are the essence of the Internet – before them, there was nothing
of interest. Gifs have opened our eyes to the magic of ultra-cute, animated
kittens, memes and epic fails, to mention a few. But apart from those highly
popular and reusable gifs, there is another type of gifs – simple animations
which in the business world could be deemed as professional.
How about pasting them into email signatures then? Thanks to our atavistic predator instinct, nothing grabs our attention as much as a moving objects next to a static background (that is, regular email content). Animated gifs seem like they are crafted for this purpose exactly. Be careful though, as the line between “attention-grabbing” and “extremely annoying” is finer than you might think.
Multiple email signatures in Outlook seem to be a very useful invention. Why? Firstly, you may need them when sending emails from different email accounts in Outlook. This is a quite common practice when working for more than just one company. Secondly, you may need to respond to some emails as a member of a certain business team or on behalf of that team – it’s not hard to guess that you would need to use different email signatures depending on the recipients. Finally, you may opt to use different signature for internal and external emails – a simple one (for internal messages – it may just include first name, last name, title and phone fields) and an extended one (for external emails – it will contain all contact details, images, logos, etc.).
Let’s then find out how to create multiple email signatures in Microsoft Outlook!
[Update]: This article was updated on May 25, 2020.
Have you ever wondered how to make your email signature more attractive? Here’s an idea – add a video! It is as easy and quick as adding a link to your social media page. It will help you boost your company’s brand identity, while simultaneously promoting the video itself. The best thing is that it can greatly increase traffic and it won’t cost you a dime! And don’t forget that you can measure how much traffic your video attracts with Google Analytics (learn how to track campaigns in email signatures).
Email signature marketing is one of the easiest and most inexpensive methods of promoting your brand and advertising your products online. But do you know how to measure its effectiveness seamlessly? The most efficient way is to use UTM parameters for your links in email signatures and see the results in Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a free service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about website traffic, traffic sources and conversions. Continue reading →