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For many organizations, it’s a good idea to centrally manage email signatures and email disclaimers – it gives a consistent branding on your email communications, and you’re not relying on end users to set them up correctly and keep them consistent. If you’re running Microsoft Exchange 2010, you have the ability to do this out of the box, using ‘Transport Rules’. Applying signatures this way should also save you space in your mailbox databases, due to the fact that signatures won’t be added on to each message in every users "Sent Items" folder.
To get started with a basic signature, open the Exchange Management Console, and navigate to: ‘Organization Configuration’ >> ‘Hub Transport’, then select the ‘Transport Rules’ tab, finally click the ‘New Transport Rule’ link in the actions pane on the right. The Transport Rule wizard should then start, you’ll need to provide a name for your rule, and then select which user or group of users this rule should apply to. In your first instance, it’s probably a good idea just to apply it to yourself to test with, later you can apply the rule to other individuals, distribution groups etc. Have a look through the options available to you in step 1, they are quite flexible with who the rules can be applied to. In step two of the transport rule wizard, you will need to chose the ‘append disclaimer text’ action, and then enter your text by clicking the appropriate hyperlink in the bottom pane of the wizard.
Before we move on to step 3 of the wizard, you should be aware that signatures and disclaimers can only be appended to the absolute end of emails. If you want to have a signature at the end of each reply, you will need to look into 3rd party solutions. Due to this fact, I always add an exclusion rule, for any email with ‘FW:’ or ‘RE:’ in the subject, in order to prevent a build up of signatures right at the end of an email conversation, which could confuse people. Once you’ve added this exclusion rule, the wizard will confirm your choices, and then create the transport rule. At this stage, if you send an email that matches the criteria in step 1 of the wizard, you should see your signature applied.
Dynamic email signatures
The best aspect of adding signatures via Exchange transport rules is the fact that certain attributes from Active Directory can be dynamically inserted into the signatures – just insert the attribute name into the disclaimer text in the transport rule, with ‘%%’ on either side of the attribute name (e.g. %phoneNumber%). Unfortunately not all AD attributes will work, but there are a number of useful ones available, the full list is provided on Microsoft TechNet.
For our next signature, go back and edit the previous transport rule you created, and edit the disclaimer text to include some dynamic attributes. We will also need to add some very basic HTML to format the signature:
Now when a mail matching our criteria is processed by Exchange, it should have our name added in bold, along with our phone number. You could get more creative with the HTML in the signature, inserting company logos, or creating tables.
Text only email signatures
If you’re sending a text only email (Many mobile devices will send these out – including iPhones and Blackberries), Exchange will have to convert your signature to a text only format. It’s always a good idea to check what the converted version looks like – especially if you’ve used a lot of HTML.
It’s also worth noting that a bug in pre SP1 meant that when Exchange converted HTML messages to text only, the signature ended up with <html> and <body> tags at the start of it. This issue was fixed in Exchange SP1.
Chaining email signatures
Finally, as you build your signature system up for your organization – it may help to be aware that you can create multiple transport rules that build up your signature and disclaimer in chunks. For example, one rule could include generic name and contact details, followed by another section with a departmental marketing line, followed by a global disclaimer message. By setting the priority of each transport rule, you can ensure that they will be joined together in the correct order.