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Centrally managing Signatures in Outlook and OWA - the free way

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by , 18th November 2011 at 12:28 AM (180728 Views)
Right... as part of a corporate branding exercise - I have been working on sorting out the email signature front.

Before everyone says it - yes, I know you can do a "sort of solution" on the Exchange server. Im not going to cover that one in this post - as its more designed for Disclaimers. If you want to know more on that - Google "Exchange Transport Rule Disclaimer".

Why not Exchange Transport Rules
Back to this post - and why I didnt use Exchange server. Well - the one big bug/by design behavior with the Transport Rule option is that it cant work out where the body of a reply or forward is - and therefore can only tag its content to either the start or end of the entire message.

The Solution
Enter my solution. What I wanted to do was add a customised signature via Outlook and Web Access to all messages. Yes - I know that in theory these could be editted by the users - but I will come back to that one.

Lets start with Outlook. First off, lets get friendly with some scripting. This is Powershell - and you need Windows 7 (built in) or XP SP3 (with Powershell 2.0 addin free download from Microsoft Download Centre).

Create your Outlook Template
Now - we need to create a kind of template to use. This should be done in Word - and call it CompanyName.docx (replace Company Name with your School name). Create the look and feel you want your signature to have - and yes you can include images! Make sure you use the following keywords: DisplayName, Title, Email, TelephoneNumber, Fax etc..

THis is a bit of a noob thing - but you must ensure these fields are filled out for all users in Active Directory Users and Computers. This is designed to save you time - information in one location.

Put your file on your server under the following path \\domain\NETLOGON\sig_files\CompanyName\CompanyNam e.docx

Now - here is the script. I cant take any credit for this - other than the find - and confirming that it works like a dream. You will need to edit sections at the top - the variables for your site. It is uploaded here as a txt - save it as a .ps1 file.

Source Credit:

Group Policy Fun
Next, you need to get busy with Group Policy. Two things we need to do - one assign our script. Thats under User Configuration > Policies > Windows Settings > Scripts > Logon. Another caveat here - which I should have mentioned earlier. You NEED to be Server 2008 R2 really for this. On the Scripts dialog, you have a second tab "Powershell". Click Browse - and copy your script to this location (which will be a folder within Sysvol.....GUID....Scripts/Login. This is really important. Powershell is so damn powerful that Microsoft have built in a load of protection. By default, unsigned scripts cannot run, and ours certainly isnt! But, by putting it here - it will run safely.

So... Thats done. Next - to lock down Outlook to prevent users fiddling with Outlook settings. Sadly, the Office 14 ADMX files (free download from the Microsoft Download Centre) do not give you check boxes to disable features. We have to know the IDs of the controls we want to disable.

These are... 5608, 14014, 11323, 21553, 5611, 14823, 12305, 16182, 13991, 12245, 12680, 12863, 12681, 12864, 2087 and you put them here Microsoft Outlook 2010 > Disable Items in User Interface > Custom

Outlook Web Access
Onto OWA. Yes you can get to the Signatures here as well - under Options. Thankfully - you can prevent access to it via Web Access policies in the Exchange Management Console. But - again, with a little bit of Powershell on the server, we can ensure that a signature we want is set there too - for when your users send email from there.

$mailboxes = Get-Mailbox
$mailboxes| foreach {$file= "C:\signatures\" + ($_.alias) + ".html"; Set-MailboxMessageConfiguration -identity $_.alias -SignatureHtml "$(Get-Content -Path $file -ReadCount 0)"}
Source Credit:

Now - one problem with this - you need to have pre-created an HTML signature for each user, and as per the script as is - located it in C:\signatures; issue! So, how to fix that...

Well, that will be the subject of my next post - and as a teaser as to the fix, think about what the first Outlook bit is doing! If i can sort out a small prize for BETT, this will be awarded if a member can come up with what the answer is (which is already part written as my next article). Bear in mind - Ive already implemented this....

Questions and comments welcome :-)

Updated 18th November 2011 at 10:43 AM by TheScarfedOne



  1. dimepop's Avatar
    Hi, have you got the code to create am html signature for each user?
  2. ctsmith47's Avatar
    Thank you for this post, lots of great info.

    Did you ever get a chance to complete the Outlook Web Access portion on another post?
  3. AnotherAdmin's Avatar
    Any updates on getting the OWA signature working? The outlook script worked like a charm, but the OWA would be very helpful!!
  4. RabbieBurns's Avatar
    Any idea how I can centrally customise the signature for Outlook for Mac?


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