All in the <head>

– Ponderings & code by Drew McLellan –

– Live from The Internets since 2003 –


Central Email Signatures

15 April 2004

All recent version of Microsoft’s Exchange email server have been tightly integrated with the Windows Active Directory (AD). For those who aren’t familiar with Windows nastiness, AD is a domain’s central resource directory, managing users, security policies, hardware resources and such. Exchange is (rightly IMO) tied neatly into the AD, so that a user and their email account are all managed in one place. For any given user, the AD has fields for vast amounts of information from name and phone number right through to company structural data such as department and manager.

Any brand-conscious company is aware for the need to have any outgoing email consistently formatted, be that in plain text or rich. It’s important to have employee sign-offs, contact info and legal disclaimers looking neat and tidy and presenting the most up-to-date information. Many companies include a brief marketing message too – nothing wrong with that so long as it’s not an essay.

So this is easy. We have a central mail server that holds all the data we could ever want. We have dozens/hundreds/thousands of employees all using Outlook and needing to send consistent looking emails. So we just sent up a signature template on the server for Outlook to fetch and merge with the employee’s name, phone number and everything and place at the bottom of any new outgoing emails. Right? Wrong.

Here’s what I want:

<signature type="global">

{user.firstname} {user.surname}
{user.position}, {user.department}

Email: {}
Phone: {} - empowering online transactions since 1948!

I don’t think it can be done. This is insane. Email signatures are configured at the client – so they’re not even centralized for a single user if they make use of more than one computer or profile. If you need to make a change to outgoing email signatures and still keep them personalized to each users details, you have to make the change for each profile on each machine for each user in your company. That’s expensive!

Please, please someone tell me I’ve got this wrong.

Drew. (who in his other life has the misfortune of needing to consider such things as Exchange servers).

- Drew McLellan


  1. § Paul: Frankly Drew, as I understand Exchange, this is most likely right! The whole she-bang is nasty when it comes to integrating data across & within applications in the M$ world.
    I would also love to know that I am wrong here. Not that I have any current Exchange clients that need my help at the moment, but it is something I come across occasionally!

    I do know someone who would love to type in all those signatures for you – for a reasonable price too! :)

  2. § Tom Werner: I have the unfortunate task of administering Exchange from time to time, and have previously noted a program called Outlook Disclaimer that would (sort of) serve your purpose. It installs on the client machine (d’oh!), but has all the other functionality you need. It can read a centrally stored file and import AD data respective to the appropriate user. It does have the added benefit of allowing the user to see their sig before they send the message. I’ve never actually used it because of monetary constraints, but you might give it a look. Good luck!
  3. § Chris Peden: I have been in IT the past 7 years primarily as a Windows admin. There is nothing globally central in exchange regarding signatures. There are some central “disclaimer” programs that will do disclaimers at the exchange level. But im afraid that what you want, simply does not exist at this time. Feel free to email me if you have any questions.
  4. § Nick Clark: I’m finding that can also do this and in my readings it is highly regarded. I’m leaning towards this method if time runs out because the powerful creatures that run our firm are not the least patient in anything IT takes on. We can just flip a switch for this right?
  5. § Thomas Wong: Hi Drew,

    I stumbled across the “eMailSignature” product in my search for a corporate solution. perhaps this may help you:
  6. § zlep: Hi Drew,

    you may check this:

  7. § Tipster:

    This new solution from Symprex not only easily deploys Outlook signatures, but also Outlook Web Access (OWA) signatures, without requiring any software to be installed on clients or servers:

    The product is called “Mail Signature Manager” and includes built-in editors for signature formats HTML, RTF and Plain Text.

    Contact data can be merged from Active Directory or user-defined data sources (so virtually any type of database).

    Deployment is fully automatic and can be defined on group and individual user basis.

  8. § Tipster:

    Ups. Here is a link that works:

    Symprex Mail Signature Manager

  9. § Dave Culley:

    I work for Office AddOn who created the original eMailSignature software. This is our flagship prodict and has been designed to create dynamic signatures feeding from your Active Directory, but is now capable of doing much much more. Feel free to contact me if you require any further information on our software or a Technical Demonstration.
    Dave Culley
    Office AddOn Ltd
    020 8755 0070

  10. § Drew McLellan:

    Thanks for that, Dave.


Work With Me logo

At we build custom content management systems, ecommerce solutions and develop web apps.

Follow me


  • Web Standards Project
  • Britpack
  • 24 ways

Perch - a really little cms

About Drew McLellan

Photo of Drew McLellan

Drew McLellan (@drewm) has been hacking on the web since around 1996 following an unfortunate incident with a margarine tub. Since then he’s spread himself between both front- and back-end development projects, and now is Director and Senior Web Developer at in Maidenhead, UK (GEO: 51.5217, -0.7177). Prior to this, Drew was a Web Developer for Yahoo!, and before that primarily worked as a technical lead within design and branding agencies for clients such as Nissan, Goodyear Dunlop, Siemens/Bosch, Cadburys, ICI Dulux and Somewhere along the way, Drew managed to get himself embroiled with Dreamweaver and was made an early Macromedia Evangelist for that product. This lead to book deals, public appearances, fame, glory, and his eventual downfall.

Picking himself up again, Drew is now a strong advocate for best practises, and stood as Group Lead for The Web Standards Project 2006-08. He has had articles published by A List Apart, Adobe, and O’Reilly Media’s, mostly due to mistaken identity. Drew is a proponent of the lower-case semantic web, and is currently expending energies in the direction of the microformats movement, with particular interests in making parsers an off-the-shelf commodity and developing simple UI conventions. He writes here at all in the head and, with a little help from his friends, at 24 ways.