How to add signatures and disclaimers in Exchange Online

UPDATE February 2016: I’ve written a guest blog piece for Exclaimer comparing this method vs. Exclaimer Cloud – Signatures for Office 365.

For years there have been numerous products on the market for Exchange Server that automatically add signatures to outbound emails.

These products traditionally need to run on the Exchange Server and retrieve information from Active Directory. There is also usually a PC-based console on which to create the signatures and administer the system.

These solutions also exist for Exchange Online in Office 365, however this is also possible without any on-premise systems using native Exchange Online functionality. All it takes is a little bit of reading to understand the variables involved.

Jesper Osgaard wrote a similar piece on his TechNet blog, however in this post I have gone a couple of steps further.

Before starting it is important to have your user information up to date in the Office 365 administration portal. It is assumed that first name & last name are fine, however if you want to automate things such as phone numbers, address details – these need to be present in the user properties.

The first step is to log into the Microsoft Online Portal (https://portal.microsoftonline.com) and select the option to Manage Exchange Online settings.

You’ll then need to select the Mail Control menu option which will open up in the Rules sub-section.

At this point we begin defining our rule. Select the options as per the screenshot below.

Specify the variables you want to use from the following list:

  • DisplayName
  • FirstName
  • Initials
  • LastName
  • Office
  • PhoneNumber
  • OtherPhoneNumber
  • Email
  • Street
  • POBox
  • City
  • State
  • ZipCode
  • Country
  • UserLogonName
  • HomePhoneNumber
  • OtherHomePhoneNumber
  • PagerNumber
  • MobileNumber
  • FaxNumber
  • OtherFaxNumber
  • Notes
  • Title
  • Department
  • Company
  • Manager
  • CustomAttribute1 to CutomAttribute15

This will show up as blank text, however if you have any HTML or CSS skills you can use these to improve the aesthetics. Also linking to graphics such as company logos is supported – however you may find that the recipients company may block calling external files within an email.

Select OK, and the rule is applied immediately.

Here is what the end result looks like:

The problem is if you don’t set an exception – your email signature / disclaimer will be added to each additional reply:

So going back to the Exchange Online rule, open up the signature rule you created and select More Options:

We’re now able to add an exception which allows the rule to be ignored if the email is a reply.

Under the exception menu select The subject includes… and add “RE:” to the field.

Press OK, save the rule, and now we’ll see that the rule isn’t applied on a reply:

Obviously the signature I’ve created in this example is quite plain, so it would be a good idea to get a web designer involved who can write the relevant HTML & CSS to make the signature appear more to your liking.

You now have fully functional automatic signatures! No need to configure Outlook for every new user, and a great way to keep a standard signature across all users.

Automatic signatures in Exchange Online

One of the things we get asked from time to time is how to set up automated signatures in Exchange Online.
While with an on-premise Exchange solution you can utilise 3rd party solutions such as Exclaimer – this isn’t possible in Exchange Online due to the shared environment.
However – you can still utilise the Forefront Online Protection for Exchange (FOPE) to automatically append either a text or HTML footer to the bottom of each message.
If you don’t already have access FOPE – put a service request to be granted access.
Once in, head to your domain service settings and add what you like – as shown below.
Bear in mind that embedded images aren’t possible as you would normally have with Outlook – however you can link to the image.