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Create and deploy Outlook signatures


FastTrack is the simplest and fastest way to deploy Outlook signatures.

Design a signature using a Word-like editor and simply save it as an MSI or EXE file. That's it! No need for yet another management console or more infrastructure.


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Outlook signatures

Creating and deploying Outlook signatures

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Do you want us to do the work for you?

Then skip the instructions on this page and send us an email with an empty email attached with your signature to info@srekait.com. We will send you an exe and msi file for testing. Or give us a call at 262-299-4606.


The general problem with signatures


Microsoft Outlook Signature - Social Media Icons Personal URL
Let's first look at the actual problem that needs to be solved. The single biggest problem with signatures in general is the data you have available about the employee. There is not a company in the entire world that has 100% accurate data on each employee. The most common problem is that the Active Directory does not have all the correct phone numbers (check the page bottom on how to reformat phone numbers to for example xxx.xxx.xxxx). Even if that is the case, the same problem exists with job titles. Let's say you are appointed to be "team lead" instead of "engineer" by your boss. Then that is most likely an unofficial title. And the same holds true for names even, where lots of people don't use their official names, like Ron versus Ronald. Therefore, a solution that just hooks into outgoing traffic and paste in a signature might be a quick win, but it is not really a working solution. The solution presented here is based on an Outlook signature with an option to pop-up a window to the end user to correct the information, when they log on to their computer. Default values are the Active Directory data and then the end user can correct as needed. The pop-up can then be shown in intervals, or one time and in either case, a desktop icon can be placed for the end user to update their signature. So the responsibility for the data is no longer on IT and/or HR, but on the end users themselves. They cannot avoid being presented with this screen at least once, unless you of opt to just use your Active Directory data as is. Read on for instructions or contact us for help.



Concept

FastTrack Automation Studio allows you to design and deploy a corporate Outlook signature. The visual designer is similar to Microsoft Word and lets you pick any Active Directory (or Azure AD / Office 365) attribute to use - including employee photos, social icons and dynamic marketing banners. You can start by copying an existing Outlook signature and simply replace static values. You are literally done and ready to try it other computers in a few minutes.

No new infrastructure needed (!)

Unlike other signature solutions, you do NOT need to install a management suite that needs integration into your Active Directory; you simply build a self-contained exe (which you can call from your existing logon script) or MSI file for clients, or you can set up a new FastTrack logon script using a wizard that includes your Outlook signature.

Offline computers

As the only solution to do this on the market, FastTrack can work on computers that are totally offline. Simply design the signature as if all computers are using your Active Directory. If computers are not in a domain and you install the MSI or run the exe file you create, it will simply prompt the user to fill in the information for the signature. This ensures a locked and consistent signature design for computers that you cannot service.

Using multiple signatures in an organization

You can easily use multiple signatures based on Active Directory groups, organizational unit and so on. For example, if sales needs to use dynamic banners and everyone else do not. If you use a logon script to deploy, you can simply add a series of signatures and add dynamic rules. If you use the exe or msi deploy option, you can build multiple packages and deploy to different parts of the organization. This is explained in greater detail further down this page.

Creating a corporate template signature file

The first step is to design a template signature in Microsoft Word (.docx) or Rich-Text (.rtf) format. In the App Factory shell, click the "Signatures" icon as shown below and select "Design Outlook Signature". If you use the Outlook edition of FastTrack Automation Studio, the shell looks slightly different with only three buttons.
Microsoft Outlook Signature Builder button
Selecting "Design Outlook Signature" will open the Signature Builder, which looks like Microsoft Word 2016. To show a real-life example, we have gotten permission from our customer Folino Construction from Pittsburg, to use their signature as an example. You can copy an existing signature from Outlook through the clipboard to start from.

Microsoft Outlook Signature Builder

There is one important difference to Microsoft Word though. Observe the red box above. The "Active Directory" button in the "Insert User Property" group lets you pick any Active Directory user property to be translated into an actual value at installation time. Once the button is pressed, it will pop up a list of properties and ask you to select one.

Microsoft Outlook Signature - Active Directory User Properties

In the template signature, an Active Directory attribute is marked with hard brackets. It is possible use both the Active Directory name or the name of the FastTrack engine function, if you are familiar with that. For example [UserFullName] (FastTrack function) or [Display Name] (Active Directory attribute name) is at installation time replaced with the actual full name of the current user. Once the design is complete, the signature template must be saved as a Microsoft Word file (and you can make further edits with Microsoft Word, if desired). Once it is deployed to users (see next section), the signature we used above, will look like the below for IT Manager Michael Show in Microsoft Outlook.

Microsoft Outlook Signature - EMail Signature

Dynamic banner campaigns

You can add a banner campaign to your signature. If you are a real estate agent for example, you can use a banner campaign in signatures to promote current high profile properties currently for sale. If you click this button, you get two options to do this:

Microsoft Outlook Signature - Banners

When you click one of the buttons, a configuration window will show (not shown here). The local banner option lets you point to a LAN network location, where someone else maintains banner files. This would typically be a marketing person. The marketing person can simply replace files on the network folder on a daily basis without the IT administrator doing anything, once set up. FastTrack will simply pick a banner at random from this directory at run-time. At design time, you will simply see one of the banner files as a placeholder:

Microsoft Outlook Signature - Banner placeholder

The above placeholder is from using the cloud option. The cloud option offers same features, except that banners are controlled and downloaded from a free account at www.outlookbanners.com. The result is the same, but the cloud option offers some valuable extras. The main extra is that the marketing person can track who has viewed the banner (recipients of emails) AND where these persons are located geographically. Please refer to www.outlookbanners.com for more information on using cloud banners.

Below is an example banner from real estate agent in London. But banners can contain anything related to your company - the sky's the limit. If you are a car manufacturer for example, this could be the next model coming out or if you are selling a product, banners could be discounts this week, Black Friday specials and so forth.

Microsoft Outlook Signature - Real estate


Social Media Icons

You can insert a social media icon using the button at the top menu, as shown below. You could just insert an image with a Facebook logo and add a link, but there are some advantages using the button. First or all, all social media are very strict in terms of use of their logo. So actually, you are not allowed to Google a Facebook logo and add the one you like best, or the one that looks most like the other ones you have (for example a square Pinterest logo instead of the official round one). When you use the Social Icon button, you use the only logo you can legally use. You can get in legal trouble using other versions of the logo, as you are in violation of the official brand guidelines. Also, when you use the social media icon button, the logo is scaled to the actual size you need. This ensures that it doesn't get a different size, once your email has been through gmail or similar.

Microsoft Outlook Signature - Social Media Icons

Microsoft Outlook Signature - Social Media Icons Configuration

Personal Social Media Page

There is an extra feature using the Social Media icon, if you examine the screendump above. If most of your employees have a personal, say, LinkedIn page and that is what you want to use in signatures, you can use the personalization option. And you can mix, for example the Facebook page is the corporate one, but the LinkedIn is the personal one. If you use this option, the user will be asked at logon time, like this:

Microsoft Outlook Signature - Social Media Icons Personal URL

Office 365 and Azure Active Directory

If you are using Office 365 or Azure Active Directory ("Azure AD") without having an on-premise Active Directory, you can get the same properties from your Azure AD. But if you DO have an on-premise Active Directory, you should prefer using this. This is because it is easier and it doesn't matter, where your storage is (local Exchange, Office 365, etc), it only matters from the signature perspective, where the employee data is fetched from. Where accounts store their data, is irrelevant to signatures.

If you do need to use Azure AD, then next to the "Active Directory" button, you will find an "Azure AD/Office 365" button to get properties from your Azure AD. This scenario is described on a separate page on Azure AD. Please refer to this page for more information. Note that Azure AD features requires the Enterprise edition.

Microsoft Azure AD / Office 365 signature

When to use which button?

  • On-premise AD and no Azure AD (typical scenario): Use the "Active Directory" button.
  • Azure AD but no on-premise AD: Use the "Azure AD/Office 365" button.
  • Both on-premise AD and Azure AD: Use the "Active Directory" button, because it is easier and you would likely execute when your on-premise AD is available.
  • Neither on-premise nor Azure AD: Use the "Active Directory" button, because when no on-premise AD is available, the user will be asked for the information.


Deploying the corporate signature file

Once the signature is satisfactory, select the "Deploy Outlook Signature" in the "Signatures" menu, which brings up a wizard to generate a deployment package. You can also deploy using a Cloud Job, which is explained here.

Microsoft Outlook Signature Deployment Wizard

The wizard offers three options to deploy a signature:
  • Logon Script (recommended): This basically moves you to the Logon Script Builder. Refer to www.fasttracklogon.com for details. The reason this is the recommended way is that you do not need to redeploy to update signatures. You can simply replace the signature template file on netlogon or point to a network location, where someone from marketing can update the signature. Also, it is easier to control multiple signatures, because you can simply add any number of signatures and set conditions, such as group membership or OU of the user.
  • MSI file: Generate an MSI file to deploy for example through group policies. Documentation on deploying through group policies can be found here. Note that when you use the MSI option, the signature is installed, when users log on. This means that when you install the MSI for testing, you must log off and on to get the signature installed. If you need to use multiple signatures, you need to build a number of MSI packages and deploy to relevant OUs.
  • Exe file: Generate an exe file to either let users execute manually - or to execute unattended from an existing logon script. If you need to use multiple signatures, you need to build multiple exe files and control the rules yourself, for example based on group membership.
You can find more information on deployment at the bottom of the page. The Signatures page of the Logon Script Builder looks like this:

Microsoft Outlook Signature Deployment



Tips and FAQ


Copy and paste from Outlook as a starting point

You can paste to the Signature Builder from another application through the clipboard. This means you can open an existing signature in Outlook and simply use ctrl+c to copy and ctrl+v to paste into the Signature Builder. All you have to do after that is to highlight your name using normal marking with your mouse and click the "Active Directory" button in the "Insert User Property" group to replace your name with an Active Directory attribute/function. If there are other dynamic values, such as phone number or email address, you must replace these the same way.

What if computers are offline or I don't have an Active Directory?

In these scenarios, you simply pretend to have the Active Directory. The engine will automatically detect that you do not have an Active Directory, or it is not reachable. Then a pop-up form will appear and the user has to fill in the information. The information will be cached, so the user does not need to enter the information every time.

Which edition do I need?

Generally, we would advise to deploy through a logon script, which requires the Enterprise edition. The big advantage of doing that is that you do not need to redeploy every time a signature needs a change. Here is a matrix of features:
  Outlook Edition Enterprise Platinum
Signature designer
Azure AD / Office 365 support
Install Once/Every time
Exe/msi deploy option
Set signature for new and reply emails
Ask user to correct AD info before install
Create desktop icon to re-install
Install multiple signatures
Logon script deployment
Lock signatures
Lock stationery
Delete all other signatures
Install to multiple exchange mailboxes
Install Exchange profile
All Enterprise features
Network banners
Cloud banners


Microsoft Word as designer

It is possible to another designer, such as Microsoft Word, for the design of the signature. However, the initial design should be done with the Signature Builder, as you otherwise do not have validation of functions and the photo option. Also be aware that Word will make a new paragraph every time you use carriage return, whereas the signature builder does not, because each paragraph will produce an undesired vertical gab when email go through some mail systems, such as gmail.

Conditional fields

Some users may not have all properties filled in that are required, such as the phone number. For users that do not have the phone number property filled in, there will be no number shown. This often leaves us with the problem that there is typically a leading text that must be removed also, when the property is empty. The way to solve this is to use curly brackets { and }. When using them, the entire content between them will disappear, if there is an empty property inside it. In the example below, there is a leading text "Phone: " (line marked in red for readability). If the user does have a phone number, the two brackets will disappear, but everything between them will remain. If the user does NOT have a phone number (UserPhoneNo is empty), the brackets and everything between them will be removed entirely.

Active Directory conditional fields

Phone number formatting

When you insert a phone or fax number, such as the phone number property, the number will be shown as it appears in your Active Directory. If your Active Directory numbers are not in a consistent format, you can add a formatting rule, which will be saved with your document, by clicking the button shown below. A formatting rule will make phone numbers appear consistent, for example as 555.555.5555, regardless of how numbers are entered in the Active Directory in relation to spaces, dots, dashes and so forth. It is especially important, when signatures include multiple phone numbers, as it does not look professional, if they are not in the same format.

Active Directory phone formatting

Pictures and Photos

If your Active Directory is populated with employee images, you can click the "AD User Photo" button, which shows the window below. This allows you to let FastTrack download the user photo from Active Directory at installation time. If you do not have photos in your Active Directory, you can easily upload them with a FastTrack script using the SetUserImage command.

Active Directory thumbnailPhoto use



Deployment options


Deployment settings

As explained in the first section, once the signature is satisfactory, select the "Deploy Outlook Signature" in the "Signatures" menu to deploy. Refer to the screenshot at the top for the first page of the wizard. The second page of the wizard offers a number of options explained below the picture:

Microsoft Outlook Signature options

  • Automatically use for new emails: This sets the signature as default for new emails.
  • Automatically use for when replying: This sets the signature as default when replying to emails.
  • Delete all other signatures: Deletes all existing signatures for all accounts, before installing the new signature.
  • Create desktop icon: This installs a desktop icon for the user to get the signature installed again. This option would only make sense, when the "Only once per user" option was selected, as the signature only gets installed once per user. Then the desktop icon can be used to correct or reset the signature.
  • Lock Outlook stationery: This locks all stationery options in Outlook.
  • Lock Outlook signatures: This locks all buttons in the signature designer in Outlook. This means that the user cannot change the signature, so you should only use this option, if you are 100% sure that the information in the signature is correct for all employees - or if you are using the correction option (next bullet).
  • Ask user to correct Active Directory values: This does NOT change your Active Directory. What it means is that before installing a signature, the signature file is scanned for used fields and then a form is shown (see picture below), prefilled with Active Directory information. This allows the user to edit the data before the signature is installed. If you combine this with the locking, you in effect make sure that the design is locked, but users can change Active Directory values. The pop-up form for correcting Active Directory data could look like the below. The default data are from the Active Directory and the signature file used name, title, phone and email fields.
Microsoft Outlook Signature designer


Other points of interest

You can also use FastTrack to configure Outlook profiles, back up PST files and log accounts mapped by users in Outlook. Refer to the general Outlook page here for more information.
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Rating: 5 out of 5

"Use this as a replacement for VBScript and PowerShell"

"It's easy to include attractive GUI elements in FastTrack scripts, beyond the basic dialog boxes and text input that VBScript offers ... Another powerful feature is the ability to distribute scripts as Windows Installer (.msi) or standard .exe files. Although interesting in its own right, this ability results in a much more intriguing capability: to repackage -- or wrap -- software installers as .msi files without using snapshots. If you've ever created an .msi installer file from before-and-after system snapshots, for use with a software distribution system such as Group Policy or System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), then you know how hit-and-miss the results can be."

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Rating: 8 out of 10

"Faster than the rest"

"We found the FastTrack syntax to be more transparent and easier to learn than Microsoft's PowerShell – the editor in particular provided good support in this regard. Scripting mode offers a large number of options from the command set through to simple output of graphical elements, which cannot be achieved at all with PowerShell or other solutions or only with a significantly greater level of effort."

"Anyone wanting to tackle the many hurdles in everyday admin and especially anyone for whom logon scripts and client automation is a priority will benefit from the variety of functions offered by FastTrack."

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