What if We Will Automate it Further?

As said, semi-automatic mode is better than nothing. But still, I guess, you’ll agree here, it’s not the way we should choose if we want to achieve productivity. We need the higher level of automation. Plus we want to be as more abstracted from the user side as it possible. As we are working in Active Directory environment it is reasonable to use its abilities and retrieve the information right from the active directory database. Going that way we’ll solve two problems at once: we will free ourselves from the need to fill in info personally user-by-user and strictly assign the signature to the user according to the official information stored in the Active Directory database. That allows avoiding confusion for the user and for the customer that will contact our user.

The Approach: Querying Active Directory for an Info

As we always do when we start working with some entities, we create an object instance that will represent it. Out main goal here is to retrieve information about the user, the member of the database, and then put it down into our document. We will use ADSystemInfo object and create its instance named objSysInfo that we will us to retrieve the system info data:

Set objSysInfo = CreateObject(“ADSystemInfo”)

After that we can retrieve a distinguished name of the user that is logged on to domain and that we want to create a signature for:

strUser = objSysInfo.UserName

We are using here the UserName property that is who returns the name of the user.

Username retrieved, we can connect (bind the object) to that user account. We use GetObject method that will create a new object from the reference we are linking it to:

Set objUser = GetObject(“LDAP://” & strUser)

Note: We can also shorten the expression and just write Set objUser = GetObject(“LDAP://” & objSysInfo.UserName). Then surely we have no need to define the strUser variable.

Getting the Stuff in Our Hands

That’s the time to start working with properties. What we need them for? We need them exactly to retrieve specific information that we will use during the document filling operation.

Typically a pair that will retrieve is the full user name and the company name and is well enough to build the signature. So basically we can limit the set of information that we will retrieve to just to properties:

1. FullName, this property will return the full name of the user. That is that the name that the user would basically get in the header of the Start menu if he will click on the Start button.

Note: If you haven’t add it, open Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in and change it. See this article for an additional info.

By the way there’s a nice article describing how to make this automatically using VBScript: How to change the display names of Active Directory users with Active Directory Services Interface script

2. Company, this property will return the full name of the company.

To call them just use this form

strName = objectname.property name

Thus to retrieve the user full name, use the following expression:

strName = objUser.FullName

Correspondingly, to retrieve user company name use the expression:

strCompany = objUser.Company

Note: In fact you can overview get all off them with your own eyes if you’ll select user properties in either your contacts or using the user properties smart-tag.

Here’s how to do that:

1. Create a new e-mail.
2. Enter User Name that is recorded in Active Directory
3. Point to the typed name. The user properties smart-tag will arise in the upper left corner on the user name
4. Click on the smart-tag and select Outlook Properties
5. All these properties will be listed on the General tab of the %username% Properties dialog box

Thus you now have a clue on how to enhance the representativeness of the user mail signature. Just use the properties listed there and add them after the name of the object you used to create connection.

Thus to add user telephone number to the user signature use this expression:

strPhone = objUser.telephoneNumber

How to program Outlook
Automatic Management of Signatures Bindings and Formatting
Windows Scripting Host (WSH) Properties List
User Class Properties Reference for Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003 Active Directory Schema
IADsUser Interface Property List
Reading Active Directory Object Properties in C#
Defining Object Properties of any Active Directory Schema Interface object using IADs Interface
User Object Attributes
Sue Moshers’ Solution to Create Outlook Signature using Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) scripting

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Now that we’ll go further with this. How to push these settings enterprise-wide.

As we added line break to the document, we can continue to fill the signature and put (a last!) the name of the company we work in. The procedure is absolutely the same except that for now we are typing company name and hence we are passing the that out mysterious company ACME Corporation name to the input of the method:

objSelection.TypeText “ACME Corporation”

After that we are running Range() to end with the typed text selection block.

Now when we created the content of the signature we are stepping in to create the signature in Outlook. First off we need to create the object that will represent the parent of the object representing the signature. That means we should create objEmailOptions object:

Set objEmailOptions = objWord.EmailOptions

Alright, the parent is created, lets create the child, the objSignatureObject object:

Set objSignatureObject = objEmailOptions.EmailSignature

Now when we created the objSignatureObject signature object that’s the time to include our signature to the list of signatures. What’s the list? It’s the collection. Want to know how it looks like?

1. Open Outlook
2. Open Tools|Options and switch to the Mail Format tab on the Options dialog box
3. In the Signatures section click Signatures button to open the Create Signature dialog box
4. Here we are. The collection is just the list of items listed in the Signature list in this dialog

To create the collection we need to create object

Set objSignatureEntries = objSignatureObject.EmailSignatureEntries

We are ready to fill in the list now. To do that we need to add new item to the collection by using the Add method. To name it somehow we’ll just pass Standard Signature as the parameter:

objSignatureEntries.Add “Standard Signature”, objSelection

Let’s check what we created. Open the Create Signature dialog box as stated in the list above (see step 3) and check the Standard Signature is in the list of available signatures (or the only existing one if you haven’t created the single one yet).

“Wait, wait, wait, wait!” I hear you are saying that. “You told us about the name of the signature, but how did we create it?” You are right. We used reference to the created objSelection object to fill in the signature with the text. That’s what we used Word for.

OK. Signature is created, we can go. Unfortunately, not yet. You are asking, why? Look at the Signature section on the Mail Format tab in the Options dialog box. Observe two drop-down lists there. We haven’t assigned the signature yet. We need to make sure that when the user will either create or reply to the message the created signature will be used there. To do that we need to use two corresponding properties.

1. NewMessageSignature property is used to attach new signature to all newly created messages
2. ReplyMessageSignature property will be used in case user will reply to the incoming message

Lets go. As always, we are creating two objects:

objSignatureObject.NewMessageSignature = “Standard Signature”

objSignatureObject.ReplyMessageSignature = “Standard Signature”

Now look at the mentioned drop-down lists. The “Standard Signature” item is there and successfully selected. Try to create new mail or reply to the message. You will get the created signature attached at the bottom of your message.

By the way, if we would have another signature in the list of signatures we could set another one as the default either for new message or for the replied one depending on what you want it to be by typing its name within the quotes.

Voila! We ended with signature creation. That wasn’t too complicated tasks but still… Look at what we did? Can we leave this alone? Can we consider it to be the right solution? Of course, not. First of all we are talking about corporate environment with computers joined to domain. If we will stop with this solution it would require us either create a set of unique signature scripts, or create a huge IF branching that would put different names for signatures to make them unique for all user computers.

I’ll continue describing what we can do. For now you can find the ways right in the list of the articles I put at the bottom of this my note. See you later.

MSDN Magazine Scripting Outlook Signature article
How about automation? Automatic E-mail Signatures Creation
How to find and use Office object model documentation
Programming the Outlook object model
Microsoft Word Object Model
The TypeText Method
Microsoft Word Selection Object Members
What’s new in Outlook 2007 Object Model

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