3 signature solutions

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Three Outlook Signature Solutions: Every One’s A Winner!

It’s been six years since we added Outlook Signature design and deployment commands to our Automation Studio product, and today this functionality is still one of the most popular reasons people buy it.

If you are in the processing of taking our free trial, then this blog should come in handy. I will cover the three different software editions which you can achieve Outlook Signature automation with and discuss some ideal usage (real life!) scenarios.

Before I get going however, I think it’s worth to start out by talking a little about our solution in general. Why, when the Internet is awash with many other Outlook Signature solutions (some of them free) do so many IT professionals still choose our Automation Studio?

Simple Outlook Signatures: Save yourself! (time & money)

Having been an IT manager myself, I know all about the ‘overhead’ of any software that fills a need. Solutions generally need infrastructure (be it on premises or cloud), this in turn needs to be managed, then there is configuration, monitoring, and as you roll it out, desktop support too. A package that initially looks cheap on paper, suddenly doesn’t save you money, and just generates new problems that replace the old ones.

Because our Outlook Signature solution is completely contained within a tiny (and pretty remarkable) 2MB executable file (FSH.EXE), the engine behind our solution is ultra-thin at its core.

This compactness makes our solution supremely robust and is many cases, completely infrastructure free. Our customers appreciate the fact that it is versatile enough to work pretty much on any version of Windows, old or new, and being truly portable, any type of deployment type, be it desktop or VDI.

With Automation Studio, your signature appears right underneath your email inside of Outlook, so you can see before you send. An essential feature if you are running multiple email accounts under different brands.

No changes to your email server setup are required, and there is no need to route email via a 3rd party system as with some competitive solutions. Privacy issues aside, routing via 3rd party servers makes your email dependent on the signature provider, which means yet another system to check if emails go AWOL.

A Signature Is Unique. Buy Something Unique To Your Needs.

Depending on the edition you choose, you will also appreciate the awesome power of FSH.EXE in how you are able to tweak and tune it, leveraging over 1,500 powerful IT Administration commands. I will demonstrate some of these simply yet powerful tricks later in the blog.

Really though, you are likely reading this because you just need a solution that makes your Outlook Signature problem ‘go away’, and to do so with a minimum amount of time & effort spent on your behalf.

You came to the right place.

Compare Our Editions

We package Outlook Signature automation and deployment into three distinct editions: Outlook Edition, Enterprise Edition and Platinum Edition.

Let’s take a closer look at each edition so you know you’ve got the functionality you need. But why limit yourself to just that you know you need?

You might discover functionality you didn’t know you needed!

Outlook Edition: Signatures in seconds!

 

Starting with the most economical edition, Outlook Edition is extremely popular for those are in a hurry and have perhaps got frustrated with other more complex solutions. If you have a 100s (or 1,000s!) of staff and your boss just told you he wants signatures sorted ‘by end of play’… Outlook Edition is the answer.

The beauty of our Outlook Edition is that there is no requirement for any infrastructure, databases, collecting user details and importing. Windows O/S support goes way back to XP, but naturally includes all the latest O/S too.

Rolling out Outlook signatures company-wide works like this:

  1. Copy your design into our free WYSIWYG signature designer (we do not charge for this and so you can use as many copies of our designer as you have licenses)
  2. Configure various signature options such as the ability for users to fill in their own details
  3. Test your signature using the test feature on your local Outlook
  4. Build your signature as either an MSI or EXE
  5. Send out to users, either via software deployment solution, running from a logon script or simply host it on a network share and get users to run manually.
  6. If you need to generate different signatures for different groups, simply create a new design, and create a new EXE / MSI. There is no limit on the number of signatures you can create.

Outlook Edition: Great For

  • Extremely rapid signature deployment to many 1,000s of Outlook users
  • Situations where you do not have user details up to date and stored centrally
  • When you have a limited budget

Consider another edition if:

  • Have many departments and want multiple signatures per user / per department
  • Want to be able to re-design signatures without having to re-build signatures to new MSI / EXE files
  • Have some custom functionality / specific situations which is important (more on that next)

Case study: Outlook Edition Delivers An Architecture-less Email Signature architecture… for Architects!

A London based Architecture firm with 300 staff needed to move their offices in a hurry and did not have a company-wide Outlook Signature solution in place. In an afternoon they needed to roll out a new signature which informed customers & suppliers of their new address. There was no time to set up a new server based solution, correct user details, or make big architectural changes to their out sourced email solution.

The new email signature was designed in a few minutes, built to an MSI and rolled out via MSI software distribution (GPO). When users next logged in they were presented with a form in which they were shown their contact details automatically taken from Active Directory, which they could adjust if not up to date.

This ‘zero architecture’ solution was implemented in the same morning as purchase, and most signatures had been deployed after staff logged in when they came back from their lunch break.

Enterprise Edition: The essential automation tool for Enterprise networks

Automation Studio Enterprise Edition is the solution which most customers end up with simply because of its huge feature set and the ability to adjust and customise scripts that enables IT departments to engineer and automate themselves out of problems.

Customers that already have Software Deployment, online inventory, printer management, drive mapping and EXE/MSI packaging solutions could suddenly find themselves being able ditch separate disjointed systems (some perhaps built in house and no longer supported), and switch to Automation Studio – one product that handles everything.

If you are simply looking for Outlook Signatures alone, the core benefit of the Enterprise Edition is that together with Logon Script functionality, you can dynamically build signatures on the fly at logon. So there is no need to design a signature, build to EXE or MSI and then distribute, this task happens at logon. Therefore all that needs to be done is to edit the signature design template, hit save, and there is nothing more to do.

Because the signature creation workflow is done at logon, it makes it far easier to create multiple signatures for multiple departments. With Outlook Edition, you would need to create multiple EXE or MSI, so if you have 20 departments, with different languages perhaps, then Enterprise Edition is going to save you a lot of time.

Being based on Logon Scripts, requiring no additional infrastructure, and being entirely run from your existing NETLOGON directory, our solution is therefore is automatically as fault tolerant, highly available and as scale-able as your own Active Directory. It will be just as easy to roll out Outlook Signatures to offices in the UK, than those in New York and Singapore, if they are all connected on AD. This is another example of how our product is designed with simplicity and ‘thin-ness’ in mind.

Another aspect of Enterprise Edition is customisability.

Here are two great examples that I can share which highlight to specific instances where the power of FSH scripting was able to easily fix unforeseen problems:

Mit freundlichen Grüßen / Sincères amities

A Swiss customer had rolled out Enterprise Edition to manage Outlook Signatures but they soon discovered a bit of a problem. Being Swiss, staff in the company spoke both Swiss French, and Swiss German. However, it was not the case that everyone in a particular office / department used one language over another.

Each member of staff had a German email signature and a French email signature; however, the ‘default’ signature was initially only selectable via an AD group or OU – which was not useful.

The customers IT manger (who, incidentally, had only been using our FastTrack Scripting language for a day), figured out a solution all by himself:

If UserIsMemberOf SALES-DEPARTMENT Then If [UserCustomProperty preferredLanguage] = "DE" Then SetNewEmailSignature My Company AG - DE SetReplyEmailSignature My Company AG - DE End If If [UserCustomProperty preferredLanguage] = "FR" Then SetNewEmailSignature My Company AG - FR SetReplyEmailSignature My Company AG - FR End If End If

This little custom script simply checks for the ‘preferred language’ custom setting in AD and then selects the appropriate signature that matches this. The result is that the member of staff has a default signature language that matches whatever they have their preferred language set to. Beautifully simple!

Japanese managed Active Directory drives Dutch sales outlet up the ‘van de Walle’

A customer in the Netherlands is a sales outlet that is headquartered in Japan. Much to the annoyance of IT staff in the Dutch office, all the Active Directory management was run out of Japan and there was no permission to edit user names or other attributes.

The problem was that in Japan, Dutch staff details were not always correctly entered. Dutch names such as ‘van de Walle’ would get entered in Active Directory as ‘vandewalle’. As such, this is what would get slapped on their Outlook Signatures.

Again with a little custom scripting, the problem was easily fixed:

If [UserCompany]=EXAMPLE-COMPANY Then Set Name = [PrettyPrintUpper [UserFirstName] [UserLastName]] Set Name = [Replace [Var Name], " vandewalle ", " van de Walle"] InstallSignature Signature.docx, COMPANY-SIG SetNewEmailSignature COMPANY-SIG End If

So with the above snippet loaded into our Logon Script solution we are first auto capitalising ‘First Names’ and ‘Last Names’ and then we look for specific surnames, and essentially do a find / replace on the fly, so we take the ‘wrong’ AD name and replace it with the correct one.

Let your workforce advertise for you!

As covered on this blog, Enterprise Edition also ships with the nifty ‘Local Banner’ solution, a clever system which allows you to tag what are essentially banner ads in designated campaign placement areas underneath your signature designs. Banners can be enabled / disabled on scheduled dates, so are a really useful means to subliminally disseminate marketing messages, or simply company information such as opening hours over public holidays.

There are too many other features contained within Enterprise Edition to list them on this blog, but you will find other blogs on this site which cover included functionality on this site.

Enterprise Edition: Great for

  • When you have multiple departments that all need different signatures
  • If you have certain custom requirements that cannot be met using standard functionality
  • If you have identified one or other functions shipping with Enterprise that you need
  • If you are interested in utilising the Local Banner functionality

Enterprise Edition contains all the functionality of Outlook Edition, so if you wish to deploy EXE or MSI signatures to customers, then you can still cover these guys with Enterprise Edition

Consider Platinum Edition if:

  • You have identified platinum functionality you need (eg SCCM integration)
  • You like the look of our ‘Cloud Banner’ functionality’

Platinum Edition: Makes Every Email Sell Your Story!

As I mentioned above, the only difference from an Outlook Signature perspective with our Platinum Edition and Enterprise Editions, is the inclusion of the additional ‘Campaign Banner’ functionality of ‘Cloud Banners’.

In short, Cloud Banners give Marketing departments the ability to manage email signature campaign banner images completely outside of their company IT systems. So where with Local Banners, Marketing would have to upload images files and links to a network share, with Cloud Banners, they can log into our portal and control from there.

Being a portal-based solution Cloud Banners can be configured to track views and clicks too, which is useful to test and track the effectiveness of your email banner ads.

The More You Learn, The More You Like!

I hope I have given you a good overview of our three Outlook Signature solutions, and this will make the task of deciding which of them is going to best fit your requirements.


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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 SCCM, then you know how hit-and-miss the results can be."

Read full review


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. the Script Editor 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."

Review in English      Review in German

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