Thursday, March 13, 2008

Multiple HTML Reply Signatures for Google Apps

Gmail HTML Reply Signatures Greasemonkey Script

The company I work for uses Gmail for email communications. Specifically, the service the company uses is part of the Google Apps bundle of services, and it's the same service that I use for my blog email.

As many of you may know, custom signatures through Gmail can't contain HTML by default. However, HTML Multiple Reply Signatures for Gmail solves this by using the Greasemonkey engine to inject HTML into the page. The HTML Multiple Reply Signatures Script (and Firefox Extension) injects a drop down list to the left of the Gmail editor where a user can select from up to four customized HTML signatures, which will be injected into the Gmail editor.

History of Gmail HTML Multiple Reply Signatures

About a year ago, I integrated the HTML Reply Signatures script into our company's global Windows profile. Since the global profile was shared across most of the company workstations, I created a DOS batch script that took the user's Windows login details from a workstation PC and generated the Greasemonkey script using this information. The generated script on each workstation is exactly the same, except for the filename of the signature image to use. The constraint is that all of the images must use a standard naming convention and all be located on the same public server.

Reliable Gmail HTML Signatures Solution

This solution has worked out quite well. It has been very stable and reliable in the last year and has required absolutely zero maintenance. Now that we have a need for certain people to have more than one signature card, I suggested that one of our managers install the HTML Multiple Reply Signatures Greasemonkey script. So far, he's pretty satisfied with it.

Not being on the global profile made this much easier; otherwise, I would need to write a new batch script that generates the HTML Multiple Reply signatures script instead of the HTML Reply Signatures script, which can only handle injecting one signature. In addition, not being on the global profile means that he could essentially name the image files whatever he wants, as long as he modifies the signature HTML in the script to point to the correct filenames.

I recommended the script instead of the Firefox Extension for three reasons:

  • The script is actually more reliable and bug-free than the Firefox Extension.

  • This particular manager is technically adept and fully capable of modifying the script himself to configure new signatures.

  • Google Apps Gmail is not using Gmail's New Interface, so it has not been susceptible to the same bugs that standard Gmail users have faced.

New version of Gmail

Once Gmail moves these customers to the new version, we're likely to see problems. I wonder why they haven't done this yet. The bigger question is, with my organization's growing use of this particular tool, should we prepare for the change by using a plug-in that supports the new interface?

At any rate, it was cool to see the script being used in my own organization! It may be a good idea to seriously consider moving the script to Gmail's Greasemonkey API to support the new interface.


Susan said...

I'm baaaaaack :-) And, you know me, I'm not savvy enough to understand your post in its entirety. Is there something I can do so that the sig will work in the new gmail? I'm still using the old version like you suggested previously...

James Mortensen said...

Hi Susan!

It's good to hear from one of my Mac testers again :)

Basically, the new version of HTML Multiple Reply Signatures for Gmail isn't yet supported. I'm going to begin working on it here shortly, as I want to make sure that the Firefox Extension will work when Google does finally pull the plug on Gmail version 1.

Version 2 of the Firefox Extension will probably involve a complete rewrite of the code. But knowing what I know now, I should be able to build something really cool in a reasonable amount of time.

I'll be sure to keep you up to date on my progress.


Scott said...

I too would like a version that works with the current Gmail. Also the ability to copy and past HTML that contains line breaks would be awesome - the current version requires copying and pasting one line at a time - a painful process.

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