Steven JW Kennedy

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Using the Exchange Simple Display Name

Posted by Steven Kennedy on February 23, 2011

A couple of years ago I found that it was possible in an Exchange Server 2003 environment to change the display name that external users see on your email, to the Simple Display Name rather than the Display Name that appears in the GAL. Unfortunately this ‘feature’ went away in Exchange 2007, at least initially, it cam e back in a Service Pack update. SP 1 RU4 or later I believe but you should check to make sure.

When I was working on my home setup, which uses Exchange 2010, I came across the Simple Display Name field again and it occurred to me to check to see if Exchange 2010 supported this capability. I did an Internet search and low and behold I found the steps required to turn this capability on, only they didn’t work!

Not only did the steps not work but as I dug in to it I found the Microsoft documentation indicated it should work. My problem, it seems, is that while the Microsoft documentation said that the Set-RemoteDomain command supported the –UseSimpleDisplayName parameter my setup didn’t. Issuing a Get-Help Set-RemoteDomain didn’t show the UseSimpleDisplayName parameter. What’s going on? Then the light bulb went off. I checked my version of Exchange against the latest and yes mine was Exchange Server 2010 while the latest available was Exchange Server 2010 SP1.

Unfortunately I didn’t take any screen shots of the PowerShell error that I got when I tried to implement the Set-RemoteDomain command but if you do a simple check to find out what Exchange build you have you can then determine if the command will work.

You can issue a Get-ExchangeServer –Identity <server> | FL command to identify the build. You can see the build number under AdminDisplayVersion, as shown in the screen shot below. Microsoft have a list of Exchange Server versions and associated build numbers. These can be viewed at; Build numbers and release dates for Exchange Server. For Exchange Server 2010 the build was 14.00.0639.021. For Exchange Server 2010 SP1 the build was 14.01.0218.015 which show up under AdminDisplayVersion as 14.0 (Build 639.21) and 14.1 (Build 218.15) respectively.

Identify_Exchange_Server_Version - Annotated

You could also use the Get_Help Set-RemoteDomain command and see if the help shows the UseSimpleDisplayName parameter or not. The screen shot below shows the result of the Get-Help Set-RemoteDomain command for Exchange 2010 SP1.

Get-Help_Set-RemoteDomain - Annotated

Once I’d determined that I didn’t have Exchange 2010 SP1 I went and downloaded it went through the update process. Once I completed the update I was able to use the Set-RemoteDomain command with the –UseSimpleDisplayName parameter.

Reminder! To enable the use of Simple Display names for external email you have to be running Exchange 2010 SP1 or better

The command to enable Simple Display Names for external email domains is;

Get-RemoteDomain | Set-RemoteDomain –UseSimpleDisplayName $true

The Get-RemoteDomain pipes all remote domains to the Set-RemoteDomain command so that all outbound messages will use the Simple Display name. You could explicitly define which external domains will see the Simple Display name and which will see the Display Name. It’s probably a lot easier to implement and manage if you just go ahead and apply the change to all external emails.


To test that it’s working I updated the properties on my mail box to define a Simple Display name of; Kennedy, Steven. My Display Name being set to Kennedy, Steven (SJWK). As you can see from the following screen shots it works fine. The first screen shot is of the email as seen by an Internal recipient. As indicated by the red arrows the internal user see the Display Name. In this case with a (SJWK) appended to the display name.

Internal_email_sample - Annotated

The second screen shot shows the same email but as seen by an external recipient, my Gmail account. In this case it’s had a disclaimer notice prepended to it but as indicated the Internal users show up with their Simple Display name showing.

External_email_sample - Annotated


Some things to note.

Adding a Simple Display name on my home system was pretty easy. I only have a few accounts and it was pretty easy to update. In a business however you’ll need a process, or preferably an automated way, to generate the Simple Display name. You’ll also need some sort of governance model around it. You probably don’t want users pestering IT to set either or both of the display names to what they want.

You should also be aware that if an internal user Forwards or Reply’s to an email (Reply or Reply All) then the message body will show the internal Display Names. The point being that you cannot depend on the use of the Simple Display name to ‘hide’ whatever you’re using for an Display Name. However, external recipients will only see various address fields of the email; From, To, CC, Bcc etc..

Some possible scenarios for using this capability would be to have a Display name that included an indicator to the users office or perhaps country as in; Kennedy, Steven (Los Angeles), or Kennedy, Steven (USA) with perhaps the Simple Display name being set to the company name; Kennedy, Steven (Acme)

3 Responses to “Using the Exchange Simple Display Name”

  1. nickbsd said

    Great article! This is exactly what I was looking for. I’ve noticed a lot of companies adopting these practices and have always wondered how to do this.


  2. Victor said

    There is an utility that might help with Simple Display Name manipulations:

  3. Dermot said

    A big thanks for the article Stephen, Bulls Eye!

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