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COFITFlag for United States of America

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How to auto process read receipts

I'm the system administrator. In the last 2 weeks, we've migrated from Groupwise 7 to Outlook 2007 (Exchange Server 2007 as well).

One area that Groupwise undeniably beats Exchange/Outlook is the sent items tracking. In Groupwise, we could look at the properties of a sent item and see data about when each recipient received, opened, and deleted an email. Many of our users want this functionality, so I'm looking for a solution.

It appears that read receipts should give us what we want. We will likely create a GPO that forces read receipts to be sent to all internal addresses. After a read receipt is processed, you can look at a sent item, and there is a tracking button. Using this provides most of the data we're looking for.

Now here is the problem...

In my Tracking Option in the Outlook client, I have checked the boxes to "Process receipts on arrival" and "After processing, move receipts to". My understanding of how this configuration should behave is, when I receive a read receipt, I won't even see it. It should "process" automatically and move to the folder I specified (either deleted items or another folder if desired). This is not the behavior we're observing.

What is happening in our environment, with the above settings, is I get a read receipt and it sits in my inbox. If I have the reading pane on, I can select it, and it does get flagged as read (no longer bold). At that point, if I go look at the sent item, there is still no tracking data available. If I double click the read receipt email and open it into another window, this will trigger the receipt as "processed" and add the tracking data. Having to double click the email is bad enough, but there is another detail that is irritating. Because the receipt is still being viewed in the reading pane, it doesn't go away until I move to another email. At that point, the receipt will finally move to the folder I have configured. So here is the process:

1. Read receipt is received in inbox.
2. I double click the message and open it in a new window.
3. Close that window.
4. Now I have to move to another message to change the reading pane.
5. The receipt is finally "automatically" processed and moved to the configured folder.

Our goal is to have that tracking data available for ALL sent items without any user interaction. It appeared that combining these client settings with a GPO forcing that a receipt is sent would accomplish this, but that isn't the case.

One other thing we're unsure about--this may need to be a separate question--is how to create the GPO so that read receipt requests are always answered for internal email only. We don't want to send them externally.

Thanks for any help. We're not sure if this is a bug or we have something configured incorrectly on the Exchange side.
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What you will quickly find about read receipts with Exchange is what most other administrators of Exchange have found - they are a waste of time. For example, if you were to send me an email with a read receipt you would never get a receipt back.

It can also increase the likelihood of your email to external recipients being flagged as spam, because read receipts are either on or off. There is no difference between internal and external receipts (which answers your second question).

Not the answer that you were expecting, and I am not expecting points for it. I just thought it was worth pointing that out.

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Nope, that's not the answer I was looking for ;)

Why wouldn't I receive one from you? Are you referring to your internal email or external? I do not want to send read receipts outside our domain, but I think I can configure that either on the Exchange server our at our spam filter. My understanding of the read receipt requests are that they are an attachment to the message, so I should be able to filter them out from external email.

If you're referring to internally, that's why we will be using a GPO. We will allow users to decide if they want to receive the read receipts, but we will not allow them to opt out of sending them. If we did allow that, then I would agree that the whole thing would be worthless.

To summarize again, our goal is simply to be able to go to the sent items and see the tracking info for all internal email.
You wouldn't receive a read receipt from me because I consider them rude. I block them all using group policy on my home network. They don't get processed. That would apply both internally and externally. Before I worked for myself I would do the same thing in the office I was working in - turn off read receipt functionality.

The other problem you have with read receipts is that they can be triggered by other means than the user reading the message. A read receipt only records that the message had its status changed. It doesn't prove that the user actually read the message, it could be an AV product that "read" the message.

A spam filter should be able to strip them out. They can certainly detect them as most antispam filters will use them in their scoring, as spammers use them as well.

I am aware of what you want to do, and I know it will not work more reliably than what you are currently seeing.

I do see your dilemma:
A read receipt / Email cannot be processed unless it has actually been opened and viewed.
After its been viewed then it can be processed and moved to the designated location.
And until its been viewed you cannot see the tracking info

Is possible you can use a 3rd party tool to process your Read Receipts or perhaps there might be a script available the will recognize when a email comes in with Read: in the subject line and automatically open then close the email.
However, I am currently unaware of such a script.

Might not be much help, but at least we have a direction in which to look for a solution to your problem.

Also, are any of these accounts IMAP Accounts?
If they are you should be aware of the following issue:
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I see Methsa. You're saying you would opt not to send the receipts. That's why will control that via Group Policy. We won't give users the option to not send read receipts. We think it is easy enough to also filter them so that they do not go external. My counterpart thinks he say that in the Exchange configuration. If not, we can just as easily build a filter that removes the read receipt request attachments from external email. We would implement this on our SMTP relay box (also our 1st teir of spam filtering).

Thanks apache09. So is this the same behavior you see? I was really hoping it was a bug or some configuration on the Exchange server. Also, none of our Outlook clients are using IMAP. This is all internal. Externally, they use Exchange's webmail. It is an interesting flaw though, so I'll make sure to test that. That is exactly one of the things we want to avoid. We do not want to send receipts to spammers.

I've thought about looking into scripting something or find a 3rd party tool, but it sure seems like the native functionality should be doing what we're looking for. If it doesn't, then I'm not sure what these settings in the Tracking Options window do.
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Thanks Apache09

So are you saying that the configuration in the Tracking Options is handled like a rule at the client level?
hmmm I'm not sure I'm getting head around how this explains the observed behavior. I'm going to read up on cached Exchange mode. I'm new to Exchange, so I'm unfamiliar with that.
I Believe So.
It certainly appears to be that way.