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How to Prevent the VBA Macro Security Warning in Microsoft Outlook 2000

This content is no longer actively maintained. It is provided as is, for anyone who may still be using these technologies, with no warranties or claims of accuracy with regard to the most recent product version or service release.

Jim Groves
Microsoft Corporation

Applies To: Microsoft® Outlook® 2000

October 1999

Summary: Outlook frequently displays macro security warning messages when Outlook encounters VBA macros or VBScript. This tip describes the easiest way to prevent these messages from appearing. (5 printed pages)

Introduction

With the release of Microsoft® Outlook® 2000, you can now write event procedures and macros in Outlook to customize its behavior and to automate tasks that you find tiresome. For example, by using Visual Basic® for Applications (VBA) in Outlook you can write a simple BeforeNavigate event procedure that opens a new explorer window when you click an Outlook Bar shortcut, instead of opening the target folder in the current explorer window. Then, to deal with the resulting desktop clutter, you can write a macro to minimize all those open Outlook windows!

Although native support for VBA in Outlook 2000 gives you an easy-to-use, yet powerful tool for tailoring Outlook 2000 to fit your personal needs, it does have one drawback: the macro security warning. If you write an event procedure or macro with VBA in Outlook, every time you start Outlook a warning message is displayed that reminds you of the hazards of running unknown code and gives you the option of enabling or disabling the macro code.

This security warning is the same as the one provided by other Microsoft Office applications when you try to open a document containing macros. This helps protect users from inadvertently running hidden code that could wreak havoc on their computers. Because documents are so portable (and seemingly benign), it makes sense to warn users if they contain potentially harmful program code.

Outlook also displays a similar warning message when a user opens a message that contains Visual Basic Scripting Edition (VBScript) code if the form associated with the message is not published in an appropriate forms library. Again, this is to protect users from unknowingly running program code that could damage their system.

Outlook macros are not as easily transported as Office documents or Outlook messages, however. There is no way to embed them in a file that can be sent to another user and executed automatically. However, it is possible to replace all existing Outlook macro code by replacing the Outlook VBA project file (VbaProject.otm). The macro warning message ensures that users do not unknowingly run macros contained in a project file that was replaced without their knowledge.

Preventing the Warning from Appearing

The easiest way to prevent the macros security warning from appearing is to change the Outlook macro security setting to Low. Although this is the easiest method, it is also an undesirable one because it leaves you vulnerable if your project file is replaced by one containing malevolent code.

Fortunately, there is a solution that is nearly as easy and that still alerts you that your project file was replaced by one from a source you don’t trust. You can add a digital signature to your VBA project in Outlook that marks the code as being “macro safe.”

The basic purpose of a digital signature is to authenticate the origin of a particular message or program. In the case of program code, a digital signature reassures a user that the creator of the program is who the creator claims to be and that the code has not been altered since it was signed. Before distributing ActiveX® controls on the Internet, for example, Microsoft attaches a digital signature to the control. This digital signature is authenticated by an independent authority so users who download the control can be sure that it was actually created by Microsoft and not by a malicious programmer pretending to be Microsoft.

You don’t have to obtain a digital signature from a security authority to digitally sign your VBA code in Outlook, however. Office 2000 includes a utility that creates a personal digital signature that you can use to mark your VBA macros as being safe for you to run. This will allow you to prevent the macro warning message from appearing unless your project file is replaced with one that is not signed or is signed by a source you don’t trust.

How to Use the Personal Digital Signature

There are three major steps to using a personal digital signature to sign your Outlook VBA projects:

  1. Install Digital Signature for VBA Projects.
  2. Create the digital certificate.
  3. Sign the project by using the digital certificate.

The following sections describe these steps in detail.

Install Digital Signature for VBA Projects

By default, Digital Signature for VBA Projects is not installed with Office 2000, so you must install it yourself.

  1. Close all programs.
  2. Click the Windows Start button, point to Settings, and then click Control Panel.
  3. Double-click the Add/Remove Programs icon.
  4. Do one of the following:
    • If you installed Outlook by using the Office Setup program, click Microsoft Office on the Install/Uninstall tab, and then click Add/Remove.
    • If you installed Outlook individually, click Microsoft Outlook on the Install/Uninstall tab, and then click Add/Remove.
  5. Click Add or Remove Features.
  6. Click the plus symbol (+) next to Office Tools.
  7. Click the icon next to Digital Signature for VBA Projects, and then click Run from My Computer.
  8. Click Update Now.

Create the Digital Certificate

Installing Digital Signature for VBA Projects does not create the digital signature itself; rather, it installs an application program that you run to create the digital signature.

  1. In Windows Explorer, locate and double-click Selfcert.exe. It is located in the Office program folder; by default, the path of this folder is C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office.
  2. In the Your name text box, type your name or some other identifying information, and then click OK.

Sign the Project

Once you have created the digital certificate, you can use it to sign your Outlook VBA project.

  1. In the Visual Basic Editor, select the project you want to sign.
  2. On the Tools menu, click Digital Signature.
  3. Click Choose, and then select the digital certificate you created.
Note   The first time you start Outlook after signing your project, Outlook will display a message informing you that the Outlook project (called ThisOutlookSession) contains macros written by you. To prevent this message from appearing again, select the Always trust macros from this source check box.

More About Digital Signatures

Because a personal digital signature that you create yourself isn’t issued by a formal certification authority, VBA projects that are signed by using such a certificate are referred to as self-signed projects. Depending on how your organization uses the digital-signature features in Microsoft Office, you might be prevented from using such a certificate, and other users might not be able to run self-signed macros for security reasons.

Some organizations use tools such as Microsoft Certificate Server to produce or distribute digital certificates within the organization. If this applies to your organization, you might be able to sign your VBA projects by using a digital certificate from your organization’s internal certification authority. Even if your organization does not issue digital certificates for internal use, a network administrator or software development manager in your organization might control a digital signature that can be used to sign your project for you.

You can also obtain a digital certificate from a commercial certification authority, such as VeriSign or Thawte Consulting. The digital certificates provided by these authorities provide the level of assurance required by commercial software publishers such as Microsoft.

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