Over the years, displaying recipient photographs in the Global Address List (GAL) has been a frequently-requested feature, high on the wish lists of many Exchange folks. Particularly in large organizations or geographically dispersed teams, it's great to be able to put a face to a name for people you've never met or don't frequently have face time with. Employees are commonly photographed when issuing badges/IDs, and many organizations publish the photos on intranets.

There have been questions about workarounds or third-party add-ins for Outlook, and you can also find some sample code on MSDN and elsewhere. A few years ago, an IT person wrote ASP code to make employee photos show up on the intranet based on the Employee ID attribute in Active Directory (AD) - which was imported from the company's LDAP directory. A fun project to satisfy the coder alter-ego of the IT person.

Luckily, you won't need to turn to your alter-ego to do this. Exchange 2010 and Outlook 2010 make this task a snap, with help from AD. AD includes the Picture attribute (we'll refer to it using its ldapDisplayName: thumbnailPhoto) to store thumbnail photos, and you can easily import photos- not the high-res ones from your 20 megapixel digital camera, but small, less-than-10K-ish ones, using Exchange 2010's Import-RecipientDataProperty cmdlet.

The first question most IT folks would want to ask is- What's importing all those photos going to do to the size of my AD database? And how much AD replication traffic will this generate? The attribute is limited to 10K in size, and the cmdlet won't allow you to import a photo that's larger than 10K. The original picture used in this example was 9K, and you can compress it further to a much smaller size - let's say approximately 2K-2.5K, without any noticeable degradation when displayed at the smaller sizes. If you store user certificates in AD, the 10K or smaller size thumbnail pictures are comparable in size. Storing thumbnails for 10,000 users would take close to 100 Mb, and it's data that doesn't change frequently.

Note: The recommended thumbnail photo size in pixels is 96x96 pixels.

With that out of the way, let's go through the process of adding pictures.

A minor schema change

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