Microsoft Breaks HTML Email Rendering in Outlook 2007

The following is republished from the Tech Times #156.

If support for web standards in browsers is improving slowly, then support in email clients is moving at a glacial pace. Attempts to document things like CSS support in the major email clients have revealed a depressing state of affairs, but with recent desktop clients like Thunderbird now sitting on solid rendering engines, things have been looking up.

All that changed when Microsoft dropped a lump of coal into every web developer’s stocking with the end-of-year release to business customers, and the upcoming consumer release, of Outlook 2007.

At the risk of turning this newsletter into a biweekly Microsoft bash, Redmond has done it again. While the IE team was soothing the tortured souls of web developers everywhere with the new, more compliant Internet Explorer 7, the Office team pulled a fast one, ripping out the IE-based rendering engine that Outlook has always used for email, and replacing it with … drum roll please … Microsoft Word.

That’s right. Instead of taking advantage of Internet Explorer 7, Outlook 2007 uses the very limited support for HTML and CSS that is built into Word 2007 to display HTML email messages.

Having tested the two public beta versions of Outlook 2007 late last year, I knew there was something screwy going on. Many of the newsletters I subscribed to had become unreadable, and SitePoint’s own publications (including the Tech Times) were looking decidedly unhealthy. I dutifully reported these rendering issues with the feedback mechanisms provided in the beta, and wrote them off as Internet Explorer 7 integration issues that would be resolved in the final release.

But late last month, a thread in the SitePoint Forums caught my eye. Microsoft had published a pair of articles describing the support for HTML and CSS in Outlook 2007, and the news wasn’t good:

Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 uses the HTML parsing and rendering engine from Microsoft Office Word 2007 to display HTML message bodies. The same HTML and cascading style sheets (CSS) support available in Word 2007 is available in Outlook 2007.

The limitations imposed by Word 2007 are described in detail in the article, but here are a few highlights:

  • no support for background images (HTML or CSS)
  • no support for forms
  • no support for Flash, or other plugins
  • no support for CSS floats
  • no support for replacing bullets with images in unordered lists
  • no support for CSS positioning
  • no support for animated GIFs

In short, unless your HTML emails are very, very simple, you’re going to run into problems with Outlook 2007, and in most cases the only solution to those problems will be to reduce the complexity of your HTML email design to accommodate Outlook’s limited feature set.

With the release of Outlook 2007, Microsoft is effectively adding an entirely new rendering engine to the mix—one that designers producing HTML email will not be able to ignore.

Not only that, but this new rendering engine isn’t any better than that which Outlook previously used—indeed, it’s far worse. With this release, Outlook drops from being one of the best clients for HTML email support to the level of Lotus Notes and Eudora, which, in the words of Campaign Monitor’s David Grenier, "are serial killers making our email design lives hell."

Why on earth would Microsoft do such a thing? Security? Microsoft has been shouting from the rooftops about the new security model in Internet Explorer 7 that prevents the nasty security issues that have plagued Outlook in the past. It seems Microsoft doesn’t buy its own publicity, however, because this move sends the message that Internet Explorer’s security model is not to be trusted.

Where to from here? Well, as a first step, you’ll want to use Microsoft’s handy-dandy tool to tell you which parts of your lean, mean HTML emails need to be replaced with old-fashioned HTML sludge. As a second step, you may want to consider giving your Outlook-based readers an easy way to switch to text-only email.

Bring on PDF email. I’m ready.

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  • Anonymous

    Surely Microsoft’s reason for changing to Word as the rendering engine for HTML emails is because Outlook uses Word to create HTML emails. For most users creating an email in Outlook it will appear the same to someone receiving it in Outlook. Presumably they would rather someone be able to use Word than have to learn web design to send an email. It is more likely that Microsoft are looking after their end user business customers than it being for security reasons or that they are just trying to annoy people who create HTML newletters.

  • djeglin

    Microsofts reasoning may indeed be that they feel this makes sense for their end users, however the most that the majority of “end users” ever make of html email is using different font styles. For this, it wouldn’t make a difference if they used Word or the new IE engine… And in the process of this “decision making process”, they have caused a great deal of problems for all the developers out there that are working on web applications that need to send out html emails at the end to confirm things, such as myself and my colleagues at the company I work for, a large international travel company.

    This is once again a fine example of Microsofts split personality – In some areas their developers really seem to have a handle on what is needed, and wanted, in their new releases; Certain parts of Office 2007 have been massively improved (Mainly PowerPoint), but in other areas, the development teams seem woefully out of touch with the needs of the market. It is more important for people using outlook to be able to reliably read HTML email than for them to be able to compose a pretty email for fun and know that someone on the other end can view it properly… And it is massively significant in the businss world, as companies such as my own will have to now devote time to recoding HTML emails to make sure they don’t get hit by a potential bomb in Outlook 2007.

    Just my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    To Anonymous: I thought that, but surely it would be better to have Word to produce vaigly standards-compliant HTML e-mails? Something that IE could render?

  • Anonymous

    All fair points, I (the first anonymous) wasn’t saying that they were doing the right thing by doing this but just making the point that their reasoning was probably not for security reasons or arbitrary. The developers making applications that produce html emails are not the customers (they may be Microsoft customers but not the end users of Outlook or if they are make up a small percentage of the end users of Outlook) so they are not going to be the primary concern.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com/ Kevin Yank

    Anonymous,

    To quote an (in)famous Microsoft CEO, “Developers, developers, developers.”

  • Anonymous

    I (Anon 2) concur (Anon 1); the developers are not the primary concern – we never are, and I doubt we ever will be. It’s all about the end user of Outlook, but surely Microsoft should have realised that the end user will be upset when their pretty HTML e-mail from Amazon or Play doesn’t look pretty any more?

    But then they may well have realised but just not cared. They could replace the Word rendering engine with Notepad’s and businesses would still buy it.

  • http://www.kdawebservices.com Karl

    IMHO HTML has no place in emails anyway. Sure it may look pretty, but it’s also bloated and has resulted in many many security issues over the years. HTML was designed for the Web, not for Email. It’s as bad as people sending 40MB attachments instead of using FTP or HTTP.

  • MrPlace

    Too bad microsoft chose this. I always turn off Word as the editor for mail in Outlook.
    But I’m considering moving from Outlook to 2003 to Thunderbird. I’m now using the spamfighter plugin which stops most of the 50+ spam i get. Does anyone know a good spam filter on Thunderbird?

  • http://www.kdawebservices.com Karl

    Going OT, but Thunderbird has a very good learning filter built in to it.

  • Chris

    I think it’s just pure laziness and pig-headedness on behalf of Microsoft – They’ve been getting very good at that lately (more-so than usual).

    I understand them wanting to make it easier for amateurs to make pretty emails inside Outloook, but rather than putting in time to make Outlook and Word use a compliant html rendering engine – they implement a half-baked approach such as this.

    Although its not something new – another great example is how they dealt with the Active-X activation issue by writing some dodgy workaround code to deactivate plug-ins.

    HTML email is something they shouldn’t have screwed around with – can only hope that they come to their senses and pulled their finger out.

  • Rachel M

    Grrr, this is such frustrating news. I sort of understand why they would use Word, since so many users like to copy and paste Word docs into their emails, or use Word as an editor (not me though!) but why must they take steps back in HTML support? Would it be that hard to read a doctype attribute in the email and switch rendering engines based on the content or something? They already support RTF and HTML :)
    This is going to cause major headaches for lots of developers, and I’ll bet you users *won’t* notice much difference because all the professional .com’s (Amazon, etc) will step up and redesign their emails to support Outlook…costing many corporations many hours of development.
    I’m having flashbacks to the old days when you had to deliver “special” content to AOL users. Grr!

  • Anonymous

    I agree with Karl

  • http://www.andrew-banks.co.uk?source=sitepoint AndyBanks

    I can see why developers are frustrated at Microsoft and I do agree this is a step back.

    No one seems to be suggesting that we step up to the mark and actually stop moaning about this and see it as a business opportunity.

    When Outlook 2007 is released to the general public it’s an outstanding time to up-sell to your clients and get them to pay for a re-design of their email templates?

    Why not market your services to your competitors clients now and guarantee their emails will look great in Outlook 2007 the minute it ships to customers?

    It’s too easy to be negative about this and not see the real opportunity that lies behind it. The problems already here – work around it.

  • Anonymous

    Sitepoint experts,

    Thanks for the heads up concerning this rather sad development from Microsoft.

    While I agree with Karl concerning the use of HTML in email, I have clients that want fancy email, so I’m stuck validating it.

    I’m interested in using the validation tool from Microsoft, but the validation tool seems to be a plug-in for Office products. As an MSOffice free user (:-0 , is there another way to validate html email code for this new flavor of Outlook or will I have to just remember not to use the non-Microsoft style rules?

    Thanks in advance!

    Peace

  • Anonymous

    Microsoft is the most thoughtless organization working on web-based applications. They care not for people who use their software, but rather what serves the needs of preserving their own empire. This is an attempt to strengthen the bind between their family of applications as they trail behind Apple’s innovative thinking.

    Thanks, Microsoft. Once again you prove to be the worst company on earth.

  • Anonymous

    That’s because they rebuilt Outlook 2007 from the ground up. Well, actually they started in the tunnels underground — they used MSN Mail and added to it. At least that’s my theory.

    Anyhow, it’s a mixed bag… our corporation uses Notes and while on one hand it’s 100% frustrating, on the other hand, it’s 100% counter-intuitive, annoying, poorly written, buggy and the server should be taken out into a field and shot.

    But seriously, at my last job, I had to build websites on a PC that were then proofed by my boss on his Mac. Nevermind that the PC and Mac render the fonts differently and we couldn’t use CSS.

    Here, we all have Notes. So I have the complete confidence that the e-mails I’m sending, while not exciting, cutting edge or even that nice looking, look exactly the same on all mail clients.

  • Divine

    I’m having flashbacks to the old days when you had to deliver “special” content to AOL users. Grr!

    Oh well, back then you knew who was on AOL, with their domain. The pain is that now you don’t know who _really_ has Outlook… ;)

  • http://www.domedia.org/ junjun

    I think it’s insane.. Instead of making their current code *better*, they go backwards inmho. Why would MS make their client so different than what everyones else is doing?

  • Jeff

    IMHO HTML has no place in emails anyway. Sure it may look pretty, but it’s also bloated and has resulted in many many security issues over the years. HTML was designed for the Web, not for Email. It’s as bad as people sending 40MB attachments instead of using FTP or HTTP.

    Oh, brother. I thought we were past this childish argument.

  • http://www.kdawebservices.com Karl

    Childish, is that because you don’t agree with it? It’s a perfectly valid viewpoint and as a network administrator, I think I’m perfectly entitled to hold that viewpoint if I so wish.

  • Richard

    This is just another back door for Microsoft to force people to use their software. Word generates really bloated emails: performance is so much better if we generate our own. I’ve lost count of the hours we waste in our corporation because of Outlook crashing or refusing to truly log ff and switch profiles. I use multiple profiles, and multiple accounts within a profile – and Outlook really handles that very, very badly. One of these days it will probably refuse to rebuild a file that it corrupted all by itself.

    The only reason I have Outlook is for calendaring, but I think it’s time for our company to switch to the Oracle Collaboration suite (to integrate with our other apps) and for me to switch to Thunderbird. The lesser of many evils.

    Richard, CEO, CobbleSoft.

  • Samly

    The real problem here is that outlook renders HTML at all. Email was designed as a text only format. It should be rendered using an 8 to 12 point courier font, and that’s it.

    Embedded images, hypertext, markup, fonts, colors, etc have no place in email.

    If you want to see email as it is intended to be, try using Elm or Pine to read it.

  • http://www.hockeystation.com cringer

    The real problem here is that outlook renders HTML at all. Email was designed as a text only format. It should be rendered using an 8 to 12 point courier font, and that’s it.

    Embedded images, hypertext, markup, fonts, colors, etc have no place in email.

    If you want to see email as it is intended to be, try using Elm or Pine to read it.

    What email was “intended to be” means nothing. HTML email is everywhere, We are bombarded with it all the time. Anybody with even the slightest bit of interest in the marketing of their business will prefer HTML over 12 point courier.

  • A blessing

    HTML email is pure evil. I consider this a blessing.

  • Maki

    That is good news, not BAD news.

    I hate HTML email, i hate “News Letters” (really just spam). There is no reason to send anything but text and a link to the content if one wishes to see it.

    I applause Microsoft for doing this!

  • Chris

    Saying that e-mail was never intended to be HTML is just like saying that television was never meant to be in color. It’s gotten too big to stop now.

    I can’t see businesses giving up on html and sending out plain text emails – hell, a lot of companies are based on html email. Microsoft should be supporting this industry instead of setting up a blockade at every opportunity.

  • Carlos B.

    Ok, sorry Net Admins, but if businesses followed network administrators concepts, Sun’s thin clients would be dominating the market these days. Email was never MEANT to be plain-text, that’s just what it was started with.

    The security-related issues can be resolved through better email filtering.

    Email is used world-wide, and with a market that big, it’s impossible (or plain stupid) to ignore the marketing through corporate emails or newsletters.

    Is this a backwards step by Microsoft? Absolutely, with all the hype from IE7, it’s by far one of the stupidest things the company could’ve done. Seriously, does composing email need to be this complicated? Is creating an interface for creating HTML that difficult? If so, then the guys from FCKeditor are just plain geniuses.

    Will MS change this to improve their image among developers? You wish.

    The only reason why I see the need to use MS Word instead of IE7’s rendering engine is because that would mean that IE7 would have to be available for the other OSes Office runs on (i.e.: Macs).

  • Anonymous

    “What email was “intended to be” means nothing. HTML email is everywhere, We are bombarded with it all the time. Anybody with even the slightest bit of interest in the marketing of their business will prefer HTML over 12 point courier.”

    You should not be using my email to market your product. Email should be text only, we never had mass email virus until we had html email.

  • Anonymous

    If e-mail wasn’t meant to be in HTML, then why did Microsoft install a HTML rendering engine into outlook to start off with?

  • Anonymous

    Finally, we might get back to the real fact of the matter here. Text rules on email. Throw out this rendering engine and we’ll all be the better for it.

    Sure your newsletter will look pretty terrible but I’ll finally be able to read it as plain text! Stop complaining: “It’s a feature, not a bug”.

  • Warped

    No text on top of images?!?!? Shame on you Microsoft!!

    Customers get a choice when they sign up for emails most of the time! TEXT or HTML!!

    You’ve effectively screwed the ones who want the pretty HTML emails in their inbox!!

    Thanks!

    ;)

  • Anonymous

    What Microsoft effectively is doing is not breaking HTML email, but sending it back to the dark ages by breaking the standard formatting that you would expect from a HTML or wysiwyg editor.

    Because it now harder to format HTML email – then you can start expecting developers to create HTML email with even LARGER images, hence clogging up networks and servers even more.

    No matter which way you look at it – this is a bad decision on Microsoft’s behalf for everyone.

  • http://www.hockeystation.com cringer

    You should not be using my email to market your product. Email should be text only

    HTML email is used for more than just marketing. It’s used to push content out to subscribers. Content people want and pay money for. It’s also used for communications in e-commerce. E-mail is a part of business.

    You can say email “should” be text only. That’s your own feeling and you’re entitled to it. But 95% of businesses (including Sitepoint) using email communication want it to look pretty (just like the competitions). Some offer a choice of plain text alternative (and I think that’s good for folks such as yourself who prefer that) but many do not bother.

    However, anyone who’s not spamming DOES allow you to opt out of e-mailings, HTML or otherwise. And in my company we’ve found that while our pay content is readily available at our web site, the majority of clients still prefer the same articles delivered in HTML format to their inbox every day, and they complain when the e-mail server craps out, and they have to go log in that day to get the issues. They actually complain.

    I dont mean offense or anything, but bemoaning the fact that Outlook render HTML as some kind of huge mistake that was never meant to be is just pointless. We were’nt meant to fly 20,000 feet in the air at several hunderd MPH but look at us now. Where technology goes we follow.

  • Anonymous

    This change doesn’t kill HTML email, It only breaks background images and the CSS which is used to format the HTML and sends standard formatting into the dark ages.

    What does this change mean?
    Designers/Developers (such as myself) will no longer be able to format HTML to the quality and compliancy we would like and have to revert to desperate measures to send out HTML.

    Don’t kid yourself, HTML email is about to get a whole lot uglier (Network administrators and plain text lovers included)

    Breaking the formatting tools means that we’re about to see a lot more of full image and emails with seriously dodgy code, which is going to cause a lot more traffic and data being stored.

    Microsoft’s “bright idea” will no doubt impact everyone and it still doesn’t change a thing when it comes to spammers an email viruses.

  • http://aplosmedia.com/ Eric.Coleman

    you woldn’t need to compete with someone elses “pretty” newsletter if email was still text. I force my client to render text, and generlaly, if it can’t, i delete the message.

    I spend enough time in front of my computer, that I don’t want some moron sending me a size 11 grey verdana font that i can barely read since i’ve been sitting here for the last 14 hours.

  • Verbfarmer

    “HTML was designed for the Web, not for Email.” – but didn’t the Web also start without any pictures, or video – just text and links? Should we go back to that, also? OK, maybe someone looking at MySpace might think so, but what about other websites?

  • Nick

    I don’t use Outlook so I’m not clear on what formats it supports, but is there some other layout format besides HTML which it supports? How does that format compare to Outlook-neutered HTML, feature-wise, and does Outlook maybe prefer it over HTML when both formats are available in the same email? Does outlook maybe support an unusual mime-type for HTML email which other readers will ignore in favor of a properly-marked text/html section? Maybe it prefers one charset over another when presented with two text/html possibilities, and maybe in a manner which differs from most other email clients? It just seems unlikely that something as massive as Outlook wouldn’t have some quirks that allow one to mask a proper text/html section from it in favor of an Outlook-customized section.

    And to add fuel to the flames of text vs. html: It isn’t HTML email that is evil – it can be automatically ignored or stripped in preference of the plain text portion, and it only doubles (roughly) the size of emails, which is usually fairly insignificant to start with. It is attaching images used in the markup to the email itself which is evil.
    Also: if your email or newsletter’s non-HTML section is blank or only reads “Please click the following link to view an online version of this email: http://…”, it’s going to be ignored and deleted by me.

  • Vincent

    dude – Word blows at HTML. Basically the first response backed up Microsoft by touting that someone need not be a web designer to send out colorful e-mails. That makes sense, but is that really a necessary for corporate America? Most the people that want to send out colorful emails are alreadty paying someone else to do it, right?

    Basically Microsoft is forcing people to use Word to create their e-mails. Most likely because what is available on the web is cutting them deep. So when looking at these kind of products ask if the upgrade was really nessicary. You can create a basic doc file on the web, why use Word. Thats right, because we want to read email in Outlook. Screw the kicker.

    Does anyone remember what happened the last time MS had that bright idea?

  • http://www.sitepoint.com AlexW

    Finally, we might get back to the real fact of the matter here. Text rules on email. Throw out this rendering engine and we’ll all be the better for it

    If ‘text rules’ how do you explain our newsletter subscribers selecting HTML over plain text at rate of around 20:1 when given the choice?

  • Anonymous

    i would love it if my email client would not render email. email should be as concise as possible. just send me a description and a link. i dont want to load any more poorly written web pages in my email client. give me a link, and let me decide what i download. thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Email is supposed to be text? That is a depressingly Luddite attitude in a tech forum. For many of the same reasons men aren’t supposed to fly.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com Matthew Magain

    The reality is that HTML email is commonly requested by clients, and if you actually work as a web developer and want to deliver what your clients request, then you need to deliver the most consistent rendering of their newsletter.

    Your personal feelings on whether text email is “better” than HTML email are irrelevant. This move by Microsoft makes the job of a web developer that much more difficult.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com AlexW

    i would love it if my email client would not render email. email should be as concise as possible. just send me a description and a link. i dont want to load any more poorly written web pages in my email client. give me a link, and let me decide what i download. thank you.

    That’s cool. I don’t think anyone minds if that’s your preference. You have choices. You can block images and select plain options for newsletter subscriptions. Having someone else tell you ‘you can’t do it this way anymore’ is what is ticking people off.

  • Ian

    Sorry guys, but I am glad these changes are occurring.

    I am not a developer, but a sys admin at a small company (80 employees, 10 years web presence) and a lot of my time is spent dealing with spam. As I am sure you all are aware, in the last several months image spam (mostly pump & dump stock scams) has increased massively worldwide and is a real problem now, being quite hard to discern from image laden legitimate mail.

    Many images in spam emails are animated now to confuse OCR detection.

    So sorry, I am sure it is a headache for you all but I am happy with the restrictions on images. :)

    Cheers,

    Ian

  • Divine

    I`d like to recieve text only emails. But that`s just me.

    Now, if they put HTML in mail clients, why don`t they make it good? That`s the point. Not weather it should or should not be there.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com AlexW

    Ian, that seems to be more of an issue with attachments rather than an issue directly with HTML email. I have been sent thousands of those stock spam but Thunderbird doesn’t show attachments inline. The only one I ever saw was when I opened the attachment in Fireworks out of curiosity.

    I would have thought very little legimate HTML email sent images attached — it just gets shot down by too many firewalls and spam filters to be worth doing.

  • malikyte

    Matt Brindley of SiteVista (ala browsershots/browsercam with more features) has announced their EmailVista application. Considering the implications of all the different email software, I think this is a GREAT idea, and I believe a first of it’s kind (on an already popular idea).

    Matt’s blog entry:
    http://www.mattbrindley.com/projects/sitevista/announcing-sitevista-email-tes/

    (Here’s hoping this doesn’t get lost in the comments…do I hear NewsWire?!)

  • Bill P

    The problem arises because the user chooses to receive HTML mail with a reader that isn’t competent to render HTML. Just use a version of the Microsoft solution: head the message with an appropriate warning, like “This message is best read with a competent email reader, like Thunderbird, but not Microsoft Outlook 2007.”

  • Philippe LACHAISE

    It may be that using Word HTML rendering engine did not from a deliberate choice but from a lack of choice.

    As far as I undersand Outlook used to embed a Webbrowser Control (ActiveX) to render HTML. This ActiveX is a key component of the currently installed IE.

    It happens that IE7 breaks many an application that embed the Webbrowser Control.

    Having the problem with the (.NET) application I’m working on, I know firsthand that there is no clean workaround for IE7-induces damage.

    So maybe the Outlook developper realized that IE7 would wreak havoc among their installed base and decided to switch for a safer option.

  • Stevie D

    I don’t understand why Outlook has to be so bad at HTML email.

    Way back when I first started using the internet, my email client was Netscape 4.0 – and it was good. I had access to a goodly selection of HTML features, including tables; it produced pretty neat and tidy code; most important, it didn’t do anything I didn’t tell it to. If I didn’t specify a font, it didn’t nest three tags. Even better, if I didn’t specify any formatting, it just sent it as plain text – that’s intelligent. And I could edit the source code rather than the WYSIWYG view if I wanted to.

    Now I use Outlook 2000 (only at work, where I have no choice!). I can’t put a table in an email without invoking an external editor. I can’t leave font choices to the viewer, they are automatically included (and very badly). I can’t edit the source. It’s appalling, and worse when you compare it with Netscape from five years previously.

    And it sounds like Outlook 2007 is a huge step backwards, which I can’t say is a great surprise. Thinking they have placated the internet community by showing a hint of deference to web standards with IE7, they are now determined to ride roughshod over everyone by making Outlook as proprietary and incompatible as possible.

    If you want to send a formatted email, such as a newsletter, the best thing to do is going to be to attach it as a PDF/HTML file, or post it online and provide a link to it. Writing HTML email has been getting more difficult with the increase of webmail – many of whom don’t support a lot of styling features – but this looks like it is well and truly the nail in the coffin.

  • Stevie D

    i would love it if my email client would not render email.

    Wouldn’t that make it somewhat pointless?

    There are plenty of email clients out there that don’t support HTML in emails – Forté Agent and Opera to name two that I use – any HTML portions appear as attachments that can be launched in a web browser if needed.

  • http://www.hinshelwood.com hinshelm

    As a developer I think that this makes a lot of sense. Does Outlook 2007 not support the new XML document standard, and is an email not just another form of document? This way, theoretically, all emails created in outlook are standards compliant. I would hope that other email clients would move to support this Open XML format just as Open Office and Star Office is.

    This way email are just as easy to code against as documents. This is a good thing…

  • Brian Emenaker

    This is a bad thing? The less HTML in my email, the better!!!!!!!!!

    Email should be text, and text only. If you want me to see a web page, use a web server.

  • BWilde

    Karl: “IMHO HTML has no place in emails anyway”

    Oh yeah?

    Well just tell me how you write e-mails that can survive quoting of the entire “conversation” history without mangling the line breaks.

    Or, tell me how to be SURE that long URLs make it to the recipient in clickable form.

    Waiting…..

  • BWilde

    @samly: “Embedded images, hypertext, markup, fonts, colors, etc have no place in email”.

    In YOUR world.

    Glad I don’t live in it.

    And… very pleased that you’re not lord, master, and dictator of evrything.

    Have good harmless fun in your little playpen!

    BWilde

  • BWilde

    @Ian: “I am happy with the restrictions on images”

    You should add: “so that my job is easier”.

    *For your convenience* is not a legitmate reason to the rest of us who just want e-mail with images, fonts, and word-wrap to plain work.

    BWilde

  • JL

    What do you do if you don’t have Word installed ? – We run Exchange and therefore Outlook – but not Microsoft Office.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com/ Kevin Yank

    Hinshelm:

    Does Outlook 2007 not support the new XML document standard

    I’m afraid it doesn’t. Your reasoning is interesting, but it doesn’t match what Microsoft is doing.

  • Anonymous

    HTML vs. plain-text in email:

    1) This typical debate comprises progressive people debating the stagnant. “HTML has no place in email.” I’ve heard my grandfather make similar statements like “computers have no place in a library.”

    2) Just because email started in plain-text doesn’t mean it has no room for evolution.

    3) Anyone with a subscription list that offers a choice between HTML and plain-text can attest to the fact that HTML is preferred infinitely over plain-text. So anyone who says it has no place in email is an elitist who is ignorant of the preferences of the majority.

    This article isn’t about HTML vs. plain-text.

    This article is about the fact that Microsoft is catering to their own monopolistic goals and placing devastating hurdles in place for the web-design community. They’re taking 200 steps backward while everyone else takes a few steps forward. And they bank on knowing that they have lassos, enabling them to keep us all at bay.

    Can anyone lay out a good reason why Microsoft would have made this decision? If your answer is that “they want people to use plain-text formats because HTML emails are stupid,” you’re in the wrong forum.

  • Matt

    It does make me chuckle to see all of the people here moaning about what ‘Email shoudl be’. If you’re going to go down taht route, then lets get rid of color printing and pictures in newspapers. These were just plain text when they strated up too. Grow up people, the content that end users want is what is relevant here. And end users to the most part want rich pretty looking content.

    I’m another person who turns of word as the default edit mode, simply because it does not work. I’ve seen free rich-text editors on teh web that imho do a better job than Word ever did. I really do hope they service pack this so that we can get a decent engine ath conforms to standards. At the end of the day, that is the main issue. If you’re going to render HTML, conform to the standards as a whole. Don’t pick and choose what you want, dont add extra pieces of stuff for your own gain. All or nothing – simple as that.

  • MIke

    lol @Matt Maybe we should get rid of HDTV and go back to black and white as well.

    Look the point is not if e-mail should be text only or fully support HTML as mentioned by so many people in this forum. I think the bigger point here is Microsoft is again pushing their wish on the consumer rather than letting the consumer decide what is best. You don’t like HTML e-mails, delete them or change your options to receive text only.

    E-mail is basically another form of delievering media and this is a huge step back. I just hope they get smart and release with IE7 rendering engine as the default engine for rendering e-mails.

  • DF5

    Why would PDF email help? Do you think MS would implement a PDF renderer any better than they implemented an HTML Renderer?

  • Kylie Manders

    Microsoft knows what is best so lets just keep quiet about it and get back to work!

    Honeslty all this bickering is pointless. Microsoft is #1 for a reason – most people use it!

  • Anonymous

    Ever heard of XHTML Basic?

  • Anonymous

    or how about Windows Live Mail Desktop

  • Anonymous

    … and meanwhile insane laughter is heard from the back of the room

    sorry, i hate to act superior, but when is the world going to realize
    that microsoft really doesn’t care about your needs.

  • Ratti

    Mail is a TEXT(!)-format.

  • LMPogoda

    PDF email? Why not switch to Mac? It’s gui is entirely PDF-driven and in Mac Mail app PDF attachments have instant previews available and there’s full HTML support (based on Safari engine which, for example, can pass Acid2 test, contrary to IE7 which cannot…).

  • MutantSurvivor

    I am not sure that this will make that much difference to those who us who, whether we agree with it or no, have to produce HTML emails. Due to the use of webmail clients such as hotmail, gmail and yahoo (and the rest) most of the features that this disallows are not available anyway.

    I tend to go for the HTML 3.2 approach, tables for layout and to use background colours, images in as IMG tags (and with sensible Alts and that will work if they are turned off) and little or no CSS for anything. When I first had to do this it very much offended my sensibilities (I am a css purist when designing for the web) but this is not the web, it is email.

  • Mark

    The whole HTML-in-email argument is pointless. You developer nerds would like to completely wipe out all formatting in e-mail. However, you’re quite alone in your desires. The everyday user of the web and e-mail prefers nicely-formatted content. Remember, as a developer you’re creating a product for someone else. Regardless of how you would prefer to view content, the client’s opinion (most of the time) holds more weight than yours does. I’m tired of developers coding for themselves instead of for their clients!

  • http://www.sitepoint.com AlexW

    Mail is a TEXT(!)-format.

    Well that settles it then.

  • http://www.hinshelwood.com hinshelm

    The only people who care about Outlook 2007 using Word to render its emails, and the loss of the aforementioned features are designers and developer. Not USERS!

    What user said “I wish I got more of those pointless marketing emails!”.
    What user said “I could just go a big background picture for my emails!”
    What user said “I wish I could trach the open count of my emails!”

    Not I…

  • Anonymous

    What about Outlook Express?

  • Atropos

    Eemhh …
    You know: HTML is for web pages … plain text is for email … and flash (and stuff) is for script kiddies!

  • max

    are you a phisher? no? okay, where is the problem of no forms and flash? and i hate html mails,. spamfilter html = junk and your spam-box are almost clear.

  • Dave

    Talking about what email was intended to be – I’m old enough to remember when the web was 90% text too – and look where that ended up! Text only browsers – Lynx, Links, et al – are still around we could easily go back if you want to!
    Dave

  • Stevie D

    Why would PDF email help? Do you think MS would implement a PDF renderer any better than they implemented an HTML Renderer?

    No – that’s the point! The sender would attach a PDF copy of the newsletter to a plain-text email, thereby giving recipients the option of either reading it in plain text, or launching it in Acrobat. Either way, they will get the newsletter as it was intended to be seen, rather than as MS has chosen to mangle it…

  • Stevie D

    What user said “I wish I got more of those pointless marketing emails!”.

    Pointless marketing emails, no. Informative newsletters, yes. I receive a number of (work-related) newsletters by email, and the HTML formatted ones are (by and large) easier on the eye and nicer to read than those in plain text. Just as colours, fonts and pictures make a printed page more engaging than 8 inches by 11 of Times New Roman 12pt, it’s the same on screen.

    What user said “I could just go a big background picture for my emails!”

    Actually, plenty of people do. Yes, it looks a bit unprofessional when they use the standard Outlook stationery, but people do use it!
    More seriously, if you create your own stationery with company logos etc on it, this can look very professional, and far more “important” than regular plain emails.

    What user said “I wish I could trach the open count of my emails!”

    Assuming you mean the ‘read receipt’ function, (i) that works just as well in plain text as HTML, and (ii) it can be very useful for internal communications, I use it all the time.

  • Oscar Gensmann

    Outlook 2007 does have a way to render an e-mail using the built in browser (security-zone).

    The method is:

    1) Open the E-mail in it’s own window (double click)

    2) Click the toolbar button called “Other actions” in the ribbon

    3) Choose “View in browser”

    This doesn’t help the problem with the preview pane and the fact that the user has to do a considerable amount of work to view the e-mail in it’s correct form. It does however change the situation where it’s totally impossible to view an advanced HTML e-mail in using Outlook 2007 as the primary e-mail client, to a situation where people choosing to use 2007 can be taught how to view advanced HTML e-mails with a simple couple of clicks method.

    So ensuring that your HTML-email has a basic display with colors and simple formatting to look at in the preview pane, and then maybe include CSS to the full blown whistle and bells version if you choose to view it in the browser, will probably get you a long way, without resorting to old school coding practices.

    The major problem seems to be that it takes a couple of clicks and a lot of education of the end-user to understand this, but this might be considered a (interface) hurdle imposed on the user by Microsoft rather than a problem with the designers skills, if explained correctly to clients.

    Regarding the entire HTML vs plain text debate, it might be considered that some companies simply use HTML-based e-mail as a way to deliver a simple “data-package” with information an easy way, which can be tailor made to the recipient and, being an e-mail, can be taken with you without keeping a connection (wether this be newsletters, status reports, internal memos with needed visuals or the like).

    Being able to craft the entire information package together in a page-like view helps keeping relevant information together (a basic principle of usability). Images can be placed near the relevant information. Having to locate image files as attachments from a drop down menu can be considered the difference between reading a book with inline images, compared to a book with all the visuals gathered together in an appendix and you have to switch back and forth, thereby disrupting the flow of reading and understanding of the information.

    The reasoning from someone that you should just use attached files also has the problem that attached files (create a PDF to be able to do layout) are creating a serious overhead and are consuming a lot of unnecessary global bandwidth if the entire internet community started to do this as a practice. It just seems weird coming from a group of people seemingly considering them self power users or protectors of how the internet should be?

    The solution of simply linking to a web page in the e-mail creates the problems of availability and portability. E-mails are already an integrated way of receiving and storing a package of information. We have lots of tools for it. There have been developed ways of taking e-mails with us on a multitude of devices in a way which has not yet penetrated the browser-sphere. It is simply too difficult for many ordinary people to save a web page as an archive and move it to their mobile device, not speaking of how you’re going to view the archive format on the device.

    One might not like the millions of HTML crafted spam mails and silly HTML mails from business’, created with huge image signatures and a couple of lines of relevant information, but those are just misuse of the technology, like a hammer can be used to kill another person, but is still pretty usable for the right purpose by the right persons. Blaming the technology and trying to remove it is a bit like saying that we never got anything good out of studying the atoms because we now have the nuclear bomb let’s forget how it works.

    However no one forces you to read HTML-e-mails, you’re always welcomed to make the free choice of not using it, as long as you’re fine with missing the information conveyed through it. Ranting in a forum about how everybody should convert to your way of reading e-mails is just plain silly, in my humble opinion.

  • Dumbhtmlhead

    Add the following plain text header to all future HTML emails:

    If this email looks like sh*t, it is because you are using a non-standards-compliant email client. Please contact your software provider.

  • Hilly_2005

    Outlook 2007 does have a way to render an e-mail using the built in browser (security-zone).

    The method is:

    1) Open the E-mail in it’s own window (double click)

    2) Click the toolbar button called “Other actions” in the ribbon

    3) Choose “View in browser”

    As a email designer, that’s general practice anyway i.e. to include a link to where the email is stored on the net so it can be viewed in a browser, and of course the link telling you how is included at the top of the email.

    But the preview pane is the real problem, right kick in the conkers that…

  • dave

    Microsoft put this in precicely because they ARE listening to their customers. It’s just that their customers might not be the ones you hoped for.
    The primary customers for Outlook 2007 are the corporate IT organizations that buy it and install it across their enterprise – not the users who get it installed on their desktops, and certainly not the designers who write emails that may (or may not) end up in an Outlook mailbox.
    These IT administrators couldn’t care less whether the HTML email you got from someone is rendering as nicely as possible. What they are concerned with is security, consistency, and ease of deployment and maintenance. By using Word as the rendering engine, MS is giving them just that.

  • Rick

    yeah, typical microsoft-sucky…nothing to see here…move along

  • josh

    Could this be just another fallout of the anti-trust suit and M$ being forced to take IE’s hooks out of some of the products they’d proliferated into? Yes, I know the suit was mostly about IE and the OS. Just tossing out a guess here.

  • bc

    I think Josh has a good point. Microsoft was supposed to “unentangle” IE from its other products. We were thinking about the OS but seems like it should apply to the Office products as well. Word is already part of the Office suite — and Outlook tries to make you use Word as the editor so this just seems like following that line.

    Corporate IT managers may find it more secure and easier to deploy this way, but I’m guessing the IT staff on the corporate helpdesk will not be as happy with the number of calls they get about why email looks weird.

  • CBrulee

    Could this be part of the Microsoft move away from HTML and to XML? Office 2007 is XML-based. Also, I encourage users at work to avoid HTML emails, turning it off if possible. Pro-active security actions will only get increasingly crucial as email-based attacks increase. At work I have to support Lotus Notes 6.51; at home I used Edora, but am now testing Thunderbird, since Eudora has given their code to the Mozilla folks for open source use.

  • davegreiner

    Guys, it seems like the real reason behind the change was for rendering consistency. Microsoft figured that in order to keep the look and feel of emails consistent between Outlook users they’d display emails using the same engine that created them.

    If you’d like to change the way Outlook 2007 handles CSS in email, now’s your chance. Molly Holzschlag is currently working directly with Microsoft on this issue, so head over to this post on her blog with the URL of your HTML email and a short explanation of what’s breaking.

  • Anon

    For the morons who confuse the World Wide Web with the Internet…
    Email and html are separate protocols. The FACT that email has been corrupted and bastardized doesn’t make it correct. This is the same asinine thinking and abuse that led to so called designers using tables for layout. Same goes for MS screwing up the CSS box model and all the rest of the amateurs who write invalid code.
    Html belongs on the web, not in email.

  • Chris Rommers

    Maybe this will help:

    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Decent_HTML_in_Outlook_2007/

    It’s al long shot, I know…

  • The Uncreated

    Good I say. HTML belongs on the web, not in our Word documents or e-mail. Plaintext forever, baby!

  • Matt S

    The solution here is to offer developers the ability to hint at which rendering engine should be used. HTML email is a fact of life, and a good one in most cases. Outlook, as the author mentions, is a very important HTML client, with a substantial amount of end-user market share.

    MS is doing this based on use cases. Most folks use email to author and exchange messages, so they decided that the Word experience was the right one. This is not say I agree with that, but it’s a valid use case.

    The solution is to make Outlook smart enough to use the IE engine based on the nature of the email. For me, the best way to do this is in the DOCTYPE or in the email header. If an email comes in with DOCTYPE of HTML 4.01 or above (say), it should use the IE engine.

    In turn, messages authored in the Outlook should have a DOCTYPE (or header) which says so, and therefore renders using Word HTML. Best of both worlds.

  • BBlackmoor

    This is a complete non-issue. Email is TEXT. So-called “HTML mail” is an abomination and a security nightmare. Smart corporate sysadmins disable all so-called HTML mail capabilities, smart email authors don’t send so-called “HTML mail”, and smart email recipients set their email client to strip the so-called “HTML mail” garbage from their incoming email before they even see it.

    The only people this will effect are spammers and hackers, and the morons who keep them in business, and frankly anything that makes their lives difficult is fine by me.

  • BBlackmoor

    If ‘text rules’ how do you explain our newsletter subscribers selecting HTML over plain text at rate of around 20:1 when given the choice?

    That’s easily explained: most people aren’t competent to configure their own software any more than they are competent to tune their own cars (and usually far less so). Your 20:1 ratio is what puts money in the pockets of hackers, spammers, virus writers, and phishers. They’re idiots who endanger any network they connect to. In fact, you could use a “Plain text or ‘HTML mail’?” question as a simple test to separate competent computer users from incompetent computer users.

    (And that should have been “affect” in my previous comment, not “effect”. Mea culpa.)

  • http://www.sitepoint.com AlexW

    That’s easily explained: most people aren’t competent to configure their own software any more than they are competent to tune their own cars (and usually far less so). Your 20:1 ratio is what puts money in the pockets of hackers, spammers, virus writers, and phishers. They’re idiots who endanger any network they connect to. In fact, you could use a “Plain text or ‘HTML mail’?” question as a simple test to separate competent computer users from incompetent computer users.

    (And that should have been “affect” in my previous comment, not “effect”. Mea culpa.)

    But this decision does nothing to secure the email clients of those ‘incompetent computer users’. It will just force legitimate HTML newsletters to re-author their templates.

    Outlook users will see more mangled emails than before and all clients will receive plainer html email than before. No email client will remove HTML rendering abilities, and no user will be a scintilla more secure than they were before.

    Security issues will go on being addressesed by software developers and network admins – as before.

    Not seeing the win here.

  • daniel

    Another issue with outlook is that when you insert pictures, some are inserted lower than the actual resolution, and some are upsampled to an entirely new resolution, resulting in larger file sizes.

    Here is an example, though this is from the Windows Live Writer package.
    http://www.tomergabel.com/CommentView,guid,ccd5ddc1-241b-4df5-8512-fdeefa9d2159.aspx

    Microsoft has fixed the bug in WLW but refuses to fix it in outlook. Some posts in Google Groups label this the “Image Bloat” bug.

  • Debi

    hey, I don’t care about all those html marketing emails. But I am a developer and have been exporting crystal reports as html and sending them to all corporate users. Now with outlook 2007 the previously beutiful reports are junk. What am I supposed to do; spend another 100 hours trying to work around this problem, and then finally when I figure it out, microsoft abandons word and bring in a new format…!!!well, i get paid for all this but i’d certainly prefer to do more intelligent work.

  • K

    I spent hours and hours creating HTML templates for several sites so that we could have more attractive look to our LEGIT (and optional, I might add) newsletters, providing users with pretty interface, proper spacing and organization of images, and search form right in their e-mail. The latest newsletter sent for one of my site came out to be crappy. There were unnecessary spaces before and after tables, the navgation was completely off of where it was supposed to be, and the form area was just blank.

    I understand it’s their product and they can do whatever the hell they want do with it, and in the end it would be on the users’ choice whether to buy it or go for another (BETTER) product, but at the minimum there should be an option for choosing the rendering engine (just like we allow real time unsubscription from the newsletters, see options. btw, not every newsletter is a marketting/junk email)

  • Dan

    I like Office 2003 including outlook.
    I don’t really get much spam ever after defining a few rules.

    As a matter of fact Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Office 2003 together are very stable.

    I’ve always upgraded to get a more stable version, so
    why change from XP Service Pack 2 and Office 2003 at
    this time?

    I feel better when my apps are more polished like
    Microsoft’s than when they look kludgy like Thunderbird,
    but they have to be stable.

    I won’t upgrade to “less stability”.

  • http://www.kdawebservices.com Karl

    Only thing with Outlook, is that MS mail clients are fantastically bad when it comes to large mail boxes. Thunderbird may not look as raphically slick, but it’s a 1000 times better than Outlook.

  • Anonymous

    It seems that this debate has morphed into HTML v. plain text. It was originally about MS and the decision that it made.

    In the battle over plain text or HTML it comes down to wasted bandwidth and storage. My Site Point email in HTML is 40 KB. In text it is 4 KB. That is 10 times the difference. You could send ten 40 KB messages in HTML or you could send 100 in plain text.

    You could actually reach 90 more for the same money by sending plain text. But hey bandwidth is getting cheaper. If you need more just buy more and pass the cost along to the consumer.

    ISPs limit the size of an email and the amount they will store for you. Ask yourself why? Because bandwidth and storage have a cost associated with them. In my industry I have an obligation to be fiscally responsible as I spend taxpayer monies. I will always choose plain text.

  • taphilo

    By taking established known operational methods and then changing them is like the automotive industry suddenly switching the gas and brake pedal around but not telling anyone hoping that no one notices.
    Sending plain text is more efficient in bandwidth and in many cases conveys the message needed. This method has worked for 2000+ years and will always work – for its intended purposes.
    The adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words” IS also true. The graphic elements can convey more than just words and ability to send that allows CONCEPTS to be easily transmitted over the medium.
    Taking away the use of IE as the rendering engine means that anything sent is now NO LONGER sure of how it will be displayed – which can wipe out the whole meaning and – pun intended – send the wrong meaning.
    This smakes more of “Office” politics than ANY concern for users or developers. The Office people did not want to be beholden to the IE people and thus dumped IE rendering so they can control their own destiny.
    To describe the appearance of a Stuart Light tank would take an inordinate amount of words to put every single item that exists on it when compared to a picture. Plain text does not work as well as graphics.
    FORCING people to use the Word Rendering and controls to try and create an HTML based page with the images, text, meta-data (semantic web remember) puts it back to 1996 era of web pages.
    What needs to be done is everyone to write MS and get them to either swtich back (unlikely, MS never listens to practical ideas) or get them to install an update so that people can CHOOSE which rendering to use: IE or Word.
    MS fails to provide a good feedback mechanism so they can claim that no one said anything. Right now, if you wanted to suggest something to MS can you find a way to do that on their web site?
    Nope.
    Tom
    tom@taphilo.com
    http://www.taphilo.com

  • http://www.pixelsandtext.be e-man

    Today I went over to a client to configure their e-mail and just switched all their Windows boxes over to Thunderbird. Just downloaded it, imported their mails and addressbooks and done with it. I intend to do this everywhere I’m called from now on :)

  • Anonymous

    Bout time they updated the rendering for word probably, as it must be a long time since – maybe they have been doing something in tandom with IE7… mystical m$ at it again…

    I guess the best alternative is to provide a differently coded email (probably in m$ software) for outlook 07 if possible if the shit does actually hit the fan

    freaking idiot companies like m$ … seriously… (or are jumping to conclusions to quickly!)

  • nat

    all this debate over what email should/not be is pointless – it has evolved into the monstrocity that it is and there is nothing we can do about it except find the best way to move forward. to all of you who insist that email should be text-only, i’m glad you’re satisfied with that, but guess what – most people aren’t. if that were the reality, we’d all be driving the same car, living in the same house, and wearing the same clothes because it doesn’t matter what it looks like, as long as it gets the job done, right??? wrong. that’s not how it works in america, anyway.

    so many of my clients use email as a marketing tool to promote upcoming events, product specials, disseminate general information, and they in turn have customers that WANT TO RECEIVE THESE EMAILS. they are not spamming, they did not purchase their list(s) from questionable 3rd parties, they simply want to promote their company or organization to people who are interested, and email is a quick, easy and inexpensive means of doing so. and of course they want it to look attractive. as humans we are very visually oriented – attractive marketing bombards us from all directions, and if something is not eye-catching, it will simply be overlooked in most instances. think about when you go to the grocery store… think about how much research is done on product packaging before it ever makes it to a shelf. but since plain text on a box should work just as well, who needs tony the tiger and spongebob-shaped fruit snacks? let’s make everything times new roman.

    i know that i am more likely to take time out of my day to read an article or advertisment if it is presented in an attractive manner than some black text on a white background. take sitepoint’s newsletter for example. it has the articles listed at the top (logo bullets=branding!), secondary content on the side in a different background color, the headlines stand out from the article content for easy skimming, it looks professional AND is user-friendly. would you read it if it was just a bunch of text? i probably would not, because i EXPECT it to look a certain way, and i like viewing things in a visually-organized environment.

    it’s a shame that spammers and phishers and so many others have exploited email in the way that they have – it certainly has created a lot of headaches, lost time, money, and productivity, but also a lot of jobs. you may complain, but how many of us reading this would be unemployed if everything worked as it should all the time. maybe not unemployed, but you get the idea. a lot of people would have to find another way to bring home the proverbial bacon. i’m definitely in agreement with the user who posted seeing this as an opportunity in addition to the initial pain in the rear that it creates. arm yourself with information and make the sale!

    and i do think that Microsoft was very short-sighted in this so-called upgrade. why take a step back when email marketing is becoming more and more popular? (yes, even with all of you expounding your eternal hatred of the medium, HTML email IS becoming more popular, and none of your persnickety ranting is going to do anything to change that. so there.) and if integration with Word is so important (for whatever reason), why not make Word’s rendering engine more powerful and standards-compliant? that’s the real issue! i don’t think support of background images is really too much to ask. because they ARE pretty, and me LIKE pretty…

  • Anonymous

    All I know is that Apple’s Mail doesn’t have this kinda problem.
    Quoting some guru that many people know: “Guys at Microsoft? They are not Evil. They just do LOUSY Operating Systems.”
    Now if we look at how much we are paying for one lousy license to use Microsoft Office (wich is a good set of office programs) i don’t think many of us feel robbed, but if we are buying a license to use a program that, instead of evolving, is regressing then, at least my humble person, feels robbed and most of all buying a lot of stupidness.

  • Anonymous

    What information on expected adoption rates for Outlook 2007 do we have?

    I’ve heard that this will take at least a couple of years before enough have adopted to have a significant affect on the email marketing community.

    Also, what affect will this have on Outlook Express (renamed “Windows Mail”) which more people have installed on their personal PC’s? I’ve heard that Express will not have all of the same issues as Outlook 2007.

  • Robert

    Moving on would be nice except for one small issue. I’m developing some InfoPath 2007 forms to send via email. InfoPath changes these forms into html for email. So when you open the email in Outlook 2007 it looks like crap. If you use the option in Outlook to view in browser it looks fine. Also, if you open the email in Outlook 2003 it looks fine. So tell me why a Microsoft Product that sends email will not render correctly in another Microsoft Prodcut???????

  • celeste

    Aren’t we all looking at one aspect of the problem here? All I hear is: Oh my company needs this or that, but guess what? Wether hosted in-house or in a datacenter, all e-mail usage generate bandwidth usage and therefore becomes costly and more costly to the client. Yes the Html feature is there to make it niiice and beautiful, but oh does it cost! Does your e-mail server needs to be backed on a daily basis? Do you care how much bandwidth overage cost? Not really.. Well MS created a way to still have the Html presence and yet integrate limitation which in turn allows moderation. Its both of 2 world: The developper gets a little, the end-user gets a little.

  • user

    I think it is great that spammers now have a harder time sending emails that contact servers to download pictures (and make it known the email address is active).

    Sending marketing via email should be done with attachments, not inline code that makes impossible to see what is in the email without activating all the bells and whistles!

  • MS-suX

    I’m an employee at a Belgian software company. Our expertise is a marktingtool which allows a marketeer to easily draft multi-channel campaigns. E-mail is one such channel.

    Now that MS has released Outlook07, it’s raining complaints at our support center. All of our customers are being forced to adjust their HTML-templates. I really can’t believe they would pull a stunt like this.

    And then they go and release an OS that really does NOT live up to expectations (Vista). They worked 5+ years on a side-bar with gadgets and a 3D ALT-TAB variant?!?

    If there’s a god, he’s propably installing unbuntu right now. :)

  • ALitsa

    I downloaded MS’s “handy dandy tool” and it’s pretty worthless. For one, their validator seems to disagree with their compatibilites article (I’m using Visual Studio). Example: the validator thinks that the td element should not be nested in the table element. …What? In addition, as far as I can tell, it’s just a validator; you can’t render HTML files as they would appear in Outlook 07. So really, what’s the point of downloading this tool if it doesn’t tell you anything you couldn’t have figured out by reading the documentation? How are we supposed to test our stuff?

  • Peter da Silva

    Ten years ago I banned outlook at our office, and for the next five years the only “antivirus” we used was “don’t use outlook, don’t use IE, and ALWAYS use this set of Word macros that disable auto execution”. This proved more successful in preventing infection than the tactic used by rest of the company: standardize on Outlook and MacAfee.

    The security model used my Microsoft’s standard HTML control is inherently broken and unfixable. The sooner they follow up on this by switching to a secure HTML renderer for Internet Explorer the better.

  • Oscar Gensmann

    I think it is great that spammers now have a harder time sending emails that contact servers to download pictures (and make it known the email address is active).

    Because everybody who sends images in e-mails are spammers.. yes sir indeed. How about taking another approach and maybe realize that a lot of companies and people use e-mails everyday to communicate upon agreed methods and use HTML-formatting for serious useful business’, like formatting reports of data for easier reading, invoices and the like. It’ll be doable with (insert some other technology here), but in most cases e-mails are the tool people use, know and have the extra tools for. Why do we have to roll over and let the spammers win and dictate that we should use a lesse simpler technology just because they use HMTL-formatting?

    We don’t stop using knives just because some people use them for killing people?

    Sending marketing via email should be done with attachments, not inline code that makes impossible to see what is in the email without activating all the bells and whistles!

    So you prefer bloated e-mails filling up your inbox with images attached to e-mails, instead of having the choice of downloading the images if you’re interested? Oh and by the way due to overhead, attached files are roughly taking up 1,5 more space, so not only are you downloading files with your mail, but are also spending 1,5 more bandwith on downloading them. Yay for that solution.

    ohh.. and by the way.. linked images still works in outlook 2007… funny enough https linked images doesn’t seem to work… maybe because https is dangerous..mm..yeah..

  • Not A Geek But An Ordinary Poor Sod Who Has To Buy Office 2007 For Himself

    I am a customer of Microsoft. I would like emails which come from companies whose products I’m interested in to look great, also emailed invoices etc from companies I buy from. I also like my TV in colour, and pictures in my newspapers, and I really like the advances made in this regard on the web. Let’s move forward people.

  • Mick Hardy

    My brand new site creates a simple HTML welcome email, total size 13KB, not bloated. A simple header and a footer, positioned using CSS with tiny repeated background images.

    I downloaded the tool for Visual Studio 2005 and did the registry changes and checked my templates using Word 2007 and it decided nothing was wrong, despite the badly rendered email – go figure.

    I modified the templates slightly to bandaid the issue. I published my site and suddenly everything had page errors and embedded Flash wasn’t working. VS2005 changed all my pages to the Word 2007 rendering engine and broke the whole thing. Love Microsoft. A dollar for every hour spent working around Microsoft issues and I could retire.

    Are they planning to fix this or do I bight the bullet and redesign all my automated emails? Is there a hack for Outlook 2007? This is months old now. How can it still be broken?

  • Anonymous

    So what about those of us with Student and Teacher Edition who just want to open safe attachments (Word docs) emailed to myself? Is there no way to force Outlook 2003 to open Word 2007 automatically? Or is this another BIG screw-up by MS?

  • Anonymous

    If there’s a god, he’s propably installing unbuntu right now. :)

    Just in case anyone was wondering, God actually uses a Mac. ;)

  • The Second Coming

    Well he isn’t omnipotent if he is trying to install Ubuntu on a Mac. You must be thinking of Buddha…

  • People Are Stupid

    There sure are some dumb comments on here, especially the “but HTML shouldn’t be in emails!!!!!!!!1111!1!” folks. Typically, people who know what they are doing acknowledge the existence of luddites like yourselves and send multipart messages which include plain text. All you so-called “network administrators” should be delighted with CSS support for email That means much less bloat passing through your network. Microsoft sucks, and this latest boneheaded move proves it. They hire some really incompetent management, and these kinds of decisions demonstrate that. It will be a glorious day when that POS company collapses.

  • http://www.kdawebservices.com Karl

    Only problem with multipart is that most companies don’t actually send multipart messages, they just send a HTML only message – I get lots of them every day.

  • deadshift

    HTML is a bad fit for e-mail. If you want to control page layout, PDF would be a better option, but this decision was made for everyone by Netscape long ago. Then Microsoft followed up with zeal. Moving to Word’s rendering engine supports the possibility of Outlook on Macs. It should also be more secure than a full online rendering engine like IE. That’s a good thing. Sometime security trumps sparkle and glitter.

    Word and Outlook share similar security concerns and neither should be using a full web browser to render content, that’s just security stupid. Word’s rendering engine will improve. It has to. Too much is using it now.

    I’ll continue to send and request plain text e-mail, because HTML e-mail is pretty horrible.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com AlexW

    Moving to Word’s rendering engine supports the possibility of Outlook on Macs. It should also be more secure than a full online rendering engine like IE. That’s a good thing. Sometime security trumps sparkle and glitter.

    Why should we be scared about Outlook using IE’s rendering engine, but not about IE itself using the same IE engine for browsing?

  • Anonymous

    This has got to be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. I’ve never been a Microsoft basher, and in fact have been quite a supporter, but this may just change my mind.

    The only thing that could top it is if Apple decides not to add a Flash viewer to the iPhone…

  • Keith

    Lets see I’ve used Eudora for 10 years now, never any of these problems, no bloat of my .pst file and lots of choice for viewing. I do however get lots of chances to learn Outlook from people who need help when it dies…

  • BUT THEN>>>

    yeah did you notice that you CAN use publisher but it has a ton of problems!! Chopping the file in multiple parts, I’m being forced to create a jpeg out of it set it as background and mail, …. gosh!! I was used to that method already, old one, and I’m quasi-develloper one of those simple users that went from simple html to more complex due to the last set of software, which opened my possibilities, cursed be the corporations that leave their clients out, yet again!

  • Peter da Silva

    “Why should we be scared about Outlook using IE’s rendering engine, but not about IE itself using the same IE engine for browsing?”

    Who said you SHOULDN’T be scared about using IE’s rendering engine in IE itself?

    You absolutely should avoid using any program that uses the standard Microsoft HTML rendering engine for viewing untrusted content. That includes IE, Windows Media Player, Realplayer, Yahoo Messenger, but no longer Outlook.

    In the late ’90s I managed to get any application using the HTML control banned at the office, because it was obvious to me that the design was horribly insecure. Over the next five years we were the ONLY site in the company that didn’t have a major virus or worm outbreak. Then they centralized IT, standardized on IE, and within a week we were fighting the same losing battles as everyone else.

    Out of the top five fundamental security flaws in Windows, the HTML control is responsible for three of them. I am still stunned that anyone competent to understand how it works is willing to defend it.

  • Awesome.

    Somebody at Microsoft thought that:
    <li>Some text</li>

    Is better expressed as:

    <p class=MsoNormal style=’mso-margin-top-alt:auto;mso-margin-bottom-alt:auto;
    margin-left:0in;text-indent:-.25in;mso-list:l0 level1 lfo1′><![if !supportLists]><font
    size=2 face=Symbol><span lang=EN style=’font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Symbol’><span
    style=’mso-list:Ignore’>·<font size=1 face="Times New Roman"><span
    style=’font:7.0pt "Times New Roman"’>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;& nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;& nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;…
    </span></font></span></span></font><![endif]><font size=2 face=Verdana><span
    lang=EN style=’font-size:9.5pt;font-family:Verdana’>1,000± Sq. Ft. Units, 16 Total
    <o:p></o:p></span></font></p>

    That person is a MsoF***er.

  • Joern

    Good I say. HTML belongs on the web, not in our Word documents or e-mail. Plaintext forever, baby!

    http://www.active2go.de

  • Rob R

    Great to see the following link at the top of XBOX promotional emails.

    “Read this issue online if you can’t see the images or are using Outlook 2007″.

  • Brian M

    Some one at Microsoft recommended using <p> ?
    funny thing about that, I do some work creating marketing emails with html, and another Microsoft product, msn hotmail, does not render <p>

  • Thomas

    Strange, but my html email looking fine in all mail clients like Foxmail,Thebat also in outlook express what come with windows xp standard programs. I’m just wondering why design broken in Office Outlook?
    Spent a lot of time for creating good html newsletter for site www.oscommerce-packages.com and now trying find decision.

  • RCK

    Joern says “plaintext forever baby” (October 19th).

    Such an attitude suggests a certain lack of imagination, creativity and visual flair.

    And sure enough, Joern’s website is as dull as ditchwater. http://www.active2go.de/

    Microsoft’s clumsy changes to Outlook are likewise dull, unimaginative, lazy and unhelpful.

  • Anonymous

    For whoever says HTML has no place in email, fair enough if that’s your opinion. Outlook will however still be sending massive, bloated HTML mail, just without all the options that would make HTML mail interesting to use ;)

  • Adam

    lol @ those who think Outlook encourages plain text. Without propper CSS support – look forward to massively bloated emails and excessive image use. If anything propper CSS support benefits the reader, as it allows you to strip out the junk if you so choose. Now marketers will be forced to rely on tabled layouts with ATTACHED (vs linked) images, resulting in larger emails – both in code and attachment.

  • Michael

    Childish, is that because you don’t agree with it? It’s a perfectly valid viewpoint and as a network administrator, I think I’m perfectly entitled to hold that viewpoint if I so wish. Join http://www.nicehost.de

  • Sum Yung Gai

    If you want HTML email that actually works, then just use Thunderbird or Evolution, and things will work just fine. Evolution even works with MS Exchange Server.

  • TMaxim

    The reality is that HTML email is commonly requested by clients, and if you actually work as a web developer and want to deliver what your clients request, then you need to deliver the most consistent rendering of their newsletter.

    TMaxim

  • Wes

    I found a GOOD solution to creating HTML emails that you can send out in Outlook. This works very well and you are not limited by Outlooks html rendering.

    First, create an html email in a separate program like Dreamweaver. Make sure that all of the image references are to images that are on a web server and available to the web (if you don’t have access to a web server then you can embed the images but it’s much trickier). Make sure all image source references are absolute links (full address). Then open the html file in IE 7. Select File > Send > Page by Email.

    Bingo, your done and you weren’t restricted by Outlooks html creator and you can send it out to any list you have. If you designed your html email with good code (you may have to use a few hacks) it should display perfectly in all email programs, even Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, and AOL!

    This is somewhat of an advanced solution but actually works very well and bypasses all of the problems mentioned in this post.

    Good Luck,
    Wes

  • http://www.sitepoint.com AlexW

    This is somewhat of an advanced solution but actually works very well and bypasses all of the problems mentioned in this post.

    Good Luck,
    Wes

    Wes, I assume you are using Outlook 2007 as your default email client? If I follow your instructions, the HTML page gets added as an attachment to an Thunderbird email.

  • geekcubeATyahooDOTcom

    these folks are stealing your work –> http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~wiss/modules/mod6.html

  • siiix

    i would not use HTML in an email top begin with, whats wrong with you people its not the 1990’s, all you gona archive with html/java/flash/… email is to constantly have to deal with virus, trojans and hacks… please get some common sense

    who in they right mind even willingly opens up email in non-txt format unless you like to play Russian roulette with you OS

  • Neven

    HA HA HA HA HA.
    Good joke, MS! Next step is presumably use of MS Office Excel 2009 as exchange database engine.

  • Feral

    If this is such a problem to people, I got your solution.

    SWITCH EMAILS

    If you don’t liek outlook, then it’s time to use a different source.

  • LadyBoy

    If this is such a problem to people, I got your solution.

    That is not a solution. The issue is that a large number of the recipients of a HTML email may use Outlook 2007. The email client that the developer chooses to use personally has no effect on this situation.

  • Bon Bon

    I think you personally rave and banter about nothing, it is not the end of the world. You can use tables to design the best of a bad job anyway. Background images do work, providing you type the complete address of a file stored on your computer.

    I think I read the first 20 comments before getting sick to death of reading any more about this issue. I was looking for help, because my solution is not the be-all-end-all but at least it helps.

  • PixelGrinch

    Why allowing the display of regular images and not background images? Makes no sense to me …
    If you are not allowing the simplest of html don’t allow it at all.
    Is like giving your kid the fork to eat only the crust of the pie.
    No pie or full pie that’s what I think :)

  • Keith

    We’re now experiencing the new “features” in Outlook 07. All I can say is Redmond better have a plan for upgrading this stone-age engine. It may be time to abandon HTML email all together and simply send text emails with a link to a Web version.

  • Ahmad Bagadood

    Microsoft. Pls. switch back to IE rendering. Otherwise, Thunderbird will be replacing your product sooner than you think.

    This is not a threat. Just a fact.

  • bradbains

    What I tried doing was coding my html email as normal then I open it up in Word 07 to see what has been done to it. I just had to go back and forth between the two programs and of course use less CSS.

    In the end it looks almost perfectly uniform in all email clients. It may be a pain but you can still do very advanced email templates with Outlook 07.

  • selamlar

    If this is such a problem to people, I got your solution.

    SWITCH EMAILS

    If you don’t liek outlook, then it’s time to use a different source.

  • Restaurant

    So what about those of us with Student and Teacher Edition who just want to open safe attachments (Word docs) emailed to myself? Is there no way to force Outlook 2003 to open Word 2007 automatically? Or is this another BIG screw-up by MS?

    http://www.restaurant-businessplan.de

  • Dik

    Interesting. Added message about you on my site

  • Dmitriy

    > MrPlace Says:
    > Does anyone know a good spam filter on Thunderbird?

    Pop file works well
    Look on http://getpopfile.org/

  • Anonymous

    our company send email to her clients
    and if they have have outlook 2007 they will get
    email without background
    hehe they loss
    viva outlook 2003

  • Jason Stanfield

    Our corporation, has been an early adapter of Office 2007.
    Not only are html emails a pain for our subscribers, but in addition, it’s been brought to our attention, that whenever you copy from an html webpage into Outlook 2007 email only, all depending what code was copied, without any warning, that email message body of text gets corrupted!

    Imagine composing any important message, and you want to quote what your reading, being a journalist, and then upon inserting a clip from your pasting, suddenly, you lost your work, everything screwed up, clicking undo makes things worse, and the only thing left is to close the application, to restart all over, and over and over… That is until you learn, always paste into notepad, striping down the code to just text only, of which is then safe to insert into Outlook or is that Outlock 2007?

    I wish our CIO had NEVER used Microsoft Outlook, as our other associates working with “open source intellectual property” get to fix their issues whereas we are locked out still waiting for a fix that will demand us to adapter Outlock 2009 or whatever whenever it’s released having paid for it more than once.

    U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Mark Edwards, deputy chief of naval operations for communications was quoted saying: The days of proprietary technology must come to an end,” he said. “We will no longer accept systems that couple hardware, software and data. If we remain behind in technology, a future adversary will eventually bring terms to us.

  • Mike B in Indy

    I agree with those who state that email should be rendered as text-only, but just as a concession to a more fundamental point.

    God (Jehovah, in this case) never meant for communication to be anything but non-verbal, a series of hand gestures and grunts between two humans who are standing near each other. That’s why he doomed the building of the Tower of Babel, to show humans the folly of their ways.

    Email should not be rendered at all, whether in text, “rich text” or HTML. In fact, neither should web pages. All communication should revert back to grunting and wailing. Anyone who says different needs to read their Bible.

    Text-based email indeed!

  • Craig F

    I that case Mike, let’s also start stoning children who misbehave and bring back slavery. It’s all in the “good” book right!

  • Leslie

    I have been running into constant problems with Outlook 2007 because it doesn’t render the HTML code. Instead of packaging up linking code in a clean format in a text area box (which users can copy and paste right from the email) the code appears splattered all over the page in Outlook 2007 emails. It messes up the entire layout and makes our emails look completely unprofessional. Has anyone found an HTML alternative to the text area box that Outlook 2007 will recognize?

  • leslieshare

    Has anyone been able to find a work around for the textarea box which Microsoft Outlook doesn’t render in HTML emails? We offer linking codes in textarea boxes in newsletters which our customers can copy and paste right from the communication. In Outlook 2007, unfortunately, the textarea boxes aren’t rendered, so the code appears splattered over the communications, messing up the layout and making the communication look unprofessional. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  • Stan

    Well I send a newsletter out in HTML to subscribed users, and now it doesn’t render in 2007. I send them from a CMS directly.

    This version just turned me right off Microsoft. Going to Mozilla.

  • Alex Krenvalk

    For solve this problems advise try-outlook problem cannot view emails,some time ago my friends were in this situation and used as how as they said-it,tool helped their,as far as they know program is free,utility can help to extract all files with *.eml, *.vcf and *.txt extensions from *.ost file, when you cannot access your mail account, stored on Microsoft Exchange Server,will quickly scan all hard drives and find it. If current user has only one profile and its data is stored in a *.pst file, the path will be automatically displayed in the dialog box,can convert the data to a file with *.pst extension, that can be opened with any mail client, when cannot view Outlook emails.

  • Bilal

    I’m done with Outlook 2007. Just uninstalled, now all is better.

    Those who can stop microsoft from telling them how to live, should act accordingly..
    Afterall, There is more to life then using Outlook 2007.

  • Samurai

    What about ASCII animation? I think we should consider that business opportunity.
    Thanks, Microsoft, I’ll start converting animated gifs into ASCII right now.

  • Cosmin

    The handy-dandy tool from Microsoft is a dead link…

    Gosh, I always wondered…WHAT IF the silly guys at Xerox never showed their idea with the GUI and mouse to Steve Jobs, or what if Steve never gave those 3 Lisas to Bill Gates with such a blind trust… maybe this would have never happened :(

  • Sighing Deeply

    It amazes me… does microsoft want to lose its loyal customer base or what?

    I am the head of a web/multimedia development department and now thanks to Microsoft’s blatant attack on web developers (yes i consider it an attack whatever their reasoning) has just cost us and our clients hundreds of thousands of dollars. We have spent the last 2.5 years developing a high quality feature rich mailing client that allows businesses to send monthly newsletters to their subscribed client base. Now thanks to Microsoft’s wonderful fast one, we are basically out of luck and so are our clients. We are just one of thousands of companies developing or using such mail systems to get good content out to a receptive audience. So, all those looking to capitalize on the virtues of quality mailed content Microsoft just sunk your boat. Why do this? One word… greed.

    Those of you mentioning that this is great because now you wont be bothered by html formatted emails think again… Now any secretary can assemble a non-professionally built, heavy, bloated email and can send it with ease. Instead of clean small easy to filter mailings you will be bombarded by heavy mailbox jamming “pretty” word documents of unfathomable size. When was the last time a secretary cared about optimizing images or came up with creative ways to shave 10k out of a document by reading a good book on css? Yea html mailings will be the least of your concerns… Can’t wait to see how that fancy font translates or that 500k jpeg comes through.

    Newspapers trying desperately to find ways to survive also just got a stake through their heart. They can forget sending a meaningful mailing of daily news and generating revenue based on advertising now.

    Nice job Microsoft, good luck staying on top. Your strong arm, sensless, greed will kill you yet. In my opinion it couldn’t come soon enough. Your last decent application has now been reduced to complete garbage and I for one will never recommend a single product you offer again.

  • http://www.watchanimeon.com Anime Fan

    Can you provide more information on this? (Also i cant seem to find the RSS update feed, can someone please point it out if it even exists here?

  • Wolfraider

    The reason behind Microsoft using word for the rendering is because they are getting forced to remove IE from Windows. People are throwing fits that IE is included and tied into the OS and apps, stating that they are abusing their market share to force everyone to use IE. If they are forced to remove IE, outlook and other programs must use a different rendering engine.

  • http://www.zidiyn.com Lucky

    If let you select, what render do you want to select? If let me select, I will select Word render for Outlook, but on sometime, we also need or prefer to using IE html render. By this reason, I created a Outlook Add-In to give Outlook html render and also keeping Outlook security & management. You can download this Add-In from http://luckylu.opendrive.com/files/MV8yOTgxNjhfVmlSeGhfOTViNw/LuckyAudit_Setup.zip