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Conditional Comments for HTML Email

    James Edwards

    Take a look at this:

    <!--[if gte mso 9]>

    Chances are the general syntax will be instantly familiar — it’s a conditional comment, useful for feeding specific content only to Windows versions of Internet Explorer. But did you know they work for Office applications too?

    Neither did I … until recently.

    We’ve just overhauled the HTML templates for our email newsletters … a painful process to be sure — if you think that web browsers are harsh task-masters, you should try coding to suit email clients! A recent article, How to Code HTML Email Newsletters, spells out just how convoluted it can be, and how arcane are the techniques you have to resort to, to produce a decent layout in the most popular email clients. And the issue has been further complicated by the fact that one of the most popular Windows clients — Outlook — no longer uses Internet Explorer for HTML rendering, it uses Word!

    And it was while perusing the franken-code that passes for “Save as Web Page” output from a Word document, that I first saw these little nuggets — exactly what we needed to hide bits of content from Outlook that were just too mangled to leave.

    So there you go. If you’re publishing HTML email and struggling with Outlook’s rendering, here’s an extra little tool for the kit. The syntax even implies that it can be used for granular targetting of Office versions all the way back; but I haven’t tested this, so any information is gratefully received :)