HTML Email Horrors – Part 2: MS Outlook 2007/2010

Have I mentioned how much of a pain in the neck HTML emails are? Every email client will render an HTML email differently because each one has it’s own rules around how it deals with the markup. For example, Gmail doesn’t support styles in the <head> section and Hotmail ignores margins. Basically, designing for html emails means reverting back to the old ways like using tables and throwing out anything new we’ve learned like external stylesheets. For any developer, we all know how important web standards are among cross-browser compliance, however among the multitude of email clients out there, these standards are broken much more frequently. There has even been a movement called the Email Standards Project who are trying to strive for compliant code among all email clients. The worst of the worst among these clients however, bar none, is Outlook 2007. Even previous versions of Outlook rendered more correctly than Outlook 2007.

MS Outlook 2007

With the release of Outlook 2007, Microsoft switched from their Internet Explorer rendering engine to the (get ready for it) …Word rendering engine! It doesn’t make any sense to switch html rendering capabilities from a web-browser engine to a word-processor engine, but that is exactly what they have done. To make things even worse, Microsoft fails to see their mistake and continues to use the Word rendering engine in Outlook 2010. We know from statistics that Outlook 2007 has a market share of 9% and with the introduction of Outlook 2010, this number will continue to grow as users continue to upgrade and phase out their older (yet better) versions. This means that Outlook 2007/2010 and the headaches that come with it for developers, will be here to stay for at least the next 5 years. <facepalm>

We already had to step in a time-machine and go back in time to deal with these html emails but apparently we didn’t go back far enough!

Need some help? At least there is a community out there to help voice our opinions to Microsoft. On Microsoft’s own website there is a full-listing of supported and unsupported capabilities in Outlook 2007. If you’d like to know which CSS attributes are supported in specific email clients, the guys at CampaignMonitor provided us this handy CSS support guide.