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The Power of Word in Outlook

This morning we became aware of a Twitter campaign run from the website http://fixoutlook.org. This campaign is intended to provide Microsoft with feedback about our decision to continue to use Microsoft Word for composing and displaying e-mail in the upcoming release of Microsoft Outlook 2010. The Email Standards Project, which developed the website that promotes the current Twitter campaign, is backed by the maker of “email marketing campaign” software.

First, while we don’t yet have a broadly-available beta version of Microsoft Office 2010, we can confirm that Outlook 2010 does use Word 2010 for composing and displaying e-mail, just as it did in Office 2007. We’ve made the decision to continue to use Word for creating e-mail messages because we believe it’s the best e-mail authoring experience around, with rich tools that our Word customers have enjoyed for over 25 years. Our customers enjoy using a familiar and powerful tool for creating e-mail, just as they do for creating documents. Word enables Outlook customers to write professional-looking and visually stunning e-mail messages. You can read more about this in our whitepaper, outlining the benefits and the reason behind using Word as Outlook’s e-mail editor.

As an example, here are some images that show some of the rich e-mail that our customers can send, without having to be a professional HTML web designer. In addition to the familiar formatting toolbar, Outlook offers powerful Word tools such as automatic styles and templates, charting tools, SmartArt, and richly formatted tables for our professional customers.

SmartArt

Drawing and Charting tools

image image



Table and Formatting tools

Mini Toolbar for formatting

image image

Word has always done a great job of displaying the HTML which is commonly found in e-mails around the world. We have always made information available about what HTML we support in Outlook; for example, you can find our latest information for our Office 2007 products here. For e-mail viewing, Word also provides security benefits that are not available in a browser: Word cannot run web script or other active content that may threaten the security and safety of our customers.

We are focused on creating a great e-mail experience for the end user, and we support any standard that makes this better. To that end, Microsoft welcomes the development of broadly-adopted e-mail standards. We understand that e-mail is about interoperability among various e-mail programs, and we believe that Outlook provides a good mix of a rich user experience and solid interoperability with a wide variety of other e-mail programs. There is no widely-recognized consensus in the industry about what subset of HTML is appropriate for use in e-mail for interoperability. The “Email Standards Project” does not represent a sanctioned standard or an industry consensus in this area. Should such a consensus arise, we will of course work with other e-mail vendors to provide rich support in our products. We are constantly working to improve our products and the experience that they give to our customers.

As usual, we appreciate the feedback from our customers, via Twitter or on our Outlook team blog.

-- William Kennedy
Corporate Vice President, Office Communications and Forms Team
Microsoft Corporation

Posted: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 8:17 PM by outblog

Comments

Peter Flindt said:

I hope MS not forget that not all other users on the world without Outlook and sorry NO, this new OOXML file format will not fix the problems. Receive EMail written in Word2003 was sometimes a hopeless thing, when you use another eMail program.

# June 24, 2009 3:31 PM

Dennis E. Hamilton said:

This post makes it look like Word is the only way to author e-mail posts in Outlook 2010.  

Of course, those of us who limit our authoring of e-mails to plain-text and only view arriving HTML-formatted e-mail don't have to worry about whether Word is used for editing rich-formatted e-mail.

Right?

# June 24, 2009 3:35 PM

Gensho Sataka said:

But what happens when someone sends me one of these rich emails if I have an email client other than Outlook/Word?  Will it be compatible?

# June 24, 2009 3:54 PM

Alex Duffield said:

Our issue and by our, i do not mean "creators of email marketing software", I mean web developers, is that you are using words RENDERING engine to DISPLAY the email in the client. It Matters not to us how how you create the emails, jsut how you display them and others created using Standards.

I assume that HTML created in Words will display correctly in IE? Then why not use IE rendering engine for the DISPLAY of all HTML formatted emails???

# June 24, 2009 4:08 PM

Travis Bell said:

Hey guys,

Thanks for commenting on this. I would like to ask one question though, when you say "there is no widely-recognized consensus in the industry about what subset of HTML is appropriate for use in e-mail for interoperability", while I suppose is *technically* accurate, I think I can speak on behalf of the worlds web developers and say making it simply standards compliant is all we're after.

We're not looking for anything special, unique or far fetched. Just let us design our HTML emails the same way we design our HTML websites. You let us do that and you've done your job, so we can do ours.

Thanks again, I really hope you guys will consider improving Outlook's rendering capabilities.

# June 24, 2009 4:08 PM

Jim Deville said:

Just because Word formats the email doesn't mean the email is sent as a Word document. It gets converted to HTML. The lack of CSS support may mean poorer designs (tables and the like) but it in no way means that other email viewers will have any more problems with it than web browsers would.

# June 24, 2009 4:14 PM

Peter Ritchie said:

If it's the same as 2007, where I can turn off using Word for the editor, that makes me happy.

# June 24, 2009 4:19 PM

Dan said:

Good job ignoring this MARKETING CAMPAIGN by Campaign Monitor, as that's all it is.

# June 24, 2009 4:29 PM

James said:

25 year experience! In that case rock on with table based layouts

# June 24, 2009 4:29 PM

Jamie Newman said:

I read you response with joy and sadness. Joy that you have recognised a very powerful message sent by the users of Twitter today, but sadness that you do not seem to understand what the problems here are.

I disagree with the comment about there being no widely-recognised consensus about what is appropriate HTML for displaying HTML emails. HTML is the standard - why should there be a different standard for emails?

Outlook is the only client that seems to purposely cripple industry-recognized HTML standards in order to allow Word (a Word Processor NOT an email message composer!) to build emails of a poor standard and limited by yesterdays technolgoies.

And before some misguided argument about ensuring a safe experience for the user - the rendering engine should be no different to a web browser which also gives the user the same security preferences and lets them make an informed choice.

What I and thousands of developers want to know is - why should Outlook go against what all other email clients are doing and make our lives a living hell?!

# June 24, 2009 4:32 PM

Jason Robb said:

Fix it! Fix it! Fix it! Fix it! Fix it!

That is all at this time. The intertubes have spoken.

# June 24, 2009 4:34 PM

jevoenv said:

I have lead a webdesign agency that, among other things, builds e-mail marketing campaigns. Outlook  was always an issue because of Word's poor rendering of standard HTML. It is just sad that Word does not have the ability to properly render CSS, which is a de-facto standard to position elements in HTML today.

It's not all about e-mail marketing either. These days I am at MSFT and even our PA can't get the formatting of e-mails to wish co-workers a happy birthday come out correctly.

There is no reason to use Word as rendering engine. To use it for mail creation is fine, but please use IE or a standards compliant rendering engine for display. Thanks.

# June 24, 2009 4:36 PM

Les Reynolds said:

So keep the Word authoring tools, but fix the HTML that it outputs to you can use a browser to render it, just like everyone else.

And the email standards project might not be anything official, but it is an attempt to establish some consensus, while you just do what you want.

# June 24, 2009 4:37 PM

Nathan Pitman said:

"The 'Email Standards Project' does not represent a sanctioned standard or an industry consensus in this area. Should such a consensus arise, we will of course work with other e-mail vendors to provide rich support in our products"

I think this campaign just showed you that such a consensus has arisen. Or is the support of 18,000+ Twitter users not enough?

# June 24, 2009 4:40 PM

Ben M. Schorr said:

Peter: E-mail written with the Word editor is just e-mail; has nothing to do with the new Office OpenXML document format.  It's just an HTML, RTF or Plain Text e-mail and any e-mail client in the world that supports those formats will be able to read it fine.

Dennis: Yes, as of Outlook 2007 Word is the *ONLY* editor in Outlook so you are using Word to create plain text or Rich Text (RTF) e-mails as well.

-Ben-

# June 24, 2009 4:42 PM

Frustrated Developer said:

Please make Outlook 2010 render email according to standards.  Anyone who has ever created an email blast will tell you that switching to Word as the rendering engine in Outlook 2007 was a bad decision. If the next version of Office does not do a better job rendering HTML email it will be a step in the wrong direction.

# June 24, 2009 4:42 PM

Mo said:

Actually, why bother generating HTML at all, if your target recipient is also using Outlook?

Why not just send a multipart/alternative message containing text/plain and {some Word-specific MIME type} parts?

Honestly, if you want to operate in your own little Office ecosystem and ignore what the rest of the world is doing, that's fine, but why not use the mechanisms which have existed since before Outlook was created to do so?

# June 24, 2009 4:43 PM

Tim Dawson said:

"[click here to] Read this issue online if you can’t see the images or are using Outlook 2007."

- Quoted from the official Microsoft Xbox newsletter.

Even your companies own marketing teams cant send out appealing newsletters using the tools you are providing.

# June 24, 2009 4:46 PM

Wolf said:

At least give us a meta tag that triggers Trident >.<

# June 24, 2009 4:47 PM

James said:

Sorry Microsoft you just don't get it.

Your rendering of email is so far off what every other client can do - including Hotmail/Windows Live Mail - if they can do it, inside a web browser with all their other bits and bobs, why can't you? I'd suggest you go have a chat with your colleagues.

Great - you can create your email within Word - that's great functionality. But what about viewing emails that people who *heaven forbid* haven't created their email in Word? How do those email display on other platforms - I'm assuming you'd hope they'd display correctly - or are you adding all sorts of proprietary tags, as Word has a habit of doing, so that they only look ok if you load the email up in Outlook somewhere else...

So what if the campaign is run by the creators of Email Marketing Software... it needs someone like that to get behind it to give it the exposure needed. There are now over 19,000 web designers and email marketeers here using all sorts of different packages who are agreeing that you're going down the wrong path... listen to them!

# June 24, 2009 4:47 PM

@basementdad said:

I should mention that as far as I know Gmail strips CSS. I can't remember if it's only external CSS files, or maybe it only supports a subset of CSS, but the point stands.

This blog post is a distraction from the original intent of the 'movement' on twitter. They are concerned with how emails will _DISPLAY_ in Outlook 2010, but this blog post spends most of it's time talking about the virtues of _COMPOSING_ email using Word.

# June 24, 2009 4:49 PM

Jacqui said:

You (Microsoft) have clearly missed the point of the campaign - the concern is only with how received emails are rendered. By failing to support CSS formatting, and even major portions of HTML, you completely wreck the design of all but the most outdated emails. If IE can display it correctly on a website, Outlooks should be able to display it in an email. Is that so difficult to understand?

# June 24, 2009 4:51 PM

Matt Wright said:

Please please please let Outlook 2010 display CSS properly.  CSS is the standard layout technology for the web, and it makes sense to use it in email.

# June 24, 2009 4:54 PM

John Jameson said:

@ Jim Deville

Have you ever looked at the HTML it creates? If you do you'll see why that's a problem too.

# June 24, 2009 4:55 PM

Simeon said:

All we want are web standards! We want to code emails the way we code websites!

And as for security reasons being so crucial, then install a HTML rendering engine to display emails and force scripts to be turned off then.

Slandering the ESP isn't becoming either, these guys are working with other email clients for the greater good.

# June 24, 2009 4:55 PM

Jonathan Kemp said:

Unless I'm misunderstanding, The "Email Standards Project" does represent an industry consensus. That's what the whole point of it is.

# June 24, 2009 4:56 PM

Ed Noles said:

Surely the frustrating experiences of all your end users who open CSS-based e-mails in Outlook count for something.

Alex is right -- use Word to formulate e-mails to send. Disable all the scripting necessary to make Outlook secure, but render html in a predictable, standard fashion so that we marketers aren't required to hack specifically for your e-mail client.

William, can you say that every e-mail you've received in Outlook '07 looks as intended? I receive e-mails every day from national advertisers that don't render correctly in Outlook.

# June 24, 2009 4:56 PM

Robert Burke said:

Travis Bell said exactly what I was thinking.  There may be no "set standard" for how to use HTML in an email, but in reality with the HTML standard there is one: HTML.  Noone said we want ActiveX support in our emails, we want CSS and HTML support in those emails.

HTML and CSS, in and of themselves, if you block ActiveX, and Javascript, etc, is no more harmful than MS Word rendering it within it's tight rules system.

IMHO, I think this route is being taken because it already works and means less work having to support HTML/CSS standards.

You say your users can make professional grade emails without having to be HTML experts.  I have yet to see one person in any place I work use Outlook to generate tables and graphs, they use Word Docs (if they know how, which most people don't), and attach them to the email.

Outlook's, and thusly, Word's capabilities are so far outside what the majority of everyday business people can comprehend.  You rarely see anyone capable of using Word/Excel/Powerpoint to their fullest extent because most people aren't Office literate enough to make use of it all.

You are obviously only thinking from an internal business point of view and not the whole world.

# June 24, 2009 4:57 PM

Russell Smith said:

I have a company that send emails on behalf of clients, and to be honest, Outlook 2007 is a real pain... it has taken development a step back in many ways as it doesn't support common standards.

The primary culprit is the limited CSS support - there is no support for CSS floats or for CSS positioning. With the exception of color, CSS background properties are not supported; this includes background-attachment, background-position, background-repeat and background-image.

I hope that MS takes the campaign running on http://fixoutlook.org/ seriously!

# June 24, 2009 4:57 PM

Anderson Imes said:

Travis,

"Standards compliant" implies a standard.  They are saying their isn't one.

# June 24, 2009 4:58 PM

Marcus Neto said:

This is a step backwards from a standards point of view. Build the emails in Word that's fine but give outlook a different rendering engine that mirrors what you just gave us with IE8. Why would you take this step back?

# June 24, 2009 4:58 PM

Alex Dunae said:

While there is no de facto standard for HTML email, there is a de jure standard, and that's what the whole fixoutlook.org commentary is about.  HTML 4 and CSS 2.1, without needing to resort to <font> tags, etc... are what email designers want.

In my experience as someone who provides email marketing to clients, building HTML email can be an incredibly painful experience.  These messages are generally hand-coded, not composed in Outlook, which means we get none of the benefits of Outlook's slick authoring abilities.

Unfortunately, hand-coded HTML email is very hard to make look good in Outlook 2007.  Adding consistent support for a few key CSS properties — margin, padding and float — would make my daily work much easier.

Building HTML email for Outlook 07 is like making a site for Internet Explorer 6 -- it is time consuming, confusing and totally unsatisfying.  It's a guessing game: maybe I should try line-height, maybe padding will work on this element if I nest it in a table... In the end, the reading experience is invariably poorer for Outlook users than for users of other email clients.

I can't even begin to imagine how complex an app like Outlook is under the hood but I hope you can look at ways to improve the CSS capabilities of Outlook 2010.

# June 24, 2009 5:00 PM

John Jameson said:

I've got no axe to grind, not that I think that the email marketing company mentioned does. It was just as annoying when Notes was the client that caused the most problems when sending out completely legal, solicited emails. Lotus have got their act together and the latest version is much better. It's only Microsoft that seems to be going backward. Security and ease-of-use are worthwhile aims, but I don't understand how this helps?

# June 24, 2009 5:01 PM

Andrew Ingram said:

Oh good, marketing spiel rather than words from actual people.

Whether your reasoning is good or not, the people who are opposed to using Word for rendering are not the kind of people who are going to be won over by heavily authored statements like this. You would probably have been better off not making any statement at all.

Here's the reality, whenever someone wants to include rich content in an email (ie charts, graphs, pictures), they do it as attachments. I have NEVER encountered someone using anything beyond the basic rich text formatting options when composing an email, most people don't even use those. For the record, I don't work in a company full of purists either, I work with your everyday office computer users.

This makes me highly skeptical that there is a market big enough to justify all this functionality that **only other users of outlook can actually appreciate**

Please let your developers write your next response. I mean this in all honesty and kindness, but I don't trust or buy into statements that come from management.

# June 24, 2009 5:02 PM

David Russell said:

Travis Bell stated the issue about as succinctly as anyone could. As a Web developer, I'm happy to have him speak on my behalf on this issue.

In the end, it's just that simple: designing an HTML email should be exactly the same process as designing any other HTML document, like a Web page.

In my opinion, the Email Standards Project <em>has</em> created an industry consensus. If Microsoft can re-navigate software as broadly used an Internet Explorer onto a course that gives respect to Web standards (not perfect, but far better than IE6), why is the team crafting Outlook so determined to move in completely the opposite direction?

# June 24, 2009 5:03 PM

Dave Greiner said:

Thanks so much for the comments WIlliam.

<blockquote>"There is no widely-recognized consensus in the industry about what subset of HTML is appropriate for use in e-mail for interoperability."</blockquote>

I'm not sure you guys are seeing the point being made by the 18,000 people who have tweeted about this today. The consensus *is* web standards. Even if you don't support everything in the W3C specification, those that you do support should be standards compliant.

That means margin and padding should work, table formatting shouldn't break. Even basic box model support would be a huge step forward.

If you're interested, there is a complete list of the basic CSS properties Outlook need to support to bring it inline with the rest of the majority of the industry from a standards perspective:

http://www.email-standards.org/clients/microsoft-outlook-2007/

# June 24, 2009 5:04 PM

Chris Harrison said:

The issue here isn't about composing emails in Outlook. I don't care if people use Word to compose emails. What I care about is what people see when they receive and view HTML emails in Outlook 2007+.

The fact that Outlook 2003 had pretty exceptional CSS support and you all decided to switch to Word for rendering in Outlook 2007 was a gigantic step backwards. That's what I'm especially mad about.

Regarding there being a "widely-recognized consensus in the industry about what subset of HTML is appropriate for use in e-mail for interoperability" - I encourage you to work with the Email Standards Project. They're the only one's who've stepped forward to try and deal with this issue. Yes, FreshView/CampaignMonitor is behind it, but I truly believe the ESP has all of our best interests at heart.

# June 24, 2009 5:04 PM

Dan said:

The problem is that every other major email client has settled on a rather broad set of standard HTML support (nothing special or fancy, just standard) and Outlook has not. There is no inherent risk in supporting web standards. For the most part, as long as you disallow scripts and embeds you should be done.

The result of this is that users of Outlook will see a much worse rendering of simple HTML.

You already have IE and the Trident rendering engine. Why not use that to render HTML within Outlook?

# June 24, 2009 5:06 PM

Leo Davidson said:

You could improve Word's HTML rendering engine to add support for features made in the last decade. That might make people happy.

Seems like a waste to maintain two HTML rendering engines within the same company, though. Couldn't the email be composed using Word and then converted to HTML when it is sent, and have all HTML email displayed using IE?

If there's a worry that IE wouldn't display it properly due to rendering engine differences then surely there's also the worry that every other HTML email client might display Word-generated emails incorrectly as well.

# June 24, 2009 5:06 PM

Tatham Oddie said:

Why do you need an agreed subset of HTML? What's wrong with straight out HTML in the first place?

I understand the power of Word as the authoring tool, but frankly it sucks for rendering.

# June 24, 2009 5:06 PM

Pete said:

As a web designer who frequently builds HTML emails for my clients, I'd love to be able to build them the same way I build HTML web pages - using all CSS and current design standards. But because so many of the e-mail recipients are forced to use Outlook, I'm forced to make incredible design sacrifices in order to build something that will look somewhat-acceptable in Outlook, and all because it uses Word's rendering engine. Whatever Office users are using to build their own HTML emails should have absolutely no effect on what Outlook uses to render them. Please make our lives easier, and help ensure that everyone all over the world has a chance to view content in the same way, and consider bringing Outlook up to speed with current web standards.

# June 24, 2009 5:10 PM

Scott Isaacs said:

I agree with Travis.  As a developer, I don't as much what Outlook users will use to create their own e-mails to other people.  What I do care about is that e-mails that my company creates will be displayed correctly in Outlook using modern HTML coding techniques.

As Alex suggested, go ahead and use Word to create the e-mails, but use IE to display them.  That way, we can develop better code-quality e-mails for use in our backend systems and know that they will render correctly.

# June 24, 2009 5:11 PM

Robert Sedor said:

Mr. Kennedy misses the point.  The issue is the rendering engine used for displaying HTML emails. The Word 2007 rendering engine used in Outlook 2007 is far interior to Internet Explorer engine used in Outlook 2003.  As someone who codes HTML emails for a living, it is ridiculous that we cannot reliably use padding, image floats, and background images in our emails.

Outlook 2003 used the Internet Explorer engine for rendering HTML and allowed users to compose email using Word if they wished.  Outlook 2010 should go back to this dual approach. BTW, I am not a CSS zealot and don't think tables are evil, etc.

# June 24, 2009 5:12 PM

Michael Wales said:

I'm guessing it would be to hard to determine if an email was sent from Outlook, using Word specific features and use that rendering engine in that case. Otherwise, default to the IE8 rendering engine?

# June 24, 2009 5:12 PM

MD said:

Fine, we get it, you can create rich email in Word. But since they get converted to HTML, why do you have to use Word's rendering engine to display them?

Web standards are the way forward, with Outlook 2010 and IE6 Microsoft is single-handedly holding back the web and making web designers' jobs more frustrating.

PS. I love it that the examples of rich emails you gave were charts and diagrams. it's almost straight of out of the Apple adverts.

# June 24, 2009 5:14 PM

David Kaneda said:

This is absurd. No wide consensus? We're not talking HTML, here, we're talking CSS  —and CSS rules like "float" have been around since 1.0.

The real problem here is that you're unable or unwilling to make your various formatting tools (shown above) spit out proper HTML, so that your email client can _read_ proper HTML/CSS.

In addition, you're stating that because no clear industry standard exists for HTML emails, you think the best solution is to use the rendering engine of a proprietary text processor. Aside from that being a flawed conclusion, in my opinion, the basis is also terribly wrong: I believe the success of this Twitter campaign makes it quite obvious that a standard does exist. Perhaps you should start a campaign for _preserving_ the Word Engine and see how many retweets you get.

Apologies if this is a bit of a flame comment, but come on —it's Outlook 2010. One would think it could render HTML emails better than Netscape Navigator 4. Like I said, this is just absurd.

# June 24, 2009 5:14 PM

Jamie Newman said:

This again underlines Microsoft's intolerance for open standards.

HTML and CSS are open standards and other mail clients have no problem supporting them. This leaves users to make their own free choice based on features, user interface and other preferences, rather than treating their customers with contempt by locking them into a product ecosystem on the pretense of greater usability.

# June 24, 2009 5:15 PM

Craig Kohtz said:

I'm not sure I can add to what has already been said, except to say that everyone here and on Twitter is right. The reason why the Twitter campaign was so successful is because anyone who has tried to write an HTML email campaign that works with Outlook has been incredibly frustrated. There is an entire industry build around trying to make sure HTML email campaigns work in Outlook. That should tell you something.

Blog posts like this do not help. It doesn't even sound like it was written by a person, more like a team of marketing experts. Anyone who has ever tried to make a decent HTML email for Outlook knows this post for what it is.

# June 24, 2009 5:19 PM

Robert McLaws said:

William,

Kudos for the quick response. But instead of going on defense, you should actually *listen* to your customers' concerns.

Your entire post fundamentally misses the point. It's not about e-mail *creation*, it's about e-mail *display*. It's cool (tho naieve) that you guys think Outlook is used to create every e-mail on the planet, but it isn't. As a .NET developer, I've created many websites that use simple SMTP clients to send HTML formatted messages that were designed using Visual Studio or Expression Web.

You guys like having the Word 2010 engine being the one to display HTML: fine. So, update Word 2010 to render markup the same way IE8 does. Seems like a really no-brainer solution to the problem, that doesn't need a "standards body" to create. There already is a standards body for HTML, and that should be good enough for you guys.

Robert McLaws

Windows-Now.com

# June 24, 2009 5:23 PM

sal said:

"For e-mail viewing, Word also provides security benefits that are not available in a browser: Word cannot run web script or other active content that may threaten the security and safety of our customers."

So there's no easy way to disable scripting and active content while viewing email with the IE rendering engine? That sounds broken to me.

# June 24, 2009 5:24 PM

Brendan said:

The main point of contention is the RENDERING of HTML emails. Williams response seems focused on Word's AUTHORING capabilities.

Why is the Word engine not limited to authoring and IE8 used for rendering?

# June 24, 2009 5:29 PM

Chris Barr said:

If composing emails in Outlook sent to other Outlook users is top priority, then you guys are on the right track.

Unfortunately this isn't the case. Without support for extremely basic thing like background images in CSS it's near impossible to create a rich email that works for all users.

I don't know about anyone else, but in my life it's not 100% of my friends using Outlook for email.

# June 24, 2009 5:29 PM

Matt Dittmann said:

Exactly what Travis said. A lot of people are unhappy about this.

# June 24, 2009 5:32 PM

Alan Zard said:

Travis Bell pretty much said what I wanted to say.

So I'll thank him for stating my thoughts so clearly.

# June 24, 2009 5:33 PM

Thomas Watson Steen said:

I personally think it's good that you focus on a great user-experience when composing e-mails. But the issue as I see it is not if/if not to use Word 2010 as the e-mail editor - The issue here is that you also use its rendering engine when displaying incoming HTML e-mails.

I understand that it doesn't make sense to use it for composing but not for displaying. But couldn't you then at least fix some of the many bugs and improve your CSS support? That's all we ask - everybody wins.

I suggest you take another look at http://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/post/2393/microsoft-takes-email-design-b/ and see if you can improve any of the issues raised in that blog post.

# June 24, 2009 5:33 PM

Stphane said:

The complain on twitter via fixoutlook.org is not about how emails are created but about how they are rendered.

To take a concrete exemple, when building a newsletter, webdevelopers have to play with the rendering behaviour of all the different mail clients, so again, as I'm not the first one commenting this blog post, why not using a well-known standards such as HTML? in other words, why not using IE renderer? If it's just because of some security problems, I still don't understand why standard compliant DOM elements are not supported?

# June 24, 2009 5:34 PM

Rush said:

Using Word for writing emails seems to be your main focus which is fine.

For rendering/displaying emails I feel like it should render like any other web page.

You should give the user different options so that they can customize this if they don't want to use one or the other.

# June 24, 2009 5:36 PM

Jon Aizlewood said:

I understand the bias seeing as this is an MSDN blog, but you seem to assume that the world exists to use Microsoft and nothing more.

In a perfect world, we'd all use only MS Word to create and send perfect HTML emails to recipients on only MS Outlook, seeing as its the 'best e-mail authoring experience around'.  But we all know this isn't the case.  

Email marketers everywhere rely on Outlook and other email clients to properly render messages NOT created in MS Word. However, seeing as Outlook (like it or not) represents an overwhelming percentage of consumer inboxes in almost every industry, any  obstacle to a message's rendering effectively impacts the revenue of hundreds of companies around the world.

It's because of this fact that the http://fixOutlook.org Twitter campaign is taking off - not because petty designers are lazy or need something to yell about, but because Outlook simply needs better CSS support as we saw in older versions of Outlook (pre-2007) where IE was the rendering engine.  Your explanation in this post, however informative, still seems myopic and all too self-serving.

When dollars/pounds are at stake, especially in this economic climate, errors of judgment of this scale need taking to task, which is exactly what the Email Standards Project are trying to do.  Regardless of whether or not they're a 'recognized consensus', they still represent a valid reason for seriously reconsidering the dev road map for Outlook 2010.  \\

Thanks,

Jon

# June 24, 2009 5:40 PM

Jonathan Schellack said:

As others above have said, if you improve Word's rendering of HTML to be (at least more) standards-compliant, then you solve the problem. Is there a reason why you can't do that and also keep supporting all of the Office-only rich features that are so important.

# June 24, 2009 5:41 PM

scott parish said:

I don't think you should punish Outlook users by forcing them to hand-code HTML emails. We're not asking you to remove any composing capabilities. Just bring the rendering engine up to date so HTML email not built in Outlook displays properly.

I'm tired of all the workarounds I have to code just for your email client. My company stopped sending HTML emails with Outlook 2007 because the Word engine adds crap code to the package which other some clients email don't understand.

Honestly, how hard is it to support the web standards that have been around for years now? Please?

# June 24, 2009 5:42 PM

Ian Muir said:

" when you say "there is no widely-recognized consensus in the industry about what subset of HTML is appropriate for use in e-mail for interoperability", while I suppose is *technically* accurate, I think I can speak on behalf of the worlds web developers and say making it simply standards compliant is all we're after."

The whole point of the original statement is that there is no standard for HTML in email. Additionally, implementing the full standard for HTML, XHTML or CSS would open up all kinds of fun new tools for spammers.

As a developer for SendLabs, an email marketing tool, I can say that rendering emails consistently across clients is a nightmare. I can also say that Outlook is by no means the worst culprit. GMail and Lotus are where the bulk of our rendering issues lie.

In the end, the primary function of email is sending text-based messages. Word is Microsoft's text document editor which makes it the most likely choice. While we developers may be more vocal, in the end I'd say the vast majority of Outlook users would prefer a MS Word based editing experience rather than a Dreamweaver-esque WYSIWYG.

# June 24, 2009 5:44 PM

M. Busch said:

Yes, there is no census on a subset in HTML-Email, but of course there are standards in HTML itself. Word-generated HTML isn't really follwing these standards, despite the same possibilities, especially new versions like HTML 5. So why not push those standards with the new version and make sure that ANY email client can have the described stunning experience with emails from Outlook? (Sure, selling products is an answer...)

# June 24, 2009 5:45 PM

Felipe said:

it is a shame that you guys continue to go against the current on these topics which create many issues for developers worldwide. It is a fact that the most problematic email client is outlook, the same applies for your web browser aka: Internet Explorer.

# June 24, 2009 5:47 PM

Kevin said:

Email is a TEXT medium.

HTML in Email is the spawn of the devil and should be banned.

Do your own thing Microsoft - as long as you continue to allow us to specify TEXT ONLY emails.

# June 24, 2009 5:52 PM

Lance Fisher said:

While the Email Standards Project is backed by freshview, that doesn't mean the project is not worth listening to - bringing it up detracts from the issue.  They have done some great research, and have good ideas on what HTML/CSS should be supported in an email client.

As a developer, I am mostly concerned about the rendering quality of email clients.  If I need to send automated email, I would like to be able to construct the HTML like it is 2009, and not 1999.

I know you have to balance the needs of Outlook users with the needs of developers, but I think you can make both happy by supporting the rendering of modern HTML.

# June 24, 2009 5:55 PM

Chris Ruppel said:

We all understand Microsoft's desire to have its own emails created and viewed consistently. That is perfectly reasonable.  Can you not understand the rest of the world's desire to stop creating HTML emails using the equivalent of HTML 3.2?

Does the Outlook team disregard the existence of DOCTYPEs when they make these statements about consistency?  Surely it wouldn't be difficult to implement your Outlook-authored emails using a Microsoft doctype, and include real HTML/CSS support for developers who prefer it. That would be a true commitment to interoperability. You could have your cake AND eat it too!

Sadly, the ideas in this blog post reiterate the traditional Microsoft sentiment: they are only concerned with the user experience of non-technical end-users of their products.  They are in no way concerned with the thousands of developers and designers who deal with the quirks of their awkward and selfish technical decisions day in day out.

# June 24, 2009 5:56 PM

Erwin Heiser said:

"There is no widely-recognized consensus in the industry about what subset of HTML is appropriate for use in e-mail for interoperability"

I can't believe I just read that: HTML4 and CSS2 have been standards for many years now.

It has taken IE8 to render them (more or less) correctly in a Microsoft browser... now get your act together and do the same for the standard Microsoft e-mail client.

# June 24, 2009 5:58 PM

J.R. Garcia said:

The problem, as Alex stated, is not with CREATING HTML emails in Outlook. It's the way they are rendered when you RECEIVE them.

# June 24, 2009 6:01 PM

Mark Davis said:

I think Travis put it well. Let us build and let you render a HTML email the same way we do web pages. Not a big ask I'd think?

Cheers for the response.

# June 24, 2009 6:03 PM

Stephen James said:

This appears to be the same awful argument for improving the user interface of browsers (adding tabs, RSS buttons, etc) instead of improving the rendering of good HTML that we heard back with IE6.

It's code word for we'd rather have people be able to send graphs made in Word to other Outlook users than to make it easier for email marketers and their developers to send beautiful emails!

# June 24, 2009 6:08 PM

Nancy Seeger said:

Disappointing that web standards is simply not considered as a necessity given all the work to bring Internet Explorer 8 up to speed in passing the Acid2 test.

Observe web standards please, Word is far to out of date to be the engine.

# June 24, 2009 6:09 PM

Alan Hitchin said:

As a developer who often has to code HTML emails for clients, I'm quite frankly appalled at this - the Word HTML rendering engine just isn't up to the job, as it doesn't support many common and absolute basic HTML attributes. Outlook 2007 is one of the worst clients for displaying HTML emails, and now 2010 will continue this? What a disgrace. Thanks for nothing for making things many times more difficult, frustrating and annoying.

# June 24, 2009 6:10 PM

Charles Gallo said:

HTML is evil - I'd like a plain text only option please

# June 24, 2009 6:11 PM

Robert Gaunt said:

To be honest, this is a terrible decision.

When people talk HTML standards, they talk about the ability to create a latest version HTML layout (Using all the latest tools - eg. Style Sheets & Divs, not tables) and it the HTML will render in all HTML Viewers (browsers, email, etc) and the output will look exactly the same.

Microsoft (and some other much smaller groups), keep suggesting that it is about the technology itself. It is not.

The issue is about simplicity. Do it once, do it right, do it universally, and it just works. We are always having to do it twice, just so that we fit microsofts platforms in somewhere.

This is how you are losing market leadership on IE and Outlook. Otherwise excellent, strong products.. but they just no longer "fit".

# June 24, 2009 6:12 PM

Damien BRUN said:

Ok, here is my POV, and why I suscribed to fixoutlook.org :

If you want to include Word capabilities into Outlook, just make it send mails in Word's native format, not HTML.

HTML IS a standard, normalized by W3C. As is, it should be rendered properly by any user agent that claim to support it.

W3C specs for HTML *DO NOT* specify that HTML (and CSS) must be sent over HTTP and not by email. Specs specify how HTML/CSS should be renderded. If Outlook does (attempt to) render HTML/CSS, then IT IS a HTML User Agent and then should conform to specifications.

# June 24, 2009 6:16 PM

Judson Collier said:

Your beating around the bush here.

Your not talking to users, your talking to developers and designers. Stop telling us the security and ease of use of your so called product. I don't care about power, or ease of use. Give me my HTML and CSS standard emails.

I'm pretty freaking sure that if there's a group that writes and tests expectations, such as the support for HTML and CSS in email, and it happens to be named the Email Standards Project, there's a standard.

Now, it's not written in a giant non exinsistant tablet declaring the laws of the web, or penned in the constitution, but neither is my right to not be slapped upside the face by a major development company.

Just please stop being so proprietary. The amount of heartache you have given me over the years from the combination of 98/2000/XP and Internet Explorer is unbearable. I'm not the first one to say that i've nearly broken into tears spending hours trying to fix the mess when your software destroys my neatly written code.

# June 24, 2009 6:16 PM

Robbie said:

If "there is no widely-recognized consensus in the industry about what subset of HTML is appropriate for use in e-mail for interoperability," then why not join the discussion and work on it with the rest of us? I would think the Outlook team has that responsibility.

Also, while the Email Standards Project was created by Freshview, they take pretty unbiased stance when it comes to testing for standards compliance in email clients.

This is email "acid test" they use:

http://www.email-standards.org/acid-test/

Nothing in that list is bleeding-edge or caters to one specific email client, it's all pretty standard stuff that's been available for quite a while.

I look forward to Outlook working more closely with web developers and designers. FYI: Gmail needs to step it up as well.

# June 24, 2009 6:21 PM

David H said:

If Word is the rendering engine, can Word be fixed to render the same HTML & CSS that has been approved and standardized by the W3C?  We aren't asking to render anything different than what has already been approved.

I understand the security in running scripts within HTML, but that is not what we are asking for....

# June 24, 2009 6:27 PM

Ani M. said:

What about W3C compliance?  You've attempted to fix  some of the issues in IE8.  Why are you choosing to go "backwards" and force designers to think in terms of web pages versus emails?  It's bad enough that we already have to test in IE6, IE7, and IE8 (besides your competitor's browsers) just to make sure that we catch everyone of their nuances.

Outlook 2007 for HTML email design has been a pain to deal with.  Now you want to continue with the same practice in 2010?  What is going to happen when you come out with IE9?  Are we going to have to a Virtual PC for every version of Outlook and every version of IE just to make sure that it looks okay and presents out message as we intend?

There has got to be a way to balance easy of use with standards compliance.  Adobe has done a pretty good job with Dreamweaver.  Why can't you do the same with Word and Outlook?

# June 24, 2009 6:27 PM

Sam K. said:

IE7 and IE8 have been a huge improvement over IE6. We're really glad to see that. Just as Ani M says above, designing HTML emails for Word has been a huge problem. In most other email clients, the designs degrade predictably, but Outlook '07 is in a world all its own.

I'm always having to answer the question "why does it look weird in Outlook?"

# June 24, 2009 6:41 PM

Josh said:

Time to go back to TEXT only emails!!!! Thanks!

# June 24, 2009 6:53 PM

Jared Verdi said:

If Outlook users want to send charts, can't they attach a DOC or a PNG like everyone else?

If you really think your users need all those bells and whistles natively in their mail client, you should be working towards giving Word the ability to export to the accepted format (standards-based HTML), not reinventing the rendering engine.

# June 24, 2009 6:55 PM

mahalie said:

How hard would it be to send and display Word formatted emails using some custom header or code and then employ IE8 for rendering email as a backup?

Then you would actually have web development fans instead of continually alienating the community on which you will rely when everything moves to web apps, which it will.

# June 24, 2009 6:58 PM

Dennis E. Hamilton said:

When we talk about sending HTML e-mail, I assume it is as some sort of MIME multi-part, yes?

Why is Word needed to render it for viewing (not editing)?  Or are people jumping to conclusions about that?

# June 24, 2009 7:15 PM

Rui Luis said:

I know that outlook has a great piece of the email clients market... But why setting apart from the rest of the world?

Are Microsoft creating their own standards for email clients? it really looks like.

I dont want to send emails fromm outlook if it will look crapy on my client computer just because they dont have the same software that i do.

What about interoperability?

Please reconsider better css support in your next releases

# June 24, 2009 7:16 PM

Ben said:

HTML email formatting is a nightmare everywhere at the moment, and Outlook really is the worst offender (closely followed by web based clients like hotmail/gmail/yahoo)

The complaint here is about the display rendering aspects, not the composing. IE7 and IE8 have made considerable improvements in this regard even if you did have to introduce 'compliance mode'.

Do the same and you'll find a much larger fan base for this product.

This entire campaign is your customers trying to help you and influential ones at that - these are the grassroots designers and developers who guide small businesses, friends and family everywhere. These are the people that will create the next Flickr, Twitter or Facebook.

These are in fact the same market that your silverlight/codeplex/web framework/.NET MVC groups are trying so hard to crack into and that your marketing and PR people are hunting for.

Listen to them.

# June 24, 2009 7:17 PM

Elise said:

There are people out there who haven't upgraded their offices past Outlook 2000 because of issues with the rendering engine. Forwarding messages on, in particular, often completely breaks the layout of the message.

For those of us in Web Development, I don't particularly care how you put the HTML into an email - what I care about is how my HTML is displayed. Having to use 90s-era HTML to ensure that customers using Outlook can see my email the way it was meant to be displayed is frustrating, and I feel there are accessibility issues with using hacky table based layouts in email. (I do and will always include a plain text version, but many people don't)

# June 24, 2009 7:20 PM

Bill said:

I don't dispute the power of the word engine in outlook for composing messages, but thats not what this campaign is about. This campaign is about recieving nicely formatted email - and being assured that the email your sending is going to render the way you want it to by the reciever viewing the message. If I send an email to someone with nice graphics and formatting, I just have to cross my fingers that the reciever can view it correctly. It's not like a webpage where I can test it in all browsers - and I don't have time to test all email clients to see if the messages renders ok. Unfortunately, if the message doesn't render nicely - I come off looking unprofessional, all because a simple standard cannot be agreed upon. Email should be easy to send and easy to recieve, and I shouldn't even have to worry about testing an email I want to send to my clients. By not supporting some kind of standard in message display (and standard HTML/CSS seems the most logical choice), we are not making any progress here.

# June 24, 2009 7:27 PM

Yannis G. said:

As a person that does e-mail marketing, let me tell you that outlook 2007 is a real disappointment. It's such a disappointment that in fact I refuse to upgrade, and still use outlook 2003 because it has exactly what a lot of the people above me are asking for. A different engine for creating e-mails and another one for displaying them. The secret, that is not being mentioned here, is that your authoring engine could not author html that your very own rendering engine could render correctly. So you decided to ignore the world and replace the rendering engine. Even if we concede that there are no standards for email(debatable), if you wanted our respect and really cared for your clients, you could have started an initiative on creating those very standards that you claim are missing instead of making life difficult for designers and diminishing over-all user experience.

# June 24, 2009 7:28 PM

MikeB said:

I'm curious how many normal people really spend a lot of time generating rich HTML emails?  In my experience the only rich HTML emails I receive are marketing emails.

Do normal people have real world requirements for sending richly formatted emails?  

I'm genuinely curious.

# June 24, 2009 7:29 PM

Robbie said:

I guess my first comment didn't go through?

---

If "there is no widely-recognized consensus in the industry about what subset of HTML is appropriate for use in e-mail for interoperability," then why not join in the discussion and help define email standards? I would think the Outlook team has that responsibility.

Even though the Email Standards Projects was created by Freshview, their "acid test" is unbiased and tests each email client against a set of CSS properties that have been around for quite a while. Outlook isn't alone in its poor compliance, Gmail and Lotus Notes test poorly too. So, this isn't a problem exclusive to Microsoft.

# June 24, 2009 7:30 PM

Kris said:

You have covered authoring emails, but as designers we're more concerned with how emails look when they are received. If you're going to let us use HTML, then let us use standards compliant HTML. Shouldn't HTML be the same whether its on a browser, a mobile phone, or in an email client? Isn't that why the W3C came up with the HTML standards?

I think your problem is that you're separating webpage HTML from email HTML when they should be one and the same. HTML is HTML.

# June 24, 2009 7:34 PM

Jim Gaynor said:

"here are some images that show some of the rich e-mail that our customers can send, without having to be a professional HTML web designer"

Yes, and those formatted messages can only be viewed correctly in Outlook, whereas most of the features you tout (smartart, charts) don't even carry over properly into Entourage 2008 (Microsoft's own Mac email client), let alone email clients used by thousands.

All of this would not be such an issues were Microsoft not attempting to defend a regression in functionality. Outlook 2003 contains more complete support for web standards than 2007 or 2010 - the basic functionality of rendering formatted emails has gone backwards.

"There is no widely-recognized consensus in the industry about what subset of HTML is appropriate for use in e-mail for interoperability. "

This is true. There is no "eHTML" standard (perhaps there should be?). However, Microsoft claims to support HTML. Not "we provide partial support for some HTML tags from the HTML 3.2 standard".

Please. Acknowledge that what happened from Outlook 2003 to Outlook 2007 was a step backwards, rather than packaging this as some sort of win for your locked-in customers.

# June 24, 2009 7:40 PM

Richard Bone said:

As Alex has raised, it is the Rendering that is important.

Dan has suggested that the issue is a marketing campaign by a email service provider. That is far, far from the truth. The majority of software systems will use the Internet in some way and as part of that will use email most likley HTML-formatted email. Even Microsoft the X-Box communication has problems with Outlook 2007.

When Microsoft makes an email "authoring" decision that causes rendering to come out WRONG this has a flow-on effect to the software industry and the wider customer base. Because Microsoft (and Outlook) have such significant roles in the market it generally means cost for other software providers to provide obscure compatibility with the Microsoft product.

As the world continues to embrace a "digital economy", more and more of our business and personal life activities move online. It is very sad that Microsoft, the market leader, cannot produce a product that embraces the concept of a COMPLETE user experience ... authoring and viewing.

Microsoft ... this is a message from your customers! They were appalled with the failure of Outlook 2007 to properly render HTML and are equally appalled by the decision to fail to address the serious shortfall after a further 3 years.

# June 24, 2009 7:47 PM

Daren May said:

I think this post misses the point of the objections - the problem is not directly related to the fact Word is the editor/rendering engine, nor does anyone seem to be disputing the fact that by using Word as an editor you can create interesting content. The point is that Word is a low-fidelity renderer of some aspects of standards-based HTML & CSS, and that is disappointing to many, given Microsoft's drive to fully support standards elsewhere. Given the fact that Microsoft has a strong standards-based browser in IE8, and has the editing tools in Expression Web, Visual Studio, etc. it is unfortunate that Word is still the editor of choice for this format of email in Outlook.

# June 24, 2009 7:47 PM

Joe said:

There's gotta be a better way than just using Word to render e-mails. At least with Outlook 2003, we had IE as a rendering engine and could get some nice things done with HTML e-mails.

Why not do a hybrid? Use Word for composing messages and have more of a standards based rendering engine (maybe built from IE8?) for reading HTML e-mails.

The Email Standards Project is the authority right now. No one else seems to care. Is the WASP not an authority? The W3C?

I hope the door is not closed on this issue...

# June 24, 2009 7:51 PM

Neal G said:

Why don't you guys create some sort of trigger that allows email marketers to take advantage of the Trident rendering engine, and make the default email setting use word. When 'Joe Corporate' composes an email, it would use MS Word then.

Then, when we send out an email, we can place some HTML code in our email which will then use Trident rather than word on the recipients side.

# June 24, 2009 7:54 PM

nataliav said:

I have always used Microsoft's email clients, my all time favorite is Windows Mail.

I understand Office's vision to make possible for no specialized people to produce all sorts of contents, but I wouldn't like that to be the cause of a step behind.

Great blog by the way.

# June 24, 2009 7:55 PM

Damian Edwards said:

Seriously, how hard would it be for a 3rd party to write and release an Outlook add-in that changes the email rendering engine to use IE, or even better a WebKit release? If MS aren't going to play ball on this, perhaps somebody else should come to the party.

# June 24, 2009 7:58 PM

Darrell Shandrow said:

I don't personally mind that Word is used to create e-mail in Outlook. In fact, I can appreciate its ability to allow the easy creation of rich text messages. My issue specifically is with the use of word to read e-mail. I find Word to be far less accessible as a way to read e-mail than Outlook 2003, Outlook Express and other mail reading software. Word just causes more problems when reading mail with our specialized screen readers such as JAWS, System Access and Window-Eyes. Please, at a minimum, consider allowing us to adjust a setting that would allow us to decide how we wish to read our e-mails in Outlook. Thank you.

# June 24, 2009 8:17 PM

Ed Blankenship said:

I actually agree with the web-standards compliance debate.  Outlook should absolutely be sending compliant message bodies.

There's nothing wrong with using Word as the editor because it is really a great editor.  Hands down...  No arguments there whatsoever but what we're talking about is the standards-compliant output.  We would love to have Word as the editor but asking for Outlook to send the e-mail with web standards compliant message bodies.

Thanks for listening to the feedback!  We really hope you just take action for the outpour of feedback from industry leaders.

Ed B.

# June 24, 2009 8:18 PM

andy marshall said:

I don't think my last message made it past moderation (take from that what you will).

I'll just leave it with saying I agree completely with what Travis and the vast majority of people are saying on here - please stop standing in the way of progress  in the world of web standards and make Outlook 2010 render emails with standard HTML and CSS.

My job is hard enough rebugging for IE6 without this kind of stuff too.

# June 24, 2009 8:18 PM

ant said:

thanks for the blog post.. but I think it's time for a change. please, guys.

# June 24, 2009 8:28 PM

Steve Hart said:

"As an example, here are some images that show some of the rich e-mail that our customers can send, without having to be a professional HTML web designer. "

This is fine, but why do you have to make the jobs of "professional HTML web designers" more difficult?

As mentioned many times, what is so hard about letting people use word to compose their emails, but still render emails based on web standards?

# June 24, 2009 8:29 PM

Dan Cooperstock said:

I do hope you will use a proper rendering engine (e.g. IE), rather than Word, for displaying emails in Outlook. It's silly not to properly support CSS in this day and age.

# June 24, 2009 8:34 PM

Stephen Spencer said:

Thankyou for taking the time to write a measured response to the Twitter campaign, but I have to take issue with your assumption that Word is the best tool for composing emails.

Do you have any metrics for the percentage of users who might send emails containing graphs, SmartArt and other "power features" vs. those just using it as a simple text editor?

All I can remember from moving from Outlook 2000 to 2007 was that, aside from the adding of these power features, the very basics of email composition (not even HTML rendering) went downhill.

I could no longer interleave the auto-indented original mail with my un-indented replies as the formatting tools wouldn't seem to allow it. Nor could I copy and paste blocks of text around or even delete paragraph breaks without blocks being erroneously re-styled with neighbouring spacing and layout rules.

In my opinion, the use of a powerful word processor with a hierarchical styling system is not the best way to quickly compose emails and responses in a relatively small window.

I am in no doubt that "the easy option" (from your software engineering and testing standpoint) of Word for composition and Word for rendering produces consistent results in an Outlook-only environment.

However, surely IE8's rendering engine would produce higher fidelity results for emails received from corporate environments running other software such as Notes, Evolution, Thunderbird or GMail For Domains?

Surely users of Outlook will (correctly) blame Outlook for inaccurate display of emails received from external sources, and this will reflect badly on Microsoft and the Office suite?

Whilst the fixoutlook.org site may concentrate on what you may quickly brush aside as frivolous HTML marketing emails, it is also concerned with rich emails from e-commerce webapps, such as order confirmation emails, printable offer forms and the like.

I spend some of my life as a web developer creating the latter kind of rich HTML mail, and even after taking into account the need to put on my 1990s HTML hat and use lowest-common-denominator tables and font tags, I continue to spend around 30% of my time dealing with rendering quirks and bugs from Word/Outlook 2007. Not only is this infuriating for people in my line of work, but other web companies might not have the money or resources to devote effort to working around Word, so emails will go out broken for your users.

And trying to work around the problem, and perhaps composing HTML emails for mass consumption using Word to begin with is not a feasible solution either, as not only are the tools and design expressiveness lacking, but other mail clients and webmail systems (including Windows Live Mail) will take issue with the odd, non-complaint CSS and markup generated.

Your final paragraph comes as rather inconsiderate to the large percentage of web developers who would stand behind the Email Standards Project. Perhaps there is no official "email industry" support, whatever you might define that as, but can you really so brazenly ignore the fact that you are significantly increasing the workload of any web developer whose site sends out a rich email to a user? The level of standards support we ask for is simply something similar to that given by the browsers in common use today, so there is not such a disparity in the accuracy of display of HTML content on the web and HTML content over email.

I've seen you say elsewhere that including two rendering engines in Outlook would be needlessly resource intensive, but would using the IE engine installed on the system really be such a strain on modern hardware, whilst having the Word engine loaded to take over when the appropriate HTML namespaces were detected in an Outlook-to-Outlook message?

Thankyou for taking the time to read my comment, and please consider commissioning some metrics on rich email use before dismissing this Twitter campaign as the uninformed anti-Microsoft bandwagon that the tone of your blog post seems to suggest you believe it to be.

# June 24, 2009 8:36 PM

Terri Orlowski said:

One thing I have to ask is why Word was ever designed to create HTML anyway. It's a word processor, not web design software. If Microsoft customers want to create web pages, there was FrontPage and now Expression Web. Why (literally) reinvent the wheel. How many Office customers use more than 50% of the functions of Word? Do you really think there are people out there creating quality web sites and pages with Word? Even from a layout standpoint, Word is terrible. So why would you choose to include HTML rendering in a word processor, and then essentially force all web designers to deal with using a word processor's HTML engine for rendering dynamic email. It just doesn't make sense.

# June 24, 2009 8:51 PM

Diana Potter said:

I think Leo Davidson hit the nail on the head with his comments about Word code rendering in IE. Even if you completely take designers and developers out of the picture and focus on end users, the ones who the switch to Word was for ,they're not being served well by the current lack of standards support in Word. The code it produces is a nightmare and it simply doesn't render well in other email clients.

Wouldn't it be a win win situation to improve that? You help your customers be able to truly create visually stunning emails that THEY can send out and have them received by everyone not just fellow Outlook 2007/2010 users and people sending HTML emails to them can also ensure that they remain stunning. No one is asking for the sun and the moon or even the ability to add script (I think most everyone can agree that would be bad), we're just asking that, for the things you do support, that it be standards compliant. Listen to the W3C, those are consensus built standards!

(written on a computer running Vista, composed in Word 2007 while listening to a Zune, not an Microsoft hater)

# June 24, 2009 8:52 PM

Jeff L said:

As others have mentioned, a simple switch would be awesome. Leave Word as the default, but for those of us who are authoring *HTML* emails, the rendering engine should be IE, not Word.

For those who have used Outlook (Word) to author their emails, the rendering engine should be Word.

# June 24, 2009 9:40 PM

Ash said:

I just can't understand why you'd do this. Word is a terrible HTML renderer, and everybody knows it. There's got to be some kind of compromise we can all come to?

The WWW has been held up for years thanks to the shoddy renderer in IE6, and doing the same with email is just incredibly sad, not to mention irresponsible. Word just isn't up to the task at this point, it needs a lot of love (which has already been given to IE no less,) before it will be.

:)

# June 24, 2009 9:48 PM

michael susz said:

i'm disappointed that some common ground cannot be achieved here.

i'm certain there is a technical rationale for not allowing FULL web-standards rendering in email. i can think of at least a few malicious or otherwise unscrupulous techniques that would allow you to do things that would be a disservice to the end user.

i think the solution for all involved, however, is to use a subset of CSS rendering for email - modify the rendering engine to only allow certain selectors and attributes (layout, visual formatting, but no @import, no url() no :before :after content; etc.)

internet explorer already has a 'zoned' security model - how much more difficult is it to add 'email' to the list of IE zones?

# June 24, 2009 9:53 PM

giclin said:

i really don't know any of those technical stuff, but i just hope to be able to see the html correctly, but not the outlook2007 weird display!

no matter what the outlook group say (i appreciate you take time explaining it here), we all know it's a problem. i'm just wondering haven't you outlook developers never encountered the annoying html display problem? so many newsletters i got showed up ugly. or actually you guys didn't use outlook yourselves?

# June 24, 2009 9:57 PM

Daniel Sherson said:

Just to hammer the message home:

I work for a web design agency. We often make html email campaigns for our clients.

It doesn't matter to me, or anyone else in the same position as me, what engine you use for creating HTML.

What matters is the rendering. HTML is a standard. CSS 2.1 is a standard. and outlook 2007 can't cope with them at all.

There shouldn't need to be links in emails saying "if this email is mangled click here and be taken to a browser, any browser, it's got to be better than this."

As for you lovely people saying HTML email is the devil.  text-only versions can be sent alongside HTML emails, that is what campaign monitor does. and you can set up your email client in such a way that it will use a text version if available.

Thanks

# June 24, 2009 10:11 PM

thewordofb said:

People don't get it apparently...

1. You compose message in word and it gets converted to HTML.  If you want CSS, etc.. turn off word editing (it's pretty quick option to find.. give it a try), and write it by scratch.

2. Viewing HTML in word is better than a browser because it prevents javascript etc from running.  If you open up a spam email and an image loads or javascript runs, that's how they know it's a live email address.  

3. People are acting like this is something new.. this is the way it's been for nearly a decade and now you're taking issue.. please understand what you're babbling about before you "join the cause".

4. This is a giant marketing campaign to get a true browser built in so they can take advantage of #2 in this list.  You're a pawn..  you've been duped.. thanks for playing.

# June 24, 2009 10:28 PM

Luke said:

Let's assume there is no accepted standard. I disagree, as does your browser team and many thousands of web professionals, but lets put that aside for a moment.

Don't you have a responsibility to, at the very least, continue to support your *own* rendering standards as per Outlook 2000? See the differences here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/freshview/3637814200/

Not going forward is one (problematic) thing, but to continue a giant leap backwards seems extremely unfortunate, and will worsen the user experience for both Outlook users and email authors.

# June 24, 2009 10:30 PM

Pete said:

If this is going to be the case, then please fix Word which will then fix Outlook.  There are broad standards and for the web to work properly, they must be followed. Companies are starting to see the failings of Outlook 2007 - like Internet Explorer was fixed up (mostly), they MUST be fixed in Outlook 2010.

# June 24, 2009 10:49 PM

Vesselin Obreshkov said:

In my opinion using Word to render and compose HTML emails is the worst idea ever. Even though I like Outlook, I use Windows Live Mail for both business and personal mail because it simply works better (not sure what it uses for composing and rendering).

Why not use Internet Explorer's rendering engine for displaying HTML emails and a modified version of Visual Studio's Designer for authoring. Then we'll finally get closer to being able to compose more standards-compliant emails which will allow one to create a nice looking email that is a LOT smaller in size because instead of using 500k worth of useless markup one can achieve the same result with a little bit of CSS and be done.

Another nice feature would be to allow Base64 encoded images to be embedded inside emails. This will make it possible to create engaging emails that don't rely on active Internet connection and have the images always available on the remote server as well. This will also eliminate the need to block all images by default because with Base64 encoded images spammers can't do their tricks that use malicious php scripts as source for their images that track roughly how many people read their junk email and whatever else they can do.

Even allowing some extremely basic javascript could be done in a safe manner by only allowing an extremely specific array of functionality such as roll over images, show/hide layers and other usefil things that could improve the email experience rather than completely cripple it by using Word for HTML editing. We hear and read about interoperability, openness, standards compliance but then we get things like using Word, a program that is incompatible with everything else in the first place but is also light years away from producing compatible and standards compliant anything.

# June 24, 2009 11:01 PM

Allan Lloyds said:

I understand that Outlook should make things easy for users to write HTML email. But why can't you see the problems that using Word for rendering HTML emails causes, resulting in a poorer user experience.

Even despite the best efforts of many to ensure that emails do render correctly in Outlook, even emails that are authored in Outlook, frequently do not. Surely this is a concern?

Having users being able to *write* HTML email is handy, for some users, some of the time. Being able to *read* email they have received from 3rd parties is essential for all users, all of the time.

# June 24, 2009 11:05 PM

Austin said:

Maybe, instead of arguing over whether or not Outlook should use Word for authoring/rendering, what if Word could actually generate and render standards-compliant HTML.

In my experience, it seems that MS Office products consistently live in their own little world of non-standards compliance. Perhaps this is a marketing strategy to keep customers coming back. But is there any reason Word cannot generate valid, compliant HTML?

Quite often, clients will come to me with copy for an email, but they have done it in Word, and so is quite difficult to make it so the rest of the world can see.

If MS Office is all about efficiency and productivity, why not make it efficient and productive for ALL aspects of the world, not just the intra-company conversations, memos, and reports?

# June 24, 2009 11:11 PM

Jack Ha said:

No CSS support? But you do have some sort of Microsoft corporate standard, don't you?

If Windows Live Hotmail supports a good healthy number of CSS selectors and properties, Outlook SHOULD be consistent and support those as well. You work at the same company called Microsoft right? Or perhaps there is a lot of bitter rivalry with the Windows Live Hotmail/Mail group?

# June 24, 2009 11:13 PM

Omar said:

Well played, Microsoft. But if the power of Word is all in the interface, why can't the final product be standards-compliant? Hovering toolbars could work just as well in an HTML authoring program as they would in Word. SmartArt graphics are just that - graphics - and should end up as nothing more than an image in the final e-mail (as I suspect they already do).

I understand Microsoft would want to use existing code from its products to promote its ecosystem. At the very least, standards-compliant authoring should be an option. Word in Outlook is a disaster - combining the two creates headaches when one program crashes the other.

# June 24, 2009 11:20 PM

Chris Maltby said:

This would be a moot point if Word, with all its power as an HTML editing tool, actually supported a larger set of the CSS standards. As a generator of emails to be viewed by the largest range of recipients, I don't want to be restricted to 1990's HTML - and as a recipient of emails from a wide variety of senders, I don't think it's reasonable that supporting HTML emails from Outlook should require a heap of obsolete or complex formatting handlers.

The fact that an online marketing firm is pushing for standards compliance in a product which will be widely used is not automatically a reason to dismiss the request. I would contend that most of the demand for consistent display across email programs comes from people who have a professional interest of some kind - but this is a growing segment of emails as journalism and the like become increasingly electronic.

Why should the consumers of formatted emails have to pay more for content because a large segment of the recipient market is locked into a non-standard formatting grammar?

# June 24, 2009 11:43 PM

eric said:

Do your worst Microsoft, I'm still only reading plaintext email.

# June 25, 2009 12:21 AM

James Phillips said:

I agree that Word is arguably the most powerful way to create professional interesting email... however I was wondering if there are any other programs that can be used to render email in Outlook

# June 25, 2009 12:25 AM

Doug said:

Copy pasting MS word html causes a client of mine to break her site frequently. When MS Word produces XHTML standard like everyone else then I won't complain.

# June 25, 2009 12:36 AM

Emily Burford said:

I feel I have little new to add, except my own voice, one more among the thousands who have already spoken up in support of standards and against using Word to render e-mails.

I work for a company that sends out seven regular e-mails a week, to thousands of recipients, not to mention all the automatically generated, transactional e-mails. These recipients are opening our e-mails with such a wide variety of e-mail clients that if we want to have them render correctly in any inbox, we must abide by the lowest common denominator - and that is Outlook. Please, please, raise yourself above this level.

# June 25, 2009 12:42 AM

Dan Hallock said:

Going from Outlook 2003 to 2007 was a significant hit in the ability of the client to display existing content AND to co-exist with other e-mail systems. If this were still 1993, where e-mail only traveled inside the office, never touching another company, your argument here would make sense. But it's not: Outlook should use a halfway decent HTML parser, because that's part of what it means to be a decent e-mail client these days.

# June 25, 2009 1:02 AM

Ted said:

"Word enables Outlook customers to write professional-looking and visually stunning e-mail messages."

Is there really a reason for that?  I've never received a supposedly visually stunning email from an Outlook user in my life.  Unless you're referring to the ones that have images, word art, and emoticons strewn haphazardly through them.

HTML emails are not designed in Outlook by your standard customers.  They are designed by us, using standards that are accepted across the entire internet.  With the only notable exception of your software.

# June 25, 2009 1:09 AM

Jeremiah said:

Exchange and Outlook are hyper proprietary. That's why so many organizations are moving away from both products.

While there may not be a consensus on how much HTML is appropriate for an email, it doesn't make sense to become more proprietary.

Here's my suggestion: all HTML 4.01 is appropriate with no scripting or plugins.

Stop trying to make email a Word doc. I don't use PowerPoint to make a website.

# June 25, 2009 1:10 AM

Jonathan Moore said:

I could not agree more with everyone else voicing their opinion above that all we want is a rendering engine that has some level of support for standards that have been around for over a decade.

The logic that is in the response by Microsoft to a degree reminds me of the decisions US auto makers made years ago to ignore industry trends and consumer insights.  They stuck to their short-sighted beliefs and held on to their history, and now they are in a difficult position.

# June 25, 2009 1:11 AM

Eric Peacock said:

As the comments have stated, we don't care how you create your emails, just render them according to the now well-established web standards so we can all save a lot of time and money.

Otherwise it's time to start weaning all the networks I admin off of Outlook and maybe Office in general. It's already happening anyway without any influence from me.

I already put in a good chunk of support time dealing with users having attachment problems with malformed Outlook HTML emails and then I do my other job and build email marketing templates that take a lot of extra time because Outlook can't handle CSS.

It's hard to believe that you don't see the value and opportunity that Outlook is missing, especially as we are finally seeing IE6 use fading.

# June 25, 2009 1:23 AM

SJS said:

Email should be plain text.

Email that isn't plain text, or start with the plain text equivalent of whatever screwed-up rich text scheme the crack-smoking programmers have devised, it should be quickly and silently discarded as "content-free junk".

If you cannot convey your message in plain text, then the problem is that you cannot write (and likely cannot think).  The solution is to learn to write, not to clutter up your communication with irrelevant eye-candy.

That isn't to say eye-candy isn't nice -- but email isn't the place for it.

(Also, when you reply, trim what you don't reply to, don't top-post, and indicate the difference between your reply and what you're quoting by inserting '> ' before the quoted material.)

# June 25, 2009 1:27 AM

Damien Buckley said:

There are some inaccuracies in this post which need to be addressed - firstly, whilst Freshview are indeed one of the world's foremost providers of email marketing software, this makes them very much an extremely experienced and knowledgeable group of people- that they are service providers is irrelevant - Microsoft are service providers too - does this mean we should ignore what you have to say about I.T. as you may be biased?

Secondly, whilst Freshview are heavily involved, they are not the Email Standards Project.

Thirdly, with over 20,000 tweets recorded in ONE DAY, perhaps its time Microsoft sat up and listened to what people have to say - lest they continue to lose market share to other vendors who have listened AND have been able to provide and come to the party with concensus on these issues.

Its a dire shame for 2009 - a year when Microsoft finally was able to resolve over a decade of antagonism with the web design community by releasing IE8 - for which I sincerely commend you - but then to be working towards a HUGE step backwards in the rendering of its email software.  This make no sense.

# June 25, 2009 1:30 AM

Dragan said:

Creating mails with Word is also problem. It gives big overhead. Majority of mails are in plain text or some basic formatting. Using Word to create e-mail is like driving a Ferrari to buy bread and milk in local store.

Then, on other side, when mail comes in Outlook, Word is starting up again.

It is too much time consuming and standard non-compliant.

# June 25, 2009 2:34 AM

Mike H said:

What a mess. It looks like this blog is the victim of a marketing campaign as well. I guess no one could fill up a blog as well as e-mail marketers.

I've been on both end of web development. I'm trying to remember a time when a designer submitted his work to me via e-mail with the expectation that it was supposed to be a useful design or site prototype. No, it never happened. I dumbstruck to imagine that one would. I wouldn't do that, either. This "web designer" feedback is unremarkable.

Of course, the problem is that users are becoming educated enough to avoid clicking hyperlinks in e-mail messages. Since they're not going to the marketer, the marketer is finding another way to come to them.

Outlook is fine. It's working for corporations and small business, and for the individual users that are comfortable with it, I think it's working for them as well.

# June 25, 2009 2:38 AM

mogden said:

I'm a Mac user and small-time developer, and I quite honestly don't give a damn if Microsoft clients can't read simple HTML 4.0 emails.  Too bad for them.  I can't be bothered jumping through hoops to go back in time to the mid 90s.  I provide a plain text version of the email for primitive clients like Outlook.

As time goes on I think Microsoft will have to do a better job rendering standards rather than rely on their slowly diminishing stature.

# June 25, 2009 2:41 AM

Ilium said:

I feel that Microsoft made a good step forward by focussing on web standards with the release of Internet Explorer 8, just to take two steps back by using the Word HTML rendering in Outlook 2010.

Please embrace web standards for Outlook 2010 aswell!

# June 25, 2009 2:51 AM

Jason said:

Can you not see you are going backwards? Outlook 2000 had rendered e-mails better then Outlook 2007.

As a web developer it is a nightmare coding e-mail campaigns for Outlook 2007 and above because of the poor standards. If you at least implement some of the suggestions suggested at http://www.email-standards.org/clients/microsoft-outlook-2007/ we will all be happy.

This is basic HTML/CSS that you used to support, so please do so again.

# June 25, 2009 2:52 AM

Antoine said:

I think Microsoft should help providing a real standard for email and not simply wait for it.

In addition, everything which is being created using your "familiar and powerful tool", if I quote your post, could be respecting the best practices used by professionals for creating emails. We could then avoid another "specific hack for microsoft products" (i.e. IE6&7) that web developer use every day.

# June 25, 2009 2:53 AM

Jason Prado said:

You really said nothing with this post. All you needed to say was:

> There is no widely-recognized consensus in the industry about what subset of HTML is appropriate for use in e-mail for interoperability.

Then the debate is about how good/bad of a renderer you are using instead of what standards you are trying to force upon people.

# June 25, 2009 2:53 AM

Johan said:

Why not solve this issue the same way you solved the backwards compatibility in IE8 - with a META tag.

Using a META tag, someone sending a specially designed HTML mail could get it to render using the IE8 rendering engine - and using Word rendering if the META tag is not present.

# June 25, 2009 3:36 AM

Maarten said:

I think is fine to use the Word engine as the editor for Outlook, but you should make sure it outputs compliant html.

This is also very important when using Word to author blogs (a feature that I actually use).

For me, Microsoft does not need to make email marketers happy. Normal users do not "design" their email.

# June 25, 2009 3:38 AM

Mike Whitehurst said:

I've always thought that the HTML e-mail feature set was too large - making it a viable method of advertising (a.k.a. SPAM!)

There's no real reason to support fonts. If the e-mail client has a nice default font, then using strong, em, and so on - the meaning can be conveyed.

Can't really get rid of links, people need those - boy would it be nice if we could. Attachments are necessary - but inline images probably aren't.

Inline images attract people to style their emails for marketing purposes, but people sharing photos can (and usually do) send them as attachments. Images are already restricted because they cause a visit to a particular URL, which can be identified for tracking purposes. I would like to see images removed from the "HTML Email Specification" - which apparently needs defining.

*wonders if the W3C already defined it, but can't be bothered to look*

# June 25, 2009 3:48 AM

CR said:

I have made several systems which send out HTML e-mail, and the problem is always to make it look good when opened in Outlook. I'm not overestimating if I say that at least 50% of the time is spent tweaking the format to please Outlook.

The article above does not convince me at all that using Word as the editor/renderer is a good idea. PLEASE give us standard HTML!

# June 25, 2009 3:57 AM

Stephfox said:

It's pretty simple really. proper HTML should just render properly in Outlook.

Saying there's no definitive rules about what standards to support is a cop out.

The HTML standard is pretty mature, guys. CSS has been around a long time.

HTML and CSS are not intrinsic security risks.

Rendering it properly has been achieved via numerous browsers - except one of the most popular email applications on the planet.

Seriously, it's about utility for your users, not about simplifying things for developers... Properly formatted HTML means that things display as they were intended, which improves the user experience.

Even if you're not impressed by the outcry on Twitter and on this site, please just go back to user experience first principles - which is that properly rendered HTML will improve their experience of email and, therefore, your product.

# June 25, 2009 3:57 AM

William said:

I love Microsoft's work, but on this issue, I really have to agree with the vast majority of comments: we need to be able to read emails as if it's in a browser windows.

Perhaps a healthy compromise would be that it's like seeing a document preview (same as a PDF attachment for example) - and click on a tab at the top of the message and see it in the the same area (rather than opening up the browser separately). An additional setting along the lines of "Always show in preview mode from Sender X"..

That way you keep the Word engine, and readers can get the email easily in a decent look.

I'm no technical guru, but surely there's a better solution..

# June 25, 2009 3:58 AM

Daniel said:

Thanks for replying to the outcry among developers about your decision to use Word as the HTML rendering engine for Outlook.

If you don't want two engines in Outlook, please then fix the HTML rendering engine in Word for displaying e-mails.

You're bringing out a new version of your software right? There's got to be progress in your software for basic things like rendering HTML in e-mail.

# June 25, 2009 4:08 AM

Dan Lundmark said:

Why not just fix Word to support HTML and CSS web standards?

This would help in so many areas of everyday usage. Pasting content from the web into a Word document would work better. Pasting Word content into CMS systems would work better. Sending artwork from Word to other email clients would work better. Maybe this campaign should be called FixWord.org!

If we're stuck with Word as an email render engine, then please FIX WORD to support web HTML CSS standards that the ENTIRE REST OF THE WORLD USES. 'nuff caps.

# June 25, 2009 4:15 AM

Scout said:

to all web developers:

I don't care about web standards in MY FRIGGIN EMAIL!!!!!!

If I want to see a promotion, I click a link to your site...

# June 25, 2009 4:21 AM

L. said:

Uh...

I don't care how you implement composing and rendering, but it must be interoperable, i.e. read and write correctly messages that follow the relevant standards.  There are lots of other clients than Outlook out there (Mac users, anyone?).  Rendering using Word must not be required for correct rendering.

This means:

* standards compliant HTML rendering

* better MIME support (i.e. not making a mess of PGP-signed messages; this does not require PGP support, only decent MIME support so that the text content is displayed)

* not making a mess with encodings, i.e. marking windows-1252 as iso-8859-1 (Outlook Express does it correctly, why does Outlook make a mess?).

All this is the bare minimum for interoperability.  I stopped using Outlook because of these issues.  *It's not a decent mail client any more*, it has become only a client for internal, tightly integrated, Exchange-based entreprise messaging.

# June 25, 2009 4:32 AM

Sebastiaan de With said:

Just adding my voice to the many. I don't use Outlook, but let it be clear that this is very hurting to newsletters, campaigns, and other HTML content that could be sent to people's inboxes.

There is a consensus and agreed standard for HTML content in email, and that is that it shouldn't use the Word rendering engine.

# June 25, 2009 4:34 AM

Pratik Patel said:

The manner in which HTML e-mail is renderin Outlook 2007 represents a significant step back in terms of accessibility to blind and visually impaired users who use Outlook.  Using IE to render HTML in 2003 worked well for screen reader users and the 2007 method of doing so was a regression.  To have full access to HTML e-mail, a screen reader user has to take a secondary step of viewing the e-mail in the browser--a step that takes additional time and keystrokes that no one else is made to suffer.  With the supposed "commitment" to accessibility that Microsoft likes to tout, the continued persistence will lose me and many others as customers.  With many other solutions providing functionality that Outlook does, It is unlikely that I will upgrade to 2010 or continue to use 2007 as it directly affects my level of productivity.

# June 25, 2009 4:36 AM

Steve said:

As a developer I spend a lot of time each week trying to explain to customers why the clean, efficient modern code and look and feel we create for their website can't be duplicated in their email marketing. It just doesn't make sense.

I think Microsoft has responded well to feedback over the past years and has worked hard to create good, standards-compliant browsers IE7 and IE8. Why are you moving forwards in this area and backwards in email?

As for "there is no widely-recognized consensus in the industry about what subset of HTML is appropriate for use in e-mail for interoperability" - come off it!

# June 25, 2009 4:43 AM

dwong said:

As a Microsoft .NET developer of 8 years the more and more I learn about Microsoft the less I am inclined to continue to use/recommend their technologies.  I've recently been fortunate enough to use more open source technologies and feel that the future is with them for the sole reason that they evolve.  Rendering the right HTML is not just an outlook problem but also an IE (which is the most popular browser in the world) problem.  I hope for the sake of Microsoft that you listen to the developers because we hold the power now to direct usage.  It is simply not good enough to say "we do it this way and you deal with it".  Sooner or later developers will not tolerate this and you will lose.

# June 25, 2009 4:53 AM

Sacha said:

I know most of the people commenting here are not your customers. But think about this: while you might make today's big corporations happy for now, the people who will create the Apple and Microsoft of tomorrow are the ones positing here and taking part in the campaign, and they will probably not be using Microsoft products.

# June 25, 2009 5:11 AM

someone said:

If you all manage to make web pages that work on IE, FF, Opera and Safari, just spend 5 more minutes to make sure your email looks ok on all email clients. Who knows, maybe MS will give us Outlook for free, so we can test emails before we send them out. :)

MS is the best, if only they could make VS to work 250% faster then it works now, i would not have to spend 1 000$ on new pc just to work normal with VS 2008. But there is no reason to complain, as long as they give us MSDN subscribtions, we get for small fee all software that would cost us like 100 000$ per year. They are not that bad, you only have to understand that they need to render it with word so that all those cool stuff made in word would show up correctly. Did you ever see how clients make emails? How stupid 90% of PC users are? What all they do and in which ways? They are c/p gods, they copy 10 different encodings in one email :D and you want IE to render that? They call MS and ask why does not autocad drawing show up as image in email, etc... Its not MS that sucks, it's those 90% stupid users that suck.

MS, congratulations on trying to make milions of people happy, while each one of them has different demands. And don't mind this so-called web developers and e-mail campaign designers (is that a real job?!?), real developers will always understand your problems and appriciate your efforts - being a developer, either web or desktop, is not easy job, we are not in DOS anymore, it's not about 16 colors anymore, it's so much more, and each month it advances. You are doing great job.

(from IE fan - using it since 1995 and loving it, altrough, you did wait to long between IE6 and IE7)

# June 25, 2009 5:12 AM

Johnb said:

I'm not an IT guy or a web designer etc... just a guy who uses Microsoft Office.  Now that I have a new laptop with Vista (another story all together) and Office 2007, I'm finding that features I had in older versions no longer exist.  In Outlook, just as one example and since this is the topic here, there is no "Out of Office Assistant" anymore.  You have to be on an Exchange Server.  Why?  Independent people can't be out of the office?  Now I'm scared to ever upgrade again!

# June 25, 2009 5:12 AM

rt said:

As to what end users want, letting aside a marketing departments campaign mail. is it really little more than emboldening, underlining, spell checking, image insertion, and document attachment. Isn't that what 99% of users actual do with email. Why do I need Word for that, really, where's the requirement.

I understand that you want people to use your products, and that you wish to continue selling more products, but driving spurious use cases to try and bolster an applications use is a bit too much.

Don't just foist 'features' onto end users and then tell them it's good for them.

As to Microsoft's commitment on interoperability in documents, and Web standards compatibility, your scorecard is poor, could do a whole lot better. Being interoperable, and standards compliant doesn't just mean you can send you MS application produced files to another MS application user.

Come on, get on with the job of real interoperability, and adherence to standards. That's a hard job in itself. But if you make the real commitment there, you won't get these reactions, and you'll find that people will really appreciate it.

# June 25, 2009 5:20 AM

ababiec said:

As a REAL Outlook user, I'm glad it supports "simple" HTML.

I have no desire for CSS or anything else that is not needed in regular office email correspondance.

Even if the renderer was improved, what would it do when I click on reply and started editing? If the editor could not support everything the renderer could, the display of the email would change drastically.

I don't feel any bit sorry for email spammers.

# June 25, 2009 5:22 AM

DW said:

Nobody should be using the Smartart and Charting tools in the body of an E-Mail - how can you be sure that the recipient not only has Outlook, but the same version as you ?

Not to mention the large size they become, and that many rules based filters just block them.

You caved and gave us standards for IE8. Please do the same for Outlook.

I guess the impact of the failure of the "embrace, extend, extinguish" strategy in the IE team hasn't been felt in the Office team yet.

# June 25, 2009 5:35 AM

Tim said:

in our company two thirds of our computers run XP, one third are Macintoshes running leopard. one Win Server and 4 linux servers.

we use Outlook 2003 and Entourage but were evaluating Apple Mail since it will support Exchange, were also evaluating Win 7

to make a long story short it all about compatibility! were not going to upgrade unless it a better product and it works. Windows Mail it simply to use and it works the only reason why we don't use Windows Mail is because it lack Exchange, and Entourage 2008 the best of the lot. pity u didn't make a pc version, both passed ACID test set by the Email Standards Project, which begs the question why not use IE8 Trident or even better use modern rendering engine like WebKit for Outlook. who idea was it to use Word to render html in Outlook 2010? come on it a word processor

if this is a tactical decision to lock in customers, makes no sense. that the reason why in our company we use Java not C# (by the way i actual like C#) we use Apache not IIS ect...

the amount of business's using branded html (plus CSS) for marketing campaigns??? what will end up happening is people will not upgrade which has been a problem for office 2007 or even worst switch to different email client, or switch platforms.

# June 25, 2009 5:43 AM

Developer said:

Keep up the good work guys and PLEASE don't listen to spammers and their thinly disguised "we're about the standards" campaign...

# June 25, 2009 5:47 AM

AlexCopperfield said:

Respect:  Internet standards, web users and designers.

Stop:  Alienating millions to make profit.

# June 25, 2009 5:49 AM

MonkeyChewer said:

The number of emails I get that do not display correctly in Outlook 2007 is a disgrace.

Is it the email author's fault?  Oh, no it can't be, because when I click on the link that says "If you can't read this email correctly, click here to read it on our website." it looks fine.

This whole shambles needs a re-think. I thought I had detected a change of direction in Microsoft now that Bill Gates had stepped down, perhaps this has not reached the Office team yet.

Oh, and I'm not anti-Microsoft, I have made the company I work for 100% Microsoft software based where possible. Windows Server/client, SQL Server, Exchange, Commerce Server, Dynamics NAV, Office 2007 etc - so you can see I am a pretty good advocate of Microsoft. The mess that is Office 2007 and in particular Outlook 2007 has seriously had me thinking about alternatives.

I have never, ever seen an email with SmartArt or Charts embedded in it.

Please leave Word for composing and displaying communications intended for print and let Outlook use a standards based model.

# June 25, 2009 6:02 AM

Ben Hamilton said:

I'm good with using Word as the editor in outlook.

But I would LOVE IE8 to RENDER (display) the mail.

I think you missed the point. Lets hope you get it.

# June 25, 2009 6:03 AM

DC Crowley said:

You rendering choices are so different to everyone else's. MS used IE rendering previously, which while not perfect was much better than the 'word in outlook' approach. You MS customers want their emails to look the same everywhere, also in other non MS email clients. Your stance is unhelpful. It's also not like we are actually asking much. We want you to deliver a product that displays our craftsmanship it a professional way. We want more and we want better please. The way Internet explorer has embraced standards since version 7 has been very helpful and inspiring to the community.

# June 25, 2009 6:17 AM

Jonathan Little said:

I always find outlook utterly frustrating when we are sending out our HTML emails because it is the only client in which they do not display well. It is a shame that they work in an older version of outlook and yet fail in the most current one.

You need to take a step forward, not stay in the past and allow the world to see emails in the same way.

# June 25, 2009 6:19 AM

DC Crowley said:

One other point. Security is not an issue in css. So  supporting it in a useful and meaningful way would just make our day.

# June 25, 2009 6:23 AM

customer said:

"it’s the best e-mail authoring experience around"

What about viewing experience? How can you release e-mail software in XXI century that cannot display CSS-formatted messages properly? There are many useful cases it's needed :/

# June 25, 2009 6:26 AM

Michael said:

I hope Microsoft will fix another problem - why isnt it possible to use Word for individual ad-emailing INCLUDING attachments?

Since Office 2000 users wait for that - maybe Office 2010 will help to make that possible! :s

# June 25, 2009 6:47 AM

TechieBird said:

ababiec - you're the first person I've seen on here who, like me, is a user, not a marketer/web designer.

Most businesses leave online images switched off by default for their users, so we purposely *break* marketing emails to protect ourselves from spam.  We don't care what marketing messages look like for the most part.  Understandably, marketers do.

I agree that the rendering should be standards-compliant as far as can be made reasonably secure.  And using IE8 for rendering would be great *if it worked seamlessly*.

We had separate editing/rendering engines with Outlook 2003 and before, at least those of us who used Word as our editor did.  We were using IE6 to render, and guess what?  IT SUCKED.  Relatively simple emails used to suffer from rendering inconsistencies.  (Don't even get me started on IE rich text editing.  Numbered lists in particular used to make me want to throw things.)

Yes, ideally the IE rendering engine should have been fixed.  But in the real world where resources are limited and features are prioritised, I'd rather have a good experience for the basic emails from my colleagues which *do* occasionally contain embedded objects.

The marketers are a special-interest group.  While their points are valid, they are *not* representative of your user population.

So, Microsoft, show us you have nothing to hide; tell us what the telemetry says.  How many emails aren't rendering properly?  What percentage of users even allow images to display?  I know this argument isn't about external images, but it would be one indicator of how many users care about rendering fidelity for marketing mails.

# June 25, 2009 7:00 AM

Rolf said:

The argument for using Word for rendering HTML mails are somewhat skewed towards the editor functions. I think for _display_ of emails, MS should use the browser, preferably even the default bowser and not just IE. You can not edit the preview window anyway.

However, as an email editor the arguments given are much more convincing.

By the way, are you aware that you CAN show any HTML mail from Outlook 2007 using IE? All you have to do is open the mail, choose action+other actions+view in browser. It should be a snap for MS to supply an automatic feature within Outlook that does exactly this as a preference (skipping the display of the email in Word, of course).

Again, there is no point in using Word to display an email in your inbox. Fix it!

# June 25, 2009 7:01 AM

Bird said:

Please get with the program and support email HTML standards. You probably haven't seen these, or you'd be behind them 100%, but you can find more information here: http://www.email-standards.org/

Email is about communication, and all communication is based on standards, otherwise we could not understand one another. Many people do not understand why you would use your funky word processor to interpret HTML. Please reconsider your decision prior to the release of your new software. I'm sure you can fit this new feature in before your release date. Thank you.

# June 25, 2009 7:10 AM

Ben Darlow said:

“There is no widely-recognized consensus in the industry about what subset of HTML is appropriate for use in e-mail for interoperability.”

Why does there even need to be one? It's HTML for crying out loud. Are you by any chance one of these seasoned prevaricators that sits on the W3C HTML working group? This kind of obfuscated language is intended to sound like it highlights a problem, but all it does is obscure the fact that there is NO problem, and throw a feint to try and distract people.

# June 25, 2009 7:18 AM

Chit Chatter said:

if u cant understand English, someone will help  u geeks out...just like the following post...so dont worry.. :D

http://www.email-standards.org/blog/entry/microsoft-respond-to-our-call-for-standards-support/

# June 25, 2009 7:30 AM

Toon said:

The whole point of fixoutlook.org is about the rendering, not the authoring. Don't get me started about every middle-managers wet dream of sending bloated Word docs with fancy (and useless) 3D bar graphs to their entire staff, but that's not what this campaign is about. It's about asking Microsoft to provide a rendering engine for Outlook that will properly render HTML with CSS. How hard can that be?

This statement reeks of smug contempt for people who try to make proper HTML e-mails that are as lightweight as possible.

And, TechieBird, "in the real world where resources are limited and features are prioritised"? Please, this is Microsoft we're talking about. It should not be above them to create/implement a decent HTML rendering engine.

# June 25, 2009 7:40 AM

Douglas Fischer said:

Microsoft and stantards out the standard.

# June 25, 2009 7:40 AM

thatmichael said:

I am astounded. For years I was blissfully ignorant of what Microsoft was doing with most all their products, but that stopped the day our company decided to stop snail mailing client's their info packets and send them via e-mail. The e-mails weren't super large or complex or image laden, but yet Outlook obliterated the WC3-validated code. Then the tricky education of what Outlook supports and doesn't support began. It's basically a game of "if it was 1993 and I was coding this, how would I do it?"

It doesn't matter that this anti-Word rendering effort was started by a "maker of 'e-mail marketing campaign' software." Microsoft's blatant disregard for web standards is shameful and effects us all. HTML e-mails are not going away, in fact their use is only going to grow as more and more companies chose not to print and mail.

The question now is do we want e-mails that are low file sized, quick to load and easily read by everyone, including those with disabilities, or do we stick with 1993 technology until Microsoft's decline is far enough along that the entire planet could care less about their stupid decisions?

# June 25, 2009 7:42 AM

Bill Fortune said:

Integrate Word html engine in Outlook. That's really smart...

Go Microsoft, Go.

If you don't get it, you don't get it. Dumb until the end...

Go Microsoft, Go.

Why don't use IE 8 rendering engine?

It doesn't comply with standards, but it's a lot better that Word...  

It should be a no brain decision, but even these ones you don't get it...

Maybe you have became too big and too blind...

My sincere advice, be Humble...

Cya

# June 25, 2009 7:43 AM

Aaron Brown said:

If you want to use Word to render e-mail in Outlook, that's fine. But use IE to render HTML in Word.

And with all of the resources available to the Office team, it is not credible that you can't manage to make Word produce proper markup. Your attitude at present is fuelled at best by laziness, at worst by contempt for your customers.

I love Office, and I love Outlook, but this is nothing less than unacceptable.

Oh, and HTML should be used for e-mail composition, not a subset thereof.

# June 25, 2009 7:49 AM

Derek said:

I agree, the Word layout structure is one that I would rather do with out, and many times when there are formating issues, this is my first troubleshooting step to change this to HTML or plain text just to avoid the hassle.  I agree, your allowing IE8 to be optionally installed with Win7, why not allow this feature in outlook 2010 to be disabled or removed...  Obviously, we are supporting the product because it is the only one in the market that does what it does, why not sympathize with the end user and let them have this preference...  I mean, they paid $100 for outlook (2007), why not...

# June 25, 2009 8:00 AM

Marc MENDEZ said:

Right, there is no standard for HTML in mails.

Most of the time, it's difficult to know if the mail will be displayed correctly (as designed) on the client computer. That's why I say my users not to write a mail which can be understood correctlly if it's well displayed ! If they need to apply styles, they join a file.

I laugh when I see the examples ! Yes, it's great... when you have Outlook or Word... But for others  users ? Do you think people will migrate to Office to read mails ? I'm not sure they want/can.

# June 25, 2009 8:05 AM

Chris Graham said:

As a developer of a CMS, rather than an e-mail marketer, I'll throw my perspective in. Web apps need to be able to send out e-mails, and those e-mails need to be styled appropriately to match that webapp. i.e. branding. Therefore HTML/CSS is needed to achieve what people will expect, and it is needed to a level beyond what regular people might need when sending/receiving e-mails.

Outlook 2007 is awful, and even if there is no 100% agreement on how to do things, 99% of what HTML and CSS does can be made to work in all other e-mail clients other than Outlook 2007.

This creates a particular problem, and basically means that you can't achieve certain things unless you are willing to invest in implementing a from-the-ground up design for e-mails - and even then, it's severely limited.

Now taking things further, our software needs to be able to embed web content within e-mails, to summarise new things, or for various other reasons. For example, in a newsletter we'll want to show news summaries, and those news summaries will be styled in standard XHTML and CSS - in fact we need to embed our CMS's CSS because it needs to be rendered using a common subsystem that controls how content relating to the website should display. This kind of thing should not break, it's not rocket science, but currently Outlook cannot handle mildly elaborate CSS scenarios. Writing a whole parallel set of CSS just for e-mail is absolutely crazy, and very limiting if any website content author had done precision design using non-stock styles.

Now how can MS fix this?

All you need to do is something like allow a new meta tag like <meta name="email_standards" content="1" /> or whatever. If you get an e-mail like that, render it using Trident. If someone starts a reply to it, re-render it using Word if you feel you have to - at that point it's not so bad as it's already been read.

# June 25, 2009 8:28 AM

Mike said:

The standard of the output from Word has always been a matter of derision, and the recent spat over 'open' formats has not changed anyones opinion for the better.

Stating that there is no current standard is dis-ingenuous at the very least; there are a number of standards for HTML, all of which have been abused by MS in the past, and most of which have been adopted by ALL other email engines.

# June 25, 2009 8:29 AM

Jason Garber said:

That's ridiculous!  Sure, technically there's no email HTML standard, but we web designers want to be able to design emails like we design web pages... with STANDARDS-BASED HTML markup.  Saying there's no email HTML standard is just an excuse.

For us web developers, our issue isn't that you're using Word to create the emails, it's that you're using its *rendering engine* to *display* the emails.  If you want to use Word for message composition, fine, but please use IE's rendering engine for displaying emails!

# June 25, 2009 8:33 AM

A REAL not-Outlook user said:

Utterly disingenuous, as many before me have already pointed out.

@ababiec - if you're not a developer, what do you care what's going on under the hood? Do you even understand what you're talking about with your  "CSS or anything else not needed" comment? If you're a "REAL user" (a develop[er isn't real?) using Outlook to compose, presumably you neither know nor care what kind of HTML is generated, so long as your message looks right at the other end. And that's the point people are trying to make. Word-generated HTML is such an unholy mess that it doesn't render properly in other clients, and email from sources other than Outlook/Word often doesn't render properly in Outlook.

This is more short-sighted monopoly-think, that imagines giving a horrible experience to users of non-MS products will coerce them into the MS camp.

With the usage stats of non-IE browsers steadily climbing, I say good luck with that...

# June 25, 2009 8:38 AM

Steven said:

jevoenv said:  

"It's not all about e-mail marketing either. These days I am at MSFT and even our PA can't get the formatting of e-mails to wish co-workers a happy birthday come out correctly."

How about this:

"Happy Birthday."

Why do you feel the need for fancy graphics, bizarre fonts or precise positioning to deliver a simple message? Many email USERS hate the crap that marketers and those who wish to emulate their way feel that they have to put on our screens. If you've got a simple message, deliver it simply. If you've got something more complex, put it on a web server and mail me a link. I'll ignore that just as easily but won't hate you as much.

# June 25, 2009 8:43 AM

AllegroIT said:

I like standards and microsoft :-) Hey, just let them merge ;-)

# June 25, 2009 8:44 AM

Jana Hyde said:

Microsoft Team,

I am not much of a web developer, I'm more of an end user.  I have no axe to grind with MS; I am not a Linux disciple.  It's fine with me that Microsoft makes gobs of money, and I do not feel the need to vent my spleen about bugs/crashes/perceived monopolies, etc.

I love using Outlook to compose email messages, but really, how many people create graphs and Smart Art IN the email?  Wouldn't they be much more likely to compose stuff like that in Word (say, in a report), then cut and paste?  (Thank you for the ability to do that. BTW!)

If you're addressing richness just from the email sender, you're addressing only half the user experience.  Those of us who send email also RECEIVE email.  As a marketer who uses the email marketing programs, I want the message I spent hours on to look as good in someone's inbox as it does in my web-based editor.

And as clever as the Business Contact Manager Home module is, I will never use it for email marketing just to address rendering issues in Outlook email.  CAN-SPAM puts the fear of the devil into marketers (as it was designed to do), ISPs limit email traffic, and the features of a dedicated email marketing program make it much easier to manage lists and track results than BCM.

Thanks for addressing the concerns, Microsoft. I love your product, but like all of us, you've still got some work to do!

# June 25, 2009 8:45 AM

zong said:

While you?re at it, can you stop calling your proprietary character set ?ISO-8859-1??

I?m sick of seeing odd characters pooped all over my email!

? thanks

# June 25, 2009 8:51 AM

Stevie D said:

There are two main issues here.

Using Word as the HTML composer means that HTML emails sent through Outlook will have badly formed HTML, and so are likely to render badly in other email clients if people make full use of the possibilities available to them - unless the quality of HTML output from Word 2010 is better by several orders of magnitude than from previous versions of Word. Netscape 4 could output generally valid and concise HTML more than 10 years ago, but every incarnation of Outlook produces code that is more bloated and less standards compliant than before. Given the accepted move within the web industry to move towards standards, it is unbelievable that email is moving in the opposite direction. You say that this is to facilitate rich content emails between Outlook users - but (a) only the tiniest minority of users will make use of this, and (b) why do we have to put up with Word continuing to output such abysmal HTML?

But the MORE IMPORTANT problem is not to do with sending but with receiving. The majority of email users are not using Outlook, so anyone creating emails to send to a general audience has to accommodate a variety of different email clients. Most of these have some reasonable level of support for web standards - except Outlook/Word, which fails to recognise a huge number of standard and common HTML elements. This means that anyone using Outlook and receiving an HTML email from an external source is likely to have a substandard rendering of the message - is that what you want? For every email that comes in to look wrong? I am sure that if you did a straw poll of Outlook users, you wouldn't find one in a thousand who supports that state of affairs, but that is what you are giving them. WHY?!

# June 25, 2009 8:51 AM

fester88 said:

I'm a web developer and regularly part of my job is to build HTML emails for clients. Clients are well aware of  how fantastic a properly built HTML email can do for their branding.

Unfortunately, if they see they're designs in Outlook 2007 they're shocked and blame the developer. I put a lot of effort into developing my HTML emails to render properly in a range of email clients and webmail services, but Outlook 2007 is impossible. Besides the rules imposed on us (no background images, no positioning, etc) we now also have to deal with a plethora of HTML rendering bugs that just can't be solved.

For example, font-family has to be declared on every single table element, paddings can only be applied to td elements, and what on earth is going on with the crazy column spacing bug?!?! (http://www.eggheadcafe.com/conversation.aspx?messageid=30572945&threadid=30572945)

Please please please... don't leave us developers out. I understand that its ideal to have the same product render and edit... but if that's the case then FIX THE WORD RENDERING ENGINE TO THE STANDARDS OF IE8!

I cannot tell my clients that they can no longer have graphical, multi-columned HTML emails because the market leader no longer supports them... they'll laugh   in my face... this technology should be progressing not regressing.

# June 25, 2009 8:51 AM

Bill Ries-Knight said:

Ever since Microsoft moved rendering of Outlook to the MS-Word platform email has been problematic for the significan part of the internet that does not use Outlook or Outlook express.  There are different email programs because people make choices.  

Do we all drive Buicks?  Buicks are great cars with lots of room and creature comforts.  Should we build out highways to accommodate Buicks because GM says it is best?  Oh, wait.  GM is going Bankrupt because the market shifted and the worlds economy tanked.

Likewise with email.  Outside of a corporate environment I have not used Outlook yet I have a significant bit of influence without it.  What of the 10's of millions of others that also decline to use outlook, should we have to deal with the bloatware crafted emails from Outlook?

Should our emails not be as designed simply because one vendor says it's "Built Like a Rock"

Follow the standards as the rest of the world, or change them for the whole world.

# June 25, 2009 9:06 AM

Lance said:

Didn't we already have this debate with IE?  Standards simplify things for everyone who handles the marketing and technical aspects of managing e-mail.  

Simplifying web and e-mail design only stands to make your customers more money in the long run which seems like something you'd want to do since it would help them to justify paying for Office upgrades.  

No doubt, Word makes a great e-mail composer.  But that's not the point.  The point is that it should also fully support HTML/CSS e-mail when viewing e-mail.

# June 25, 2009 9:06 AM

Phil Ricketts said:

Someone has missed the point of fixoutlook.org here.

# June 25, 2009 9:09 AM

JB said:

@TechieBird I agree that having separate engines is a a pain. But have you ever seen an HTML file that Word created? It's filled with a lot of useless code that doesn't even render properly. The same thing that happens when someone using Outlook 07 sends an email with HTML objects (like SmartArt, etc) to someone with Outlook 03, or any other email client. And please, please - understand the difference between spam, and the email that you actually want - like transactional email from an online merchant (perhaps notifications that your package has been sent, or that your hotel room has been reserved), or new information from companies that you're interested in and have signed up for personally (retail, arts, etc). Keep in mind that marketers are part of every business, and business is Microsoft's bread and butter; so we're far from a special interest group.

The bigger issue here (and the reason that people are supporting the email standards project) is that MS should adhere to the VERY widely accepted HTML standards already in place. However, if they're too concerned that doing that will affect security, then why not work with a standard that has been accepted by several other major email providers, including Yahoo, GMail, and others. A lot of this back and forth from this blog and others is starting to sound like the mess that came from the IE6 team, until Firefox started taking serious market share from them.

# June 25, 2009 9:15 AM

Krakke said:

Our text editing application is better at rendering HTML than our Internet Browser,.. what!?!?!

And if the word generated mails are turned into html anyway, why not keep rendering using ie?

Fact is that while IE can display any Word html perfectly, the same sure cannot be said the other way around, so what Microsoft is really saying, is that we don't care about rendering just as long as we can handle mails between Outlook Clients.

And ababiec, not all HTML mails are spam,..

# June 25, 2009 9:15 AM

Kris said:

Creating email newsletters is one of the services we offer to our clients. We do this by creating a "web standard" design that complies with the majority of email systems. Afterwards we downgrade (!!) our design to the only system that does not follow standards: MS Outlook.

More than ever, clients are not willing to pay for this extra work. The result is a growing number of email campaigns that use standard HTML + CSS. Users of MS Outlook will not get the best viewing experience, but that's a choice MS made for them, we and the rest of the design community should not back up mistakes for MS.

# June 25, 2009 9:17 AM

Mike McKee said:

This is typical Microsoft hubris and dominance. They want to make it such that every non-Microsoft email program has to now support MS Word format XML in order to display the message. It's one more step towards their new document standard that they keep wanting to push on everyone without consensus approval.

Do what I'm going to do. If you get a message you can't read, and know it's not spam, keep replying back that you can't read it. Even if you can slightly read it but part of the message is messed up -- reply back that you can't read it.

If enough of us do this, Microsoft will be screwed.

# June 25, 2009 9:17 AM

Beer said:

I gave om on Ms products a long  time ago. It was around the time when they started the wga-thing. Now I am running Debians stable and nothing can get me back

# June 25, 2009 9:20 AM

Alan Bristow said:

Not allowing the multiple benefits of web standards to sway the decision on Outlook 2010 was plain wrong.

Mistakes are good for us, one way or another, when we learn from them and work to correct them.

Please allow one benefit from this mistake to be the appropriate Microsoft person/people deciding to adopt web standards for Outlook 2010 HTML rendering and in doing so, make friends across the business and design (and many other) communities.

Thanks, cheers, -Alan.

# June 25, 2009 9:27 AM

OliverG said:

From my perspective the argument is as follows:

Certainly does MS want to enable its end users to create graphically pleasing emails via Outlook - which is just fine for me.

However one must admit that in real (business) life, only a few users are really using this capability beyond some basic formatting (bold, font, colour).

The most messages in my mailbox that want to make a graphic impact are machine created ones.

Either they are mailing campaigns from people / companies that I invited to mail me.

Or, and this is the key point for me, they are "systems communications" where you receive automatically generated mails.

And that is where MS is really missing the point.

Why make it hard for developers to provide a decent customer experience - even if it is just a mail reply message when you signed up for just another account somewhere?

It definite is a legitimate aim to provide decent capabilities for branding.

And I do not see that MS is making any good progress here.

So: Please divide between editing / creating and rendering...

O.

# June 25, 2009 9:27 AM

a*p said:

It must be nice having your head so far up your @$$.

HTML emails should follow HTML standards. There. I've simplified it for you.

# June 25, 2009 9:30 AM

Bill Smith said:

"There is no widely-recognized consensus in the industry"

Please define the number of individuals required before the outlook team recognizes the de jure standard to be a consensus?

18,000+ individuals tweeted about this in 24 hours.

How many do you think you might get before the release of 2010?

This isn't a twit-head only campaign. Most people join twitter and send only one post. Guess how many of us can be convinced to join twitter just to respond to this issue?

Does your team really want to create a grass-roots campaign that casts negative light on your products?

# June 25, 2009 9:32 AM

ScoopThisPoop said:

"There is no widely-recognized consensus in the industry about what subset of HTML is appropriate for use in e-mail for interoperability."

Really?  So when an email has a multi-part message in which the type is "text/html", you somehow are unbound by HTML standards?  Please stop confusing me.

# June 25, 2009 9:32 AM

davebroham said:

As been said repeatedly here, the issue is what engine is used to render the HTML in Outlook.  What's the harm in using the IE engine?  the benefits seem clear.

# June 25, 2009 9:32 AM

Tim said:

We don't need all of these features.  They are rarely useful.  Keep it simple.  If you need this type of presentation, then use Word or Powerpoint!  90% of emails can suffice as plain text or standard HTML!  Please make standard HTML/CSS available in Outlook!

# June 25, 2009 9:37 AM

Office User said:

Instead of being confrontational with your end-users, why not try to open a dialog?  You're trying to provide a solution for people, when those people (even though it's not all people) ignoring their point by not opening a dialog with them only serves to alienate those people.  This reduces your sales rather than increases sales.

# June 25, 2009 9:42 AM

Jon Allured said:

Why can't there be a compromise where you support properly formatted html emails and render them with IE8's engine?

Keep Word as the way emails in Outlook are composed, output html as you see fit, but when an email is received, why not switch over to IE8 for the rendering?

I don't see that addressed in your post.

# June 25, 2009 9:47 AM

Leon said:

IE8 would have a hissy fit if it had to parse Word-generated emails: Only Word can render Word-HTML properly.

Luckily, I think it's pretty rare for people to bother with anything beyond bulleted lists in normal emails - who could be arsed to generate a pie chart in an email, for example? So it's only an issue for people sending out emails with complicated layouts and lots of images, i.e. for marketing purposes.

It's a better idea to send out plain text or very simple emails anyway - most corporate email environments will block images. And if rendering complicated layouts is so fraught with danger because the main email client uses a weird rendering engine, then, weirdly enough, MS are doing us all a favour.

# June 25, 2009 9:50 AM

David A. Jayne said:

Ian Muir said: "Additionally, implementing the full standard for HTML, XHTML or CSS would open up all kinds of fun new tools for spammers."

Way to prove you don't know what you're talking about. HTML, XHTML and CSS are all just harmless plain text. There is no code executing in them, only tags to be interpreted by a renderer.

Javascript execution would be a problem, but nobody is suggesting Outlook allow javascript to execute, and disabling its execution in an embedded IE instance should be trivial.

# June 25, 2009 9:53 AM

Ian Ringrose said:

Given that Outlook 2007 will be in used for many (over 10) years to come.  Whatever is done with Outlook 2010 emails will still have to be kept simple enought for Outloook 2007 to display.

# June 25, 2009 9:53 AM

KelvinJ said:

Microsoft wants users to be able to create emails using a Word-like interface and expect it to be rendered consistently by Outlook recipients.

Web designers want to be able to use standard HTML to build emails and have them rendered correctly in Outlook.

So why don't you support both?

Emails sent from outlook should have a different content type, e.g. Content-type: text/html+word.

Outlook can then choose a rendering engine (Explorer or Word) based on the content type.

Anyone see a feasibility issue here?

# June 25, 2009 9:58 AM

Steve Kessler said:

All or nothing is a fallacy. The first fallacy is that Microsoft Word could not be made to create standards based Documents. The Office family has started using XML and in doing has stuck somewhat closely to the standards. The tools available for standards HTML are there or could be there by supporting the software community.

The second fallacy is that this must be all or nothing. Go ahead default to a Word HTML generator that is not using the standards but give your users who care a chance to be able to stay your users rather than trying every other app hoping we can find something better.

Overall I like Outlook a lot. It has its issues but what program that does everything it does is not going to have some issues, I get that. About 20% of my business is training people to Outlook and I would love to be able to set my clients up with something that will work with standards.

I hope that Microsoft will act on this and help to move everyone forward. You see, if more people can use Office they will use Office. Creating Islands of isolation is not the way to build market share.

# June 25, 2009 9:58 AM

Paul O'Brien said:

I work for a $14mil nation-wide not-for-profit. Outlook's proprietary features have caused much embarrassment when members of my staff tried to use them in emails to non-Microsoft using colleagues, friends, and as we are a not-for-profit, donors. Microsoft has caused my organization to appear unprofessional, and because of this, it is now our company's policy that RTF is turned off in all of our clients. My staff only cares about the rich editing features to the extent that everyone in the world can view their effects.

Mr. Kennedy, please listen to the comments on the many posts here and fix your product. If you won't fix your product, then shift the email paradigm before Google beats you to it.

# June 25, 2009 10:04 AM

Tighe Lory said:

It does not matter if it being done by a e-mail marketing company, we need standards for e-mail!  What about when you send to people who are not using outlook?????  Microsoft is not the only game in town, if you keep going this way like you did with IE you are going to find yourself in losing customers!  WAKE UP MICROSOFT!!!

# June 25, 2009 10:09 AM

ADO said:

Most email clients use web browser components to render emails, and therefore get support for all relevant parts of the web standards.  Why can Outlook not use MSHTML to render emails?  

Posting inline replys to to HTML emails doesn't make any sense, so who cares if whatever rich text editor you use (Word in this case) can't open it?  

And while I'm here can we please have the broken quoting fixed in plain text emails so people don't have to use things like http://macros4outlook.wiki.sourceforge.net/QuoteFix+Macro (or send emails that are a complete mess).  

# June 25, 2009 10:10 AM

haven said:

Deja vu?  This sounds all too much like the arguments made against changing standards support in IE6.  It started when a Microsoft product was found to handle things in a nonstandard manner that the larger community of developers found troublesome.  We're now on the second phase of the process, where the software maintainers hold that their method and strategy is fine and proper, even if it breaks their fundamental compatibility with the rest of the community.  Now we'll move on to the last phase, where enough of an outcry is generated that a secondary application like Thunderbird or GMail begins to get better PR and marketshare.  Well after this happens, Microsoft will begin to implement better compatibility in order to appease the community and retain their userbase.

It's sad that this has to play out again so soon after the IE6 debacle.  One would hope that losing 20% of a monopolistic market would be enough of a jolt to change the corporate culture at Microsoft to recognize the importance of standards on the internet, but this post by William belies that hope.

William, your product is a communications tool, and digital communications rely on standards.  Despite your claim to the contrary, there is a standard for email rendering: HTML and CSS.  YAHOO, GMail, OSX Mail, Thunderbird, and Hotmail all render consistently using this standard, leaving Outlook as the IE6-like outlier.  If you wish to use Word to make the editing portion of your user experience better, that's fantastic, and I encourage you to do so.  Simply make the results obey standard HTML/CSS rules, and use a real HTML/CSS renderer to display emails from others.

# June 25, 2009 10:17 AM

Uri Baruchin said:

The screen shots in this post are the best argument for taking Word out of email I've ever seen.

# June 25, 2009 10:17 AM

Denis said:

I can't believe that you think it's a 'feature' that a user can use proprietary extensions to make 'rich' email messages.  Email is about communication, not document creation and compatibility is critically important. You'd think after the TNEF fiasco you start to value standard more. Obviously, you're not listening to us but in my role as CTO I take the following actions:

1. Any emails with proprietary formats are discarded at my email server.

2. Any client _capable_ of generating invalid content, or _incapable_ of rendering standard content correctly is banned.

# June 25, 2009 10:18 AM

Jon Kinney said:

I work at a consulting firm and we're a "Microsoft Gold Certified Partner", (if that makes you listen M$) and I am primarily a consumer of Outlook, though occasionally I do create a web application where the client wants HTML email to be sent, though NEVER for a marketing campaign. Usually they just want their banner at the top and maybe a background gradient or something, just to keep their branding consistent. If Outlook could render the email with standards it would be very easy to provide this functionality. As it is, I usually have to rework what the client wanted to an extremely stripped design or just use plain text email.

But I have a solution... provide a feature similar to IE8's meta tag rendering options. If you're not familiar, including the proper meta tag will instruct IE8 to render the page like IE7. So if something in IE8 were to break your design, this is an easy way to put a stint in a site while you work out the CSS kinks.

Outlook could look in the <head> section of an HTML email and check for a meta tag that instructs Outlook to render the HTML in the email as it would for IE8. If that meta tag isn't there, then use the Word rendering engine.

That way, embedded objects and all the other Word proprietary features will be the default, but if the HTML email asks to be rendered in IE8 then it can be. The advantage of this is that the person composing the email would need to know how to turn this feature on.

This way nothing needs to be stripped out of the Office suite and re-worked (expensive and time consuming). Instead just continue to add new and better functionality, isn't that the point of buying software in the first place? We all want new and better features, this seems like a no brainier to me.

# June 25, 2009 10:21 AM

Roland said:

Word still uses the old Winhelp hand mouse pointer for hyperlinks - this looks so ugly under Vista and Windows 7. Please finally use the system hand mouse pointer in Office 14 (also for the hyperlink in the About box).

# June 25, 2009 10:22 AM

stubear said:

Why not use both?  There are benefits in sending HTML e-mail newsletters through a service such as Campaign Monitor and Word's rendering engine simply cannot handle rendering these pages properly.  Personally I find I receive far more e-mails of this kind then Word designed e-mails, however I'm not in a medium or large corporate environment where this might be more common.  This switch could be managed through the mime types.  Word coded e-mails would have a mime type of HTML/word or something like that and Outlook would know to render the e-mail with the Word engine.  If the e-mail uses the mime type of HTML/text or whatever the typical HTML e-mail mime type is then the IE engine would be used.

# June 25, 2009 10:28 AM

stubear said:

I should add that I don't care if Outlook can actually generate proper W3C compliant code, all I care about is the ability to properly render the e-mail sent to me.  I'm going to continue to use third parties to manage mail lists and send newsletters so Outlook's ability to design and generate code is irrelevant.

# June 25, 2009 10:31 AM

Charles Starrett said:

Damien BRUN made a simple and compelling argument above. http://blogs.msdn.com/outlook/archive/2009/06/24/the-power-of-word-in-outlook.aspx#9802309

If Outlook is to support HTML, it should be standard HTML (even if it needs to be a subset). Using tables for layout is no longer standard. The argument: "because there's no standard specifically for email, we're going to ignore all standards" is very, very weak.

# June 25, 2009 10:34 AM

Justin Gilman said:

We already have to design special CSS and even whole pages to support IE (good job on improving IE7 and 8 though). Sending out emails to customers should be at least that easy. A third rendering option in Outlook is just another annoyance that, if you followed standards (or used your IE8 engine) could be avoided.

We're not complaining that Word is a terrible editor; but having Outlook react differently to universally-standard HTML makes it a pain to keep a uniform appearance independent of the user's email client.

# June 25, 2009 10:36 AM

Hector Minaya said:

This is the right decision, Outlook should continue using the word engine...

# June 25, 2009 10:40 AM

Jay said:

ababiec completely misses the point though. No one is complaining about Word being used to CREATE emails in Outlook. That's all well and good. Where the problem lies is with Word being what is used to DISPLAY the emails that are received. This is a problem because Word does not understand CSS, a key component in how a modern, standards-compliant email is designed. This failure prevents emails from looking the way the author intended them.

Trying to skew this as a problem that only exists for "zomg dirty evil email marketers" (whoever the hell that is supposed to represent) completely misses the point and devalues the conversation.

This is about the content-rich emails YOU want to receive and YOU signed up for from YOUR favorite brand and companies, and what MSFT has done since Outlook 2007 is to prevent those emails from displaying properly by using a rendering engine designed for word processing not for web pages. See, emails today use the same code as web pages and the logical thing to do is to use your webpage rendering engine (IE) not your word processing engine (Word). Failure to do this has added an extra burden on email designers everywhere to create a regressive version of what their email could otherwise be, just to ensure it displays somewhat reasonably in Outlook in addition to the rest of the email clients that use proper rendering engines.

# June 25, 2009 10:42 AM

Stu said:

Can you have it display email from other users of Outlook using the Word engine and email from other services using the IE one?

# June 25, 2009 10:45 AM

David F. Skoll said:

Outlook is the number 1 problem e-mail client for us.  For some reason, MSFT turned off the ability to submit forms from outlook.  We have an application that sends notifications to users and allows them to respond with a form submission.  It works fine in every single mail client EXCEPT Outlook.

Basically, we're just recommending that our clients switch to Thunderbird or some other decent MUA.  Outlook is just garbage.

# June 25, 2009 10:45 AM

Clintb said:

ababiec, Techibird,

I work for a public K-12 school district.  Though we do not use e-mail for marketing purposes, our administrative staff, teachers, and coaches use a listserv type system to communicate with parents on a group basis.  Our system has the option of sending HTML email, plain text, or both.

Some, though certainly not all, of our users spend a good deal of time composing the emails that will be sent out to a large audience in our community.  I would love to see support for basic HTML/CSS rendering according to web standards in Microsoft's bleeding edge email client, as well as other market leading clients & webmail etc.  If for no other reason than to have the communication to parents display in a professional and consistent way.

That said, we use Group Policy to turn images off by default in Outlook.  However, for an e-mail one is interested in our users have the option of displaying the images.

I suppose we are indeed a special-interest group as well, not really representative of business users in general, but here we are.

# June 25, 2009 10:50 AM

Jonathan said:

I very good reason to finally switch away from Outlook.  Especially with the growing support for exchange server through alternative clients...

# June 25, 2009 10:51 AM

Chester Bullock said:

Of course you believe Word is the best tool - it's your tool.  The problem is that it is not standards compliant with the rest of the web.  Not surprising given the MS track record in this area.

# June 25, 2009 10:55 AM

Jamie C. said:

"charting tools, SmartArt, and richly formatted tables for our professional customers"

Why do you need these things in an email when you could attach a Word document? Do people really want to compose a chart in an email client and send it?

Why listen to us though when you can just develop products like a drunken monkey and create such software gems as Vista? Great job on that by the way!

Keep up the good work!

# June 25, 2009 10:57 AM

Asbjrn said:

The problem is not the authoring experience, but rather the display of HTML e-mails. Word is much worse than IE6 at displaying HTML (and why shouldn't it be, it's a word processor, not a browser). Just use a locked-down version of the IE8 engine for rendering HTML e-mail. And by all means continue to use Word for authoring - and make it produce proper HTML. I don't understand why you had to ruin a working experience in Outlook 2007.

# June 25, 2009 11:00 AM

Ethereal said:

I am not a marketer, but an Outlook and Word user.  I am actually a big fan of MS Office products, they're ubiquitous for a reason, they're high quality products.

MS argument here is that customers are used to Word and prefer to use rich tools to compose emails, no counterpoint there.  Word (even though has more overhead) is a decent way to compose emails... but that does not make Word a good renderer for email.  Why not use Word to compose and IE to render?  What's the draw back there... give the users the flexibility they deserve in presenting their information the way to present it.

While I do get spam and if that breaks I don't care but, I also subscribe to marketing emails that I would like to see unbroken.  

MS please don't push users further towards using web based productivity software... won't you hate to loose customers over something silly like how emails render?  And users will switch over something silly like that!

# June 25, 2009 11:08 AM

Cedric Dugas said:

This just make no sense, there is  a subset of html for email, it's called web standard, just as always your behind of everyone

# June 25, 2009 11:09 AM

Simon said:

Microsoft won't listen unless they feel threatened by some sort of competition.  So, here's what I do.

All email messages have a header explaining that, if the recipient is using a Microsoft product, then they probably can't see the message properly.

I have a filter on my inbox that returns to sender any mail created using Microsoft products along with a short explanation.

On some of my web sites I redirect IE users to a more basic version of the site complete with an expanation as to why this is happening.

These steps (especially the inbox filter) have an interesting effect on some people.  A few get in touch and start asking questions.  I tell them the truth as I understand and experience it.  It is amazing how many of them end up using Thunderbird/Firefox/Open Office after this conversation.

This is a shame because I would prefer it if Microsoft listened, got it right and all my clients (and me) used nothing but Microsoft.  Support would be so much easier.  Until I can rely on Microsoft products to inter-operate with the rest of the world then this won't be possible.

We all have to take a stand, vote with our wallets, use any opportunity to spread the word(!) and create some sort of impetus for Microsoft to just LISTEN!

Simon.

# June 25, 2009 11:10 AM

Josh said:

You guys have got to be kidding me.

No standards for email? Then why does Outlook Express, now called Internet Mail, support modern CSS? Why does Apple Mail support modern CSS? Why does Thunderbird support modern CSS?

Why does Microsoft's own XBox division not bother to format emails for Outlook 07 users?

There's a reason the Office division is viewed derisively at Microsoft, and this is a good example of why. Rather than admit that your decision is based on something idiotic like trying to cater to users who use Outlook to send email to other people using Outlook, you make up some ridiculous nonsense about a lack of standards.

If standards didn't exist, why do HTML emails look nearly the same across all email clients except for those that use WORD as their rendering engine?

I was at a web standards conference a couple of years ago and a rep from Microsoft sat at our table at breakfast and asked what Microsoft could do to gain more acceptance from the standards community. It's unfortunate that only ONE product division seemed to take those sentiments to heart.

# June 25, 2009 11:10 AM

Clawsout said:

Heed the collective cry* of anguish over your misanthropic decision to continue to use Word to render email in Outlook 2010.

Please, listen to your customers and use a proper rendering engine that supports the basic HTML and CSS standards set down by the W3C. These standards have been in place for many, many years now, and it is up to you to bring your software up to meet those standards as best you can. Anything less is both a flagrant disregard for your customers, and a grave lack of ambition from the Outlook engineering team.

*Over 21,000 as of writing this comment

# June 25, 2009 11:12 AM

Ian Ringrose said:

-> I have no desire for CSS or anything else that

-> is not needed in regular office

-> email correspondance.

-> Even if the renderer was improved, what would

-> it do when I click on reply and started editing?

-> If the editor could not support everything the

-> renderer could, the display of the email would

-> change drastically.

Is Outlook there to let marketing people send me fancy looking emails, or to let me commutate with my co-workers?  99% of important emails I read in Outlook come from within the company, most internet emails display with no problems.  E.g. I never had an email from gmail fail to display nicely in Outlook.

Why don’t marking people just keep the message (text) and use a tool like Gmail to design and send their emails?

# June 25, 2009 11:14 AM

Josh said:

Also: to the "text email only" purists out there, you probably also think the internet should only be text-based web pages. A lot of people LIKE to receive nice-looking emails. That's what multipart messages are for, so if you want plain text you can have it. That's not the issue here.

# June 25, 2009 11:15 AM

Darcy Murphy said:

How about HTML 4 and CSS 2.1? Hows that for standards?

# June 25, 2009 11:26 AM

Robert said:

Clearly, not everyone agrees that Word is the best way to author e-mail content and I can't imagine anyone would say Word's HTML rendering capabilities are "great."

While I understand that it needs to be easy for people to author rich e-mail that aren't web developers, just about anyone who does e-mail campaigns needs the same cross-platform compatibility that we pretty much have in browsers now.  It's been far too long that developers have to struggle to make designs (email or web) work in MS products, and, frankly, well designed HTML e-mails that look great in most clients look terrible in Outlook, which is bad for end users.

Can you not have a DOCTYPE switch or HTTP-EQUIV META tag like IE has to decide whether the e-mail should be rendered via Word or via Trident?  By default, you can use Word rendering, and those of us that know what we are doing can turn on Trident / IE rendering with a flag.

This only seems fair given that we all have to spend a lot of time (and someone has to pay for it, like your end users that pay designers to make e-mail campaigns) making great HTML e-mails look marginally good in Outlook.

Outlook is becoming the new IE6, and it's pretty clear that Microsoft doesn't actually care about interoperability, despite making statements otherwise, and certainly doesn't care about developers.  Is there not some middle ground like my suggestion above that can benefit everyone without hurting anyone?

# June 25, 2009 11:33 AM

Drew said:

Nice to know that as Microsoft moves forward with Outlook, they seem to go in reverse.

# June 25, 2009 11:48 AM

Alec Champlin said:

I work in a large company that, of course, uses the Microsoft Office suite. To date, I do not believe that I have EVER seen a single email from any other fellow employee using Microsoft Outlook that contained native Word-based SmartArt, Charting, or Tables (expect perhaps some tables that were created in either MS Word or MS Excel that get pasted into an email either as a word-based table object or HTML-based table object... I'm not entirely sure). If users want to send something that clearly depends upon Word-based rendering, then they simply ATTACH a word-based document with a clearly indentified Word filename extension.

On the other hand, I have seen thousands of emails that utilize HTML-rendering or HTML-based tables. It cannot be disputed, at least with a clear conscience, that any HTML-renderer based email object or mechanism would have far more broad acceptance than a Word-specific email object. Even Microsoft's tools such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint support conversion to HTML-based forms. Wouldn't be a much more universally accepted solution to allow users that chose to do so, to author their email content in whatever application they wanted to... and then support HTML-based cut-n-paste operations into Outlook? That seems far more sensible to the vast majority of users.

Please do not let the misguided FTC and European Union actions of the past, intimidate Microsoft away from the sensible use of HTML-rendering in other applications such as Microsoft Outlook.

# June 25, 2009 11:49 AM

Mark Godecke said:

After reviewing these blog entries, I don't see a good reason why Microsoft can't use Internet Explorer to render emails in Outlook.  Security should be a non-issue, I mean, IE is supposedly secure enough to browse the web, so it ought to be able to handle spam.

I'm in end user support, not marketing.  Believe it or not, there are actually people out there who like to read their spam (one guy even prints out his travel offer emails) and if they don't look right, I hear about it.

Use Word for composition, and IE 8 for display, problem solved.

# June 25, 2009 11:52 AM

andjules said:

no one cares how microsoft solves this problem - whether you fix the word engine or use the IE8 renderer.

I fully sympathize with the concept that a Word-based UI makes it easier for MS' users to author rich emails.

but rich emails are based on HTML, and HTML is "a sanctioned standard or an industry consensus"... just 'meet the bar' of the standard. I can't imagine how the biggest software company in the world could accept any less of themselves.

# June 25, 2009 11:59 AM

Philip said:

Why on earth would anybody want to use HTML in an email message? My experience is that it is only ever spammers and scammers who want to do this.

I read all my emails in plain text. If the sender can't get their message across in plain text, then I don't need to know.

And for all those talking about a standard, there is one already. It's called RFC822.

# June 25, 2009 12:03 PM

Sam W said:

The nasty conclusion we can all figure out from this is...  Word doesn’t compose HTML in any remotely-standard way.  It's full of inside tricks and shivs to make it do Office-only crap and account for backward compatibility going back 20 years.  If Word’s HTML was even remotely easy to normalize – even by post process – Microsoft would eagerly do it.  This shows that Word HTML really is THAT bad.

(And William's "answer" totally misses the point.  The point is about rendering, not composition)

# June 25, 2009 12:05 PM

Jim Cota said:

Judging by the official response to the campaign initiated by Campaign Monitor (and supported by industry professionals using a wide variety of ESPs), I'm guessing Microsoft won't pay any additional heed to these comments.

But it does seem to me that the official response is a clear indication that William Kennedy, Corporate Vice President, Office Communications and Forms Team, Microsoft Corporation (or the PR person who wrote this response) either doesn't understand the problem or truly doesn't care.

Forcing the industry to take a step backwards in compliance to use table-based layout simply to render email properly -- when they could use the IE rendering engine -- is the business equivalent of taking your ball and going home.

Hopefully the exodus from Windows to other operating systems (or, at the least) to other email clients will continue to the point where Redmond is forced to at least consider the argument from a perspective other than the status quo.

Personally, I feel like the campaign was interesting and worth it, and a nice example of how new technologies can be used to give voice to a disparate group. Too bad, in this case, it was a proverbial tree falling in an empty forest... no one was there to hear it.

/Jim

# June 25, 2009 12:06 PM

M Collins said:

It's not about authoring emails you ninnies, its about displaying the incoming emails with any semblance of standards compliance.  Why does Microsoft continue to fracture internet standards.  This is why every web developer hates IE.

Go ahead and keep Word for composing emails if you must, but use a true web engine for rendering the incoming emails.  

# June 25, 2009 12:07 PM

tim said:

How do users of Outlook without Office do HTML mail ?  either they can't or somehow there's a way to switch Word editing off in this scenario.

# June 25, 2009 12:08 PM

ES said:

Lots of time is spent on design and compatibility. Why make it harder? We want our designs to appear as they should!

# June 25, 2009 12:13 PM

Chris Lee said:

Lame and disappointing campaign execution by 'Let's Fix It'.

While I agree with the cause, using Twitter Corporation's proprietary service as the only means for an internet user to submit feedback is just as bad/backward as using HTML tables in Outlook.  That's like, um, forcing people to use Microsoft Corporation's technology (READ: Outlook) as the sole means to manage email communication.

So let's see: No web site feedback form was constructed for this cause.  Meaning, that no web designer was hired to design a form---even a (gasp!) table-based one!, CSS out an email and/or contact page, etc., to collect the data, nor were any database professionals used to set up a system to parse the collected feedback and organize/collate for the organizers.  Nope.  Just passed off to a single company: Twitter---that you are stuck having to use as the sole means to communicate this campaign via the (open?) web.  This is so late 1990's when 'AOL Keyword: National Geographic' was on the cover of that pretty yellow magazine instead of the more sensible and open 'www.nationalgeographic.com' they use now.  Backward we go...  just like Outlook 2010.

There is nothing wrong with using Twitter as an additional means, like Facebook, etc. to communicate and enhance a web site.  But it should not be the <strong>only</strong> means, just like using IE should not be the only means to access the web.

That said, can you folks please make Outlook 2010 work better with CSS?

Chris

# June 25, 2009 12:22 PM

Robert Aitchison said:

We have already run into this problem with a newsletter that was generated by a vendor for internal distribution.

Doesn't display properly in Outlook 2007, though it does in IE7 as well as Firefox, Outlook 2003, Outlook Express and even Windows Mail (Vista).  If you try to edit it in Outlook 2007 you can get it to display properly but the resulting E-Mail is now 400k instead of 17k.

Outlook should display web content exactly the same way as web browsers do.

# June 25, 2009 12:26 PM

Dan said:

All I want to do is float a div.  While there is no technical HTML standard, it is a function widely used.   Can you explain why, a globally used platform, such as outlook has decided to not support this frequently applied HTML code?

# June 25, 2009 12:50 PM

Gary Pennington said:

Mail messages should not be in Word rendered HTML, in fact they should not be in HTML at all.

Mail messages should be in plain ASCII.

GP>

# June 25, 2009 12:54 PM

DerekK said:

Nope they don't get it. They just don't get it.

# June 25, 2009 12:55 PM

Gareth S Price said:

"There is no widely-recognized consensus in the industry about what subset of HTML is appropriate for use in e-mail for interoperability."

I respectfully disagree. There is an informal consensus where most e-mail clients support at least some HTML layout features.

There is certainly a consensus that tables should not be used for layout. Unless the opinion of the Outlook team is that e-mails should not contain layout at all?

E-mail is moving beyond messages between individuals and is now seen as a multimedia communications channel.

To cripple Outlook 2010 by considering rich formatting only as a way for people to slightly embellish their individual messages is to hold the product back from the way people and organizations are using e-mail.

@TechieBird, ababiec: This isn't just marketers - many of my business clients have expressed disappointment at the limitations of e-mail stationery.

# June 25, 2009 12:59 PM

Rob said:

Email is essentially an internet experience. Increasingly, email creation and dissemination is performed exclusively through the internet. Rather than embracing the standard language and construction conventions of the internet, Microsoft is sticking to a format that has repeatedly been proven to be incompatible with online use.

Not only is this disappointing from the standpoint of someone who would like to be able to use the full range of html tools to create emails, it seems like Microsoft is shooting itself in the foot from a business standpoint, especially given the rise of internet-based hand held devices.

# June 25, 2009 1:01 PM

Tania Morris said:

Mirosoft is clearly focusing on the priorities of someone whacking together 'professional looking' HTML emails here and not the experience of people recieving them...

While in one sense I can understand them thinking of the needs of those who might want to create such emails I doubt this would be 100% of outlook users - on the other hand almost all users will use the software to recieve HTML email and using Word to render it is a crappy solution. They are failing not only the designers and developers who want to create user friendly newsletters, but also their customers who want to recieve them.

To spout complete tripe about 'subsets of HTML' and a lack of industry consensus or standards is at best delusional and at worst downright dishonest. There are WC3 standards for HTML and CSS. These are applicable to browsers and email programs alike.

Just because Microsoft does not feel they should apply to their software does not make the known and commonly accepted standards simply not exist.

Of all companies, Microsoft should not be accusing groups such as the Email Standards Project (which may included companies but also includes individuals and users with no affiliation to freshview) of pushing their own agenda or interests. If anything, that is the pot calling the kettle black.

And a final note...

"Word has always done a great job of displaying the HTML which is commonly found in e-mails around the world"

Perhaps on mars, but on planet earth, it ignores the most common HTML and CSS standards and makes HTML emails which work in almost every other email program look, quite frankly, like a pigs breakfast.

How is it that one of the largest and most successful companies is unable to manage what a large number of smaller companies have already achieved.

# June 25, 2009 1:06 PM

Johnny 5 said:

The main problem is that Word doesn't look the same when you are composing it, as when you receive it in the IE display engine.  

So your solution is to replace the valid display engine (IE) with an invalid Word HTML display engine?  That seems a little backwards to me.

Open up to real standards, not your own internal walled off standards. You are starting to back yourself into a corner with these sorts of moves.

Why not concentrate on updating the HTML composing portion of Word so that it emits (renders?) valid HTML that will be displayed correctly in an IE8-type display engine. (or other valid HTML renderer eg. gecko etc)

Otherwise Outlook becomes a walled garden.. and as more businesses run email marketing campaigns (yes not spam ones) the CEOs are going to start wondering why their carefully constructed emails look fine in every other email client, but look like crap in Outlook. That's when Outlook is going to get tossed out...

# June 25, 2009 1:17 PM

Dave said:

"But in the real world where resources are limited and features are prioritised,"

Yet somehow Mozilla, Google, Opera, and Apple have all managed to make wonderfully featured browsers with full current standards compliance, with several aspects of HTML5 and CSS3... Microsoft has no less of a resource supply than any of them. What's their excuse for being the ONLY ONES still stuck in 2000? The rest of the internet has moved on, and we're busy yelling back at them, trying to help them catch up, but they continue to ignore us. If Microsoft actually fixed IE's rendering engine and made it work right in Outlook, I'd have one less major reason to be mad at them.

@TechieBird:

You're missing the point. Yes, your emails may look right to you. Know why? Because some poor developer spent days ripping his hair out trying to make it look right. That's the problem. Emails continue to look right because we continue to build them using horrid techniques, as they're the only ones that work on all clients. All we want is for Microsoft to fix the rendering engine in Outlook so we can build proper HTML that will still look right in all the other clients (which already understand standards), and also look right in Outlook.

# June 25, 2009 1:27 PM

Drew said:

Whether or not fixoutlook.org is sponsored by Campaign Monitor is irrelevant. What *is* relevant is that Microsoft does not support web standards. And this needs to be fixed regardless of who is pushing the agenda.

# June 25, 2009 1:31 PM

Theo Gray said:

ababiec / TechieBird - if all you want to do is send and receive internal email then the current Microsoft stance is fine for you. But Outlook needs to work for all users, not just internal corporate email.

The problem is that if someone sends you an email that wasn't created in Outlook, whether that's

- an external supplier that you _do_ want to hear from

- a website you've registered with sending a welcome email

- or any other email client on the planet

then there is a fair chance that email could look scrappy with the current Outlook rendering just because basic CSS attributes are not supported.

This is especially the case when emails that rendered fine in Outlook 2003 were suddenly broken in Outlook 2007 seemingly without any warning.

Having to add outdated attributes just to support the same thing as CSS is already designed to do just makes no sense (e.g. align="right" for images instead of being able to use a class that sets "float:right"). How can there be a security issue in supporting one and not the other?

All that is being asked is that Word 2010 include support for a few basic _standard_ CSS rendering attributes that should be just as simple to support on the editing side; Word already knows how to render things that CSS describes with floats and padding/margins, it just decides to ignore converting these at the moment.

# June 25, 2009 1:33 PM

Leo Petr said:

Please continue ignoring the mass-mailers on this, Microsoft. In fact, please start a counter-tweet campaign so I can voice my solidarity with you against the tweeters.

While bold text and bulleted lists are useful, email should never look like a web page. There should never be navigation bars, sidebars, or anything else that requires CSS-based or even table-based layouts.

# June 25, 2009 1:33 PM

TheCosmonaut said:

It's been stated before and I totally agree: I don't care if you want to use Word to AUTHOR an email, but the HTML that it generates is awful. The end result is passing emails between Outlook and any other client is a hassle -- Anything I send from my Mac to Outlook recipients gets mangled (on their end) and vice-versa. So go with my blessings: use Word to author emails, just please update the HTML it outputs to something that every other program in the rest of the world can understand properly. And if you're not going to use IE8 to render emails, help Word interpret the good, clean HTML that every other program in the rest of the world generates.

As for standards, they DO exist. There are a number of very, very basic CSS commands that pretty much every other email program supports and Outlook doesn't. As a number of people have stated, standards for HTML exist as outlined by W3C -- if you're using HTML in email, shouldn't it adhere to the same standards?! (As a sidenote, you want people to use Word to create HTML -- shouldn't the HTML it creates adhere to W3C standards and basic web design best practices also?)

To all the people saying this is about making life easier for marketers, you're wrong. Look at what having standards on the web has done for us all: more quality websites that look better, work better on all browsers, and can do more. If Microsoft makes life easier for marketers, they'll be making life easier for consumers also.

Microsoft has a unique opportunity here: as the maker of one of the most widely-used email clients, they have the opportunity to lead the charge to universal standards for email that make EVERYONE'S lives better. Instead, they're going with their own proprietary stuff that creates bloated, junky emails.

It's just sad.

# June 25, 2009 1:41 PM

Mera Naam said:

I think MS should update either the Word engine or give users flexibility to use standard HTML engine (from browser) for email display.

It drives me nuts when the email cannot display the correct CSS tags because stupid word cannot decipher it right.

# June 25, 2009 1:45 PM

DC Elzinga said:

Please, please, please support CSS rendering. I am a developer and writer, and I support increasing standardization between web and email rendering. As far as Outlook, I switched from 2007 BACK to 2003 partly because of the lack of composing and rendering choices (plus performance). I have nothing to do with marketing email -- just writing user documentation for software.

# June 25, 2009 1:46 PM

Tim Gossett said:

"Word has always done a great job of displaying the HTML which is commonly found in e-mails around the world."

No it hasn't.

"There is no widely-recognized consensus in the industry about what subset of HTML is appropriate for use in e-mail for interoperability."

That's because the consensus is to support HTML as a whole, not just a subset; and to add on support for CSS as well.

"The 'Email Standards Project' does not represent a sanctioned standard or an industry consensus in this area. Should such a consensus arise, we will of course work with other e-mail vendors to provide rich support in our products."

If by "industry consensus" you mean "Microsoft's Consensus," you're right. Yahoo!, Apple, Google, and other email client developers are all supporting web standards.

The Email Standards Project does represent the consensus of the *WEB DESIGN* industry.

# June 25, 2009 1:48 PM

David in San Diego said:

I found this issue interesting, because I recently encountered this problem in Outlook 2007 when rendering HTML generated by Microsoft's own software.

Automatically e-mailed reports from SQL Server Reporting Services are not properly displayed in Outlook 2007 - the tables are compressed horizontally.  This annoyance was reported to me by some of my colleagues.  I still use Outlook 2003 and the reports are rendered correctly in my e-mail.

# June 25, 2009 1:49 PM

turph said:

Reading all this makes me smile. Justifies my stance that:

a: I really like only getting text emails, not html

b: I really really hate email in general

Funny that twitter folks are complaining about email.

# June 25, 2009 1:53 PM

Rich Algeni said:

I am also an Outlook user, from 2000, to XP, 2003 to 2007. I would much rather Microsoft adhere to open standards than 'cripple' their software in ways to achieve their marketing goals. People who know me, know that I don't use that term lightly! Come on Microsoft, you are better than this!

# June 25, 2009 2:03 PM

Maxime Gousse said:

I love Word. I love Outlook. But please *do* follow web standards. Don,t do another IE out of Outlook where IE "extended" the web standards. Compliance is key. Prove us that you really rock at MS!

# June 25, 2009 2:03 PM

Brian Tillman said:

I'm with ababiec and TechieBird.  E-mail is not the web.  It's an entirely different medium.  Saying that "it's not about how it's composed but about how it's rendered" is like saying "It doesn't matter that an aitplane must take off from an aitport.  It should be able to land on any piece of concrete the pilot wishes, including the Interstate, and still deliver the passengers."  A hammer should never be used to drive a screw.  Frankly, anything a mail client can do to _disrupt_ mail marketing is 100% OK by me.  If I want the information, I'll use a web browser to read the marketer's web page.

# June 25, 2009 2:05 PM

Siddharth Menon said:

Well,

After looking at the campaign efforts I thought Microsoft would take the user experience stuff seriously and work on to improve it.

We don't care what rendering engine you use, but at the end of the day Outlook can display what a web based mail can then the job is done. Its so sad that outlook till today does not support image as background, which I feel would give lots of new rich experience when sending creative mails.

Siddharth Menon

Borget Solutions

# June 25, 2009 2:08 PM

Scott Jarvis said:

There’s some merit to Word generating OUTGOING Emails.  This allows additional functionality and user familiarity for many.  

However, I would like to see RECEIVED emails rendered with the Explorer engine by default.  Wouldn’t this solve our problem?

# June 25, 2009 2:14 PM

JustinCC83 said:

You have got to be kidding me.

You are sacrificing web standards in the name of MS Word graphs and clip art?  Give me a break.

How about you(Microsoft) stop being the least common denominator when it comes to standards? Is abusing standards the the hill you want to die on?  Jeeze!

You are holding EVERYONE back by doing this.

What a reliable disappointment Microsoft has become.

P.S. You do not need MS Word to enable a WYSIWYG editor... you have the ASP.NET custom control already developed in the AJAX Control Toolkit!

# June 25, 2009 2:19 PM

Matt Beck said:

As has been said at length above, the complaint is about Outlook continuing to use word to Render HTML, not word as an editor to create messages.

It's nothing but disingenuous to claim otherwise.

Most people making the complaint are not spammers. Lots of people send out HTML email, lots of businesses large and small send 100% legitimate newsletters, etc.

Asking for proper rendering of HTML email (and YES HTML IS A STANDARD) is not something that only spammers want.

# June 25, 2009 2:27 PM

Alexis said:

99% of my contacts send me plain-text messages and that's why I switched Outlook to show me text-only messages as default. I don't care about HTML messages. HTML belongs inside websites and not inside e-mails.

# June 25, 2009 2:28 PM

Will said:

Why not have a flag or something? A flag that says, "this was made with the Word engine" and when outlook sees that it uses it's handy Word engine renderer. Otherwise, it uses IE8.

Surely I'm the 400123125th person (or so) to suggest such a 'solution' so I'm guessing it's not actually a solution. Would be curious to hear why not.

# June 25, 2009 2:54 PM

outblog said:

The Outlook team wants to thank everyone who has responded to this post and the online campaign around Outlook and Word.  We value your feedback and have read and logged every comment on this page.  At this time, we believe that the unique and relevant perspectives and opinions of this community have been stated and appropriately noted, and rest assured we will continue to read and record any additional feedback made, though it will not be published.

Dev Balasubramanian

Outlook Product Manager

# June 25, 2009 6:03 PM

sevenflavor said:

The power of Word? Are you kidding me? Open any web page today in Word and it can't even retain the exact layout, let alone generate clean HTML. Is Word only for designing from blank HTML pages and editing existing pages created in Word? If not, why is the renderer stuck in the 90s? Please improve Office's horrible renderer and bring it up-to-date so it at least retains the layout of modern web pages.

# June 26, 2009 7:46 AM
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