Outlook 2010 – still not helping anyone

So here’s the great news that Outlook 2010 is in beta development. Here’s the not so great news. They are still planning on using the Word rendering engine to display HTML emails, just as in Outlook 2007.

Goodbye styles and background images, hello tables (my old friend) and broken emails.

There may be all sorts of reasons behind the move, be it a reaction to Microsoft not being allowed to bundle Internet Explorer with Windows 7 or the official Microsoft view that using Word offers the most powerful email composition tools for Outlook users. This is flawed by tha fact that recipients will require Outlook to view the emails properly, and with only 7% of the market this punishes Outlook users in my opinion. I see no reason why a corporation such as Microsoft can’t allocate the resources to create an email client that provides powerful authoring and rendering of emails, using email standards.

The Email Standards Project, Campaign Monitor (I love you guys!) and Newism have initiated a campaign, http://fixoutlook.org/, to try and highlight the problems to Microsoft, so lets all hope they listen.

Outlook is broken - let's fix it!

Alternatively the sooner I get away from having to worry about building HTML emails, the better.

Addition: the Microsoft response

Microsoft have provided a response to the campaign on their MSDN blog which expands on a number of points I raised. In the comments I pointed out that HTML is not an email standard, and Microsoft correctly state “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 my view too but of course it doesn’t make my day job any easier.

I agree that many using Word to compose rich emails will find that the easiest and most powerful method – but it still relies on the recipient using a client expecting Word formatted HTML.

Finally, if Microsoft would please prove to me that “Word has always done a great job of displaying the HTML which is commonly found in e-mails around the world” I’d appreciate it, because I think that is absolute bollocks and my professional experience backs that up.

At least Microsoft know Outlook 2007 isn’t very good…

Microsoft disclaimer!

So just after receiving an email asking why a complicated HTML email didn’t work in Outlook 2007 and explaining that since it uses Word to render HTML it was never going to display everything right. Obviously some people just don’t understand this.

However with almost perfect timing I got an email from xBox Live (Microsoft run) with the disclaimer above shown right at the top! Yes, Microsoft themselves are suggesting you read the HTML email in a browser rather than their own email client!

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

Now I accept that Microsoft may be correct in that HTML should not have been used for emails at all, emails should be plain text, end of. However if you are then going to support HTML partially, whilst using HTML emails in your own marketing, with a disclaimer against your own product, something is very wrong somewhere! Anyway, all the clients I work for won’t pay for plain text emails, therefore HTML emails kind of keep me in a job!

Anyway, I found this amusing, hope you do too.