Kiss Your CSS Goodbye With Outlook 2007

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HTML emails and CSS formatting will take a huge hit when Outlook 2007 starts taking up positions on millions of desktops, and email newsletter publishers will have to take some extra steps to ensure their creations render correctly. But even that isn’t a guarantee against problems with that new email program.

Kiss Your CSS Goodbye With Outlook 2007
Kiss Your CSS Goodbye With Outlook 2007

There is a big change coming with Outlook 2007, which is only a couple of weeks away from a full consumer release. In the interest of security, Outlook 2007 will use the Word 2007 HTML parsing and rendering engine to display HTML emails, and not Internet Explorer.

It appears Microsoft wants to try and mitigate the threat to Outlook users that can arrive with a malicious message that exploits a condition in IE. Without IE accessible through Outlook, criminals can’t attack an IE exploit through Outlook.

A side effect of the things Outlook 2007 won’t be able to do includes delivering HTML emails as they have been created by their publishers. A post at the Site Point blog summarized how a lot of publishers are likely to feel:

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

Microsoft’s changes in Outlook 2007 will mean publishers have to validate their code, and craft their publications to suit the available validator. That tool only works with a few Microsoft products like SharePoint, Expression, and Visual Studio, and with Macromedia’s Dreamweaver.

The Campaign Monitor blog listed a sampling of what Outlook 2007 will not support, and David Greiner’s post illustrated this by showing how one of their newsletters looks in Outlook 2007 and in Outlook 2000:

No background images – Background images in divs and table cells are gone, meaning Mark’s image replacement technique is out the window.

Poor background color support – Give a div or table cell a background color, add some text to it and the background color displays fine. Nest another table or div inside though and the background color vanishes.

No support for float or position – Completely breaking any CSS based layouts right from the word go. Tables only.

Shocking box model support – Very poor support for padding and margin, and you thought IE5 was bad!

Microsoft lists the HTML and CSS support publishers will have available to them. Float and position are just two of several CSS properties that the Word 2007 engine will consider ‘unknown properties.’

That rendering engine also does not support animated GIFs or Flash. No Flash means that last part would be a showstopper for anyone trying to embed Flash video in a message, something some publishers may want to try given the escalating interest in online video content.

“Imagine for a second that the new version of IE7 killed off the majority of CSS support and only allowed table based layouts,” wrote Greiner. “The web design world would be up in arms! Well, that’s exactly what the new version of Outlook does to email designers.”

Microsoft has chosen not to make IE7 the rendering engine of choice. While that may look like a vote of no confidence in the IE& security model, it probably means something different.

The company does not want to negatively impact its big volume licensing customers who may have some kind of legacy application that is tied deeply into IE6 and its capabilities. If Microsoft were to force them to upgrade to use Outlook 2007, that could harm those big volume sales of Office 2007 licenses, aka Microsoft’s big revenue stream.

Instead of doing this, Microsoft has chosen to make things more difficult in the world of email publishing. Kiss that CSS goodbye, publishers and developers. Welcome to 1999.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Kiss Your CSS Goodbye With Outlook 2007
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  • Neo Politicus

    Security concerns? What have you been smoking. If security were the problem, the answer  would be to make IE secure.

    This is just another of Microsoft’s attempts to control the desktop – more sick egomaniacal paranoia from Bill and his minions.

  • Guest

    Instead of creating fake accounts, you should try: www.litmusapp.com
    It tests across most email clients and browsers.

    good luck!

  • http://www.freeflash.co.in Free Flash Tutorial

    Thank you for sharing this information. I found it very needful for me. Wonderful job.

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