Outlook 2007 and HTML Email

While I finish up a real, actual-content entry, just wantedto add a quick post regarding the online rage and fury over Microsoft’s decision to “downsize” the HTMLrendering capabilities of Outlook 2007.

Microsoft, you see, learned a bitter lesson from their prioroutings, where they integrated Internet Explorer as the renderingengine of Outlook: that browser’s huge featureset brought a richtapestry of rendering capabilities, but it also opened the emailclient to many unnecessary vectors of attack and abuse.

And it was attacked. And it was certainly abused(they made that easy with the built in stationary…) Not tomention that it coupled Outlook with a wholly unrelatedproduct.

So in this outing Outlook 2007 instead uses Word 2007– its partner product, now with a robust document engineitself given that it’s all about documents — as the enginefor not only authoring documents, but also for rendering.

Divorce papers in hand, Internet Explorer has gone its ownway.

It turns out that quite a few Spammers and “we can’t get youto visit our crappy webpage so instead we’ll keep sending you ourwebpage in its entirety” Lesser Spammers areenraged about this, screaming bloodymurder. They need their ability to set backgroundgraphics, embed Flash, and use fringe, completely and utterlyunnecessary for emails CSS elements to richly mark-upemail.

No, actually, they don’t.

99 times out of 100, or thereabouts, every feature missing wasonly uses to spam and to abuse. Reducing the palette of annoyance,bringing email closer to its purpose, is a very,very good thing. Microsoft definitely made theright choice, and they’ve hardly been secretive about it: Theyeven havetools to test your layout for compliance.

And don’t believe the FUD: I’ve been using Outlook 2007 as myprimary email client for a couple of months, and the few HTMLformatted messages (e.g. Audible.com, FutureShop.com, etc) comethrough with perfect, or close-enough to perfect, fidelity. Seeingsome overblown, worst-case example where someone intentionallydidn’t download the images(*) on the Outlook 2007 side just proveshow weak of a complaint they really have.

* – All recent Outlooks, by default, don’t download images inemails until you specifically ask it to. They do this because saidimages can be given unique URLs specific to you, and if the emailclient auto-downloaded them spammers would instantly knowthat your account is live, and can track emails as they areforwarded on.