Outlook 2007

There was a big scare yesterday when someone saw a blog article saying that Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 uses the HTML parsing and rendering engine from Microsoft Office Word 2007 to display HTML message bodies. The blog stated that this could take email design back 5 years.

This is the original blog post

We maybe not…in fact quite doubtfully! (If that’s a word?)

This move from Microsoft will just force people to adhere the html and emailing conventions that the industry has been trying to spread.
There are still many confusions about xhtml and now html emails are taking off matter have been getting worse.
The way it’s always been:
External Style sheets sre stricly a no go,
Absolutely no javascript – internal or external.
Style tags in the html is not the end of the word.
Absolutley no CSS positioning, everything should be in line. Which would mean using tables to structure the email.

The problem with this is that web page conventions in the last three years has pretty much abandoned tables and started using css positioning instead. Then the html email revolution starts and people making web pages are being asked to make emails cos they think it is now the same!!!

The defintative Email Marketing Newsletter: No Man’s an Island Email Marketing Reports newsletter for 29/01/2007 – Now sponsored by Pure. Had this to say:

Microsoft themselves published an article describing the various things that Outlook 2007 will not be able to cope with. These include:

  • Forms
  • Background images
  • Animated GIFs
  • Flash
  • Float or position commands
  • Alt tags in images

In a nutshell, this places a lot of restrictions on email design. Needless to say, email designers are not happy.

The fires of protest first sparked into flame via an article in Sitepoint’s newsletter. This led to a now-famous blog post by David Greiner, with the memorable title “Microsoft takes email design back 5 years.”

Our most knowledgeable leader and Technical Director, Mr Mark Hla had this to say:
As always with these things, it’s best to read several articles to get a balanced view. Having read this article, the Microsoft supported CSS document and a pro-Microsoft partner website, I would put forward the following:

1. This change has been forced upon Microsoft due to the legal issues of making their other software dependant on Internet Explorer.
2. CSS are supported, but only a sub-set. We would generally recommend that clients keep their use of CSS to a minimum anyway, and the basic elements are still available for use.
3. This change is accompanied by a “this is what you’ll see” type application that can be plugged into one of a handful of HTML editing applications. It may be beneficial for some clients who send to a large number of Outlook uses (i.e. B-2-B).

I would recommend allocating some of Ash’s time to review the following article and provide advice for clients on what CSS elements they can and cannot use, and indeed if there is any change to our advice.”

This is the Microsoft knowledge page

There is no panic about this, it will just force everyone to create best practice emails

2 responses to “Outlook 2007

  1. The verdict from Email Labs Warning! Outlook 2007 Might Trash HTML AgainStefan Pollard – Feb 5, 2007So, you think you have ironed out all the kinks in your HTML formatting, now that you’ve had it tested and validated and checked and rechecked for spam content, bad code and email-client incompatibility?Sorry, it’s time to go back to the drawing board again. Outlook 2007, the newest version of Microsoft’s business-leading email client, will make your HTML formatting either disappear or look extremely ugly. If you haven’t spoken with your email designer lately, you’d better email them this article and look at our suggestions for getting around this new challenge to proper email rendering.Essentially, what’s happening is that Outlook 2007 will no longer use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer engine to render HTML. Outlook now uses IE to read content in HTML messages and switches over to its sister Office program Word to compose messages. Outlook 2007 no longer uses IE, apparently because some layman users were finding inconsistencies between IE and Word.Instead, it will use an updated version of Word to both render and compose. The issue is that designers are finding problems with the way Word handles, or more accurately doesn’t handle, high-function design element such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), background images, and rich media.The Real Outlook 2007 Challenge: Creative or Marketing?Because the Outlook email client is used by 50% to 80% of business email users, any changes to it makes email designers, marketers and publishers nervous, especially those in business-to-business marketing.When Microsoft announced quietly late in 2006 (via developer articles) that it was replacing IE with Word, email designers flooded industry blogs with protests over the loss of HTML functionality. The greatest howls came from email designers who had evolved attractive, functional messages using CSS. Outlook 2007 will have limited support for CSS.However, email-marketing specialists have been more temperate. They argue that Outlook 2003, which expanded default image blocking and link disabling, was far more damaging to marketing efforts and forced marketers to adapt to the kind of streamlined HTML design that will perform acceptably in Outlook 2007.A Critical Change: Loss of ‘Alt’ TagsWhether Outlook 2007 is truly a game-changing event or merely puts a crimp in creative email design is about to be seen, but it will affect even HTML-light email messages and make it more important either to streamline your HTML design or to offer an attractive text alternative.The most critical loss, however, is something that appears relatively minor: Outlook 2007 will no longer support the use of “alt” tags, which provide a few words of text to describe an image and which appear when the image is disabled.Although it appears minor, this is actually a pretty serious loss of function. Alt tags help give meaning in an email where images are disabled, because you can use the few words of text in the alt tag to either describe the image, the offer it represents or the action you want the reader to take when the image itself doesn’t render.Losing that function combined with images disabled by default will hurt email design that relies heavily on images. If that describes your email templates, you will need to rework your templates again.Here are the other functions Outlook 2007 will no longer support: * Forms * Background images * Animated GIFs * Flash * CSS Float or position commandsUnless your ROI reports show conclusively that your program success depends on either having a form embedded in each email message or that an animated image really does drive response or conversions, you should consider lightening up your HTML use to accommodate Outlook 2007 users.Doing this may give you an unexpected bonus as well: Your delivery, open and response rates may go up as well because you’ll have fewer elements that will either break in an email client or trigger a spam filter.How to Respond to Outlook 2007 ChangesFirst, don’t push the panic button or order a wholesale revision of your HTML templates.The new Outlook is scheduled to be released this month (February 2007). It will take time for the new version to migrate from early adopters to the broader audience of general users.Second, if you have already had your HTML formatting audited or validated, or if you have streamlined the design in the last year, you might not have to worry. The Word rendering engine will either read your message just fine or alter it so little as to have almost no impact.And, if you have already reworked your templates to accommodate default image blocking and link disabling as well as preview-pane use (see the resource list at the bottom of this article), you’ve done most of the work to manage any damage Outlook 2007 could inflict.How to Counteract Outlook 2007 ChangesIf you have already reworked your email templates to create a lighter, faster HTML format, you’ve already done much of the heavy lifting.Here are five steps you can take to accommodate the reduced functionality expected in Outlook 2007:1. Create a text version or rework and streamline your current text edition.Your email program should create a text version of your HTML message automatically, but you should review it for readability and appearance. Some text creators merely dump all the text into a document. While you don’t have the same graphic devices that make HTML so attractive and easy to read, you can still use white space and typography to create an easy-to-read text message.2. Test rendering in Outlook 2007.Test all email templates, including HTML, text, newsletters, stand-along mailings and transactional emails, by opening a test email message in Outlook 2007 to see how it will render.3. Review your use of HTML across all mailings: reduce your reliance on CSS and other high-function elements or create an HTML-light version that does not use them.This is a key part of any email design program regardless of Outlook 2007’s expected impact. Validate your HTML code using the free WC3.org validator service, which you’ll find in our Resource Center.4. Reduce reliance on large images to display products or drive response.Large images have become problematic anyway since they take up most of the space in an HTML message and leave relatively little room for text. And, with the greater use of image disabling, putting all your information into one big image means your readers won’t see a thing if they view it with images blocked or in the email client’s preview pane.5. Use EmailLabs’ “Complete Guide for Creating HTML Emails: Technical and Design Best Practices” to examine and rework HTML formatting.This free downloadable guide, which you can access on our site, explains the technical side of HTML formatting in easy-to-understand language and will give your designers the tools they need to craft a compelling yet rendering-savvy message template. Find it here: http://www.emaillabs.com/reports/emaillabs_html_email_guide.htmlIn SummaryThe changes coming in Outlook 2007 will affect designers primarily, with the email community divided over just how much of a negative impact it will have on email-marketing messages. If you have already revised your email templates to cope with the more far-reaching changes imposed in Outlook 2003 and other updated email clients, including preview panes and default image blocking and link disabling, your HTML design might need only some minor tweaks. If you have not updated your HTML formatting for a year, or if you do not offer an HTML-light or text version messages, now is the time to go back to the drawing board and streamline your format.

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  2. Lyris Markets Outlook 2007 SupportOutlook 2007 includes a number of changes that may significantly impact HTML emails. In particular, advanced email design elements such as Cascading Style Sheets, background images, and rich media such as javascript, flash, and animated GIFs may render incorrectly in the new version of Outlook.EmailAdvisor’s Inbox Snapshot feature provides a preview of how HTML emails sent to different email clients will render in each of those clients, helping email marketers and email designers address rendering issues before they send the email to their entire list. Currently, more than 50 major email clients are supported including the newly added Outlook 2007.“We know how important it is for email marketers to know that their emails will render correctly when they arrive in the inbox. That’s why we worked quickly to integrate Outlook 2007 into our EmailAdvisor toolset, so that our customers can send out their email campaigns with confidence,” states Dave Dabbah, Director of Marketing at Lyris.

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