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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.
Drawing and Charting tools
Table and Formatting tools
Mini Toolbar for formatting
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
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.
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.
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.
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
"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.
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?
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.
Exactly what Travis said. A lot of people are unhappy about this.
Travis Bell pretty much said what I wanted to say.
So I'll thank him for stating my thoughts so clearly.
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 www.campaignmonitor.com/.../microsoft-takes-email-design-b and see if you can improve any of the issues raised in that blog post.
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?
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.
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,
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.
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?