A notorious subject in whole, all W3C-capable newsletter coders must be familiar with Outlook support for open standards. To make it short, it looks like the bubble of Microsoft's long-praised work towards standards compliance is threatening to burst.

While testing one of the latest newsletters coded at Flashbit, Microsoft Outlook 2007 was also tested to see if there are any developments in supporting the design that is

  • CSS 2.1
  • Tableless

a list on which some of you are surely having a grin on your face already. Unfortunately quite rightly.

The design of the newsletter was as simple and straightforward as possible with 2 fixed floating columns in between 1-column header and footer:

The above design validated against XHTML 1.1 Strict / CSS 2.1 and rendered flawlessly on:

The email itself with the above validated XHTML / CSS was encoded and delivered using Mail_Mime / Mail of PEAR and rendered flawlessly on:

  • GMail
  • Outlook Express
  • Apple Mail
  • Mozilla Thunderbird

As every single style definition was hard-coded into the element stack, the newsletter displayed nicely even on the majority of webmail suites that were tested. Yet again, in Microsoft Outlook 2007 the picture was following:

Just a glance shows that Outlook fails to render:

  1. CSS floats;
  2. Width of floated elements;
  3. Unordered lists with borders and header child nodes (note the split 5px border on the left edge);
  4. Blocked anchor borders (dotted bottom border);
  5. Image alignment directives (vertical-align, note the list with image squares and following text misaligned to the bottom).

All of the above is pretty basic stuff which leads to a staggering question: is Microsoft's idea of an email in 2008 heading us back to the era of size-critical emails that only had an image followed by a text-plain message? Or the one that only consisted of 1 image? Some still send it these days but in most cases they end up in Junk mail.

Another staggering matter is that GMail renders it all incredibly well and leaves Microsoft's highly praised email suite far behind:

From the developer side, here's the ultimate question for Microsoft heads: why isn't Microsoft Outlook still not using Internet Explorer's rendering engine? Apple Mail uses KHTML, Thunderbird uses Gecko. Too many flaws for the leading corporate email suite?

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