Yes, I Think Outlook Needs to be Fixed

by Joey deVilla on June 24, 2009

Microsoft logo with Evil Monkey from "Family Guy"This would be a very good time to remind you, the Gentle Reader, that Global Nerdy is my personal tech blog and that the opinions expressed within are mine and mine alone. They are not necessarily those of my employer, Microsoft Canada, nor its parent company, Microsoft Corporation, nor or any other Sith Lords, Stormtroopers, Family Guy monkeys or any other agents of evil in the employ of said organization.

You’ve probably heard the buzz in TechCrunch: Here’s how a properly-coded HTML email, where HTML is used for content and CSS is used for presentation, appears in the version of Outlook that came with Office 2000:

HTML email as rendered in the 2000 version of Microsoft Outlook. Nice.

And here’s the same HTML email, with the same properly-formatted HTML, as rendered by the current version, Outlook 2007. It uses Word as the rendering engine, and Word will be the rendering engine for the upcoming Outlook 2010:

HTML email as rendered in the 2007 (and eventually 2010) version of Microsoft Outlook. Broken.

I understand why the empire wants Word-Outlook interoperability, which is why Word was chosen to be the HTML rendering engine for Outlook. But Word’s HTML renderer isn’t standards-compliant, which is why Outlook renders HTML in such a janky way. Outlook relies on old tricks such as using HTML tables for layout and other non-recommended ways of building web pages. IE8 plays by the rules, why doesn’t Outlook?

In my opinion, this is wrong. It runs counter to the spirit of interoperability, the embrace of open source and the following of standards that has accompanied the “sea change” within Microsoft (and it’s this sea change that help solidify my decision to join the company). I believe that it is in both Microsoft’s and the industry’s best interests for The Empire to be more standards-compliant.

(Besides, I just came back from presenting at a “Building Accessible Web Sites” conference where I told the audience to write compliant HTML. Damn right I’m going to push for everyone – Microsoft included – to do just that!)

That’s why I’m encouraging you to sign the Twitter petition to fix Outlook’s HTML rendering at FixOutlook.org. Outlook 2010, along with the other parts of Office 2010, is in beta right now, and Microsoft is soliciting opinions. This is the time – tell them to fix Outlook!

Home page of the "Fix Outlook" site

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Mark Jaquith June 24, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Have I mentioned lately how happy I am that you’re working at Microsoft (and more importantly, in a capacity that allows you to shove pie in their face when appropriate) ? You make clear the chasm between advocate and cheerleader. Keep it up.

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