Ben Scheirman

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Fix Outlook 2010

Use GMail?  Have you gotten an email from somebody that looks like this?

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They are likely using Outlook 2010.  So what’s the issue?  Well if you click the button to see the entire message, you see a fairly innocuous message.  Nothing really out of the ordinary.  But if you click on the drop down menu (next to the Reply button) and choose the option "Show Original”  You’ll see what the problem is:

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I was originally going to paste the HTML here for you to view, but it’s just too big.  It crashed Windows Live Writer.

Let’s put it into perspective.  If I were to send someone a letter with a simple request, it would likely take 1 page + envelope, etc.  Now imagine their response was over 1 thousand pages.  That’s how big the response is.  It’s almost a megabyte when pasted into Notepad2:

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Why is Outlook generating such a disgusting excuse for an email reply?  The answer lies in their decision to switch from the IE HTML rendering engine to the one found in Word.  That’s right, that horrid-HTML producing pile of software, Microsoft Word.

Why the switch?   According a blog post from CampaignMonitor:

When asked why Outlook is using Word to compose HTML emails, this was his response:

"The reason for this lies in the benefit Outlook users gain by having Word as their e-mail authoring tool; rich tools like SmartArt, automatic styles and templates, and other benefits found in Word 2007 and 2010 enable Outlook users to write professional looking and visually stunning messages."

"I am aware of where this decision on our part places Outlook from a standards perspective – at the same time, we ask that you consider the benefits Outlook users get from having Word tools in their e-mail authoring experience."

When asked why Word is also used to render HTML emails, Dev explained:

"Having multiple HTML engines could reduce performance, as well as create an inconsistency in terms of what type of content the user is able to create vs. consume."

Basically, Microsoft are using the Word rendering engine so emails composed in Outlook will look consistent when viewed by other Outlook users (also confirmed in this Microsoft white paper).

I sincerely hope that Microsoft decides to either fix the Word HTML engine to actually render markup worthy of the web (and your email inbox) OR to abandon the goal to get Smart Art, automatic-styling, and templates for Outlook 2010.

What can you do?

Glad you asked!  You can join the many thousands of others who are frustrated with this here:

http://www.fixoutlook.org/

I probably won’t be using Outlook 2010, however so many of my colleagues and clients do, so I’ll be forced to cope with this.  I actually think we have a better chance of Gmail filtering this crappy HTML before it hits your inbox than Microsoft to change its direction and likely delay Office 2010.  However, I’d love to be proven wrong.

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