Microsoft misses the Outlook point

Microsoft misses the Outlook point

Summary: Ask designers which mail program is the bane of their existence, and you'll find that Outlook tops the list. The reason why the most popular email reader is also the most painful is simple: it uses Word to render HTML emails.


Ask designers which mail program is the bane of their existence, and you'll find that Outlook tops the list. The reason why the most popular email reader is also the most painful is simple: it uses Word to render HTML emails — and Word does a very poor rendering job.

Continuing a decision made in 2007 to render HTML with Word in Outlook, Microsoft confirmed that Outlook 2010 will also use Word. In response to this decision, the campaign was created in an attempt to change Microsoft's mind.

Microsoft responded to the campaign with a blog post that sadly misses the point of the campaign. Instead of responding to the concerns of the Twitter folk, the post goes to lengths to explain the benefits of composing in Word.

As one poor sap that has had to create HTML email in the past, Outlook's treatment of HTML is a weight tied to the ankle of any designer or developer that steps into email. Lovers and overusers of divs and CSS need not apply as you will be returned to a world of tables and font tags that one previously tried to escape.

The Redmond giant correctly points out that an email marketing firm had set-up this campaign and that the Email Standards Project is not an industry body; however, the campaign has tapped into the latent issues surrounding Outlook and as Microsoft continues to hide behind the "Outlook plays well with Outlook" mantra, it will not win any friends.

Rather than move the state-of-the-art forward, Microsoft has decided to continue applying the handbrake and hopes you enjoy the stationary experience.

Topics: Collaboration, Microsoft


Chris started his journalistic adventure in 2006 as the Editor of Builder AU after originally joining CBS as a programmer. After a Canadian sojourn, he returned in 2011 as the Editor of TechRepublic Australia, and is now the Australian Editor of ZDNet.

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  • MS never listens

    There are some authors suggesting that MS is listening to its customers and using W7 to substantiate their stores. However, dissatisfaction with Outlook and MS refusing to make changes it yet another example of how MS does NOT listen to customers. Another clear example is Vista Ultimate. Remember the promised specials and extras? They've never materialised and at this point in times it seems that they never will. MS does what it wants and is utterly contemptible of its customers!
  • Yawn...

    As opposed to say, apple for instance who REFUSES to listen to anything its customers wants and just force feeds them what apple tells them they want and the customers rejoice and to this day still have to put up with single button mice and using keyboard shortcuts to do tasks which every other computer user on the planet can quickly and easily do with a regular mouse. Coz only having a single button is a desirable 'feature' and not a drawback at all. And lets not get into how long it took them to add cut'n'paste to the iPhonie, something that all other smartphones have been doing for almost a decade.

    The one thing MS is very good at is retaining compatibility with pretty much everything. One big reason they make these odd choices is that if they suddenly dropped in a brand new rendering engine it would break a lot of applications and services.
    This is their curse and also their key selling point. I'm sure most of the microsoft gang would dearly love to reset everything and build a new OS and their office suite from scratch, but in doing so they'd anger pretty much every company that currently uses their systems.
  • Typical

    Typical distraction. The article is about MS, not Apple nor anyone else.
  • What about attachments

    Outlook continues to package attachments in MS-TNEF ("winmail.dat") bundles if it thinks they contain any metadata that might need to be preserved. It doesn't attach this additional metadata as a separate file that can be ignored by unaware or uninterested clients, but instead encapsulates the whole attachment in their bizarre format so mail readers other than Outlook just see a single "winmail.dat" attachment to the email.

    Who cares about HTML email formatting when it's doing this kind of bizarre email butchery.
  • What "customers"?

    @Peter T - I'm not entirely convinced that this is about MS "customer" complaints. As near as I can tell, it is about what people who use email as the medium to direct market to MS customers want. Not surprisingly, they are employing Twitter marketing pretty well in this campaign, too. @Craig Ringer, as an exchange admin, I have to tell you that if you are still seeing winmail.dat attachments on this side of the millenium, either someone's using a really, really old version or their Exchange settings are wrong.
  • @Yawn

    "One big reason they make these odd choices is that if they suddenly dropped in a brand new rendering engine it would break a lot of applications and services."

    This may be true but vendor lockin has a higher requirement. By using MS Word it also limits the user in thier choice of alternatives.
  • Dear Mr plain text dude

    So your saying ZDNet's Tech News Bulletin is spam? I think not. Since the release of Outlook 2007, Microsoft made the creation of visually appealing communication that much more diffucult.
  • You were doing well until...

    You mentioned the single mouse button. Ignorance is such bliss. Apple ships a 5 button mouse with all desktop machines, and their machines have supported multiple button mice for at least a decade.

    But, that said, Apple laptops still only have one button. But hey have a look and laugh at how we Apple users are restrained by just one button.
  • I was doing well until...

    I screwed up the the address. I must have got confused with the 5 button mouse I'm using.
  • multi

    Supporting a multiple button mouse is a lot different from actually shipping one. They DO NOT ship multi-button mice with any of the consumer hardware. Having multiple touch areas on a mouse is *NOT* the same as multiple physical buttons, why the hell should I have to physically lift my index finger off the left sensor in order for the right sensor to register a click?? Everyone else just uses microswitches, but of course the almighty apple has to do it differently and in a more complex way.

    I use a mac and a PC at home, and EVERYTHING takes longer to do on it and with more keystrokes/clicks. How on earth apple can still claim their stuff is easier is completely beyond my comprehension. Sure, the 'drag your app to the application folder to install it' seems easy, but its a pain to have to have multiple windows open and have NO input to the way an app is installed or where its icon ends up etc compared to the simple 'double-click and follow the instructions' you get with windows.
  • So what

    Frankly I don't care what email (always spam) marketing agencies want to send me.

    If I care about the newsletter and it doesn't format properly, I click the link and view it in a web browser.

    This is a campaign to generate leads for a email (always spam) marketing company, nothing more.
  • I feel that you are making things harder for yourself

    First of all, the Apple Mighty Mouse which ships with all desktop Mac's is a 5 button mouse. Whether you like that mouse is personal. You can always buy any mouse you want, even a Microsoft one.

    As for the Trackpad, there are 4 or 5 ways you can activate a right click. Just set up the one which is right for you. I use my middle finger as my main cursor movement and single click finger. Then just drop my index finger clicking at the same time to right click. Works a treat.

    As for installing software. When you drag and drop install to the applications folder, you are then free to do what you want. You can create an alias on the desktop or you can drag the icon to the dock. Assuming you are using 10.5 you can drag your applications folder to the right side of the dock, set it up to open as a grid, then you have a display of all your apps, or the folders that they may be in. Set it up as a list and it is just like Windows Start Menu.

    Remember, also, that Applications that are drag and drop installs, can be installed anywhere as they are self contained.

    As for having many windows open, that's what Exposé and Spaces and are for. Far more control than Windows gives. Snow Leopard will bring even more functionality for that.

    I suggest you probably need to experiment some more. That said some people are just more comfortable with Windows. We're all different.m
  • MS, HTML & Outlook etc etc

    After 25 years of Microsoft I finally moved to an iMac and now use web mail only. Why didn't I do this sooner. It all just works.
  • Outlook, Tracking Attachments

    hmm.... I had a problem when trying to track back on some email threads (for a corporate investigation). A HTML email sent with attachments by Outlook has NO record of what files were sent.

    I instructed our staff to send the attachments as RTF (then at least the file names will appear in the original email and hence throughout the thread).

    When our co. used Lotus Notes, we could delete or save attachments and the file names would be inserted into the email.

    Is there more going on with Outook and HTML and RTF emails? I certainly do NOT like the way Outlook works.
  • Stretch

    Only issue I have with MS is disk fragmentation. It invokes a massive adminstrative overhead from home user to corporate network. I thought that with Linux EXT FS3 now being so mainstream this would provide MS with an audible cue to dispense with a convulatable file system. All MS are doing is forcing patent agreements on vendors, one of which protects their FS.