Microsoft Downgrading E-mail Support for CSS

I ran across this blog post today from Campaign Monitor about how Microsoft is taking email design back 5 years. Microsoft Outlook 2007 was released yesterday as part of Microsoft Office 2007, which is being released at the same time as Windows Vista, Microsoft’s new operating system.

According to the blog post, Outlook is going from using the Internet Explorer rendering engine to using the Microsoft Word rendering engine to display e-mails. The reasoning behind this is that Outlook uses Word to compose e-mails. Using Word to display e-mails ensures that the e-mail will look the same across all versions of Outlook 2007. Smart, huh?

Calling this colossal stupidity on Microsoft’s part is an understatement. Although it doesn’t surprise me in the least. Microsoft is not known for their support of standards. This genius move ensures that using CSS based layout for e-mail design will make it break in Outlook 2007 due to lack of support for any CSS except inline styles.

If you are an e-mail designer, you need to read the article to find out how this will affect you. In short, it looks like table based layout will be the way to go to ensure your e-mail will display properly in Outlook 2007.

After thinking about it though, it may not be as bad as it seems, for a while anyway. Most users of Microsoft Office will not upgrade right away. Those that do may not even use Outlook. I don’t use it, but I do use Office. The downside is that Microsoft has ensured that this will continue for years to come. Because when people do eventually upgrade, they will get Office 2007, even if it takes years.