Sunday, February 25, 2007

The outlook on Outlook

I was at a meeting last week with a client, listening to some tech people talk about tech stuff, when someone said something that threw me for a loop.
In brief, he was explaining the problem that Microsoft's Outlook 2007 was causing with email newsletters. And I, who likes to think of himself as fairly well versed in everything that's happening in online media, had no idea what he was talking about.

I asked a few questions. And later I did a search to see who had the scoop. And it turns out that a) there is a problem; b) B2B publishers need to be aware of it; and c) I need to do a better job of keeping track of things. Because I found a fair amount of information about this subject in some of the dozens of RSS feeds that I've failed to read in the past few very busy weeks.

The problem, as near as I can tell, is that Microsoft made a very strange, Microsoft-centered decision -- changing the rendering engine in Outlook to Word. The result is that email newsletters that use CSS just don't look the way they should.

The tech folks that I spoke with seem to think this is a temporary problem. The assumption is that Microsoft will change its policy and that things will be fine again soon. But I'm not convinced. So I'm going to keep worrying.
At the same time, I don't think this is anything worth panicking about just yet. Outlook 2007 isn't in wide use -- yet. And there are things that designers can do to resolve the problem. Although to be clear, those changes involve doing things that many publishers will not want to do -- like not using Flash or background colors.
For some advice on how to alter your newsletters to work with Outlook 2007, check out this post from Karen Gedney.

For more on this issue, check out what Kevin Yank has to say.
For an earlier post of mine about the shortcomings of email newsletters, click here.

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