On Word & Outlook 2007…


In past versions, Outlook actually used two rendering engines – IE’s for reading content, and Word for editing when you were composing messages. What this meant was that if you were replying or forwarding HTML emails, previous versions of Outlook would first use IE’s rendering engine to view it, then would have to switch over to the compose engine (Word).


This wasn’t an ideal experience for customers, as the content people created often looked different to the recipient receiving it – like the formatting would be slightly off, or things wouldn’t appear as they had when the message was in “compose” mode. Added to that, one of the big things we heard in designing Outlook 2007 was that our customers wanted the rich editing tools they were used to from Word. As great as IE7 is, it was never designed to be an editing tool for text.


On their end, the Word team had been making advancements of their own in how Word 2007 handled HTML content, based on HTML and CSS standards. So we made the decision to unify the rendering and editing engine in Outlook by using Word’s engine.


While there are some HTML and CSS attributes that aren’t currently supported by Word’s rendering engine, the capabilities that our customers most wanted for their HTML newsletters are supported by Outlook 2007.


See msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa338200.aspx and msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa338201.aspx for more details on what HMTL and CSS standards are and aren’t supported. 


Another great reference is this whitepaper describing the new Word integration into Outlook: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook/HA102109301033.aspx.

Comments (6)

  1. Sue Mosher says:

    Michael, thanks for pointing out the Word editor whitepaper, which I hadn’t seen before.

    What we need now is a similar document for Outlook developers to detail what WordMail-related behavior no longer works at all in Outlook 2007 (e.g. context menus from Document.CommandBars), what WordMail-related behavior has to be heavily modified to work in Outlook 2007 (e.g. almost anything related to IsWordMail), what basic Word editor features work only when Word 2007 is installed (e.g. Selection.GoTo). So far, it’s only through trial and error that we’re finding out what works and what doesn’t. The only comprehensive advice I can give to other developers is to test everything with and without Word 2007 installed and expect to have to rewrite any legacy code that uses Word objects or IsWordMail.

  2. BA says:

    This IMO is really a step back for standards based email creation.

    You have pretty much insured that marketing will have to continue creating html newsletters in html 3.2 to ensure compatibility.

    So now it’s not AOL that is holding the world back — It’s Microsoft.

  3. Ron says:

    "This wasn’t an ideal experience for customers, as the content people created often looked different to the recipient receiving it – like the formatting would be slightly off, or things wouldn’t appear as they had when the message was in “compose” mode."

    Isn’t that the whole idea of improving Word’s HTML capabilities? If Word 07 has improved (albeit limited) support for HTML and CSS then why shouldn’t IE be able to render the output more accurately than before?

    The last thing I want to do is go back in time and start using tables instead of divs again.

    Why even use HTML at all? If Word is being used to write and view these emails, then why not just forget HTML altogether?

    Here is what your customers are saying now:

    http://digg.com/software/Microsoft_Takes_Email_Design_Back_Five_Years

    http://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/archives/2007/01/microsoft_takes_email_design_b.html

  4. Jason Gilmore says:

    Hi Michael,

    Was searching for more information about this very matter today, so quite a coincidence its the subject of your latest blog post.

    I’ve been using Outlook 2007 for about a month now, and for the most part I really like it. However, there’s one aspect that is driving me (and I suspect many others) absolutely crazy: I want Outlook to automatically render every single incoming email as plaintext unless I otherwise override that default after opening the email. This was possible in previous versions of Outlook, however it no longer appears to be the case.

    Can you share any information regarding how I can make this happen?

    Thank you!

    Jason

  5. ... says:

    mmm.. nice design, I must say..

  6. ... says:

    luogo grande:) nessun osservazioni!