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This article will take a close look at a number of issues that some of our email customers have encountered regarding compatibility issues with your HTML email creatives and Outlook 2007. We will offer some useful tips on the best way to format your emails to combat these issues.

Microsoft’s® latest version of Outlook utilizes Microsoft® Word to render HTML emails. Unfortunately, Word offers limited support of HTML and CSS, due to the potential security flaws that could occur by rendering HTML emails in Internet Explorer 7.

Fortunately, there are formatting tweaks you can employ to address this. The upside is that making your HTML email Outlook 2007 compatible can decrease the chances that it will end up in a recipient’s junk folder. The downside is that you may have to change the way in which you approach formatting parts of your emails, thereby impacting the look and feel of your creatives. Below is a list of key items to look out for, and possible alternatives that are Outlook 2007 compatible.

– Background images – Background images will not display in Outlook 2007. This can leave a big, unintended void in your email. You should avoid using background images altogether. Whenever possible, you should use inline image tags instead. If you feel you must use a background image, set an appropriate background color to fill in for the potentially missing image. If you have text overlaying a background image, you can edit the image to include the text and use an image map for any links.
– Division tags – “Div” tags are not fully supported in Outlook 2007. Some of the more commonly used attributes that have been omitted are: float, clear, position, and padding. Without these attributes, positioning with div tags is virtually impossible. Instead, you should control the positioning of your email with a standard table.
– Forms – Forms are not supported in Outlook 2007. Outlook 2007 recipients will not be able to submit any forms embedded in an email. If you wish to give recipients the option to fill out a form, place a link to an online version of it within the email.
– Flash & JavaScript – It is recommended that you do not attempt to utilize Flash or Javascript on your HTML emails, due to their lack of support in email browsers (including Outlook 2007) and the fact that some filters will tag emails that contain Flash or JavaScript code. Also, most email readers will automatically disable this content as a security measure.
– Bulleted list with images – While both ordered and unordered lists are fully supported, lists that use images as bullets instead of standard bullets are not. If you need to use an image for your bullet points, one possible solution is to put your list into a two column table, using the left-hand column to place your bullets.
– Animated GIFs – Animated GIFs will not animate in Outlook 2007. The image will appear, but only the first frame of the animation will be displayed.
– Alt tags – Alt tags are also not supported. This is the text that is shown when an image does not load upon opening an email. However, most email readers do support alt tags, and there is no adverse effect to having them in your Outlook 2007 compatible email (other than the fact that they will not display,) so you can continue to include these in your emails if you wish.
– Table definitions – As we detailed above, Outlook 2007 renders HTML emails in Microsoft® Word, which is very sensitive to extra <tr> or <td> tags and does not adjust well to poorly sized tables. Previous Outlook versions would open emails in Internet Explorer, which is very forgiving of poor table definitions. You should ensure that your table definitions are correct and that the data you are placing inside the table fits properly within the defined table width.

In addition to the tips above, Microsoft® has also provided an HTML and CSS Validator that can be used in:

Microsoft® Office SharePoint Designer 2007
Microsoft® Expression Web
Microsoft® Visual Studio 2005
Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004
Macromedia Dreamweaver 8

This tool can assist you in identifying portions of your HTML source code that may not adhere to Outlook 2007’s standards. You can download the appropriate version here.

By following the above tips, you will be able to address most of the known compatibility issues posed by Outlook 2007. To view a full listing of HTML and CSS rendering capabilities in Outlook 2007, you can go to Microsoft’s® webpage for more information.

For more information on Applied Info Group’s database and email marketing service capabilities, please contact Mitch Rubin, President of Applied Info Group at (908) 241-7007. Visit www.appliedinfogroup.com to learn more.

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Cascading style sheets (CSS) are utilized by many web designers to simplify their design process and maintain a consistent style throughout a site. However, as useful as they are in the web design environment, they are equally troublesome when designing HTML for use in an email campaign.

Many email clients, including free providers such as Yahoo, Hotmail, and Gmail, will not render style sheets correctly, or will just strip them out completely. This is especially true for linked style sheets, where the creative attempts to load the style definitions from a hosted style sheet on your server. Embedded style sheets are almost just as troublesome, although some users have reported having better luck defining their style sheets between the body tags, as opposed to the common practice of defining them between the head tags, since many email clients will truncate or strip out the header.

We strongly recommend that you avoid using style sheets wherever possible for email campaigns. If you for some reason must use defined styles, try utilizing inline styles. This means that, instead of defining the style once in a stylesheet and referencing it as needed, you would need to define the style to every instance you want it to apply to.

Example

Using Style Sheets:

<p class=”Header”>Header Text</a>

Using Inline Styles:

<p style=”font-size:14px; color: #ff9900″>

While this is obviously a less powerful solution in the standard web design environment, this more explicit per-instance definition can work across more email platforms than a standard style sheet and make it more likely that the target audience of your email campaign is seeing your creative in the style that you intended.

For more information on Applied Info Group’s database and email marketing service capabilities, please contact Mitch Rubin, President of Applied Info Group at 908-241-7007. Visit www.appliedinfogroup.com to learn more.

Applied Info Group Website

About Applied Info Group

To communicate effectively with today’s customers, marketers need the advanced level email delivery and database solutions offered by Applied Info Group. Our extensive knowledge of direct and email marketing, state-of-the-art technology, and superior service enables you to fully utilize all database assets.

By delivering customized, effective postal and email marketing communications, you improve the efficiency and results of your marketing programs. Our secure web-based reporting, campaign tracking, and advanced query systems allow you to access your data at any time, in real time, helping you to make critical decisions on your time.
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