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Update on FixOutlook.org campaign

Last week I mentioned that the Email Standards Project has started a website (FixOutlook.org) and a twitter campaign to pressure Microsoft to use a HTML compliant rendering engine for Outlook. Currently Outlook uses the HTML engine in MS Word and that engine is not fully compliant with of the HTML standards as published by W3C.org.
Microsoft did reply to the FixOutlook.org campaign on the MSDN Developer blog. The money quote, which they bolded for emphasis in the original post:

There is no widely-recognized consensus in the industry about what subset of HTML is appropriate for use in e-mail for interoperability.

The thing is, if Microsoft had built a compliant HTML rendering engine into Word, it wouldn’t matter which subset the Outlook developers wanted to implement, everything would all render correctly.
This point was more eloquently made by the Email Standards Project in their reply to Microsoft.

[W]e are in no way advocating that Microsoft shift from using Word to create or render HTML emails. We’re asking that the HTML produced by the Word engine be standards compliant. This in turn will ensure that the engine will correctly render standards-based emails.

As anyone who has attempted to export a Word document to HTML knows, the Word HTML engine is horribly non-compliant and generates HTML that even Internet Explorer renders wrong sometimes. There are a number of programs out there that convert Word HTML to W3C compliant, readable HTML. Sadly, Microsoft has never seemed to have any interest in writing a correct HTML engine for Word.

2 comments

  1. jennifer says

    Are you (or anyone) able to suggest or recommend any of those programs that convert Word HTML to W3C compliant HTML and do you find that email marketers (like very small design companies or those DIYers) have used these succesfully?

  2. steve says

    jennifer, demoroniser at http://www.fourmilab.ch/webtools/demoroniser/ is one of the classic tools that attempts to fix up Word HTML output.
    It’s written in perl, so it’ll run on pretty much any system (with a bit more effort on Windows) and would be fairly easy to integrate into a design company or ESP workflow. It cleans up some of the more problematic issues (like smart quotes and invalid HTML). The end result is usually still invalid HTML, but tends to render a lot better than unmodifed Word output.
    There are several other tools, online and for purchase, that’ll do much the same thing, some better, many worse.
    Much, much better though is to not use Word to generate HTML at all – it’s just the wrong tool for it. http://webdesign.about.com/od/htmleditors/tp/aatpfreewyswin.htm has links to several free HTML editors for Windows that might be worth a look.

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