The news that Microsoft Outlook 2007 is to use the HTML / CSS rendering engine of Microsoft Word rather than that of Internet Explorer 7 has caused quite a fuss.  The issue is that the rendering engine of Microsoft Word is cripples so that it won’t fully render CSS, this means that HTML emails will run in to limitations like:

  1. No background images – Background images in divs and table cells are gone.
  2. Poor background color support – Give a div or table cell a background color, add some text to it and the background color displays fine. Nest another table or div inside though and the background color vanishes.
  3. No support for float or position – Completely breaking any CSS based layouts right from the word go. Tables only.
  4. Shocking box model support – Very poor support for padding and margin

HTML email and specifically newsletters have become increasingly popular (in spite of email purists who insist that email should be plain text only).  With the rollback of useable features to those available 5 years ago, email design is taking a hit.  David Greiner over at has a few ideas as to why Microsoft may have taken this decision, but as you can see on his blog none of these really makes sense.

Windows Live Mail (the replacement for Hotmail) confuses the issue even more with partial CSS support!