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Microsoft Banishes IE HTML Renderer from Outlook

I was shocked to learn that Microsoft has torn the IE rendering engine out of the Outlook 2007 e-mail client. Going forward, HTML e-mails will be rendered using the rendering engine in Microsoft Word.

The move could have security implications, since it takes the well-targeted IE browser out of the loop. But Microsoft says the move is really an effort to unify the display and creation of rich e-mail content. Until now, Outlook has displayed HTML e-mail using the IE renderer, but rich format e-mails were created using the Word rendering engine.

Says a Microsoft spokesperson: "While IE7 is great, it was never intended to be an editing tool. That's why we made the decision to use Word's new HTML rendering engine for both reading and authoring content, which had been improved based on HTML and CSS standards. This allowed us to unify the rendering and editing engines together, rather than forcing customers using Outlook to use two different rendering engines (one for rendering HTML, the other for editing)."

Of course, a lot of businesses are unhappy about losing functionality.
The Word engine doesn't recognize Cascading Style Sheets, and display features like page background are unrecognized. That means more work for e-mail designers and Web developers, who may need to dumb their layouts down so everything looks consistent across Outlook 2007, older versions of Outlook, as well as various browsers.

I want to hear your thoughts on this one! Do you think Microsoft is making a mistake by pulling the IE rendering engine? Do you think this is a sign that Redmond is really putting security first? Or maybe it's a sign that e-mail should be plain text, and plain text only. Speak up and we may feature your answers in our next issue. E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 01/17/2007

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