I work in a large, 6000+ staff, company, and that explains why we’re only now migrating from Outlook 2003 to Outlook 2010. To be correct: the rollout will start in a few days, because the tests are still ongoing. And testing always pays ;-)
Indeed, an error was found: one of our oldest intranet applications became unusable. It’s an app that sends the data entered in an HTML form to the approver of the request. The email is HTML-formatted and includes a new HTML form with two buttons: “Agree” and “Decline”. Both buttons are supposed to send the form back to the app for further action… and those buttons do not show up in Outlook 2010, thus short-circuiting the workflow.
The cause of this problem is simple and well known. Microsoft says that Outlook 2010 supports HTML emails, but that isn’t true. It uses the core MS-Word engine to display and edit HTML, “because we believe it’s the best e-mail authoring experience around“. Unfortunately for the rest of us this means that we’re stuck with one of the worst HTML display engines: it has problems with CSS, with padding and margins, and it replaces some perfectly standard HTML tags (like
INPUT) with something else.
These problems aren’t new: the “Let’s Fix It” (*) website was built in 2009 to try and convince Microsoft to correct Outlook. And there are many blogposts, discussion forum messages, tweets, etc. that cry out about the annoyances Outlook 2007 and 2010 have generated (and continue to do so!). With IE8 and later, Microsoft at least made an effort to comply better with HTML standards – but the same company ignores those efforts for another, related product? Come on, guys…
Anyway, it turns out that there is a relatively simple bypass for our specific issue. When Outlook 2010 suspects that there may be problems with the way it displays an HTML email, it also displays a warning message just below the title of the email: “If there are problems with how this message is displayed, click here to view it in a web browser“. Clicking the message indeed pops up a menu, from where you can relaunch the original message content in an IE window or tab. Luckily for us, IE will restore not just the intended ‘look and feel’, but also the intended functionality of your email. Hurrah!
For those of us who prefer another browser than IE: you will have to apply a work-around to Outlook to take the “default browser” from your Windows preferences, but it can be done – I just haven’t tried it. And just supposing that Outlook 2010 thinks that it perfectly masters your HTML email: yes, there is a way to force Outlook to display the “If there are problems…” message (*), thus assuring the author of the email that the poor Outlook users will have the option to display the message in a browser! Aaaah, the wonders of the software universe ;-)