A guide to CSS support in email: 2008 Edition

2008 CSS support in email guide

In the last year, we’ve seen some changes in the email client market. Webmail usage continues to grow significantly while new versions of popular desktop clients have been released. In an attempt to stimulate some improvement on the CSS front, we’ve helped launch the Email Standards Project.

While we can hope for future improvements, it’s the present we need to design for. The time has arrived to again poke and prod the major email clients to determine just how much (or how little) support they provide for using CSS with HTML emails.

Last year’s report focused on the unique challenges of Outlook 2007. In 2008, Outlook is still an issue, but there are encouraging signs in other areas.

The release of Entourage 2008 (the Mac equivalent of Outlook) made great improvements with CSS support, bringing it on par with Apple Mail’s excellent rendering. Proof that perhaps Microsoft has been listening and we can only hope that the next version of Outlook will follow suit.

Thunderbird 2 was released with plenty of new features, and continued it’s run of excellent CSS support. Gmail has probably been the most disappointing client of all. One of the advantages of web applications is not needing to wait for new versions to be rolled out. With just basic in the head CSS selector support Gmail would go from bad to good but we’re still waiting for that.

Checkout the Email Standards Project post about some support inside Google though, and keep your fingers crossed.

We did expand our testing this year — A combined total of 21 email/web clients making this the biggest test we’ve ever done, up from last years 13.

The CSS support in email guide is permanently located at http://www.campaignmonitor.com/css, and that’s the best page to bookmark to ensure you are always seeing the latest version.

Read the full report at http://www.campaignmonitor.com/css

Posted by Administrator

15 Comments

  • Morgan Roderick
    11th June

    Good work guys, you are one of the major catalysts of change in e-mail marketing.

    How many times can you say “I love your product and excellent service” before it becomes embarrasing?

  • Soeren Sprogoe
    12th June

    Truly amazing and original work.
    10 Global Karma points have now been submitted to your account!

  • Rick Whittington
    12th June

    An excellent resource—one that I use at least once per week.  Thank you for devoting time to compiling the resource!

  • Adam
    17th June

    Is there a list of Html tags that work and don’t work in the different email clients?

  • Sergi
    19th June

    Astounding!

  • Dave Greiner
    19th June

    Adam, we haven’t done that particular research as yet, but in our experience almost every tag is support, it’s the styling of each tag that’s the problem. Unless you’re using something obscure like the good ‘ole blink tag, you shouldn’t have a problem with the tag itself being supported.

  • Richard Mills
    3rd July

    Really useful.  How is the web based clients tested?  We have found depending on what browser you use, rarly, can depend on what is supported and how it’s displayed.  For example, IE6 and FF2 act differently with line-heights.  Also see no mention of Lycos (.com and .co.uk) which act differently from each other, nor of NTL World and their ‘left’ issue of replacing code…

  • Kris
    8th July

    How can I float an image where text wraps around it if I can’t use a CSS float?

  • Marc
    18th July

    Any thoughts about adding a few “mobile client” columns to this terrific matrix?  I’m thinking something like: iPhone Mail, BB Mail, Symbia/Nokia Mail, Windows Mobile, your favorite mobile mail client that i’m forgetting.

  • Robin Houghton
    25th July

    Looks like Hotmail no longer supports the ‘border’ property - aaagh! I’ve become so dependent on borders, this is not even funny. I’m hoping it might be a temporary glitch as I can’t find anything about it on the web, Hotmail was behaving oddly yesterday. Fingers crossed.

  • Jurgen
    16th August

    I wonder why the overview of the mail clients says that Eudora doesn’t support anything. This is absolutely not true. The latest versions of Eudora (last one is 7.1) have very good support for the mentioned tags and styles. The new beta Eudora Penelope (based on Thunderbird) has even a perfect HTML rendering, according to the Email Standards Project site…

  • Charlie
    30th August

    It seems that you have an error in your doc (at least, in my testing).

    Outlook 2007, from everything I’ve tested does NOT support padding. This also includes the Windows Live Mail client that you can download.

    I’ve tried the padding on images and divs both and padding does not appear to work for either. It works great everywhere else of course (even live.com), just not Outlook. Pretty frustrating of course…

  • Jonathan Schofield
    16th September

    As ever, the 2008 update is a fantastic resource - many thanks!

    I’m intrigued though by the distinction you draw between what’s safe and what’s risky...

    Looking at your Excel sheet, you define really useful properties such as background-color, border, font-variant, line-height, padding, text-indent and text-transform as risky, despite support across the board for all the mail clients you’ve tested except for Notes 6 and Eudora.

    You declare color, font-size, font-style, font-weight, text-align and text-decoration as being safe despite Eudora failing on all these as well. The implication is that because these properties are supported by Notes, that elevates them to safe. Is that your yardstick? Can you confirm Campaign Monitor’s view on the relative importance of Notes in the scheme of things.

  • Adrian
    19th September

    Seems a bit disingenuous for you to be testing Lotus Notes 6 when people are using Lotus Notes 8.

  • Brady Mills
    6th October

    font-family appears to work for me with HTML emails in Gmail? Why does the report say it’s not supported? Works perfectly. Perhaps you tested something different, that I’m missing.

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