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Update This study has since been superseded. View the latest edition

It’s been just over 12 months since I posted our original Guide to CSS Support in Email and quite a bit has changed since. Sadly, the most significant of these changes was in the wrong direction, with Microsoft’s recent decision to use the Word rendering engine instead of Internet Explorer in Outlook 2007. We’ve written plenty about it already including an explanation of the reasoning behind it. More on its impact on CSS support later.

It hasn’t all been doom and gloom though, a number of vendors have maintained or improved their support for CSS, especially in the web-based email environment. The new Yahoo! Mail looks very promising and the old Hotmail will be making way for the new Windows Live Mail in the coming months. Desktop based apps tend to move a little slower and not a great deal has changed on that front, but traditionally they’ve been the best performers anyway. This year we added Outlook 2007, the new Yahoo! Mail and Mozilla Thunderbird for the Mac to our test suite, and also noticed some subtle changes in others.

So what’s changed?

Outlook 2007

Microsoft Office

No doubt the Outlook 2007 “incident” had the biggest impact on CSS support in email over the last year. Many commentators in the industry claimed the change was no big deal, that this change doesn’t really make a difference. Funnily enough, most of these comments came from the marketing side of the fence, not the design side. Understandably, most marketers and project managers couldn’t care less about this change – there are ways around it using tables and inline CSS, so who cares? Well, designers care.

I wasn’t kidding when I said Microsoft took email design back 5 years. Using tables for layout is a dying art in the web design community, in fact many designers who have started CSS/XHTML in the last few years have never even coded a table based layout before. This is a good thing. CSS based emails are more lightweight, much more accessible to those with disabilities and because content is separated from presentation, much easier to dumb down for those reading email on mobile devices. This change by Microsoft means that for at least the next 5 years any designer not familiar with table based layouts will need to learn a completely different way of creating a HTML page if they want to send emails to an Outlook user.

The new Yahoo! Mail

The new Yahoo! Mail Beta

On a much more positive note, Yahoo! have been putting the finishing touches on their brand new mail interface. Mark did some solid testing on the new Yahoo! Mail vs Windows Live Mail back in January, which is certainly worth a read. The exciting news is that Yahoo! have maintained their lead as the best web-based email client out there for CSS support. There are some subtle differences to the older version, which we’ve noted in our results below.

Early talk from the Yahoo! camp suggests they will not be forcing all of their current users to the new platform, but instead make it the default for new customers and give existing customers the option to upgrade.

Windows Live Mail

Windows Live Mail

It should also be noted that Windows Live Mail (the new Hotmail), which we covered an early beta of in last year’s test is rolling out in the coming months. Unlike Yahoo, Live Mail will be completely replacing the older Hotmail interface over the course of the next few months, meaning our days coding for Hotmail’s quirks will soon be over.

It’s not all rosy though. In the 12 months since I last tested the Live Mail beta, they’ve dropped support for a number of key selectors and properties. As detailed in the results, a number of key CSS selectors are no longer supported. The most significant of these is e#id and e.className, which as many of you know means inline CSS will be the only way to get much of your formatting to work for Hotmail subscribers moving forward. Very frustrating.

New Recommendations

When I initially wrote about the Outlook 2007 shock a few months back, I said:

If your email breaks in Notes or Eudora, it was often an acceptable casualty, but if it breaks in Outlook, you’re more than likely ostracizing too many recipients to justify your design approach.

Unfortunately I still think this is the case. If there’s a chance that a reasonable percentage of your recipients will be using Outlook 2007, then a completely CSS based email design just won’t cut it. If your layout is column based, you have no option but to use tables for the basic structure of your email. You’re also going to need to dumb down your CSS usage (see our results below for the nitty gritty on what does and doesn’t work).

Business to Business emails

I wasn’t able to track down any predictions on Office 2007 penetration in the business world. Considering it was only released a few months ago, you might have some time before the install base becomes significant. Either way though, you’re going to get caught eventually. Considering Outlook’s 75% domination over corporate email, you’ve got little choice but to bow down and stick to tables and basic CSS for all your email templates.

The verdict: Table-based and possibly inline CSS.

Business to Consumer emails

Across the spectrum of consumer based email environments little has changed really. Yahoo! has maintained their position as the industry leader, while Hotmail has simply been replaced with new wrapping but next to no improvements. Just like last year, Gmail still provides very limited CSS support. If you’ve got a decent percentage of Gmail subscribers, it’s table based with inline CSS all the way I’m afraid. Of course, you can never assume that none of your home based subscribers are using Outlook 2007, so this is a judgement call you’ll need to make yourself.

If you do decide to stick with CSS based layouts for B2C emails, I’d recommend doing plenty of testing across Hotmail, Yahoo!, AOL and Gmail to make sure it’s presentable in each.

The verdict: Either CSS or table-based layouts but make sure you test, test, test.

  • Ray S

    This is worth it’s weight in gold. Cheers!

    I just have to learn how to build a layout with tables now! The irony!

  • Felipe

    In the company that i work, we use lotus notes!
    Its the worst! Until working with tag tables i have problems!

  • Chris Harrison

    Fantastic resource… thanks for updating this!

  • Chris

    “The mother of all e-mail CSS support Guides”

    Saving us time, money and nervous breakdowns.

    Thanx !!!

  • David R

    Doesn’t Microchumps do automatic updates for their software every now and then? This is probably very far fetched but is it possible they can “fix” or update their Outlook 2007 to have better css support? A user has to be connected to the internet to receive emails anyways and microsoft does those regular software updates all the time…can they include an update that fixes the css support for all users to Outlook 2007?

    Maybe they didnt realize before they cam out with it that this would create all these problems in the html/css world.

    I’m not a good writer right now but I hope you get my point.


  • Koesper

    Perfect timing!
    I just got the request to overhaul our corporate email template, and just today this great article appears, thanks for the great list! keep up the good work!

  • John Lascurettes

    Superb data collection and presentation. Kudos!

    One note about Eudora. It’s often been slammed as not supporting html email. The later versions support it just fine—indirectly. And that was always the best world for me. It meant I could generally view email as text-only when the source sent the emails as multi-mime and that was my preference. When I absolutely must, or really really wanted to, see the email in all its HTML glory, I simply went to “File > View in Browser” and Eudora would pass the local email file to my browser of choice. In many ways this worked a lot better than any email client could render CSS (before Thunderbird came along).

    I’m excited about project Penelope (the open-sourcing of Eudora to be combined with T-bird) because it means I will eventually be able to regain my interface preferences for Eudora while retaining the agile rendering engine of Thunderbird.

  • torkhum

    This is Awesome. I deal with emails all day. I have been programming emails for the last four years and tried to stay away from using CSS. But this is fantastic.

  • man

    Thanks for updating this excellent resource!

    I’m still coding my emails in The Stone Age (tables/inline css), and it looks like it’s going to pay off for me! At least for a while. Woo hoo!

  • Josh P

    Fantastic post.

    And yes I physically cringed when I looked through the list and saw that Microsoft is successfully screwing everybody over whether they realize it or not. Man I hate that company.

  • Niko Neugebauer

    Very nice guide.
    This is an article one should come back a lot of times when designing an email.

  • Andrew Boardman

    Thanks for this completely thorough and honest assessment of the 2007 HTML email situation. This is a phenomenal resource and a sad indictment of Microsoft’s decision to abandon CSS. Thanks, CM, for putting the record straight.

  • Andrew Disley

    David thank you for the update, last years resource proved extremely useful.

    You guys are doing a great job!

  • Benjamin Quorning

    Thanks for this really helpful guide.

    One thing, though: using colored icons instead of words in the PDF might make it easier to scan, but when it’s printed in black & white this certainly isn’t the case -)

  • xunk

    Thanks for sharing, it’s very helpful, and well documented !

  • Adam

    Just wanted to say thanks for posting this fantastic resource!! You guys continue to be my #1 source for everything email!! Campaign Monitor rocks!

  • Don

    Thanks for this. Great research. Thank you for doing the dirty work for us. Really appreciated.

  • Koziolek

    What about Thuderbird? Do you forget about Mozilla solutions ?
    However, great article for webmasters/developers who must to make emails with css styles.

  • Dave Greiner

    Koziolek, you might want to have another peek at the results. We tested Thunderbird in both the PC and Mac varieties and they were basically the best performers across the board.

  • Dave H

    What version of Lotus Notes were you testing this on? There are major differences between versions – especially the newest version (8 – currently available in beta) which uses the OS Native browser to render HTML in emails – meaning that near Full HTML/CSS support should be available. Please could you add in the version number to your report above, as this would make these findings even more useful.


  • Milan

    Tables-based emails are still well worth using, particularly given the situation with Outlook 2007 and Lotus Notes.

  • Ward

    1) how ’bout improving html in Word instead of crippling it in outlook although that doesn’t address legacy users, barring that

    2) a tag in html that tells outlook this should be rendered as word html

  • Junior Warner

    I am new to html email programming, I had not done any table layouts before this and this resources would be very helpful to me and I am sure thousands more out there. Great Job.

  • Dustin Diaz

    Um. Wow. Fantastic research. I didn’t think anyone would have bothered to figure out all this information, this must have taken quite a long time to document. This will serve as a great guide of reference for debugging. Thanks for all this :)

  • Dave Greiner

    Dave H, sorry about not including that. This test was performed using Lotus Notes 6.5.4. I actually wasn’t aware about the version 8 beta and will endeavor to re-test Notes performance again. Downloading the beta now (wow, all 608mb of it!).

    I noticed the IBM site mentioned the new version won’t be publicly released until the middle of this year, so while the new results aren’t relevant right now, it will be interesting to see what’s coming. If the results are as good as you mentioned, who would have thought Lotus would actually switched positions with Outlook in just 12 months.

    Thanks also to everyone else for their kind comments. Great to hear the guide is coming in handy.

  • Michal (without the ‘e’)

    Well done guys!

    Btw, I think we should sue Microsoft Outlook 2007 team for making our industry awkward. Seriously. ;-)

  • HTML

    HTML-Mails suck. So Text-based e-mails are enough for me. Anyway excellent article. Really worth reading!

  • Ivan Minic

    Great comparison, but I’m still for plain text emails…

  • Norm

    Great work! This is really helpful.

  • Steve

    well done! this is by far the most comprehensive report i’ve seen on CSS support for emails. i’m sure we all share your dismay at Microsoft going backwards on CSS support – imagine the extra bandwidth used worldwide every year because CSS layouts are not supported and emails are perhaps twice the kb that they could be. What a waste!

  • Andreas

    thanks, for this great documentation. its very helpful for me.

  • Stephanie

    Any tips specific to Outlook Web Access? It’s showing me something entirely different from Outlook or Entourage — it seems to be stripping even inline CSS.

  • Cole

    I couldnt agree more with HTML and Ivan, Emails should be text based. But at the same time I don’t make that decision here at work, so thanks to you for this resource booking marking it right now :)

  • Marcos Peebles

    Very cool, thank you, saves a lot of time and try/error.

  • Anne Stahl

    If this is all accurate and correct, it is indeed worth pure gold! Great compilation. I would love if I were able to download it as a spreadsheet, so I can focus on the ones most relevant to my usage.
    ALSO: Does anyone know a site of usage stats. E.g. Eudora seems to really put a spanner in the works – how many people actually use Eudora?
    Anyhow, thanks for this information. I’ve added page to my del.icio.us.

  • karl dubost, w3c

    Hey. I do not know if you have noticed the HTML in Mail Workshop organized by the W3C at the same time than Xtech. That would be cool if someone could introduce your results about CSS in Email.

    See http://www.w3.org/2007/05/html-mail/

  • Guy Leech

    You say that “The most significant of these is e#id and e.className..” in reference to WindowsLive Mail have you tried ‘e[class=”className”]’?

  • Dave Greiner

    Guy, I haven’t tried the ‘e[class=”className”]’ technique as yet. If you have any luck with it, please let me know.

    Karl, we’re definitely aware of that great initiative and even pointed our readers to it a while back.

    Anne, if you’re after a spreadsheet version you can edit, get in touch and I’ll email you a copy.

    Stephanie, I haven’t had the chance to test Outlook Web Access I’m afraid, but from what I’ve seen in the past CSS support is incredibly limited.

  • Jukka K. Korpela

    I found the guide most enlightening and easy to understand. I’m considering how to cite it in a book. I wonder if it would be possible to find a “permanent” URL for the latest version of a guide like this, hopefully a shorter URL that hasn’t got year and month wired in.

    Alternatively, is there any other page (hopefully linking to this guide) on using CSS in Email that could be sited as a basic summary of variation of CSS support in major Email clients?

  • Ted Wiberg

    I think its really strange that Microsoft creates a new version of Outlook (2007), that has less support for CSS then the erlier version (2003).

    The big question is WHY???

  • Boris Mahovac, aka Your Ezine

    Great article! Saves us all a ton of testing…

    To test all my client’s email newsletters, I have accounts with Yahoo Mail, Gmail, MSN and NetFirms Web Mail for web mail rendering tests. Then I also test on my Mac and PC with Outlook/Express, Apple Mail, Eudora … I recommend you do the same.

    You may also want to check these great resources out as well:

    Outlook 2007 – How does it affect me?

    Available from Microsoft:

    Word 2007 HTML and CSS rendering capabilities in Outlook 2007

    Outlook 2007 HTML and CSS Validator

    Trial version of Outlook 2007

  • Gavin Barker

    Has anyone done any tests with Windows Mail in Vista? It is basically an Outlook Express replacement that comes with Vista instead of OE, but not sure if it uses the same engine behind the scenes. Looking at my version number it says 6.0.6000.16386 – which makes me think it could well be Outlook Express in a dress!

  • Abby Larsen

    I’m waiting for a utility that will take an HTML page with styles nicely separated and spit out an HTML page with all styles inline. I work on some pretty complicated and style intensive newsletter templates that would have me pulling my hair out if I had to code around inline styles everytime I had to update the content. Has anyone heard of such a thing? Does something like this already exist? This would lessen the inline style headache immensely and I’d pay good money for it!

  • Tables Forever

    I really don’t see why everyone thinks the lack of CSS is a bad thing. Our company (we’re one of the largest ESP’s in the country) has been using table style layouts forever and we still do. CSS acts so differently in so many formats and web-mail providers that we never saw a real desire to switch to CSS formatting with the exception of inline font formats which are alerady being backed up by standard HTML font formats. This has been very good for us since our rendering with our current code is about 99% perfect in just about every program, including Lotus Notes. So with that in mind, I have never seen a real good reason to switch over to CSS. The issue that has caused us a bit of angist is the lack of full colspan and rowspan support in Outlook 2007. With table style design, those are are frequently used tags that require a different school of thought when not used. Deeper nesting of tables is required to accomplish the same thing.

  • Andrew Pawson

    Amazing work. Thanks for sharing this. One small issue…It would be nice to see an updated PDF version of the results that uses something else (other than color alone) to indicate support/lack of support since the green and red dots are indistinguishable when printed (as I discovered when I tried to print the PDF for handy desk-side reference).

  • SteveD

    Great guide!

    Some people above have mentioned that HTML emails should be done away with and only text used. That may be fine for some B2B or B2C type products and services but for retail products html emails often convert far better since the reader can see immediatley what the products look like.

    Although I have had some great success with text only emails in a retail environment, I think they are better suited to single or limited numbers of products.

  • Kapil Juneja

    Thanks for saving our time, This article is great.

  • Jason Reed

    Awesome work- thanks for providing this. Much appreciated!

  • Tim Lucas

    Nice work guys. Very interesting news about Outlook 2007… looks like I’ll be saying a clear “no” to any random odd-jobs of putting HTML emails together for ppl… its text with a link to a funky web version I’m afraid.

  • Nick Horne

    You’d think MS are just doing this for a laugh! Having moaned about poor support for XHTML/CSS Standards for ages, they finally do something (well a little at least) about it with IE7 and then do something stupid like use Word to render e-mails through Outlook 2007 (probably something to do with security- it’s like being chained up using Vista!).

    More moaning over!! However very good article and great timing as i have been experimenting with HTML emails for a while now and was just about to implement it using CSS after a little testing but will not bother now. Oh well, just have to stick to good old fashioned HTML or as Tim Lucas says, why not just text with a link. Nobody really wants to see “If you cannot see the graphics within this e-mail, please click here” or similar or a complete mess when they open an e-mail. Roll on Outlook 2010?

  • Wojtek

    Thank you very much, this is very useful stuff.

  • Julien

    thanks a lot!

  • Yuval

    Thanks, this was right on time for me.
    BTW, also you are right about the lack of advanced css support in lotus notes current version(R7), as far as i know it does support style tags on header.
    with version 8 BTW, situation is much better.

  • Guillermo Rauch

    Amazing article. Keep it up Campaign Monitor!

  • entact

    The part that is especially pervasive is that Outlook 2007 and Windows Live Mail require opposite approaches to the simple task of spacing. Outlook 2007 respects margin (albeit with background color issues) but only respects padding if applied to td and not to div. Live Mail completely disregards margin. So it is a daunting task to get an email to look the same in both. Outlook 2007 disregards cellpadding as well. Oh, and contrary to what MS says, border is problematic when applied to div elements.

    View the source of http://depot.mammothmountain.com/test/boxmodel2.cfm and try sending this to both clients.

    Luckily, it appears that the third new Microsoft Email client that ships with Vista (replacing the now defunkt Ooutlook Express) uses the IE7 rendering engine so it is easy to develop for.

  • keronii

    It is really helpful to read this article, before i always developed HTML mail in table structure and inline CSS. It saves me a lot of time now. Thanks.

  • anon

    In the documentation from Microsoft, it does not say rowspan (apart from rowspan=0) is NOT supported, however it is now working on our HTML emails. We are doing testing, but can’t work out for some emails with rowspans are working, others with many rowspans do not render correctly.

    Anyone else got issues with this?

  • JavierJz

    This is the best “ANALISIS” 4 Gigants Email providers … Cool !!!

  • Anders Steinlein

    David, thanks for the post. However, I’m having trouble getting <style> to work in the new Live Mail, even when placing it in the <head> as you say. Do you have any insight in this?

  • Dave Greiner

    Anders, I just double checked my original test email in Live Mail, and it appears they have since dropped support for style in the head of the document. Very disappointing news! I’ll jump in and do a few more tests and update the results with what I find.

  • Chris

    Does anyone know if there is an issue with doubling up your styles ie: having them in both the <head> and <body>

  • Dave Greiner

    Chris, I haven’t heard about any problems relating to this no. Unfortunately it’s a necessary evil sometimes.

  • Roxy Rosen

    This is a really great article and study. Thank you for all the work and testing out so many email environments. Much appreciated.

  • Benjamin

    Great article! Thanks a lot!
    Does anyone has an idea on how to fix a not wanted linebreak after using an HTML entity in Mac Entourage 2004 V. 11.2.5?
    I also tried to find a solution on how to use internal anchors in HTML mails on Lotus Clients.

  • Ranni

    Absolute supremacy of Thunderbird!!!
    I should use it..

  • Jose

    Good article, thanks. However, I’d like to know which clients support embedded forms.

  • Dave Greiner

    Jose, we’ve written about this before, and support has gotten much worse since then, especially since Outlook 2007 was released. I’d stay away from embedded forms if I was you.

  • Tory

    Extremely helpful post (bookmarking it as we speak). As a designer who has been making websites since the first Mosaic browser days – coding HTML e-mails makes me feel like it’s the mid-1990s again…and it’s frustrating!

    Af for Stephanie’s question concerning Outlook Web Access – I too have recently come up against major issues with this client. When I view the source to my test emails, it appears that this client strips the style information throughout the markup. For example, trying to play it safe by writing an inline style like this:

    <p style=”font-family:Arial, sans-serif; font-size:10px; color:#666666;”>

    will end up like this

    <p style=””>

    It will effectively erase anything in between the “” after style anywhere in the e-mail. I have been scouring the web for any information about how to handle this when I came across this excellent article. Does anyone have a clue how to deal with this?

  • Dave Greiner

    Tory, we haven’t had much experience with Outlook Web Access, but I realize it’s very popular in some corporate circles and plan on doing some more testing with it soon.

  • MH

    re: Outlook Web Access:

    Just recently did some testing…found that indeed it does strip out all CSS, including inline, EXCEPT in IE. Not surprising, since the IE version is a much different client overall.

  • Dave Greiner

    Thanks for sharing your findings MH.

  • Gregory Brine

    That’s one of the best, most comprehensive articles I’ve read in a long time. I’ve been banging my head against the wall, trying to explain why email templates are now harder than building a basic site, and you’ve really helped me to justify that.

    Why, oh why Microsoft decided to use the Word Engine, and not the IE engine is beyond me. I really don’t believe their argument about it being more secure, they just want to encourage you to use word for making the email – but then it won’t work in anything else!

    One day, they’ll be a working group for standardising emails, like there’s been for browsers. Perhaps it’s time we – the web community – shifted it’s focus to that problem for a little while.

  • Dave Greiner

    Cheers for the kind words Greg, glad you found the guide useful. We completely agree with you about standards issue, and have a few ideas of our own on that front. We’ll be posting more on this soon.

  • Conor

    I’ve never posted a comment on a web developers’ resource site before, despite having read many over the past 10 years.

    This page is so valuable and so incredibly useful that I had to break the habit of a lifetime to say thank you! :-)

    I’d donate if you had a link; that’s how much time this page has saved me!

    M$ really have screwed up royally once again with their Outlook 2007 “upgrade”. Arrgh!

    Lesson learnt. Table layouts for e-mail only, and a minimum of CSS styling. A depressing lesson to learn, but when companies without a clue have monopolies what are we to do? ;)

  • Dave Greiner

    Wow Conor, that’s great to hear and thanks for chiming in with your thoughts!

  • paulb

    thanks for the input….

  • Henrik

    You saved me soooo much time. Thank you very very much.

  • 3kolone

    Great stuff … I am using this tipps when optimizing e-mail newsletters. Great articles on campaignmonitor … it’s my daily read!

  • Demonz Media

    Thank you for taking the time to test these browsers. It is odd that MS have removed CSS support, but it makes sense that they would want to preserve the syntax that users are composed in. I have frequently had issues sending (client software) emails from Thunderbird to Outlook where I have used CSS – this explains some of it.

  • Ross

    I love you David Grenier.

  • Golda

    I am soooo new to HTML, but I want to create webpages in iWeb ’08 to then use via iContact to email out. I did one mailing but it was a mess in many email client due to CSS vs. tables. Arg!!! This is the site. http://web.mac.com/colleencassity/Cassity_Malone_Insurance/Blank.html

    iWeb is so easy to use. Any way to take a website and convert it to tables??? This seems to be a million dollar question for me right now.


  • Jonathan Evatt

    Thanks so much for publishing this information. Fantastic to have this on hand. It’s bookmarked!


  • Biggie

    Great documentation. This will save me tons of time in my redesign of my firm’s HTML e-mail templates. Thank you thank you thank you!

  • tutala

    Where is Kmail ?! Kmail is king !

  • Reynder Bruyns

    I read somewhere that you have to put the text of a link in an e-mail between a tag. And that you have to declare the again for the link.

    Something like: Link text

    Any experience with this??

  • Reynder Bruyns

    Another try to show you the code:

    <a href=”url” target =”email”><font face=etc><u>Link text</u></font></a>

    Any experience with this?? They say it is better for Hotmail otherwise the link style is ignored.

  • TwisterMc

    This is a FANTASTIC list. My question is do spam filters have a better change of marking email as spam if it includes CSS in the head (link or script) as compared to the body copy?

  • Dave Greiner

    TwisterMc, I’ve never heard of the position of the CSS impacting spam filter results, but with the variety of filters out there you can never be 100% positive. I can tell you that some will give you a negative sore if you have errors in your CSS or HTML, so no matter where you place it, make sure it’s error-free and you should be fine.

    Reynder, thanks for the Hotmail sample. To be honest I haven’t heard of that being necessary before. Anyone else care to comment on it?

  • R Kenney

    Hello all,

    Trying to design new signatures for my company – cannot get either padding or margin tags to work (in Thunderbird or Outlook 2003) . I have tried using style tag in and and span> but none work – any idea what I’m doing wrong? Renders great in all browsers!



  • R Kenney

    sorry – my code was stripped above, I meant I have tried putting the style attributes in

    td tags
    div tags
    span tags

    and none worked

  • Dan

    I’m using Lotus Notes 8 now and all previous email newsletters that wouldn’t load correctly in the client are now appearing correctly. Even ones with CSS embedded.

    Be interested to see an updated test on Notes 8.

  • Fajar Dhumadi

    Thanks for providing the info.

    This is very valuable information that I need for solving problem that I have because I just found get problem with embeded CSS on HTML email at Gmail and after walk through the net and visiting some web CSS related then I am took here.

    Once more time, thanks for publishing this info, I have bookmark this page ;-)

  • Abby

    Perhaps this has changed since you drafted your table, but I just completed an “optimized for Gmail” email template (ugh – basically, take a nicely marked up HTML page and bloat it with inline styles – sigh) and can vouch for the fact that Gmail does support floats and font-family.

  • Abby

    Oh, and if you are as frustrated as I am that Gmail doesn’t support style declarations in the head, why not request it as a feature? I just found Gmail’s request a feature form and took advantage of the opportunity to bend Google’s ear. Maybe if loads of folks request it, it will become a reality.


    Here is what I wrote under “I have a better idea:”


    I have to add significant extra hours to every email design project in order to take all my nicely separated styles in my nicely standards-compliant HTML prototype and then bloat my code by stuffing all those styles inline — just so that my gmail subscribers can see the same thing the rest of the standards compliant world sees. Not only is this bandwidth wasting for the world and more expensive (in terms of hours spent) to me and my clients, it makes me think very poorly of Google as I go through this soul sucking, professionally demeaning exercise.

    Please support css style declarations in the head of HTML emails. Why can’t gmail support an email with style and content elegantly separated? Why is this standard of the web dismissed?


  • Chris

    I love this. on the other hand, does anybody have this kind of information for GroupWise?
    dang GroupWise.

  • Craig

    Awesome fellas! Very handy, very comprehensive!

  • Alexabder Ross

    First, thanks for this invaluable page!!

    Second, can you confirm (or refute) that Outlook2007 does NOT support multiple classes on the same element? (ex. …)

  • kathir

    i am useing background image in email template but it does not work in gmail. is ther any alternate way to solve it

  • Steve

    No surprise, but I, too think this aticle is invaluable for many reasons.

    I regret to say that I use a competitor’s service to distribute my emails … until today. I think C.M. should be rewarded for the extra value that it provides its customers, and I will be switching my service effective immediately to prove it. Kudos for a job well done, and a customer gained!

  • Matthew

    I’ve been doing email newsletters / templates for years and for the reasons this great article points out, I’ve reached a point where I do everything with tables and inline styles.

    The safest method of ensuring your email renders as close to the design as possible is to build initially without any CSS at all. You then use inline CSS to “tweak” the layout as close to the design as possible.

    The bottom line is that you cannot afford to ignore the biggest player – microsoft. Unfortunately, what they do inevitably impacts on the way you have to do things.

    Once you’ve reached an unhappy alliance of tables and inline styles, your designs, while being code heavy, will render correctly in 95% of email clients.

  • Tim

    In your report is says that line-height is supported in Outlook 2007, however I’ve been unable to get it to work properly.

    I want to use the property to reduce the space between lines of text.

    Is there a particular way it needs to be coded?

  • Josh

    It’s all been said, but thanks so much for putting this together. At my work, we send a TON of html emails for our clients. It wasn’t until one of our guys got a new computer w/ Outlook 2007 pre-installed that we realized that quite a few of our layouts were breaking in said client. This resource has proven quite helpful as I’m in the process of reverting to table-based layouts, and figuring out which CSS is safe to use!


  • Christine

    :( Outlook 2007 makes me sad. This is very disappointing for some of my existing clients using CSS based templates. Will now have to look at converting to them to table-based. *sigh*

  • ePostservice

    The css properties vertical-align does work in Outlook 2007, at least when used in html element which has full support for css style.

    I agree though that the css-support in outlook 2007 is a step backward. But looking from the MS perspective, the idea of having Word to both generate and read the email make sense. My guess is that the change is here to stay and we just have to learn to work with it.

  • Henry B (TMW)

    I have notice that there is a rendering problem with the “NEW” Windows Live Hotmail email client with browser(s) other than, Internet Explorer(IE) (i.e Firefox, Safari) The rendering problem seem to be that the images in HMTL emails break up when they have been sliced into different parts, irrespective of how they are possitioned in the HTML. In general the HTML does not render quite as expected when viewed in Firefox or Safari.

    If anyone had any solution to these problem(s)… Please let me know!

    direct email: hbalogun@tmw.co.uk

  • Chris

    David, thank you for this article, it makes my live easier!
    Can you tell me what Notes Version you did test? I have to send newsletters to Notes R5 users (poor me!) and it seems that R5 is not the tested version?

  • Maniquí

    There’ve been some changes in GMail CSS files that are affecting some HTML newsletter that used to work flawlessly when viewed on GMail.

    Particularly, there is a border:collapse CSS rule that is affecting every table inside GMail.

    If anyone finds a workaround to this changes, please, share it here. Thanks.

  • Gene

    Boo to table use in Outlook 2007. I’ve designed a report that is generated via a VBScript and e-mails results. I’ve noticed some strange things with the CSS support in Outlook. Thanks for writing this, now I know what to avoid.

  • Ivan

    I just start with all this email things and your entire website with abundance of top class information is an incredibly useful.

    Thanks guys, thanks. I will visit your site more often.

  • Mike

    Thank you for this article. It will be very usefull.

  • Tek Boy

    Once again, you guys have done a fantastic job on providing detailed information about a variety of clients. Not only that, it LOOKS great as well — thanks.

  • Whatever-ishere

    thanks for the GREAT post! Very useful…

  • Alan

    As noted by Abby on Sept. 19th, it does appear that Gmail will display inline styles that include font-family. (I just tested it myself).

    For future users, you may want to update your chart.

    ty for a great resource.

  • car

    This is much more complicated then I was thinking!

    Great resource!

  • MHGTraining

    Consider developing with (Thunderbird)

    Thunderbird – Reclaim your inbox

    We started using it about three months ago and it is by far the most developer friendly email program we’ve ever used. We use Thunderbird in conjunction with Dreamweaver CS3. I know this does not solve the client side concern but for developers you can regrow some of that hair you’ve been pulling out. The charts above are right on the money.


  • Shep

    Regarding Outlook 2007: That’s the problem with a monopoly. In a typical market, the customer’s reaction would be “Why is my email program displaying all my mails as crap?” and start complaining to the manufacturer.
    Can you imagine Sony marketing a TV set which renders all shows not specifically crafted for it in black and white and with only half the frames? Would TV networks rush to modify their sending format to accomodate for the new TV set? Or would customers go to their retailer and say “What kind of crap are you selling me? Nothing displays right!”?

  • Jessica

    This post is such a brilliant resource. Just wanted to say thanks for all the brilliant info and that I’ll be passing the resource on.

    I thought IE6 was bad, I’m only just becoming aware of the hair loss and frustration caused by HTML email templates. At least with such rich information on what’s happening and why across the many email clients we can handle them and adapt. Mind you I’m not looking forward to retrograding my development skills to include table based layouts.

    It seems funny that after so much justification for IE7 supporting previous bad implementations of standards as to not “break the web”, they’ve completely thrown any sort of backwards compatibility out the window in Outlook… just when I thought we were starting to get somewhere.

  • tristan

    Wicked resource, but really, I don’t see the problem, css is much easier and quicker than old style html, but old style tables aren’t exactly brain science and the (pretty much unmentioned) security benefits are well worth the loss in O2007.

    I’ve figured out how to use background images, sorted out our emails into table form and rock out daily – they look exactly like our “old” css styled emails and perfect just as well.

  • Bellevue

    Finally all content at one place :)

    Thank you wary much!

  • blindog

    Thanks for the .PDF version, very useful.

  • HTG

    Thanks, this is a great article. One thing I notice and I don’t see listed here is that HTML background images are no longer supported in outlook 2007

  • danny





  • Laurent

    This is the ultimate overkill review about the typical Microsoft “I don’t care” attitude.

    Thank you for this great study ! It saved a lot of my hair…

  • Nick

    Absolute supremacy of Thunderbird!!!
    I should use it..

  • Email Marketing Solutions

    Before your subscribers actually see your email, they may get just a glimpse of it in their preview panes. Your email needs to be immediately readable and useful, even without any images showing. That means having real text content on the page, headings, and links that will load right away. Your text has to give the reader a compelling reason to bother turning on those images at all.
    There’s one more question you need to answer before you actually send your email: What will be a good result? You can spend as long as you like crafting your code and design, but you need to be able to tell whether your time was well spent. Before you send, make sure you have defined some measurable goals for your email campaign.

  • Robert Zimnicaru

    Pretty well explained! Great for beginners but for intermediate too.

  • World Links

    Thanks for taking the time to test these browsers. These kinds of measurements are best done over a series of campaigns. At first, you won’t have any benchmark numbers to judge against.

  • AMacKay

    Thanks for providing such an excellent resource!!!

    Recently I have also noticed support for background images in tables/columns/rows and background-image has stopped working after I installed an MS Outlook security update. Can anyone else verify this?

  • mummybot

    I have been doing testing in Outlook 2007 and I have discovered an error in the above PDF and excel spreadsheet regarding CSS support. Because Outlook 2007 is so random in what CSS it does or does not support this spreadsheet and Microsoft have just stated ‘does not support’.

    For example the CSS attribute vertical-align is listed as not supported by Outlook 2007. However it works on table cells, just not other HTML elements. This document is a useful start, but I would be interested to see a Position is Everything style breakdown of the actual behaviour within Outlook 2007.

  • Jake Rutter

    Great list, this is a good resource to go by. Why would Microsoft release the new Office 2007 without support for background-image? That makes no sense. Since background-image is not supported, does that mean you can use the property background within a table to show a background image? Or is there just no way to show background images in HTML Emails for Outlook 2007.

  • David Smith

    This is such a good resource. Thank you so much!

    I am one of those web designers who has never built a HTML TABLE-based layout in his life. I “grew up” on CSS and XHTML, so Microsoft doing what they’ve done with both OUTLOOK 07 and Windows Live Mail is just unbelievable.

    It’s unnecessary. When is a Home user going to need the more advanced layouts possible in Word docs in an email? If they need this kind of precision they should attach a Word.doc or PDF to their email instead!

    Basically yet another example (think IE6) of MS riding rough shod over the views of designers.

  • Observer

    Just an observation – but all of the email templates you are selling as part of the campaign monitor do NOT follow the guide you have posted here!

    For instance gmail does not support the style attr in the header, or background images, yet the majority if not all of the templates you are selling have style in the header and use lots of bg images.

  • Dave Greiner

    Hi Observer. When you import your email design into Campaign Monitor, we give you the opportunity to convert all CSS inline with a single click, which means all of these styles will then be supported by most/all email clients. Unfortunately given the results above, it’s a necessary evil right now.

  • James Grieg

    This is really helpful for the new comers and good reference for future, too

  • David

    This article is just… perfect!
    Many, many thanks!
    Keep it up!

  • Jason Millward

    As someone who builds several emails a week, this guide is a godsend. Thanks very much

  • Naveen Parth

    Thanks for Excellent resource and gr8 article.

  • George

    How is it that it says padding works for Outlook 2007? Just tried a DIV with padding and Outlook 2007 ignored it…

  • Rocky

    I was almost positive that gmail removes padding. Am I wrong?

  • Warren

    Thank you for this resource! Much appreciated.

  • e-okul

    Hi, Thanks so much for publishing this information. Fantastic to have this on hand. It’s bookmarked!
    Cheers, Jonathan

  • Hubbers

    I am just starting out with marketing emails. This post is invaluable!

  • Wayde Christie

    Keen to know what css shorthand is supported.

  • Herrimanjoe

    Gmail actually will support font-family, just not any font names in quotes.

  • Michelle

    Has anyone found a solution to the padding issue in Gmail? I’ve searched online for a workaround but haven’t been able to find one yet. Please help.

  • Jayd

    Are there plans to post results for GroupWise 7 or the upcoming GroupWise 8?


  • Alberto Boni

    Great article, thank you very much for sharing this research!

  • Pali Madra

    I’m a little confused here. While it is stated in this post that webmail (including Gmail) supports font-size CSS property, an article at email standards clearly states that the font-size CSS property is not supported by Gmail? The article at Email Standards can be found at https://www.email-standards.org/clients/gmail/.

    The article at Email Standards was published on Nov 28, 2007 and this particular post was made on April 19, 2007 which is earlier to this article.

    There are other CSS properties which according to this post on Campaign Monitor are supported but Email Standards states that the same properties are not supported. Does it mean that Gmail has stopped supporting some CSS properties.

    I’m very confused please help!

  • website design

    The guide to email htmls is :
    1. Never use css. and
    2. Never never use css.

  • Mathew Patterson


    With the Email Standards Project, we are testing what happens if you don’t use CSS inline at all – in which case Gmail does not support any CSS.

    You can get pretty good results with Gmail if you use all inline CSS though, as shown here. Keep in mind that webmail clients do often change too.

  • Overground

    Some of your css remarks are either incorrect, or MS has updated Outlook. I am using background-image: url(https://www.campaignmonitor.com/assets/uploads/tile.gif) and background-repeat:repeat-x; and both of them work.

    Futhermore the Entourage that one of our clients is using renders absolutely NO CSS, dont know if this is due to bad code, a setting in Entourage or neither, but it renders absolutely NO css

  • Dion Jensen

    Great article, definately worth the bookmark!
    This finally made my superios aware of WHY making newsletter templates take longer than making their website templates.

  • roman

    e:hover is not supported in outlook2003 …

  • roman

    e:hover is not supported in outlook2003 …

  • Jamie Harbison

    Thanks for the article – very helpful reference.

  • wsdcent

    this is just fantastic, nice tutorial

  • mitesh

    Nice and informative.. I think Yahoo is undoubtedly the best web-based email client out there for CSS support..

  • driver

    hi, Wow Conor, that’s great to hear and thanks for chiming in with your thoughts!
    my blogs driver
    thanks you.


    very helpful! thanks so much!

  • ag3nt42

    Wow!, thanks again to microsofts ability to f$%^ everything up again.

    First vista and DX-10, now outlook07 and css

    Its almost like they hate us..I swear..

    I just got finish with a totally elaborate HTML newsletter template that was designed to work with most all clients..

    including external and internal CSS

    ALOT OF CODE as most of you know..

    and now I will have to destroy all of it and revert back to tables..and now since majority of css is null and background imgaes don’t work.. I’ll get to spend all of my time making new graphics with link names hardcoded onto them.

    this is a great article and I really appreciate that you guys serve this up for all us designers out there.

    thanks for your time spent and do please keep it up!!

    thanks guys

  • Suchmaschinenoptimierung

    thanks for this great post. i search many times a post like this. now i can write html emails….thanks for your tipps

  • darkrose

    This would be even better if Evolution was included in the results. Until it is this is only mildly useful.

  • v8webdesign.com

    This is the best Resource i’ve ever found on the Web for this polemic subject.
    Well done, Cheers !

  • xiaoselangone



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  • iGrapix

    Useful Resources… Thanks a lot

  • Affivesteamma

    Funny foto here

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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