Outlook 2007 to use MS Word to render HTML…. ugh

Talk about a step backwards. In a recent announcement, Microsoft has shared its plans to have Outlook 2007 use Word’s HTML rendering engine in place of Internet Explorer’s engine.

Now, I’m not really a fan of HTML email — I generally select plain text format for any mailing lists to which I might subscribe if I have the choice — but I think it does have a place in business. Some e-newsletters are very well done, such as Musician’s Friend or Marketing Sherpa.

But if you’re going to send HTML mail, at least you could be efficient and use CSS and Web Standards to their full potential. We’ve made great strides in the past few years moving away from presentational markup, inappropriate table tags, spacer gifs, and FrontPage-esqe code cruft in Web pages. Email support for rich content has always lagged a bit behind browser support, but now we’re looking to take a huge leap backwards.

With Outlook’s massive install base, this change is pretty much the same as if Microsoft were to declare that IE 8 would use the awful HTML engine from WebTV.