Outlook 2007 HTML rendering is crippled

Post ImageThe more I learn about it, the more Outlook 2007 continues to suck. First it was problems with downloading POP email, and now David Greiner tells us that HTML rendering in Outlook 2007 uses the Word engine rather than Internet Explorer:

Imagine for a second that the new version of IE7 killed off the majority of CSS support and only allowed table based layouts. The web design world would be up in arms! Well, that’s exactly what the new version of Outlook does to email designers.

You can see a full list of what is and isn’t supported at MSDN.

David wonders why Microsoft has done this, and suggests security, consistent rendering, and “they hate us” as possible explanations. I suspect security is the main reason, but like David points out, IE7 is a big step foward in security! They should just require use of IE7’s rendering engine.

So what does this mean for the average user?

All it means is that a lot of HTML emails in Outlook will be garbled and difficult to read. Nothing more, nothing less.

That sucks, especially since IE7 is pretty darn good at CSS rendering. And to be clear, it doesn’t matter if you think the world should only use text-based email. HTML email is not going to go away, and if Outlook is going to render it, I’d rather it do so correctly.

Read: Campaign Monitor

Flash Websites Suck!

I realize that the title of this post is a very wide and sweeping claim, but hear me out – I have quite a few good reasons for why I hate Macromedia Flash-based websites. I don’t think I have always disliked Flash, but lately the hatred has grown. There are just so many things to hate:

  1. Flash websites go against the true nature of the Web! This point will probably be the easiest to disagree with, but it’s also a more subtle point. How does the web work? You basically move along by clicking on hyperlinks, from page to page and site to site. What happens if you want to go back to a certain page? You can enter a URI, you can use a back button, or a bookmark, lots of ways. Flash breaks this functionality! You can’t really link to a “part” of a Flash site. Sure you can click links out of the Flash, but they aren’t standard links either – they are not picked up by link crawlers, and they don’t conform to the display standards set in your browser. You don’t always notice this, but it drives me nuts when you need to actually interact with links in a “normal” fashion.
  2. Flash sites are slow and take forever to load! Basically when I load a Flash website, and see some sort of progress bar or percentage, the website is saying to me “I think I’m so great you’re going to have to wait until I am good and ready to be displayed!” What the heck is that? When I visit a web page, I want the page to load, not the entire site! And Flash sites that show the progress bar just for looks piss me off even more. I have high speed for a reason morons!
  3. Flash sites require you to learn a new interface each time! I admit, this point is also sort of easy to argue against, but think about it. How different are HTML-based websites? Really different? Not really. They typically all have some sort of textual or graphical menu along the top or one of the sides. Almost all of these websites are fairly similar in the way you navigate them. Flash sites on the other hand are completely different! Some sites want to you click different objects in a 3D world, others have pictures with no words. The links are often scattered around the Flash animation which means I have to hunt around. And the most annoying part of Flash navigation is that often times you click a menu item, only to be shown a submenu with no way to get back to the original menu! It’s frustrating to say the least.
  4. Flash sites don’t “fit” my screen! Most websites will resize depending on how big or small my browser is, and how large or small my screen’s resolution is. Not so with Flash sites! Almost every Flash site I have come across has a set size, and too bad if your screen/browser size doesn’t work out.

Those are the main things that bug me about Flash sites – as you can see, they are pretty logical and straightforward. There’s some other minor things that get under my skin too:

  • Lots of Flash sites don’t have a text-only or HTML-only equivalent!
  • Why must every musician or band in the world have a difficult to use Flash site?
  • Most of the time trying to copy text from a Flash animation is impossible.
  • I realize it’s hard to get a browser that doesn’t have Flash, but requiring a user to install a plugin to see any of a website is kind of dumb, Flash or not.
  • Show me the source! Sometimes I like poking around the HTML, CSS or javascript – it’s a useful way to learn from others. I can’t see the source of a Flash site though!

I really don’t care how good you think Flash will make a website look. I’d take usability over looks any day (with very, very few exceptions), and that’s really why I hate Flash sites.

Web Feeds or RSS?

Post ImageLots of discussion going on lately about whether or not Microsoft, and everyone else for that matter, should call RSS feeds “RSS” or “web feeds”. It all started with the first beta release of Internet Explorer 7, in which the term “web feeds” is used. Instead of delving into the complete history of this little debate, I’m going to instead point you to the excellent roundup by Ed Bott. Dave Winer, creator of the RSS standard, chimes in and says, “Don’t screw around with things you didn’t create and don’t understand.”

The debate is not much of a debate, in my opinion. There’s some really simple reasons that we should be calling them web feeds. When you ask your friend or co-worker about something on the Internet, do you talk about visiting an “HTML page” or a “web page”? Does your web browser (not “HTML page browser”) load up “HTML pages” or “web pages”? Clearly, you talk about web pages, and that’s what your browser loads. There are three very good reasons we use the term web pages:

  1. Saying “HTML page” is awkward. The masses like comfortable and simple, not awkward and complex.
  2. Calling a web page an “HTML page” is, technically, misleading. You’d be hard pressed to find any page on the Internet right now that consists of only HTML.
  3. Conceptually, a page that is only HTML, or combines HTML and JavaScript, or combines HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, etc., are all the same thing. When you load a web page, you don’t think about the technology behind it.

For the very same reasons, we should be using web feeds, not RSS feeds. The term “web feed” is comfortable and simple. It doesn’t exclude RDF, or Atom, or RSS with extensions, and so it isn’t technically misleading. And finally, a web feed is a web feed, regardless of the technology that powers it.

There’s other reasons “web feeds” is better than “RSS” too. For the technology to become as natural and invisible as web pages, it needs a simple name. And the technology is so very young – who’s to say that something newer won’t be created that does the same thing, but in a different or better way? Think Atom 1.0 here.

There’s really no reason to publish more than one web feed, and thus no reason to call them anything else. Certainly the applications which consume web feeds should support multiple technologies, like both RSS and Atom, but publishers shouldn’t really have to worry about what technology to use. They should, just as with web pages, pick the technology best suited to the task at hand. You don’t have separate browsers for HTML and HTML with CSS – same goes for web feeds.

If you’re reading this post on the web, you can no doubt see that I am pretty hypocritical. No where on my site will you find the term “web feed”, and I publish both RSS and Atom feeds. Well, my excuse is that until recently, I hadn’t given much thought to the terminology I used. Heck, I even use the orange “XML” icon for my “RSS” feeds (talk about confusing!). Now that I have given it some thought however, I’ll definitely be making some changes. Look for a web feed button soon!