Outlook Problems: Myths and Truths

Checking Outlook Issues by Testing HTML Emails.

Evgeny Fedosov

Chief Executive Officer, Co-founder

Oct 15, 2020

Outlook Conditional Code

Outlook has always been a mythical monster for email developers, which has definitely made life incredibly difficult. It hasn’t been possible to get rid of this monster because Outlook––despite all its problems and difficulties––is one of the most popular email clients. According to Email2Go statistics in 2020, the distribution of users is as follows:

Distribution of users by email clients

Clearly, 13% of users are worth the effort email designers make when creating and adapting email newsletters––especially when it comes to fighting the quirks of the many versions of Outlook.

My colleagues and I decided to check which of the problems are myths and which are true. The check was performed on Outlook 365 (Mac), Outlook 365 (Windows), and Outlook.com. For testing, we used the irreplaceable Email2Go email preview tool.

Outlook Problem #1: Blocking Images by Default

So, here we are testing the problem of default blocking of image display in Outlook. Instead of images, desktop versions of Outlook will display terrible white rectangles with a red cross.

Outlook, Blocking Images by Default Outlook, Blocking Images by Default
Which clients display images by default?
Outlook 365 (Mac) No
Outlook 365 (Windows) No
Outlook.com Yes

Fortunately, you can avoid this problem by using Embedded images. Read more here: Embedded Images in HTML Email

Outlook Problem #2: Background Images Are Not Displayed

The problem is that Outlook doesn't display background images when using the ‘background’ style or attribute.

Gmail, Firefox
Outlook 365, Windows 10
What systems support background images?
Outlook 365 (Mac) Yes
Outlook 365 (Windows) No
Outlook.com Yes

The results aren't very encouraging, are they? But we have a solution for you. Read more about this here: How to Use Background Images in Email Templates

Outlook Problem #3: GIFs Don’t Work

There is a myth that Outlook does not show GIFs, but instead, only the first frame of the GIF is visible.

Our test completely refuted this assumption.

Which systems support GIFs?
Outlook 365 (Mac) Yes
Outlook 365 (Windows) Yes
Outlook.com Yes

Detailed instructions on how to use GIFs in HTML emails can be found here: Using Animated GIF in HTML emails

Outlook Problem #4: Incorrect Font Display

The problem is that whatever font you use, some versions of Outlook will reset it to Times New Roman.

Which systems support different fonts?
Outlook 365 (Mac) Yes
Outlook 365 (Windows) Yes
Outlook.com Yes

I would like to make a clarification here. Earlier versions such as Outlook 2013 have a problem with fonts. Be careful with older versions, and if you want to avoid incorrect fonts in your mailing list, we recommend inserting such a section of VML code in your code immediately after the <body> tag:

<!--[if mso]>
  <style type="text/css">
    body, table, td {font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif !important;}

In most cases, this solves the problem with fonts in older versions of Outlook.

Outlook Problem #5: Buttons Are Displayed Incorrectly

Buttons in Outlook have become a headache for many email creators. Look at this nightmare:

In many mail clients
In Microsoft Outlook

Outlook seems to mess up everything that could possibly be messed up with our button.

Which clients display buttons correctly?
Outlook 365 (Mac) No
Outlook 365 (Windows) No
Outlook.com Yes

Solving problems with buttons in Outlook is masterfully described by my colleague Sergei Crawford here: How to create a perfect bulletproof call-to-action button for your email template

Outlook Problem #6: Link Color

Is it true that you can't set the link color in Outlook? Will Outlook change the color of links to default ones (blue and then purple after clicking)? Testing has shown that this is true, but only partially. You can set the color of the link, however, after clicking it––no matter what you do––it will still turn purple.

Which systems support link color?
Outlook 365 (Mac) Yes
Outlook 365 (Windows) Yes
Outlook.com Yes
CTA button with a text link in Outlook 2007/2011/2013 prior to click
CTA button with a text link in Outlook 2007/2011/2013 once clicked

Outlook Problem #7: Emojis Are Not Visible 🥺

There is a belief that Outlook does not display Emojis in the email subject and email preheader 😡. Let's take a deep breath and take it easy 🥳🥰🤩. All the emails that we have tested displayed emojis in both the subject and body of the email 😜.

Which clients support emojis?
Outlook 365 (Mac) Yes
Outlook 365 (Windows) Yes
Outlook.com Yes

Detailed instructions on how to use Emojis in emails can be found here: Testing Email Templates with Emojis and Special Symbols.

Outlook Problem #8: No Support for Emails Longer than 1800 Pixels

There are scary stories about Outlook cropping emails longer than 1800 pixels. The good news is that our testing has shown that this is just a myth. None of the tested clients cut long emails.

Which clients support long emails?
Outlook 365 (Mac) Yes
Outlook 365 (Windows) Yes
Outlook.com Yes

As you can see, Outlook is not as scary as it looks. Clearly, it has a number of problems that require non-standard solutions. But these solutions are available and can be used.

And don't forget about one of the basic rules of email design! Be sure to test your emails before sending them. You can use specialized services for previewing HTML email templates.

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