Papercuts discussion - Composer related enhancements

Joshua Cranmer pidgeot18 at gmail.com
Thu Jul 19 02:56:39 UTC 2012


On 7/18/2012 6:15 PM, Axel wrote:
> I don't think that this "sacrifice compatibility" is something we need 
> to actively /drive.
> /
> In fact this process of eroding "major compatibility" is already an 
> ongoing one, but actively and instigated "from the other side".  Since 
> Microsoft has decided to drop Triton and use Word as HTML rendering 
> engine in Outlook 2007; please have a read at this:
>
> http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/microsoft-answers-outlook-2007-critics-on-rendering-engine-changes/229
>
>> *Q: "Are there any plans to add support for the other HTML and CSS 
>> standards to Word’s engine?"*
>>
>> *A:* "The Word team is continually examining HTML and CSS support 
>> based on customer feedback."
>>
> so here is the deal and my thought process behind this - if we add 
> simplified editing support for CSS3 features like gradients, 
> border-radius and box-shadow, this won't "break compatibility" with 
> word, but you get *better usability and high fidelity *within 
> *Thunderbird corporate environments and with private Thunderbird 
> users*; for the web based email clients it wouldn't be hard to 
> gradually add support for these features (they would just have to be a 
> bit more cautious "ripping out" "undesired" layout) [- also, have a 
> look at what they make of emails authored with Outlook.]
>
> At the same time, Word as text editor integrated within  Outlook is 
> doubtless "A Neat Thing" which enables outlook users to very simply 
> generate highly complex layouts that can be truthfully transmitted  
> within the boundaries of the platform (basically, Exchange networks).
>
This is getting off-topic, but let me tell you another viewpoint that 
reads between the lines (and incorporates some cynicism). At the time 
this announcement was made, Microsoft was commencing work on IE8, which 
is roughly the first IE version that can be considered to have decent 
modern HTML/CSS support. I recall some of the press around the decision 
to use Word's engine in Outlook mentioning something to the effect that 
it would help Word-Outlook compatibility, which is vital to Microsoft's 
userbase. My interpretation of the announcement amounts to "a modern 
Trident screws up the HTML that Word uses, so instead of dealing with 
people complaining that their old emails no longer work right, we're 
just going to keep using a crappy renderer to keep our users happy."

Microsoft is in the very unenviable position that 
backwards-compatibility is absolutely vital to significant segments of 
its userbase; whatever their press releases about what they want to do 
in the future say, the fact remains that it's not really an option for them.
> I would really like a similar level of "ease of use"  when creating 
> emails that are sent between Thunderbird users, and whether we think 
> this is a good or bad thing, we should agree that HTML is the 
> platform, and CSS is the way to do the layout - why stick to 
> deprecated standards?

Outlook isn't the only problematic email client. Gmail support is also 
surprisingly abysmal--it only supports inline CSS, nothing in a <style> 
tag! Here's a page which gives you an idea of who supports what: 
<http://www.campaignmonitor.com/css/>. Executive summary: webmail 
clients are moderately crappy (which is probably due to the fact that 
they really have to sanitize everything), anything Outlook-based is 
crappy, most mobile clients (excluding Windows Mobile and the Android 
gmail client) appear to be very good, and desktop clients are in between.

Also, according to that, it seems the Outlook 2013 preview doesn't 
improve on Outlook 2010 or Outlook 2007. So your claims of "Outlook is 
working on this" are just not true.

Desktop clients have it easy: we can just take our favorite rendering 
engine and bolt some content security controls onto it, which means 
advanced CSS/HTML support is very cheap. Webmail clients can't leverage 
that fact, because the needs of the legacy web are such that the content 
security policy they get is way too loose. Sandboxed iframes might be 
able to solve the problem, but I don't think they're powerful enough to 
disable access to external resources, which makes it a bit weak. Even if 
they are, it's not a sufficiently widely supported to be usable yet, 
which means it's a solution that's a few years away at best.

True HTML/CSS support is not a simple task; we're spoiled in that we get 
this for free, but a large number of email clients don't.

-- 
Joshua Cranmer
News submodule owner
DXR coauthor

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