The Great Evils of HTML in E-Mail

 Posted by on 30 June 2005 at 11:57 pm  Uncategorized
Jun 302005

I really, really, really hate e-mails formatted in HTML. Why? Because I cannot quote and annotate a reply to an HTML message without spending 15 minutes of manual formatting labor.

I am perfectly willing to concede that much of the problem stems from the strange limitations of MS Outlook rather than with HTML e-mails themselves. As far as I can tell, I could fix this problem by forcing Outlook to show me all e-mails in plain text. But when I do that, solicited commercial e-mails designed for HTML transmogrify into their wholly inadequate plain text country cousins. (Yet even when I used Eudora, I was routinely annoyed by its handling of HTML e-mail, as it forced me to compose my reply in HTML, then it stripped it to plain text upon sending. In fact, all replies were in some strange HTML-ish format. Ach, I long for the simplicty of PINE!)

In general, Outlook seems to object to the old fashioned quote-with-brackets method of replying. It would prefer to put the original message below in full. I regard that as horrible e-mail form. The reprinted message is either unnecessary (because the reply makes the context clear) or useless (because the relevant portions aren’t highlighted). I avoid that format like the plague, yet such is pretty much what replying to an HTML message requires, unless I format manually.

Whatever the stupidity of Outlook, I wonder: What good reason does any person have for sending regular, everyday correspondence into HTML format? I can’t think of a single one. (If you need to insert fancy smileys into your messages, you have deeper problems.) Plain text is more than adequate. All that HTML does is unnecessarily complicate e-mail.

At least for me, the result is unfortunate. I just filed away a pleasant message from a friend without a reply, because I couldn’t manage the short “Excellent!” that I wished to say in response to just one part of his message. That’s hardly the first time that’s happened — and it annoys me.

So I admit that the above was something of a rant. Considering the problem more temperately, I would be interested to hear why people send HTML e-mail messages and whether I can fix Outlook to handle them better.

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