Outlook.com and Office 365 now support the TD background attribute

After several days of fighting with email layouts for messages of varying content length, trying to find a solution for showing a gradient background (either as an image or as CSS) in the many mail clients out there, I learned a few things.

  1. Outlook.com and Office 365, which both run code known as OWA, have added support for the background attribute on the td tag, which my email testing service hadn’t noticed yet. (They thanked me for pointing it out to them.)
  2. The background attribute on the td tag only takes a string representing the path to an image. It always tiles that image, which means it repeats the image both horizontally and vertically to cover the entire table cell.
  3. OWA clients do not use VML for image or gradient backgrounds, although desktop Outlook clients do (Outlook 2007/2010/2013).
  4. OWA clients do not respond to conditional comments like <!--[if gte mso 9]> , although desktop Outlook clients do (Outlook 2007/2010/2013).
  5. All the advice out there about putting backgrounds on your emails is aimed at one-off mailings, generally marketing campaigns, where the height of the content is known and doesn’t vary.

As of right now, there is no way to safely display a gradient background on an email with variable or unknown height for clients running on OWA. But at least now I have a clear understanding of what’s happening in those mail clients.


About joanwolk

3 things I like: theater, food, geekery. 3 things I don't like: clichés, blisters, coffee.
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