Friday, November 13, 2009

Not Flex directly, but html, Outlook 2007, and the evil colSpan

During a current project, one of the requirements is being able to send an email from a Flex application to one or more recipients.  To accomplish this, through an amalgam of remote services, flex, and an email server, we are able to send out the emails.  The Flex side is quite easy, and using fluorine, we were able to quickly generate the c# code for the backend.  However the problem lies in QA'ing these emails for recipients and ultimately from the various email clients available.  While it would be nice to send a .swf in an email (like an html email) and allow it to play as soon as one opens the email, I can imagine how that could negatively impact a lot of users - think of a user who unwittingly opens an email that has a swf (which now wants to import and open up inside of your email client all of its components).  This could bog down the email client considerably, but more important, isn't email meant to be for simple text and images?  Leave the swf to the browser, right?  Well, I think it would be awesome if thunderbird allowed you to read .swf's in your email, and run flash right there…regardless, I digress.

What I'd like to get at is the complexity we've had in testing an html email template that all clients would read (i.e. gMail, Outlook 07 and 03, thunderbird, aol, yahoo, etc.)  There are tons of clients, but most business savvy users are on the Outlook clients.  So how do I, running on a mac, without access (nor desire) to Outlook, test this?  Well, our handy QA team is doing that for me, and they've noticed some really annoying *flexplitive here* things w/ Outlook.  Namely, the absence of support for colSpan inside a table.  C'mon mang, colspans are the bread and butter of making a table work right, otherwise I'm stuck putting a bunch of 's inside of the 's which just makes my life really, really complicated.  the easy trick we figured out is that to avoid col spans, you can put multiple 's next to eachother, then put those in a row, and finally, to avoid the colspan, just move the items that you wanted to span, move them into a table above or below the table that has the row w/ the multiple columns.  This essentially makes your table have multiple columns, but only one row, or multiple rows.  This is extremely annoying, yet useful, if you have multiple columns, want someone to see your email in html, and send it to anyone using outlook 07. 

Anyways, that's just my annoyance, so this flexplitive rant really isn't much about Flex and more about html and how much Outlook 07 really stinks...

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