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Why Does Outlook Display E-mails correctly sometimes and Tradepoint Doesn't



Sometimes you will receive messages that Outlook displays correctly (or has in the past) and Tradepoint doesn't. There are a number of reasons for this happening which all go to the way Outlook "renders" an email message.  Generally, because there is a very large lack of standards around email, and Outlook is the most popular email client there is, people sending out messages only test their outgoing messages against Outlook. This is especially true of mass mailers, newsletters and other website generated e-mails that are sent out as your request (We see this a lot with airlines and travel companies.).  The reason simply is that the message sent does not follow the standards that are in place to handle messages.

Tradepoint is recognizes that this is our problem, not Outlook's and we are commited to handling the broadest range of emails possible. If you receive a message that you cannot read or there are rendering problems with, please request that the original sender send the same message directly to .  This is our account where we can analyse what is coming directly from the originating party and try and handle any issues that arrise. We're not 100% successful, but we'll do our very best.  (Please make sure you give us a heads up that you're getting one sent so we're looking for it.)  Note: Forwarding the message to us won't help us to find the problem, we must recieve it directly from the originating party.)

Below are a couple of examples of incorrectly formatted email messages we see on a regular basis:

  • Messages have all kinds of <tags> within the message which makes it hard to read. Email has "parts". Two of the most popular parts are text/plain and text/html. For a message to have formatting such as bold, italic and underline, the text/html part must be included. You cannot put rich formatting (HTML) into the text/plain part of the message. However because of a bug in the way Outlook renders email messages (see below) messages that send HTML int the text/plain section will be rendered as rich formatted messages incorrectly.  This is especially a problem with web sites that automatically send email messages because it is generally much more difficult to send an HTML message than a plain text message, and as a result certain programmers choose to send HTML in the text/plain section of a message knowing that it will work in Outlook but not in other email applications.

    Tradepoint tries it's very best to deal with this problem by looking at all of the content of the message and determining if the message "looks" like an HTML message even though it's a text/plain. However we have to be VERY sure that it is an HTML message before we can do this, just in case someone sends a plain text message that happens to include HTML code in it as a "snippet" or some such (web developers do this all of the time).  The result is that occassionally some messages will show up in your inbox with junk in it in <tags> making them VERY hard to read.
  • Messages that just have junk everywhere and only partially display as HTML and the rest isn't done right.  This almost always happens because a spamer or mass mailer (ligitment even) is trying to track your viewing of the email. By exploiting a bug in how Outlook renders emails it is possible to detect and capture the information in even the very latest Outlook 2007 that you viewed the message and even what sections of the mouse your cursor was over. By doing so the company can use this invaluable data to better target messages at you and verify that you exist and have viewed the message and continue sending the same thing (or even more!) to you.

    Tradepoint does not render HTML messages the same way. In fact we follow the rules for HTML rendering very carefully to ensure that your privacy is intact and no one can spy on you while you're viewing your email.  The result is that because we render messages like Internet Explorer or Firefox does, we cannot display these messages correctly so they have jibberish in them.  There is no way we can correct this type of message without sacrificing security. We are not willing to do so, so we have to live with this type of message not being displayed correctly.  If you see a message like this, please remember that your identity was protected because of it.
  • Not all links are highlighted in a message. This is a function of Outlook that it takes plain text messages and automatically makes all links to email addresses and web sites "hot" so that you can click on them. Tradepoint tries to do the same thing but again, because of the rendering differences this can be very difficult while continuing to support messages that are sent as HTML within a plain text message. (see above)
  • Sometimes there is absolutely no body of the message at all in Tradepoint.  This almost always happens as a result of an "Outlook Virus". Basically in the last 6 months a shocking trend has been observed by our email people where there are messages that are taking advantage of the way Outlook renders messages and exploiting bugs in it to either infect your computer with viruses or to maliciously crash Outlook and make your Outlook never open again properly without an expert perging the message from your inbox for you by hand.  Tradepoint doesn't render these messages because of the way they are structured. This is a good thing and saved you a ton of time trying to get your email working again!
  • Attachments are dropped. There are two reasons for this. The first, like Outlook is because we strip attachments of dangerous file types to ensure that they don't infect your computer with viruses.  This is the most likely cause of attachments being removed. If you experience this, we suggest that you "zip" up the file and send it as a compressed file attachment.

    The second reason is because there are two types of attachments.  Regular attachments such as word or excel documents, and inline attachments. Inline attachments were added to the email standard for one reason, and that's to be able to include images and other media within a message (at one time you could even add music to your messages so that they would be played when someone opened your email message!).  This type is supposed to be rendered with the body of the message, and not as an attachment. However, because of a bug in Outlook regular word and excel documents can be inadvertantly attached as inline attachments. You can create one of these messages in Outlook by simply dragging a file into the body of an Outlook Email.  Tradepoint generally handles this bug in other email clients and will display almost all types correctly. IN addition, Yahoo sends ALL attachments as inline and google sends all attachments, even images that are supposed to be in the body of messages as regular attachments. Again Tradepoint will generally handle these correctly.  However occassionally we see variations on these problems and have to write special code for that specific email sending application (or web site) so that we can handle the attachments or inline images correctly.  You shouldn't see this very often, but it can happen.

How does Outlook Render Messages Differently?

Outlook is a relatively old application in Internet terms and originated with Schedule+ within Windows 3.1. As a result it came before there was such a thing as HTML email.  In fact the first rich text emails ever sent were part of Outlook 97 which included rich text using the RTF standard (which was part of the original Microsoft Word file format (V1.0!).  As a result the people at Microsoft included an RTF rendering engine within Outlook which was great! It changed the way people communicate in emails (and anoyed other email client manufacturers because their applications couldn't display the messages at all thus making everyone want to use Outlook).  Subsequent to the RTF standard the rest of the internet got together and standardized on HTML emails as their rich text messaging format.  The thought was that HTML is not controlled by Microsoft unlike RTF and you could include rich elements such as javascript, java applets, even flash movies in your email! (which turned out to be a horrible thing for viruses and spyware in the long run and has since been disabled in all email clients such as Tradepoint)

When HTML became the standard, Microsoft agreed to support it and in Outlook 2000 HTML became the default email type for sending messages in rich text format. However Microsoft, instead of putting an HTML rendering engine in Outlook, chose instead to CONVERT HTML to RTF and visa versa when sending messages. The reasons for this are long and complex but directly relate to backwards compatibility in Outlook so that 3rd party developers could make their applications work in Outlook 2000 automatically without having to recode them.  The end result is a very complex process where ever HTML message that comes into Outlook is first converted to RTF from HTML. When Microsoft started doing this they set out to create a VERY good HTML to RTF engine. Because of the lose standards in HTML converting from HTML to RTF is VERY difficult (RTF to HTML is relatively easy).  Combine that with a very quickly changing set of standards for HTML in the early days of the internet and email and Microsoft had a tall task ahead of it to make sure that emails all displayed correctly.  But they did an amazing job!  Too good infact because now just about anything will display correctly in Outlook no matter how badly out of the standard for HTML or email the message is. It really is an extra-ordinary achievement but at the same time, it is one of the worst things that ever happened to email because as a result of this (and a few other issues with email) SPAM has propogated and continues to get worse (as of this writting 97% of all email messages are SPAM). 

Is this an excuse for Tradepoint not rendering some email messages properly for you? NO. It is only an attempt to explain why.

Again, if you ever receive a message that is not rendered correctly in Tradepoint, please get the message sent directly to us at the above address because we are very intent in providing the best possible email experience for our customers.

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