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HTML Email Rendering Issue with Outlook 2013

Melanie Lenaghan  |  
Sep 13, 2013

Designing HTML emails for Outlook has always been a challenge given that Outlook uses the Microsoft Word rendering engine to display its emails.  I always knew to follow the basics, such as avoid background images and CSS positioning such as float, margin and padding.  As cluttered as the code looked, nested tables became my friend.  This doesn’t seem so bad, right?  These simple tips kept my emails rendering properly throughout the Outlook 2007 and 2010 updates.

Unfortunately the release of 2013 was not as kind.  Although the rendering is very similar to past updates, I was faced with an unexpected and unpleasant spacing issue between images that my usual “display: block” was not going to fix.

Every table cell previewed in Outlook 2013 contains a line height defined by Outlook.  Therefore empty table cells and cells containing images smaller than roughly 15 pixels display a minimum height of 15 pixels regardless of what the cell’s height attribute is set to.  This can cause white gaps between images in your email.

Luckily there is a fix.  The issue can be solved by declaring a height and line-height to the table cell where that height equals the image height contained within that cell.  The new code would look something like this:

<td style="height: 12px; line-height: 12px;"><img src="../image.jpg" style="display: block;" width="600" height="12" /></td>

Although I am grateful to have found a fix for this particular issue I have to admit I dream of the day where all HTML emails render the same no matter which email client or ISP.  Something tells me that probably will not be anytime soon so until then, I continue to build my library of helpful hints as new versions of both email clients and ISPs continue to be released.

When we faced this Outlook 2013 problem in Instacut , we have solved it also by setting the line-height of the parent td equal to the image height of the contained img when it is smaller than 20px. Apparently it could have been 15px, but at least the 20px setting seemed to have passed our own tests.
1/27/2015 4:13:44 PM

Thanks Mel! This helped alot. Cheers!
11/5/2014 1:41:06 AM

Dave R
Very useful tip thanks, this has been a tricky issue, nice to find a solution! Given that Outlook has been going backwards, rather than forwards in terms of HTML email support, I think we'll all keep dreaming of that day when email clients render our HTML emails the same!
9/30/2014 12:49:30 AM

Thank you for the trick. But an who has a parent doesn't work with this method.
5/21/2014 5:20:47 AM

Kyle Jackson
Melanie, thank you so much for this tip! I've been racking my brain trying to figure out just what the hell was wrong with my HTML emails in Outlook 2013. This was most helpful!
4/9/2014 5:58:32 PM

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