MS-Outlook thinks it is pretty funny

But it is not – I’ve always been getting emails from people that use Outlook with weird characters strewn here and there for good measure, specifically a lot of people that send me email think its funny to add “J” (capital letter j) at the end of some sentences, for example:

Oulook fails to send smilies

And I never could figure out why,

Until very recently I decided to take a look under the hood and see if the J is indeed in the original email or this is just a rendering issue with my email client (all of them), so I took a look at the source of the email, at the HTML section (because I am HTML email friendly), and this is what I saw:

Outlook thinks smilies are drawn as J

What happens is that MS-Outlook, not surprisingly at all, assumes that everyone else is using MS-Outlook as well, and since they are using MS-Outlook they surely always only see the HTML content and also have the Microsoft Wingdings font in which the glyph that represents the letter J is a smily.

I’m not going to go into much details on how incredibly stupid this is (and it is – if you want smilies in HTML you can just add a smily graphic, like Thunderbird, Evolution, KMail, GMail and basically every modern mail client does), but the thing is – if you assume that the only people out there are using the same client and will always use HTML, why add a text part to the email? Its clearly optional, what would we write there?

Outlook think it is funny also in text mode

Ah. a J. right. Maybe its a short for “ja ja ja”.

(BTW – the “mailsig” part is also something that MS-Outlook adds on its own to mark where the automatic signature have been inserted in the HTML component. Clearly the text rendering for MS-Outlook had a lot of thought put into it 😉 ).

5 Responses to “MS-Outlook thinks it is pretty funny”

  1. ik_5:

    I wrote a blog about outlook once in Hebrew saying “outlook is the public enemy number one”.

    My outlook blog

    I think we should create a collection of such posts 🙂

  2. Oren:

    a. Funny. I’ve seen this J many times as well, and after looking in ‘smiley listing’ places on the web, I decided that it somehow looks like a half-smiling-mouth. Still it didn’t make sense, but I thought it’s only me not seeing it. So thanks, now I know the truth J

    b. I think that even gmail, kmail, etc – can’t add the Emoticon-picture if you’re watching plain-text mails. So as I see it, this IS a problem with no good solution, other than “find a similar ascii representation for each Emoticon”

  3. Guss:

    KMail has an option (enabled by default IIRC) of “show emoticons as images” which actually translates text emoticons to the representing graphics when you are viewing a text email – this can be really annoying at times when you have stuff like “See here (note this):” in which case KMail decides it should render the last two characters as a frownie.
    GMail does the same on chats, not sure about actual email.
    Thunderbird has an extension that also shows text emoticons as graphics.

    That being said, the obvious way to render the key strokes for ‘:’, ‘-‘ and ‘)’ in a text email isn’t as “J” 😉

  4. Zedcar:

    Outlook also thinks it’s funny to shove semi-colons in where only commas are meant to go. See my “bug” report https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/evolution/+bug/257101

    The trouble is, they don’t acknowledge it is a bug because they comply with the standards, which is sort of fair enough. I’d like the chance to shove a comma into Outlook’s semi-colon one day.

    ik_5 – add me to your ‘public enemy #1’ list. I looked at your blog but I’m afraid your English is much better than my Hebrew…

  5. Guss:

    As Ido above mentioned, MS-Outlook is broken in so many ways, you’d be surprised that people are still using it. I can chalk it all up to the MS-Exchange lock-in, but the fact is that the number of Personal Information Managers available (integrated email/calendar/tasks clients) is pretty limited, and when it comes to Useful PIM clients (those that you fight with less then you get to do useful work) it comes down to MS-Outlook and… hm.. well – there’s Evolution if you don’t mind the occasional breakage. Most people mind though so that’s where we’re at.

    BTW – Zedcar – I’m also using Evo with Exchange at work, and I haven’t seen the behavior your reported in Launchpad. Still I subscribed to that report, maybe I can comment more later.

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