Email Testing Tips and Tricks

QA resources are frequently tasked with some kind of email tesing. Usually this consists of making sure that all the links in the emails work, the Subject lines and content is correct, and most importantly the most neglectful aspect of testing, mail client/cross-browser testing.

I’ll limit this discussion to testing emails in Outlook because this is usually where UAT happens with you clients viewing this email. For those that are new to email testing with Outlook, the latest version of Outlook, 2010, similar to Outlook 2007, uses Microsoft Word’s rendering engine to display emails, impacting the appearance of emails.

Microsoft again, is relying on Word rather than Internet Explorer in part for security issues. Thanks to the Component Object Model relationship between Office components, the tool to write formatted emails arrives to Outlook through Word. And it remains unchanged with Outlook 2010.

So what does this mean, when you’re dealing with testing emails that may have to display properly in Outlook 03,07,and 2010 you only have one machine at your disposal to accomplish this goal, You’re best best would be to have Microsoft Office 2003 installed on your machine. But why?

Well, Outlook 2003 uses Hotmail’s rendering engine to display emails, so how can you see how it would in that application. But what about the display in 2007 and 2010?

Try this:

1. Open the email that has arrived in your inbox in Outlook 2003.
2. Save the email as an html file.
3. Open up Microsoft Word 2003 and open up the html file.

What you will see is exactly how that email would display in Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 because you are actually using Word’s rendering engine to see the email. The same engine that shows you how crappy the email looks because of a lack of css support.

So there you have it. I know 2003 is quite old, but surprisingly trying to explain to one of your clients who uses Microsoft 2003 to look at emails, why the email looks pretty crappy, may just save you some unnecessary back-and-forth. This is especially important because you can’t actually use Hotmail to see the display for a 2003 mail client anymore, since Hotmail is now Windows Live Mail and they’ve dropped support for a number of properties and a number of key CSS selectors.

So there you have it. Happy Testing!

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