Using HTML in Emails

Remember last May I was talking about my need for a CRM? Well, in the end, I opted to create my own tailor-made solution, which, for want of a better name, I've called Relate.

Each company I work with gets their own fresh copy, to which they have author access, and we use it as a large forum/file manager. It's basically a secure environment to talk about the project at hand. Feedback from clients who've used it has been good so far and it continues to adapt to my needs (last week I added a bug tracking section).

An integral part of the system is the email notifications fired back and forth to let people know what's going on. I got bored recently and added some branding to the emails, to make them match the appearance of the site itself. Here's an example email in Thunderbird:


What I soon found was that getting HTML to play nicely in email clients is not so simple. Not so much with Thunderbird, but more so with the Notes client. In the end I got both to look the same, like so:


To get HTML to render in the Notes client you have to keep it simple. Forget DIVs, it's back to HTML 3.2-style table-based layouts.

My next rough-cut article is going to cover the methods I used to get this to work and the ins-n-outs of using HTML in emails. Whether that will happen this side of my honeymoon remains to be seen.

If you've done any HTML emailing and learnt any lessons, please share.


  1. Very timely. I'm building an email alerter this week and using HTML mail to provide tableized data in a nice layout. I'll keep my eyes open for your rough cut. I had started with Tables knowing from past experience that DIVs were not yet supported.

    One thing I'll be interested in overcoming is the ugly default styling Domino applies to non specified styling attributes for tables... and the fact that it seemed to vary from release to release in R6.x .

    • avatar
    • Mark
    • Mon 27 Mar 2006 09:12 AM

    We've been using HTML notifications for a couple of years now and like you said: it's (still) back to old school HTML. Saw some strange behavior when using in-line CSS too, so we've reverted back to <font> tags.

    I've build a custom LotusScript class containing all the HTML notification logic like setting up the required MIME stuff and headers. When using that it's only a couple of lines of LS to send a HTML notification.



  2. You might find this article interesting, it has some font readability comparions for HTML e-mails.


    It is from 2001, but I think alot still applies.

  3. Jeff -

    We're talking the 2006-release Lotus Notes clients here... tutorials from 2001 definately apply! :-P


  4. I've created an application for a couple of customers who send out newsletters to customers. I gave them the option to write using either of FCKEditor ({Link} or TinyMCE ({Link} WYSIWYG editors. The user-written content is then put inside a fixed layout (based on tables) and send to the recipients.

    Only problem we encountered with our setup was that we needed to replace all <br /> with <br> to have Notes render linebreaks correctly.


  5. If I remember rightly, when I created an application to send emails with embedded images via MIME a year or so ago, the following wasn't supported:

    <LINK> tags to external stylesheets, even if they were embedded in the email.

    Tables are also very limited in scope; I don't think background colours are supported at TR level; can't remember about cell or table background images.

    I'm also fairly certain that body background images aren't supported either. It really is a trip back to HTML programming a few years back!

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