Lotus Notes & HTML Email

NOTE – this is an archival article .. and we generally avoid TABLES now at all costs, however they still sometimes do have their place in HTML Email when you need to control some absolutes like width and table data cells.
Lotus Notes seems to be a source of frustration for many marketing, designers and …. other folks.

As evidenced by this email message we received recently from one reader:


Lotus Notes [DELETED] won’t display [DELETED] properly. I’m ready to [DELETED] throw the [CENSORED, DELETED, ETC] using a pogo stick.


We feel your pain Ted..really..we do.

Lotus Notes can be a very frustrating Email client to test your HTML Email Messages against. There is a general lack of information on how the Lotus Notes email client renders and displays HTML for the end-user. Many designers and firms tend to skip over the whole Lotus Notes compatibility issue due to the fact that the majority of recipients received

The problem is that there is a tremendous amount of corporate Lotus Notes users. One client of ours found out after a brief survey (and all of the negative feedback from their mailings to users who received a hodgepodge of mismatched code from them) – that nearly 40% of their entire mailing list were Lotus Notes clients due to the fact that their mailing list was made up of corporate clients.

So, whether you realize it or not, Lotus Notes may make a very significant portion of your existing mailing list. Unlike AOL recipients, who you can easily filter and send alternate content to as you mail, Lotus Notes users look and act just like the rest of us. Scary.

That being said, let’s dive into some of the more common concerns we get on an almost daily basis. The following is a guide which you may find helpful in diagnosing and trouble shooting common Lotus Email Marketing issues. Due to the wide variety of settings, open source tweaks and other variables that separate the Lotus Environment from your more common Exchange & Oracle systems, you’ll need to consult some of the resource links & forums we’ve collected below for additional help. However, with the little bit we are going to arm you with, you’ll be able to fake it just fine.

“Dear Template Kit,

A handful of employees that receive different emails in HTML format cannot seem to be able to view the pictures or images in Lotus Notes. The text seems to retain its HTML formatting, but the images appear as a box with a red “x” in them. What is going on?”


If you are a current user of Lotus Notes, whether R5.07 – R5.10 or even the R6 and beyond releases, you’ve no doubt heard much of the following:

“We opened an HTML Email which looked fine in Outlook, but expanded to fill the entire page in Lotus, distorting the intended design, what happened?”

We’ve documented numerous accounts where Lotus Notes has completely ignored some HTML coding during rendering, while displaying other HTML coding just fine. This is especially true when it comes to width parameters for TABLE tags, nested TABLE tags and finally, TABLE tags that are not constrained within another table.


Foo on you!
Foo on you too!

One of the “Best Practices” we’ve established in consulting for clients is using one master table to constrain your entire email. Often, clients will be taking bits and pieces of code from various projects, emails, websites, catalogs, etc and placing them into their HTML Email Marketing. All of the various parameters can easily conflict with one another when rendered. By “wrapping” your HTML Email in one master table, you help reign in all of those various width=% and other “ambiguous” attributes and parameters which can wreck havoc on how your HTML Email is rendered by the viewer’s browser.

Wrapping your HTML Email message in a master table and then setting the TABLE Padding to equal at least “5” is also a good way to thwart certain Web-based systems that only render your code from after the what comes after the BODY tag. A good example of the differences can be found here: TemplateKit.com

By comparison, our TemplateKit.com newsletter uses cell padding of “18”. While you do not have to be as zealous as we may be in this regard, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Lotus “Punts” our stylesheet!

HAH! The most common complaint we get around the office. Disappearing style sheets when rendered in Lotus Notes. Your meticulously designed, corporate schema conforming

You send an email to a Lotus client and suddenly the text appears HUGE! Your beautifully design masterpiece, lovingly handcrafted 14pt, Helvetica with slight shades on the sidebar tables can completely come undone. Almost exactly like we’ve displayed here & here.

If you are going to be relying on style sheets to format your HTML Email, then you must be aware that Lotus just doesn’t like them. Most common style sheet applications are ignored by Lotus Notes nearly each and every time you try to use one. The same is often true for many Web-based email systems (Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo, etc) who want to avoid any style sheet conflicts between their own and yours.

If you are going to send HTML Email to a Lotus recipient, and your design is fairly dependent on that style sheet to keep the continuity of your design in place, then you can count on problems.

Except, if you do the following:

A normal Stylesheet Entry in thesection of your HTML document looks like this:


Even if you link to your style sheets, you are still using the above format which is called into your document when rendered by the email client.

The above style sheet will immediately be ignored by most Lotus Notes clients, ruining your email. However, if you were to comment out each line of the Stylesheet one by one, then your style sheet is suddenly recognized by the Lotus Environment, like so:


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