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Can You Use Forms In Emails?

We get asked about using forms in emails all the time. In many ways this is the holy grail of email marketing. From surveys to employment applications, companies want to shorten the time and simplify the process of collecting data from users. There are many problems with using forms in emails. So, in this blog, we will look at if, how and when forms work in emails.

Before discussing if forms work in email, it is important to know that email forms were widely abused during the early days of the internet. Because of this, many email software companies completely removed support for forms. Early scams included forms claiming to be from banks, insurance and other financial institutions requesting sensitive, personal information. In other cases, forms were paired with scripts that would collect personal information from your email software and automatically send it to the scammer when you opened the email. Before you had the time to read the first line of text, your data was already stolen and on it’s way out of your computer.

Because of their dubious usage history, form submissions may trigger security warnings, spam filters and “scam” alert messages depending on the user’s email software. For example, Thunderbird will displays a message “this message might be an email scam” while Yahoo will display a long warning message that starts with “Warning! Your are about to send information to someone other than Yahoo!”

Email software companies that decided to support email forms did so without consulting other vendors and there were no standards regarding what elements would be supported or how. One company may support some form elements in the email preview window while others required users to “open” the email in a dedicated window before the form would work.

Embedding forms in email is not recommended because each software provider chooses if and how to support them.  Given this unreliable and unpredictable support for forms in emails, we recommend linking to a form on a website instead of embedding them in the emails. This is the safest, most reliable solution.

Email Software Compatibility Chart
While form functionality may be indicated, there are dramatic differences in HOW they are supported. Forms will not work the same in all email software that supports them.

SoftwareForm is displayedForm is functional
.MacYesNo
Yahoo! MailYesYes
Yahoo! Mail ClassicYesNo
AOL WebmailYesNo
GmailYesYes
Windows Live HotmailYesNo
Apple MailYesYes
ThunderbirdYesYes
Penelope (Eudora 8)YesYes
Outlook 2007NoNo
Outlook 2003YesNo
Outlook ExpressYesYes
Windows Live MailYesYes
Lotus Notes 8YesYes
EntourageYesYes

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