Absolute positioning in email
March 2, 2016
You can't use absolute positioning in email.
Well actually you can a bit. It is supported in modern email clients; iOS, Android, Applemail, AOL etc. But it still gets stripped from the likes of Gmail, Outlook.com, Outlook 365 and obviously Outlook desktop.
Yahoo mail is a funny one, it supports position:absolute; but not top bottom left or right therefore rendering it useless.
It was actually when testing the below hack that I found Yahoo supports position:absolute; and prematurely shared the news on twitter without realising the debilitating caveat. So by way of apology here's how to do position absolute in Yahoo and almost every other email client.
Absolute positioning that works everywhere
(Except Outlook on desktop pc, but what do you expect from Microsoft Word rendering)
So first of all you need to set a container to position against.
Then place an element inside that, set display as inline-block and position it with margin-top and margin-left.
N.B. Unfortunately negative values in the margin won't work in Gmail, Outlook.com or 365.
The element is now behaving similar to position:relative but we want position:absolute so as not to affect the flow of any neighbouring elements. To achieve this wrap the inner element in a div with max-height:0;max-width:0 this now mean that div takes up no space on the page, but the overflow can still be seen.
You can now place multiple elements in that container and position them absolute. In this example I've added outlines and semi transparent background colours to clear display the outcome.
Ok so it still doesn't work in desktop Outlook but it does work pretty much everywhere else I've test.
But please do use this wisely. Do consider Outlook, perhaps a VML fallback or simply using Outlook conditional comments.
Thanks to JK who pointed out in the comments that the Yahoo overflow update affects this. So I've added overflow: visible; to the above code which fixes that problem.