You can change the format of a message when you reply to it or forward it. If someone sends you a plain text message, for example, you can reply to that message or forward it by using HTML or Rich Text Format.
How the message appears to the person receiving it depends on their email program. If the recipient’s email program is set to convert messages, for example, then a message you send formatted as HTML could be converted to plain text.
Available types of message formats
Outlook gives you three message format choices. You can choose the format you want depending on whether you’re including bold or italic text, colors, bullets, or pictures in the message body.
Each message format has different benefits.
This is the default message format in Outlook. HTML is also the best format to use when you want to create messages that look like traditional documents, with various fonts, colors, and bulleted and numbered lists, and when you want to show pictures inside your message.
This format works for all email programs, but it doesn’t support bold or italic text, colored fonts, or other text formatting. The plain text format also doesn’t support showing pictures inside the message, although you can include pictures as attachments.
Rich Text Format
Rich Text Format (RTF) is a Microsoft format that’s supported only by these email applications:
Microsoft Exchange Client versions 4.0 and 5.0
All versions of Outlook
You can use RTF when you send messages inside an organization that uses Microsoft Exchange, but we recommend that you use the HTML format. In fact, when you send an RTF message to someone outside your organization, Outlook automatically converts it to HTML, so the message keeps its formatting and its attachments. Outlook also automatically formats messages that contain voting buttons, and converts tasks and meeting requests to iCalendar format.
With RTF, you can format text with bullets, can align text, and can use other options, including adding linked objects. Attachments in an RTF message appear as icons within the message body. In HTML messages, however, attachments appear underneath the subject header of a message.
Rob Woodgate is a writer and IT consultant with nearly 20 years of experience across the private and public sectors. He’s also worked as a trainer, technical support person, delivery manager, system administrator, and in other roles that involve getting people and technology to work together. Read more.
Reading mail in plain text can be a blessed relief from complicated formatting, not to mention being quicker to open and more secure than HTML-heavy emails. Here’s how to use plain text as the default in Outlook.
Before we get into how to do this, it’s worth noting that plain text has benefits and drawbacks, both for the sender and the receiver. The main drawback of plain text is that it has no formatting and no inline functionality like images or links. Virtually all of the mail you read will look at least a bit different if you read it in plain text, and some mail will be almost unreadable if it’s been heavily formatted.
However, there are benefits, too. Plain text is more secure because nothing is hidden. There can be no embedded tracking images and no hidden phishing URLs (because if the URL is visible in plain text, you’ll be able to see the whole URL, rather than whatever text the sender wanted you to see). For this reason, plain text emails you send are less likely to be viewed as dangerous or malicious by automated scanners because plain text simply can’t be as dangerous as HTML. (This doesn’t mean someone can’t send you a malicious link in plain text, but it’s much more difficult to trick you into clicking it.)
With that in mind, here’s how to read all messages in plain text, send all messages in plain text, and send just an individual message in plain text.
Reading Mail in Plain Text
If you want to read all mail in plain text, head to File > Options > Trust Center > Trust Center Settings.
Choose the Email Security option, and switch on the “Read all standard mail in plain text” option.
Click “OK” to exit the Trust Center Settings, and “OK” again to exit the Options window. Outlook will now display every email you open in plain text.
Sending All Mail in Plain Text
You can force all mail you write to be in plain text by opening File > Options > Mail, opening the “Compose messages in this format” dropdown menu, and choosing “Plain Text.”
Click “OK” to exit Options and the default format for sending new messages will now be plain text.
Sending a Specific Mail in Plain Text
If you want to leave the standard HTML format as the default, but want to write an individual mail in plain text, you can do that, too. After starting a new message, click Format Text > Plain Text.
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If your signature has any HTML in it, such as a link or formatting, Outlook displays a warning letting you know you’re going to lose this when you change to plain text.
Click “Continue” to change the message to plain text. Once you do this, you can change it back to HTML, but you’ll have to recreate your signature; it’s easier to discard the mail and create a new one.
On a side note, if you’ve changed your settings to always send as plain text, you can change this for individual messages in the same way. Open a new mail and click Format Text > HTML to send just that message using HTML.
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Rob Woodgate is a writer and IT consultant with nearly 20 years of experience across the private and public sectors. He’s also worked as a trainer, technical support person, delivery manager, system administrator, and in other roles that involve getting people and technology to work together.
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How can I force Outlook to show all my emails in Plain Text format?
Outlook has a security setting to force all emails to show in Plain Text. This setting applies to all emails, even the ones that were already received.
When a message is being converted to Plain Text by Outlook, there will be an Infobar at the top of the message which reads:
”This message was converted to plain text.”
Click on this Infobar to convert the message back to HTML.
Trust Center Settings
The “Read al standard mail in plain text” setting can be found in the following location;
- Outlook 2007
Tools-> Trust Center…-> E-mail Security-> Read all standard mail in plain text
- Outlook 2010 / 2013 / 2016 / 2019 / Office 365
File-> Options-> Trust Center-> Trust Center Settings…-> E-mail Security-> Read all standard mail in plain text
The above setting can also be set via the Registry by creating the ReadAsPlain value.
Value name: ReadAsPlain
Value Type: REG_DWORD
When this key is set to 0 or missing, all messages will display in their normal message format.
Note 1: If you are running a virus scanner that integrates with Outlook, you might also find an option there to convert all messages to Plain Text. Note that in most cases, this option works separate from the option set in Outlook. See the documentation of your security suite for more information.
Note 2: Administrators can also set this as a corporate policy.
To set Outlook to automatically display all e-mails in plain text, follow these steps:
1. On the File tab, click Options:
2. In the Outlook Options dialog box, on the Trust Center tab, click the Trust Center Settings. button:
3. In the Trust Center dialog box, to ensure that all e-mail is displayed in plain text, place a check in both the Read all standard email in plain text and Read all digitally signed mail in plain text options:
If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to ask OfficeToolTips team.
How to control how the Reading pane marks E-mails as read
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How to always send plain text of emails to certain contacts in Outlook?
For some reasons, some recipients can only receive emails in plain text format, but you may forget to change the email format before sending in Outlook, how to deal with it? In fact, we can configure the email properties of these recipients, and always send plain text of emails to these recipients in Outlook.
- Auto CC/BCC by rules when sending email; Auto Forward Multiple Emails by rules; Auto Reply without exchange server, and more automatic features.
- BCC Warning – show message when you try to reply all if your mail address is in the BCC list; Remind When Missing Attachments , and more remind features.
- Reply (All) With All Attachments in the mail conversation; Reply Many Emails at once; Auto Add Greeting when reply; Auto Add Date&Time into subject.
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Always send plain text of emails to certain contacts in Outlook 2007 and 2010
To always send only plain text of emails to a certain contact in Microsoft Outlook 2007 and 2010, you can configure settings of this contact as following:
Step 1: Shift to the Contacts view, and open the contact with double clicking it.
Step 2: In the opening Contact window, move mouse over the email address in the E-mail box, click the More button > Outlook Properties in the Contact card in Outlook 2010. See screen shot below:
Always send plain text of emails to certain contacts in Outlook 2013
In Outlook 2013, the popping up Contact cards will make the Open Outlook Properties command invisible. Therefore, you need to configure the settings of Contact Card to show the Open Outlook Properties command, and then configure this contact’s settings.
Step 1: Open the Run dialog box with pressing the Win + R keys in a meantime, enter regedit into the Open box, and click the OK button.
“ I need to see the entire message that was sent to me, headers, MIME parts, the lot. How can I do that in Outlook?” – Gary G, Taupo NZ.
The short answer is, you can’t, with a possible exception. That’s not the answer you’ll see elsewhere on the Internet but it’s the sad truth.
Outlook can display various parts of a message but not the whole thing, as it arrived from the sender via mail servers.
What to do?
There is one option available in Outlook for Windows, otherwise you have to look elsewhere.
There’s really no way in Outlook or Exchange Server to view the complete message as it arrived (meaning the header and body entire).
For POP3 accounts only, you can add a Registry entry like this:
DWORD – SaveAllMIMENotJustHeaders value = 1
Then restart Outlook.
Now under Message | File | Properties | Internet headers you’ll see the whole incoming message. This only works for newly arrived messages.
If that doesn’t apply to you, there are alternatives beyond Outlook.
If Outlook is getting mail from a POP3 or IMAP mail host, you might be able to view the source by going to the mail store via a web browser. The ‘webmail’ interface might have a ‘view message source’ option.
If you want to see a complete message, perhaps for debugging or testing, resend it (or CC) to another mail host like Gmail or Outlook.com which has a View Message Source option not available in Outlook. Open the message and look under the menu for various options, one of them is ‘View message source’.
This will open a window or tab with the entire ‘raw’ message: header and all message body parts including text, HTML and attachments.
Anatomy of an email message
An email message is made up of various parts (this is a simplification which will do for our purposes.):
- Header. The technical info about the message, sender, recipient and the route it’s taken to reach the sender. Results of any spam or virus checks are added to the header.
- Message Body, which is made up of various parts like
- Message text perhaps in different formats.
- In HTML or plain text – either or both can be included.
Outlook can show the header – no problem there. We’ll show you how in a moment.
The message text can be sent as plain text, HTML format or sometimes both. See below where there’s a ‘text/plain’ part of the message then a ‘text/html’ version. Outlook will normally use the HTML version of the message and discard the plain text version. You can see the HTML source in Outlook but not all the parts that may have been in the original message.
Attachments – Outlook should convert the encoded part of the email back into files. But there’s no way to see the original encoded version of the attachment. If you could, the ‘raw’ attachment would look like this:
Viewing Message Parts in Outlook
The message header can be viewed at Message | File | Properties | Internet headers
Scroll down to see the entire message header.
There’s a lot to see in a small window, especially when the text wraps around lines. You can select all the header text and copy it to a Notepad or Word document for easier viewing.
There’s also a message header tool to make sense of it.
Part of the message source can be viewed by right-clicking in the message and choosing ‘View Source’. This usually reveals the HTML code for the message, like this:
Despite the name, that’s NOT the entire message source. What you can’t see in Outlook is any other parts of the message body (like a plain text version or encoded attachments).
That’s what Gary meant by the entire ‘raw’ incoming message.
Most of us would never need to bother with such level of detail but if you’re working with the details of email, not being able to access true message source in Outlook is frustrating.
Another week, another update bug. This bug has a very narrow audience: users with ANSI pst files (Outlook 97 – 2002 format) in their profile. Affected users have all mail displayed in plain text format.
An update is available to fix this. Go to File, Office Account and click Office Updates > Check for updates. You may need to restart Outlook a couple of times for the update to take affect.
Emails that were received during the time the bad update was installed will remain in plan text format. Older emails that were fine before the bad update will once again be in HTML or RTF format.
It is recommended that users export their ANSI pst files to Unicode format.
To switch to a Unicode pst file, open File, Account Settings, then open the Account Settings dialog. On the Data Files tab, click New then create a new Outlook Data File.
If you have mail delivered to a pst file, switch to the Email tab and select the POP account. Click Change Folder at the bottom and select the Inbox folder (you may need to create the folder, Outlook wont create it if the data file is not set as default).
Although no longer necessary, users could rollback to the previous build to fix this (or other issues).
To rollback to the May 29 2019 build, type cmd on the start menu, right click on the Command Prompt, choose Run as Administrator then copy and paste the line in the command prompt and press Enter.
To install a different build, get the version number from Release notes for Monthly Channel releases in 2019 and update the command line.
When you rollback your Office install, don’t forget to turn off automatic updates or the current build will be installed overnight.
The outlook 365 is receiving emails and from few senders . While displaying these emails the preview is not displaying or the formatting is gone and displays as plain text. Seems like the HTML formatting is not working . This is not happening from all senders but only from few senders.
The plain text received in outlook 365 when viewed in Microsoft exchange server showing correct formatted HTML
Can some one help in finding the root cause or any suggestions ?
Does this issue happen to specific senders?
Do these messages have an Infobar at the top which indicates that Outlook converted it to Plain Text?
We can try opening Outlook in safe mode to see if the issue continues. Please exit Outlook, press Win key + R to open the Run command, type outlook.exe /safe and then press Enter. This helps eliminate whether the problem lies on any third party add-ins.
Besides, do you have any anti-virus software running on your PC? In case this issue was related with the virus scanner’s integration with Outlook, we can try temporarily close them to check the results.
Any updates, please feel free to post back.
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When opening Outlook, all my emails are displayed in Plain Text. I have tried changing the security settings to display messages in HTML but this had no effect.
How can I receive messages in HTML?
In general this conversion can take place at 4 different levels;
- Receiver: Outlook
- Receiver: security suite or virus scanner
It all starts of course with that the sender actually sends you the message in HTML format and not Plain Text. It’s a pretty safe bet that when all your messages arrive in Plain Text, the issue is not taking place at this level.
Your ISP must also you to receive messages in HMTL format and not just Plain Text. That is pretty standard these days so it’s very unlikely that your ISP doesn’t support this. Only high security environments might have the policy to convert all message to Plain Text. Especially when you logon to the web based client provided by your ISP and you can see the message in HTML, it’s a very safe bet that the issue is not taking place at this level either.
Since Outlook 2002/XP, Outlook holds the option to convert all messages to Plain Text. When Outlook has converted the message for you, there will be an Infobar placed above the message which says;
”This message was converted to plain text.”
Click this Infobar to convert the message back to HTML.
To change this generic option, so that Outlook will stop converting it, you simply do the reverse of what is stated in this post. For Outlook 2002/XP, this means you can remove the registry key.
Receiver: security suite or virus scanner
If there is no Infobar displayed above you message, it wasn’t Outlook which converted the message to Plain Text. The next usual suspect is your security suite or virus scanner. Most of these come with an option to integrate with Outlook. This could cause or allow for the messages to be converted to Plain Text. Depending on the security software solution that use, it could be as a direct option. Sometimes they integrate badly and it could cause message corruption and Outlook can no longer display the item in HTML.
If it comes as an option, you are likely to find it back in the control panel of your security suite or virus scanner. You can of course also check the documentation that came with it or contact their support. Look for something like “Read all messages in plain text.”
If you cannot find such an option, it could also be message corruption caused by these very same anti-malware suites. Especially when they add a line such as “Scanned by…” at the bottom of your email you should suspect the scanner software. In this case, disable the virus scanner’s integration with Outlook and send yourself a test message in HTML and see if it arrives correctly now. Sadly, often in this case, the already received items can no longer be repaired and therefore no longer be displayed in their intended HTML format.
- Message text perhaps in different formats.