Outlook 2007 E-Mail Formats: HTML, Plain Text, and Rich Text - dummies

Outlook 2007 E-Mail Formats: HTML, Plain Text, and Rich Text

By Peter Weverka

Microsoft Outlook 2007 offers three formats for sending e-mail messages: HTML, plain text, and rich text. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of the different Outlook e-mail formats, and some easy ways to change them.

Microsoft Outlook 2007 e-mail formats come in three flavors:

  • HTML format: These days, almost all e-mail is transmitted in HTML format, the same format with which Web pages are made. If HTML is the default format you use for creating messages in Outlook — and it is, unless you’ve tinkered with the default settings — the e-mail messages you send are, in effect, little Web pages. HTML gives you the most opportunities for formatting text and graphics. In HTML format, you can place pictures in the body of an e-mail message, use a background theme, and do any number of sophisticated formatting tricks.
    However, the HTML format has it share of detractors. First, the messages are larger because they include sophisticated formatting instructions, and being larger, they take longer to transmit over the Internet. Some e-mail accounts allocate a fixed amount of disk space for incoming e-mail messages and reject messages when the disk space allocation is filled. Because they’re larger than other e-mail messages, HTML messages fill the disk space quicker. Finally, some e-mail software can’t handle HTML messages. In this software, the messages are converted to plain text format.
  • Plain text format: In plain text format, only letters and numbers are transmitted. The format doesn’t permit you to format text or align paragraphs in any way, but you can rest assured that the person who receives the message can read it exactly as you wrote it.
  • Rich text format: The rich text format is proprietary to Microsoft e-mailing software. Note that only people who use Outlook and Outlook Express can see rich text formats. If formatting text in e-mail messages is important to you, choose the HTML format because more people can read your messages.

When someone sends you an e-mail message, you can tell which format it was transmitted in by looking at the title bar, where HTML, Plain Text, or Rich Text appears in parentheses after the subject of the message. Outlook is smart enough to transmit messages in HTML, plain text, or rich text format when you reply to a message that was sent to you in that format.

Follow these instructions if you need to change the format in which your e-mail messages are transmitted:

  • Changing the default format: Choose Tools –> Options, and in the Options dialog box, select the Mail Format tab. From the Compose in This Message Format drop-down list, choose HTML, Plain Text, or Rich Text.
  • Changing the format for a single e-mail message: In the Message window, click the Options tab. Then click the Plain Text, HTML, or Rich Text button.
  • Always using the plain text or rich text format with a contact: To avoid transmitting in HTML with a contact, start in the Contacts folder, double-click the contact’s name, and in the Contact form, double-click the contact’s e-mail address. You see the E-Mail Properties dialog box. In the Internet Format drop-down list, choose Send Plain Text Only or Send Using Outlook Rich Text Format.