Change the message format to HTML, Rich Text, or plain text

Microsoft Outlook 2010 offers the flexibility in message formats that you need for different situations. The message format that you choose determines whether you can add formatted text, such as bold fonts, colored fonts, and bullets, and whether you can add pictures to the message body. However, just because you choose a message format that lets you add these features doesn't mean the recipient will be able to see them. That is because some email applications don't support formatted messages or pictures.

In this article

Differences between message formats

Change the message format for all messages you send

Change the message format for all messages sent to a specified recipient

Change the message format for one message

Differences between message formats

Microsoft Outlook 2010 supports three message formats:

  • Plain text    This is a format that all email applications support. Plain text messages don’t support bold, italic, colored fonts, or other text formatting. It also doesn't support pictures that are displayed within the message body, although you can include the pictures as attachments.

  • Outlook Rich Text format (RTF)    This is a Microsoft format that only the following email applications support:

    • Microsoft Exchange Client versions 4.0 and 5.0

    • All versions of Microsoft Outlook

You can use RTF when sending messages within an organization that uses Microsoft Exchange; however, we recommend that you use the HTML format. RTF supports text formatting, including bullets, alignment, and linked objects. Outlook automatically converts RTF formatted messages to HTML by default when you send them to an Internet recipient, so that the message formatting is maintained and attachments are received. Outlook also automatically formats meeting and task requests and messages with voting buttons so that these items can be sent intact across the Internet to other Outlook users, regardless of the default format of the message. If the Internet-bound message is a task or meeting request, Outlook automatically converts it to Internet Calendar format, a common format for Internet calendar items, so that other email applications can support it.

Note:  Attachments in an RTF message appear as icons within the message body. For HTML messages, attachments appear beneath the sender, recipient, and subject headers of a message.

  • HTML    This is the default message format in Outlook. It is also the best format to use when you want to create messages that are similar to traditional documents, with various fonts, colors, and bullet lists. By default, when you select either of the options that allow formatting (HTML or Rich Text), the message is sent in HTML format. So when you use HTML, you know that what you send is what the recipient will see.

Note:  When you reply to a message, Outlook preserves the format of the original message. However, if you have chosen to read all of your mail in plain text, your replies also are sent in plain text format. You can change the format on each message.

Top of Page

Change the message format for all messages you send

  1. Click the File tab.

  2. Click Options.

  3. Click Mail.

  4. Under Compose messages, in the Compose messages in this format list, click HTML, Rich Text, or Plain Text.

Top of Page

Change the message format for all messages sent to a specified recipient

The message format for an Internet email address contact can be specified. For example, if you want all messages that are sent to to be in plain text format, you can add that information to your Outlook contact for Melissa.

  1. Open an Outlook contact.

  2. In the Email box, double-click the email address.

  3. Click View more options for interacting with this person.

Quick Contact Card with View more options for interacting with this person command highlighted

  1. Click Outlook Properties.

  2. In the Internet Format list, click Send Plain Text only or Send using Outlook Rich Text format. By default, Let Outlook decide the best sending format is selected, which usually is HTML format.

Note:  You can change the format for only the messages sent to a contact with an SMTP email address. You can identify an SMTP email address as those that contain the @ symbol — for example, If you are using an Exchange Server account and sending to another person in your organization who is also using an Exchange Server account, this feature is not available.

Top of Page

Change the message format for one message

When you want to change the message format for only one message, do the following:

  1. Create a new message.

  2. In the message window, on the Format Text tab, in the Format group, click HTML, Rich Text, or Plain Text.

Top of Page

Share Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Email Email

Was this information helpful?

Great! Any other feedback?

How can we improve it?

Thank you for your feedback!