Read Outlook Messages using Plain Text

Last reviewed on March 28, 2014

You have two options if you want to use plain text formatting for all messages you send, including Replies and Forwards: read all mail using plain text or convert the message to plain text format before hitting reply.

As of Office 2002/XP SR1 update, all Outlook versions have the ability to force all incoming messages to be displayed as plain text in both the preview pane and opened message form.

Unlike other utilities and macros, such as the Convert to Plain Text macro, the message is not actually converted to plain text, it's just not rendered as HTML. If you want to read it in HTML format, click in the Infobar to restore the HTML format.

Convert plain text to HTML on the flyWhen Read-as-plain text is enabled in Outlook 2003, 2007, or 2010, the Infobar will say if the message was converted to plain text. You can easily switch individual messages to HTML by clicking in the Infobar and displaying the message as HTML.

Enable Read as Plain Text in Outlook 2010 / 2013

To enable Read all standard mail in plain text setting in Outlook 2010 or 2013, open File, Options, Trust Center dialog box. Select E-mail Security.

Read as plain text setting

Enable Read as Plain Text in Outlook 2003 / 2007

To enable Read all standard mail in plain text settings in Outlook 2007, go to Tools, Trust Center, Email Security. In Outlook 2003, look for the option in Tools, Options, Email Options.

Read all messages in plain text using Outlook 2010

Outlook 2002 SR1 Registry Key

The key you'll use in Outlook 2002 SR1 (and up) is:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\10.0\Outlook\Options\Mail
DWORD:READASPLAIN
Data Value: 1

Once the key is set and you restart Outlook, all messages will be displayed as plain text.

If you don't want to edit the registry to make the change in Outlook 2002, you can use Attachment Options to set this key (and more) for you.

Change format to plain text

If you prefer to change the messages to plain text when you reply, open the message, go into Edit Message mode then switch to plain text format before hitting Reply.

Enable Edit message mode

Run a Script Rule

Note: converting a message to plain text will destroy the HTML part. you will not be able to convert it back to HTML later. Reading all messages in plain text will allow you to switch messages back to HTML.

To use, press Alt+F11 to open the VBA editor. Expand Project1 to locate ThisOutlookSession and paste the following code into the right side of the screen. Save and close the VB Editor.

Create a rule in Outlook with conditions that apply to the affected messages and select the Run a Script as the action. Select the script and complete the rule.

Sub ConvertToPlain(oMail As MailItem)
    Dim strID As String
    Dim objMail As Outlook.MailItem
    
    strID = oMail.EntryID
    Set objMail = Application.Session.GetItemFromID(strID)
    objMail.BodyFormat = olFormatPlain
    objMail.Save
    
    Set objMail = Nothing
End Sub

Written by

Diane Poremsky
A Microsoft Outlook Most Valuable Professional (MVP) since 1999, Diane is the author of several books, including Outlook 2013 Absolute Beginners Book. She also created video training CDs and online training classes for Microsoft Outlook. You can find her helping people online in Outlook Forums as well as in the Microsoft Answers and TechNet forums.

Please post long or more complicated questions at Outlookforums.

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