To Change the Font on Incoming Messages

Last reviewed on May 20, 2013

Whether you can change the font on a message you have received depends on many factors:

  • the format of the incoming message
  • the version of Outlook
  • the type of mail server you connect to
  • whether you use Word as your e-mail editor (WordMail)

Below you’ll find instructions organized by the format of the incoming message, plus methods for WordMail and other approaches.

Plain Text | HTML | Rich Text | WordMail | More Information

Outlook 2007, 2010, 2013

In Outlook 2007, Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013, you can change the fonts used for reading plain text messages from the Stationery and Fonts dialog in Options.

Stationery and Fonts dialog
The middle two options, for New mail messages and Replies and Forwards, controls the default fonts used for HTML and RTF messages and apply only to messages you send.

The bottom setting on this dialog is the font used for plain text messages and replies. This font is used both in open messages and in the reading pane. It applies to both messages sent as plain text and HTML messages that you choose to read as plain text.

In Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013 this dialog is at File, Options, Mail. The Stationery and Fonts button is near the top of the Mail pane.

In Outlook 2007 and 2003, look at Tools, Options, Mail Format tab. The Stationery and Fonts button is near the middle of the dialog.

Plain Text

In Outlook 98/2000/2002/2003:

  1. Choose Tools | Options, and switch to the Mail Format tab.
  2. Make sure the Use Microsoft Word to edit e-mail messages box is not checked.
  3. Font options in Outlook 2003

  4. Click the Fonts button.
  5. On the Fonts dialog, make your selection with the Choose Font button under When composing and reading plain text.
  6. Set the plain text font in Outlook 2003

  7. Click OK until you return to the main Outlook window.


You cannot easily control the font used to read HTML messages, since most people who send HTML mail specify the font they want their messages to appear in. If you’re bothered by that, you can follow these steps to set a default font and make an HTML message use that font.

To set the default HTML font in Outlook 2007 and newer:

When a default font is not included in an HTML message, Outlook uses the default web font. You can change this in Word. Go to Options > Advanced > General > Web Options button > Fonts and select a different font. (Thanks, Rick!)

web fonts in outlook 2007 and up

To set the default HTML font in Outlook 2003 and older:

  1. In Internet Explorer, choose Tools | Internet Options.
  2. Click the Fonts button.
  3. On the Web page font list, select the font you want to use as your default.
  4. Click OK to return to Internet Explorer. Note that this change affects web pages, not just HTML mail messages.

To make a message use your default HTML font:

  1. Choose Edit | Edit Message.
  2. Choose Format | Plain Text, and respond Yes when you’re asked whether you really want to change the format.
  3. Choose Edit | Edit Message.
  4. Choose Format | HTML.

Rich Text

As with the HTML format, rich text format (RTF) messages arrive with the font already set by the sender. Unlike HTML, though, you can select text in a received RTF message and use Outlook’s formatting commands to change the way it looks. Choose View | Toolbars if you don’t see the Formatting toolbar on a received message.


If you have set Word as your mail editor in Tools | Options | Mail Format, a message you received will open in WordMail

  • if it is in RTF format, or
  • if it is in plain text format and you are either using Outlook 97 or, for other versions, your default format on Tools | Options | Mail Format is Microsoft Outlook Rich Text.

As noted above, you can’t automatically change the format of RTF messages.

You can, however, control the default font used in WordMail for plain text messages. This is the font for the Normal style in the Word .dot template that Outlook uses for WordMail. For Outlook 2000, the template is always, while Outlook 2002 and Outlook 2003 use Word’s, not a special email template. The default location for the U.S. English version of Outlook is in the C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office\1033 folder. You may find it easiest to locate it on your machine with the Start | Find command.

To change the Normal style to use a different font:

  1. Use File | Open to open the WordMail .dot template directly in Word.
  2. Choose Format | Style.
  3. Select the Normal style from the Styles list.
  4. Click Modify | Format | Font.
  5. On the Font dialog, select the font that you want to use.
  6. Click OK to return to the Modify Style dialog.
  7. Check the box for Add to template.
  8. Click OK, then Close to return to Word.
  9. Save and close the WordMail .dot file.


If the font appears very small when you open a message, check to see whether you’re using WordMail. If so, adjust the zoom setting to 100%. If that change doesn’t “stick” for new messages you open, modify the default WordMail template following the instructions in the MSKB article Zoom Percentage Too Small.

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.

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