To Change the Font on Incoming Messages

Last reviewed on June 9, 2014   —  73 comments

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.

Instead of changing the font in messages, you can adjust the Zoom. See Adjusting Outlook’s Zoom setting for more information.

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.

HTML

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.

WordMail

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 Email.dot, while Outlook 2002 and Outlook 2003 use Word’s normal.dot, 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.

Notes

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.

About Diane Poremsky

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 Outlook forums by Slipstick.com.

73 responses to “To Change the Font on Incoming Messages”

  1. Cindy Lingel

    How do I make an incoming message appear larger than messages already opened?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      The text in the Message List? You need to customize the view to change the Automatic formatting (conditional formatting in Outlook 2010).

  2. Vicki Gordon

    I DO NOT like this edition of Outlook. So sorry we purchased it, so sorry I liked the older versions and can no longer have them, and so sorry I thought I could find an answer here. What a waste of my time.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      What problem looking for answer to?

  3. Karen Leoncelli

    Can you help me with an Outlook 2010 issue? When I receive new mail, it arrives as unread, but as soon as the PC refreshes itself, all unread messages turn to read, and it's causing me no end of confusion. How do I stop this? I only want the unreads to turn to read once I've read them, not when the PC decides....

    1. Diane Poremsky

      What type of email account? Are you syncing with a smartphone?
      One possible fix is to run scanpst on your data file.

  4. Peggy Catoe

    Can I make a specific incoming email a unique color?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Do you want to change the actual message color or just how it looks in the message list?

      You can use conditional formatting to highlight messages in the message list.

      Conditional formatting example

  5. Holly

    I am having the same problem. I need the steps to take to fix this. I am also using a smartphone and my company is going through Googlemail but I love Outlook and since we switched every email shows as read.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      When you read mail on the phone, the read state syncs to Outlook. The only way to avoid it is by using POp3, but IMAP gives you a better experience.

  6. H. LeBleu

    This is ridiculous! None of the information you supplied was available when I went to Mail Format. There was NO (Use Microsoft Word to edit email messsages) button. there was NO ( Font) button ! ! ! NOW WHAT ? ? ?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      What version of Outlook are you using? The options available vary with the version.

  7. bill larosa

    incoming e-mail font size in outlook 2007.
    cant change font size. its grayed out, help!!!

    1. Diane Poremsky

      What message format? Are all messages affected or just some?

  8. Giovanna

    Excellent article. One of my teachers was receiving all plain text messages in WHITE font (and white backgroung) and because of that she couldn't read any of them. Thanks to your detailed explanation I was able to resolve it.

  9. DS WASHINGTON

    MY FONTS ARE TOO SMALL AND YOUR MICROSOFT WERE EVEN SMALLER; YOU EVEN REFUSED TO REPLY ABOUT ANY OF MY ISSUES. KNOW WONDER EVERYONE TOLD TO BUY A "MAC" OR "APPLE". YOU ARE WORTHLESS.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Who did you contact? Did you call Microsoft Support? (This site is not run by Microsoft but I try to help everyone who asks for help.)

      Which version of Outlook? Which fonts need to be larger? While some text in Outlook's UI can't be changed within Outlook, there are things you can do in Windows to enlarge the fonts. See Change the size of the font in the Folder list for some options.

  10. Rick Diamant

    Diane,

    The problem I was having was after I changed my default fonts in the "Stationery and Fonts" settings. It worked most of the time, but when I received an HTML e-mail that didn't have any default font settings, Outlook would continue to use my old default font. Unfortunately, I changed my default setting for this specific situation somehow a long time ago and couldn't figure out the place to fix it.

    I found this page by Googling on "default font incoming html outlook email" and hoped you would have the answer based on your subject. Unfortunately, you only had the answer for Outlook 2003 and older and I'm using Outlook 2010. But it put me on the right path to finally find it again.

    Open Word and go to Options > Advanced > General (near bottom of page) > Web Options button > Fonts (far right tab).

    Hope this helps anyone else that has the same problem.

    Rick D.

    1. JT

      Thank you Rick D!!!!! The instructions were not accurate for 2010 Outlook. Your answer was perfect. I appreciate it greatly.

  11. mickeywhite

    1. I want to print my monthly calendar, but start with the middle of the current month, in the old outlook, we could display the calnedar, scroll it to say 06/17/2013 and it will print a full 6 weeks begining with 06/17 week. The new one always starts with the first day of the week.
    2. I want to beable to recieve TEXT email and reply back in HTML with my reply colors automatically, the old email had a button to do this, and now I am haveing to Highlight the whole email and change to html and change the font and color. ?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      You are using the option to print full months per page, you need to uncheck 'print one month per page'.

      There was nothing built into outlook that did this - you were either using a macro or an addin. See always use HTML for a macro. Note that it's not recommended as the recipient might not be able to read HTML anyway and if the recipient is using a smartphone or cellular data connection, it costs them more to download HTML because the file is larger.

  12. Joanna

    Thank you very much for your help :)

  13. mickeywhite

    1. in outlook 10, where is 'print one month per page'. When I go to the print option and get ready to print the page the dates to and from are what a want, but it still prints the begining date of the month I am in.
    2. In the Old outlook, when I replied or forwarded the text email, I could click one button to change a email that was sent in Text to HTML.
    I do have HTML as my default and do want to receive emails (and send) in Text sometimes.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      1. Print Options, Page Setup. I have screenshots here .
      2. You can do that in the compose message window - look on Format Text tab for the format buttons. You couldn't change it in one step before replying.

      To open a compose message window in your desired format, use New Items > Email Using. This replaces the old Actions > New Message Using menu.

      I have a macro here that will change the format of a message before creating the reply - it's for those times you need to change the format but don't want to change the format every time.

  14. mickeywhite

    Diane, WOW ! Thanks, these are what I want. Do you work for MicroSoft ou are you just a knowledgable helpful person in real life?

    Thanks Again!

    1. Diane Poremsky

      I don't work for Microsoft; I'm just knowledgeable and helpful. :) Thanks.

  15. MIkolaj Rutkowski

    It works like a charm indeed! Thanks - I was looking for that for a long time. I tried to play with IE font settings but that was unsuccessful.

  16. Stirling I

    THANK YOU!!!! I just spent 2 hours going crazy over this.

  17. Frustrated

    What ever happened to manners? You are doing your best for a variety of situations and people don't always communicate their specifics which, at the very least, makes it challenging to help everyone. I'm sorry that people are so rude. If someone doesn't understand an answer, they should try contacting you again with more specifics or quietly go into that good night - soundlessly.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Thanks for your concern! I don't let it get to me, Outlook can be very frustrating and users just want the damn thing to work.

  18. Alan

    Hi Diane,

    In Outlook 2010, is it possible to open a sent message, do Ctrl-A to select all the text and then somehow change the font? I've a user who says they could do that before so that it used less pages when printing.

    I can't seem to modify the text of sent messages in Outlook 2010. I think it was possible in 2003.

    The user also mentioned that in the past they managed to add the entire Format Text tab menu to the Quick Access Toolbar. Not sure about that ...

    Thanks in advance for any tips ...

    - Alan.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      If you go into Edit Message mode (Actions, Edit Message), in some/most cases you can change the font that way. If the message uses CSS sheets, it may not work - but on almost all mail from other users, it will work. It may not work on bulk mail or advertising.

      I don't remember being able to add the entire tab (as a flyout menu) to the QAT, only parts of it - when i get a chance, I'll load up outlook and check.

  19. Karen

    Help please! I have Outlook 2010 but when I print my emails the From, Sent, To, Cc and Subject are so large it takes up so much paper. The rest of the email is fine. How do I stop this or change the font only in the header part? Hope you can help.
    Thanks
    Karen

    1. Diane Poremsky

      In File > Print, choose Page Setup and change the Fields font size. Default is 12 pt.

  20. Neill Gibson

    Dianne you are simply the best. So many times when MS help is completely useless you come through with EXACTLY the answer I need. I think I'm in love... ;-)

  21. Josiah

    Agreed! Thank you Dianne.

  22. Jeff

    Is there a way of changing the font color on incoming messages in Outlook 2010? Most of my incoming messages come in blue and I want them black. When I go into the trust center and change the email security setting to read all standard mail in plain text, it changes the color to black, but double spaces everything. Is there a way of doing this without the double spacing?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      That is displaying the messages in plain text and it's probably the best way to use all black text. You couldu se a script to change the color as they arrive, but it's will likely be iffy and miss a lot. To change the messages as they arrive, you'd use a macro similar to the one at http://www.slipstick.com/outlook/rules/change-font-outlooks-rss-feeds/ ,looking for the color tag and changing it to color:black.

  23. namit bhalla

    Hi.. I use Outlook 2013. I have made multiple Folders for ease of sorting. Whenever a new email comes, it automatically goes in the specific folder, but there's no change in the Folder view in the pane. Can I make the number of Unread mails/Folder change colour, each time there are new mails in a folder.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      The bold unread message count should change for the folder it was moved to, but you can't color or otherwise highlight the folder. The unread count is specific to each folder - if you move a message to a subfolder, the parent folder will not show the bold indicator.

      What you can do is use an Unread mail search folder - all unread mail will be shown the folder, regardless of the folder its stored in.

  24. Doug

    Hi, The font in email I receive from a Mac is very small in my Windows Outlook 2007. Is there any way to adjust the font size for those, other than using a plain text setting for all incoming email?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      No, not permanently. You can adjust the zoom per message but it's not persistent. If the font is small throughout windows you can change the display settings, but if affects all applications.

  25. David Grainger

    Very helpful, I was trying to format emails that I have either replied to or forwarded but can't find the relevant field for the filter!

    1. Diane Poremsky

      In the message list? The last verb file in the CFG here should expose the field you need to filter on.

  26. manikumar

    Hi diane, actually we have some problem , when any incoming email that containing html pages that is showing as HTML tags in Outlook. why it is showing HTML Tags in outlook?
    Please could you help me to made any changes to display it as HTML

    1. Diane Poremsky

      THat happens when the message is corrupted. One common cause is a virus or spam scanner scanning incoming email. What antivirus do you use?

  27. j hunt

    Diane, I have a similar problem. Had been searching for quite some time before I stumbled across your blog. FYI, I use Outlook 2003 & Word 2003, both SP3 (yes, I will upgrade soon).

    Here is my situation. Some time back I made changes to customize either Word or Outlook (can’t remember the specific changes). Before those changes, the entire email printed out in Arial font. Now the email Header info (From, Sent, To, Cc, Subject, and “my name" at the very top) all prints in Times New Roman, while the Body of the message is still in Arial.

    When I go to File > PageSetup > DefinePrintStyles > MemoStyle > Edit, the Title Font shows as Arial 12 point, and the Fields Font is Arial 10 point. Yet when I print, the Header is still in Times New Roman.

    So what do I need to do to get the Header to also print using Arial font??

    Thoughts??

    Thanks :)
    John

    1. Diane Poremsky

      So it looks correct in the preview but prints wrong? What printer do you use?

  28. j hunt

    HP, Deskjet 9800 or Photosmart 8050, printer has no effect on the original incoming message header font output. But if I "Reply" & then print out the reply (before sending), the original incoming message header font seems fine... Your wordpress site is donotreply... If you send me a functional email address, I can send you PDFs showing the different font outputs, so that you can see exactly what I'm attempting to describe here with words.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      use diane at slipstick com and I'll take a look at the pdf.

  29. frankmaybe

    I found the following in the Microsoft Community (http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office/forum/officeversion_other-outlook/how-do-i-change-the-font-in-outlook-on-incoming/f8971ef2-b4f4-4e50-afe3-60afc9769472). It helped me more than my initial review of this page. After looking back at this page I realized Diane's very first section "Outlook 2007, 2010, 2013" had half of the solution. Below is the first half (steps 1 & 2). Steps 3-5 are essentially the same as Diane's above.

    Outlook 2010:

    1.Click File > Options > Trust Center (category) > Trust Center Settings... (button) > E-mail Security (category)
    2.Under 'Read as Plain Text', check the box next to 'Read all standard mail in plain text' > click OK once to return to Outlook Options.
    3.Click Mail (category) > Stationary and Fonts... (button).
    4.Under 'Composing and reading plain text messages', click Font... (button).
    5.Adjust the font size/settings as desired (how to you want to see new messages?) and click OK when done, then OK to exit the Signatures and Stationary window, and OK again to exit Outlook Options.

    Note - You will have to click off of whatever email you had selected while changing the settings, then click back on it to see the changes you've made.

    Sorry, Diane, for not looking close enough at the start. To be honest, the comments section got me all confused with other topics being addressed. Thanks for your help.

  30. Fabio Quintal

    Is there a way to set a default font when the received message contains a font that I don't have? For example, I have client who sends his messages in Comic San MS, but for some reason I don't have it in my version of Windows 7. It then displays the font as barcode...I usually have to forward the message to myself changing the font to something else I do have, so I can read the message properly...in fact, I don't actually forward it but once it's in edit mode I can change the font. I'm assuming Outlook uses this barcode font when it can't find the actual font. If so I would like it to default to something else like Arial.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      It shouldn't use the bar code when it can't find the font. Typically, the HTML might list 2 or 3 fonts it can use, but even if it only lists one, the fallback font should be your default font as set in stationery and fonts. Right click on the very bottom of the message and choose View Source. Is comic sans the only font listed?

  31. Fabio Quintal

    There were other fonts for their signature and a disclaimer but the only one that displayed as barcode was the Comic Sans MS. I had to verify as well for the rest of the name because outlook would only display Comic Sans and the the actual name has "MS" at the end. I checked by copying and pasting to Word and word displayed it as barcode as well but it display the whole font name. I checked my default font and it appears to be "Courier New". I ended up grabbing the Comic Sans font MS from my old XP machine. I restarted Outlook and no more barcode! So it's working but what happens when the next person send me another font I don't have...I'm hoping it won't display as barcode but I'm not so sure.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      I thought Comic Sans MS was included with Windows (or Office) - i have it here. You definitely should not have had a font substitution to a bar code font. At the very least, it should have used the default system font. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Fonts - this lists font names and the matching font file. The FontSubstitutes key has fonts and what to substitute (comic sans is not listed here on my machine). \FontMapper\FamilyDefaults has defaults to use - it think it should have used one of them or Calibri or Segoe (these are the new windows defaults), not barcode.

  32. Fabio Quintal

    Yeah, I thought the Comic Sans MS font was part of Windows...I guess somehow it got deleted on my current install somehow. All the stuff on the registry looks fine...it lists the comic sans as "Comic Sans MS.ttf" in the FONTS key. It hasn't happened again since copied it from another PC. I guess I'm going to call it solved for now.

  33. wmsrandy

    This is very helpful Diane - who would have thought to go to MS Word to change the font settings. I made the change and expect that it will work. I see a complaint about the new Outlook. While many Microsoft changes take some learning and a little time to become a habit, and Microsoft occasionally makes snafus and corrects them later, I believe Microsoft's biggest challenge is a user community that is change averse. I like Microsoft's advances, including Windows 8.1, Office 365, OneDrive, OneNote +++.

  34. Nancy Valentine

    Diane, I would like to know if you can change the fonts in an incoming message that is not plain text? One of my clients does not see well and ask me this. I cannot find a way. Any advice?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      No, not really. The problem is that the font is not unique and is part of the CSS. The only option would be to convert the message to plain text - I'd recommend using the Outlook option to display as plain so he can switch it back to HTML per message. This should work good for most business and personal mail, but bulk and advertising may have a lot of urls throughout.

      The read as plain setting in is File, Options, Trust Center, Email Security.

  35. Nancy

    I did try this but realized it affected all messages and the messages with URLs and Hyperlinks were being adversly affected. I had the client to act as if they were forwarding the message and select the text and enlarge so it could be read. This can be done on a case basis and not affect the entire mailbox.

    Thanks

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Yeah, you found the big problem with plain text. He can use the zoom settings - its not automated, but should be just as easy as what you are doing now. See http://www.slipstick.com/outlook/adjust-outlooks-zoom-setting/ - a macro can automate it if opening messages, but won't work in the reading pane.

  36. Nancy

    I think this will work better. I'll give it a whirl - thanks

  37. Irina

    Hi, I really need your help right now. My original outlook layout changed, I must of pressed the wrong button. Now I can only see the emails that are arriving in a long thin strip. I need them to be in an original format so I can see them on the right side open and can read as I go. Please help! Irina

    1. Diane Poremsky

      did you slide the reading pane to the right, making it narrow? Pull it to the left to fix. If not, can you post a screenshot of what you see?

    2. Rick G.

      I am having a similar problem except only certain emails come in in a long thin strip (2"). This only happens with certain emails such as some airline ticket confirmation and Newspaper article emails such as NYTimes. I imagine these emails are HTML emails. How can I change the default margins on these emails so If I need to print them they print in one page and not several pages with one thin column? -than you

    3. Diane Poremsky

      I think its a different problem and right now, I'm not sure exactly why its happening. I think outlook is misreading the CSS code in the messages and formatting it with the CSS intended for smartphones.

      Is this with an outlook.com account? Is it formatted ok if you log in online?

  38. Leo

    Win XP Word 2003 ... Win 7 Word 2010

    • Whenever I click to open a TXT file, it opens in Courier -- the most uncomfortable font for screen reading! Hence, spelled out procedure to change the Windows Courier default-font for display of the plain text files, would be much appreciated.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      For text files, in Notepad, go to Format, font and choose a different font.

    2. Leo

      • Diane, thanks for prompt reply. Notepad however is not a viable alternative to cater for the word-processing functions such as search-and-replace, running micros etc. Unfortunately, no instruction has been provided by Microsoft how to change Windows default Courier font -- when opening plain text files in Word 2010 or earlier versions. Undeterred, I came across the following users guide ... http://www.addbalance.com/word/defaultfont.htm ... hopefully to figure out its intricate string of instructions and replace "Courier" for good.

    3. Diane Poremsky

      Have you seen http://www.slipstick.com/outlook/email/understanding-fonts-and-the-body-style/ ? That is how you change it for the default font - the steps are the same in Word.

  39. Salman

    Hi Diane Poremsky-
    Text of Some of (not all) my incoming emails show as right alligned. When i reply to such emails, the reply text also is right aligned by default. Its showing terrible layout.
    I am using MS outlook 2013

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Are they from senders who would use a right to left language?

    2. Salman

      No- we use the same language. Please have look at the screen shot below
      http://s7.postimg.org/fqbepjhiz/sam.png

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