How to Compose Messages in HTML or Plain Text

Mozilla Thunderbird, Netscape or Mozilla

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Mozilla Thunderbird lets you apply rich formatting to text and images as you compose an email or reply.

A Text Less Plain—or More

You do not need to be a fan of rich HTML emails to come to like Mozilla Thunderbird, Netscape and Mozilla's option to compose messages in HTML.

You can always also send safe plain text, of course.

Compose an Email Using Rich HTML Formatting in Mozilla Thunderbird

To use the HTML editor to add rich formatting to an email you are composing in Mozilla Thunderbird:

  1. Make sure rich HTML editing is enabled for the account you are using for the email. (See below.)
  2. Use the rich formatting toolbar to apply text styles and more:
    • ​Highlight text, for example, and click the Bold, Italic and Underline buttons to apply these styles.
    • Click the Apply or remove bulleted list and Apply or remove numbered list buttons to itemize paragraphs and points.
    • Click Insert a smiley face and choose from the menu that appears to insert an emoticon into your email.
    • Use the Choose a font menu to select a font or font family for highlighted text (or the text you are about to write).
    • With the Smaller font size and Larger font size buttons, you can decrease or increase, respectively, the size of text.
      • Also note the Ctrl-< and Ctrl-> (Windows, Linux) or Command-< and Command-> (Mac) shortcut equivalents for these commands.
    • Click the insert button followed by Image to add a picture inline with your email's text.
    • Highlight text and click insert followed by Link to link text to a page on the web.
    • Explore the Format menu for many options more.
      • Under Text Style, find commands to render code and citations, for example.
      • Using the Table commands, insert and edit simple spread sheet-like tables.
    • Use Format | Discontinue Text Styles or Format | Remove All Text Styles to return to default formatting for highlighted or future text.
      • The keyboard shortcut equivalent is Ctrl-Shift-Y (Windows, Linux) or Command-Shift-Y (Mac).

    Enable Rich HTML Editing for an Account in Mozilla Thunderbird

    To make sure the rich-text editor is available for messages you write using a specific account in Mozilla Thunderbird, Mozilla SeaMonkey or Netscape:

    1. Select Edit | Account Settings… (Windows, Linux) or Tools | Account Settings... (Mac) from the menu in Mozilla Thunderbird.
      • In Netscape and Mozilla, select Edit | Mail & Newsgroup Account Settings... from the menu.
      • You can also click the hamburger (Thunderbird) menu button in Mozilla Thunderbird and select Preferences | Account Settings from the menu that appears.
    1. Highlight the account in the account list.
    2. Go to the Composition & Addressing category if available.
    3. Make sure Compose messages in HTML format is checked.
    4. Click OK.

    One of the advantages of the HTML editor is that the spell checker will not complain about internet addresses.

    Send a Plain Text Message with Mozilla Thunderbird

    To send a message in plain text using Mozilla Thunderbird, Netscape or Mozilla:

    1. Compose your message as usual.
    2. Select Options | Delivery Format | Plain Text Only (or Options | Format | Plain Text Only) from the message's menu.
    3. Continue editing the message, and finally send it using the Send this message now button.

    (Tested with Mozilla Thunderbird 38)