How to Read All Mail in Secure Plain Text in Outlook

Immunize Outlook against many email threats with this one setting

 Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

You can make reading email in Outlook more secure and protect your privacy by reading in plain text only.

The Risky Pretty Email

Some emails and newsletters boasting rich HTML formatting may be nice to look at, but such appealing looks might not be worth the risks that come with rich-text emails, including:

  • As-yet-unknown exploits and threats.
  • Possibly slow display and interaction.
  • The privacy risk that comes with the chance of remote servers contacted as soon as you open the message.
  • Ugly messages that are difficult to read.

If you think HTML is not worth it, Outlook can help you. One setting lets you have Outlook eliminate HTML formatting entirely from all the emails you read.

Instructions in this article apply to Outlook 2016, 2013, 2010, 2007, and 2003.

Read All Mail in Plain Text Only in Outlook

To have all emails rendered and displayed with but plain text in Outlook 2016, 2013, and 2010:

  1. Select File in Outlook.

    The File menu in Outlook.
  2. Now select Options on the left.

    Outlook options dialog box.
  3. Open the Trust Center category.

    Viewing the trust center in Outlook.
  4. Select Trust Center Settings under Microsoft Outlook Trust Center.

    Selecting trust center settings option in Outlook.
  5. Now go to the Email Security category.

    Viewing email security in Outlook trust center.
  6. Make sure Read all standard mail in plain text is checked under Read as Plain Text.

    • Optionally, check Read all digitally signed mail in plain text as well to treat electronically signed—but not necessarily more trustworthy if you do not know the sender—messages in the same way.
    Selecting to read emails as plain text in Outlook.
  7. Select OK.

  8. Select OK again.

Read an Individual Message Using Rich (HTML) Formatting

To open any message in its HTML formatting (with Outlook configured to show messages in plain text only):

  1. Select We converted this message into plain text format. above the message's content.

    Selecting to view an individual email as HTML in Outlook.
  2. Select Display as HTML from the menu that has appeared.

    An email in HTML format in Outlook.

Read All Mail in Plain Text Only in Outlook 2007

To make Outlook 2007 render all messages in secure plain text:

  1. Select Tools > Trust Center from the menu in Outlook.

  2. Go to the E-mail Security.

  3. Make sure Read all standard mail in plain text and Read all digitally signed mail in plain text are checked under Read as Plain Text.

  4. Select OK.

Read All Mail in Plain Text Only in Outlook 2003

To have Outlook 2003 display all messages in secure plain text:

  1. Select Tools > Options from the menu in Outlook.

  2. Make sure the Preferences tab is selected.

  3. Select E-mail Options.

  4. Make sure Read all standard mail in plain text and Read all digitally signed mail in plain text are checked.

  5. Select OK.

  6. Select OK again.

Of course, you can still view individual messages using the full HTML formatting.