How to Read All Mail in Secure Plain Text in Outlook

Master
Master. © Randen Pederson; CC BY 2.0 license

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 is such appeal 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 and
  • 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.

Read All Mail in Plain Text Only in Outlook

To have all emails rendered and displayed with but plain text in Outlook 2013 and later:

  1. Click File (or FILE) in Outlook.
  2. Now click Options on the left.
  3. Open the Trust Center category.
  4. Click Trust Center Settings… under Microsoft Outlook Trust Center.
  5. Now go to the Email Security (or E-mail Security) category.
  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.
  7. Click OK.
  8. Click 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. Click We converted this message into plain text format. above the message's content.
  2. Select Display as HTML from the menu that has appeared.

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.
  1. Go to the E-mail Security category.
  2. 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.
  3. Click OK.

Read All Mail in Plain Text Only in Outlook 2003

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

  • ›› Step by Step Screenshot Walkthrough
  1. Select Tools | Options... from the menu in Outlook.
  2. Make sure the Preferences tab is selected.
  3. Click 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. Click OK.
  6. Click OK again.

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

Read All Mail in Plain Text Only in Outlook 2002

Outlook 2002 SP1 has a similar (though not as comfortably set up) security feature.

(Tested with Outlook 2003, Outlook 2007, Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2016)