How to Change Email Format to HTML or Plain Text in Outlook

Change the look of your Outlook emails, make emails plain or fancy

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Email messages can be composed in three different formats: plain text, rich text, or HTML. Originally emails were plain text without font style or size formatting, inserted images, colors, and other extras. Rich Text Format (RTF) is a file format developed by Microsoft that provides more formatting options. HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is used to format emails and web pages, providing a wide range of formatting options beyond plain text. You can compose your emails with more options in Outlook by selecting the HTML format.

Instructions in this article apply to Outlook 2019, Outlook 2016, Outlook 2013, Outlook 2010, Outlook for Office 365, Outlook Online, and Outlook for Mac.

How to Use HTML or Plain Text Formats in Outlook.com

If you use the Outlook.com email service, enable HTML formatting in your email messages with a quick adjustment to the Outlook settings.

  1. Select Settings, which appears as a gear or cog icon.

  2. In the Quick Settings menu, select View all Outlook settings.

    Screenshot showing View All Outlook Settings
  3. In the Settings dialog box, select Mail.

    Screenshot of Mail tab in Settings
  4. Select Compose and Reply.

    Screenshot of Compose and Reply
  5. Select the Compose messages in dropdown arrow and choose HTML.

    Screenshot of message format drop-down
  6. Select Save and close the Settings dialog box.

  7. The HTML formatting options are available when composing messages.

How to Change the Message Format in Outlook on the Mac

You can set individual messages to use HTML or plain text formatting in Outlook for the Mac when composing an email message:

  1. In the message window, select the Options tab.

  2. Select Format Text switch to toggle between HTML and Plain Text format.

When you reply to an email that is in HTML format or compose a message that is in HTML format, all the formatting is removed if you switch to plain text. This formatting includes bold and italics, colors, fonts, and multimedia elements. Once these elements are removed, switching back to HTML format does not restore the formatting to the email message.

How to Use HTML or Plain Text Formats in Outlook for Windows

If you reply to or forward an email in Outlook for Windows and want to change the message's format to HTML or plain text for a single message only:

  1. If the message is open in the Reading pane, select Pop Out to open the message in a separate window.

    Screenshot of Pop Out in message window
  2. In the message window, select the Format Text tab.

    Screenshot of Format Text tab
  3. In the Format group, select either HTML or Plain Text, depending on which format you want to use.

If you want to set the default format for all email messages you send in Outlook:

  1. Go to File > Options.

    Screenshot of Outlook Options
  2. In the Outlook Options dialog box, select Mail.

    Screenshot of Mail tab
  3. In the Compose messages section, select the Compose messages in this format dropdown arrow and select either HTML, Plain Text, or Rich Text.

    Screenshot of Compose messages in this format
  4. Select OK to close the Outlook Options dialog box.