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

Switch up your message format to accommodate your recipients

Businessman sending e-mails from a computer concept, depicting switching between HTML and plain text in Outlook
Busakorn Pongparnit / Getty Images

In the Microsoft Outlook email program, you have the choice of composing messages in plain text, rich text (RTF), or HTML. Plain text supports only text characters; HTML supports colors, styles, and more formatting; and RTF supports some formatting.

Depending on your recipients, you may need to switch the format of the email messages you send. For example, if a recipient can't accept HTML emails, you can send their messages in plain text.

Here's how to change the message format of your Outlook emails. Since switching between HTML and plain text is most common, we'll focus on this.

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

Change Email Format in Outlook for Windows

It's easy to change the format of your Outlook email, whether it's just for one message, replying to or forwarding a message, or if you want to set a default email format.

Change Email Format When Replying to or Forwarding a Message

  1. In the message, select ReplyReply All, or Forward.

  2. If you're in the Reading Pane, select Pop Out to open the message in a separate window. (If you're not working in the Reading Pane, you don't have to do this.)

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

    Screenshot of Format Text tab
  4. In the Format group, select either HTML or Plain Text, depending on which format you want to use. (RTF is also an option.) Your message will be sent in the format you selected.

Change Email Format for One New Message

  1. Create a new message.

  2. If you're working in the Reading Pane, select Pop Out. (If you're not working in the Reading Pane, you don't have to do this.)

  3. In the message window, choose Format Text, and then select HTMLPlain Text, or Rich Text.

Change Default Email Format for Sending Messages

To set a default email format:

  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. Your new default format is set.

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

If you use the Outlook.com webmail service, select either HTML or Plain Text from the Outlook.com 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 or Plain Text.

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

  7. Your message format has been set.

How to Change the Message Format in Outlook for Mac

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.