How to Use Word as the Default Email Editor in Outlook

Current Outlook versions use only Word as default email editor

Using a laptop
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Early versions of Outlook use two engines: Windows Internet Explorer for reading emails and the Outlook editor for writing and editing emails. People who wanted advanced editing capabilities could set Microsoft Office Word as the default editor for their emails.

Beginning with Outlook 2007, you can only use Word as your email editor.

Set Word as the Default Email Editor in Outlook 2003 and Earlier

To set Word as the default editor for email messages in Outlook:

  • Select Tools > Options from the menu in Outlook.
  • Click the Mail Format tab.
  • Make sure the Use Microsoft Office Word 2003 to edit email messages check box is selected. In versions before Outlook 2003, the text reads Use Microsoft Word to edit email messages.
  • Close the dialog.

Default Editor on Recent Outlook Versions

Beginning With Outlook 2007, the Outlook editor is no longer available. Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 use only Word as the email editor. Outlook 2007 uses Word 2007 for its editor; Outlook 2010 uses Word 2010. The same applies to Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2016 — Word is the only editor option, although you can toggle Outlook to use HTML or RTF. (HTML is recommended.) Improvements in these versions of Word include better support for HTML and cascading style sheets in Outlook email.

You don't have to have Word installed on your computer for it to function as the editor for Outlook ​email. However, if you do have Word installed, additional features are available. When you install Outlook, it looks for Word on your computer. If it doesn't find it, it installs a basic version for Outlook to use.

A couple of things were broken when the Outlook editor was done away with, but they are minor compared to the features that were added with the switch to Word. The most noticeable losses are: 

  • GIF images no longer animate in email
  • Flash objects display as a red X
  • HTML accessibility support is broken