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 used 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.

Instructions in this article apply to Outlook 2003 and earlier.

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

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

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

  2. Go to the Mail Format tab.

  3. Select the Use Microsoft Office Word 2003 to edit email messages check box.

    In versions before Outlook 2003, the text reads Use Microsoft Word to edit email messages.

  4. Close the dialog box.

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 2019, 2016, and 2013 — 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.

Other Considerations

You don't have to have Word installed on your computer for it to function as the editor for Outlook ​email. 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.

However, if you do have Word installed, additional features are available. For instance, the automatic (background) spell checker and AutoCorrect are only available if you have both Outlook and the same version of Word installed.

A couple of things were broken when the Outlook editor was replaced, 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 emails.
  • Flash objects display as a red X.
  • HTML accessibility support is broken.

These features aren’t supported either because they could pose a security risk or they are not pertinent for reading an email.