For various reasons, I often have to help friends and family to send email in plain text rather than HTML. However, many of them use email clients that I'm not familiar with, forcing me to search the internet, read help files, or click randomly through dialogs looking for the setting. I've often wished there was a single page that included instructions for changing this setting for every popular email client.

So let's make one.

Write instructions for changing email settings from plain text to HTML in your preferred email client below. If someone else has already done so, please upvote their description so that the most used email clients rise to the top.

(For obvious reasons, there won't be an "accepted answer" for this question. I'll set this question to community wiki after a few days.)

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    Might be better to make this CW as there's not the concept of one "correct answer". Nice use of SuperUser though. – ChrisF Jul 18 '09 at 17:27
  • What is a good Android app for plain text email? – nmz787 Apr 12 '20 at 6:38

Thunderbird (per-message)

Shift-clicking the Write, Reply or Reply All button (but, oddly, not the Forward button) opens the message editor window using the opposite of the current setting, i.e. HTML if set to plain text, and vice versa.

(It would be so much easier if they had a drop-down box, rather than this convoluted method).

  • 2
    Would be great if you combined this with the other Thunderbird tip. – random Jul 22 '09 at 14:29
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    I don't have the power to do that, but if someone who does would like to, then feel free. – Steve Melnikoff Jul 22 '09 at 18:36


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Very easy. Persists between sessions.



Go to Tools -> Account Settings, and under your account choose Composition and Addressing. Uncheck Compose messages in HTML format.

Repeat for all accounts you have, then click OK.

Oh, and I also have an ASCII Ribbon Campaign link in my .signature too.

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    See also my answer for a way of doing this on a per-message basis. – Steve Melnikoff Jul 19 '09 at 19:48

For Outlook, you can set to have all new emails be written by default in plain text format, or just that one email.

To have all new emails be sent in plain text format: go to Tools > Options > Mail Format tab, and check the option that says "Create all new email messages in plain text format".

To write a new email message or reply to one using the plain text format:

  • If you use MS Word as your editor when writing emails (you will see this if you have the buttons for Bold/Italic/Underlined text in a bar above the message field), look for the drop down that has HTML/Rich Text/Plain Text as choices. Select "Plain Text," and if you get a message saying choosing it will make the email lose all its current formatting, click Yes.

  • If you're not using MS Word as your editor, click on Format, where you can choose between Plain Text and either Rich Text or HTML (this is usually determined by what is set by default - see my answer above).

My answer is based on my experiences with Outlook 2000, XP, and 2003. I have not used anything from Office 2007, but I'm guessing you should have the same options.


Within Gmail it defaults to plain text. To get HTML formatting click on "Rich formatting" just above the email body. If it is already in "Rich formatting" mode there will be a "Plain Text" link above the email body. Clicking that will change it back to plain text mode.


Mac OS X Mail:

  1. Open Mail.
  2. Go to Mail > Preferences...
  3. Click on the Composing tab.
  4. Modify the Message Format drop-down box. Choices are Rich Text and Plain Text.

This works for Mail version 2.1.3 (753.1) on OS X 10.4 (Tiger), and probably most other versions of Mail.

  • That's cool, never noticed it. Now I just wish it would let you edit the HTML source! – jtbandes Jul 18 '09 at 17:11
  • Or, while writing (like when Rich Text is the default): menu Format, Make Plain Text (Shift-Command-T toggles between Rich Text and Plain Text). – Arjan Jul 22 '09 at 14:55


Evolution has an option to select 'plain text' or 'HTML' on each email, as shown in the new mail message window in the Evolution user guide. There is also a configuration option (under 'Edit -> Prefences -> Composer Preferences') to set the default format to HTML. The same location has a setting for default character set.


You might like tor look at the ASCII Ribbon Campaign that, half seriously, campaigns for ASCII attachments rather than HTML.


Windows Live Mail

Go to Tools > Options and click on the Send tab. Under the Mail Sending Format section, select Plain Text. Click OK.


Opera Mail

By default, while Opera can handle and does display HTML in emails, all emails sent using Opera default to plain text.

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