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Sane Outlook: Making plain text better in Outlook

I like well-formatted, plain text emails, and I like reading them in a monospace font. I find plain text to be more readable, and provides less ways for people to impact this legibility. Sadly, Outlooks defaults to settings that seemingly encourage bad email ettiquete. Fortunately, we can wrangle Outlook into working some bit normally. You still need to do a bit of work (removing the Outlook context header, giving out to people for top-posting (☺), etc.), but it’s better.

Screenshot of plain text mail before changes

A plain text email before

Screenshot of plain text mail after changes

...and after

Send new emails using plain text

The first step on our road to plain text greatness is to always send new emails using plain text. This won’t modify the formatting of replies: only new emails from you.

You can do this in settings menu (Alt + F, Alt + T). Once here, click on the mail tab and change the “Compose messages in this format:” option.

Screenshot of configuring Outlook to send new emails in plain text

Send new messages in plain text

Prefix and wrap replies correctly

Next up, let’s prefix our emails with the ‘> ’ character. Scroll down on the same settings dialog and enable this.

Screenshot of configuring Outlook to prefix replies in a plain text email

Prefix replies to plain text emails

We should also disable stripping of extra line breaks and force wrapping of the message. For the latter, note that this wrapping is done using Windows’ CRLF combination, thus, users of non-Windows clients may see an extra newline between each line. This isn’t configurable, sadly.

Screenshot of configuring Outlook to not strip extra line breaks

Don't strip extra line breaks

Display emails in monospace font

The final step of this is display the emails in a nice, monospace font. I have Source Code Pro installed, and use the “Light” variant of this in Outlook. To do this, select the “Stationary and Fonts…” button in that same pane.

Screenshot of configuring Outlook to use monospace font (1)

Open the Stationary and Fonts dialog

Once here, modify the config for “Composing and reading plain text messages”.

Screenshot of configuring Outlook to use monospace font (2)

We're changing plain text message formating

Finally, set your desired monospace font.

Screenshot of configuring Outlook to use monospace font (3)

Open the Stationary and Fonts dialog

Wrap Up

Better plain text emails, for the win.

Screenshot of plain text email with correctly configured Outlook

Beautiful, monospace messages