Outlook relies on one of three default settings to send messages:

  • Plain Text sends email using plain text characters. Because you can’t format anything, this format is compatible with all email clients. Anyone with an email account will be able to read your message.
  • HTML allows you to apply HTML formatting, which is great for those special-needs messages. Most email clients can receive and read HTML-formatted messages, but not always. HTML-formatted messages have the potential to produce a mess.
  • Rich Text allows simple text formatting and is specific to Outlook. Use it only when you know the recipient is using Outlook.

Many users prefer Plain Text because it’s dependable, even if it is boring. But if you need to send a message in HTML format, you don’t have to change the default setting. You can change the format for an individual message, as follows:

  1. From the Actions menu, choose New Mail Message Using.
  2. Select the desired format.

In Outlook 2007 and 2010 (still in beta), it’s a bit easier:

  1. Select the Format Text tab in the new message window.
  2. Choose a format from the Format group.

To change the default setting (2007 and earlier), do the following:

  1. From the Tools menu, choose Options.
  2. Click the Mail Format tab.
  3. In the Message Format section, choose one of the three settings.

In Office 2010, the default settings are accessible via the Office button, as follows:

  1. Click the Office button (tab).
  2. In the left panel, select Outlook and then click Options.
  3. In the left panel, choose Mail.
  4. Select a format in the Compose Messages section.

Let the default setting handle most of your formatting needs. Then, when you need to send something using another format, just select that format for the individual message.