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Fixing Errors in Outlook: Your Email Program Does Not Support HTML

written by: Bruce Tyson•edited by: Christian Cawley•updated: 5/25/2011

When you can't read all the information in an email sent from Outlook your email program does not support HTML. This causes problems for recipients who are unable to benefit from received messages. Also, sometimes Outloolk may not display messages properly. Learn how to handle these problems here.

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    HTML Mail Overview

    When email was first developed, it sent and received text messages only. There were no options for changing fonts and iimages could not be embeded in the body of the email. Things have changed with advanced mail clients like Outlook, messages can contain rich content making it possible to create visually appealing messages every time by formatting them in HTML, the same code language that powers web sites.

    HTML based email is nice, but what happens when recipients cannot read the email sent to them from Outlook? Many times this is because the recipient does not have an email client that is capable of receiving HTML email messages, Sometimes, they have a compatible browser, like Outlook, but still cannot see received messages properly Here we take a look at what to do when receiving messages composed in Outlook and your email program does not support HTML.

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    Sending an HTML Email Message from Outlook

    To create an HTML message in Outlook, click on the "New E-Mail" icon on the "Home" ribbon. When the message window opens, click on the "Format Text" menu item. You can then insert some HTML content. In this example, we insert an image from Wikimedia called "Herjangsfjorden & Ofotfjorden, wide, 2009 09.jpg." In a marketing email, for example, the embedded image would contain a sales pitch.

    outlook 001 

    This email message looks beautiful, but not every recipient will be able to appreciate that beauty. Here is what this message looks like for a recipient who is not configured to read HTML messages.

    outlook 002 This is quite a difference. This explains why some people never seem to get messages: they literally cannot see them. Sometimes a recipient will never tell the sender that their message isn't getting through, so senders should ask them if they can receive HTML: messages before sending that type of message to them.

    Solving the problem

    To make sure that email recipients can get email messages, send them in plain text. For images like the one in the example, the URL can be pasted in text with a message telling the recipient to copy the URL and paste it into their Web browser.

    Many commercial mailing lists ask subscribers whether they wish to receive HTML or plain text messages. This information is often managed automatically by mailing list management software, but it can also be helpful to identify the email preferences of ordinary Outlook contacts.

    For normal correspondence, an Outlook user can annotate their contact list to identify which form of email they wish to receive, so when the user goes to craft a message to that contact they know whether to choose "HTML" or "Plain Text" from the "Format Text" ribbon in the Outlook message window.

    Image Credit (used inside sample email message): Wikimedia Commons/Ximonic, Simo Räsänen

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    Receiving an HTML Email Message from Outlook

    Just because a recipient has Outlook doesn't mean that recipient will be able to see HTML-based email messages properly. To demonstrate this, let's compose the same HTML email in Mozilla Thunderbird and send it to an Outlook email address.

    outlook 005 

    Again, here is a beautiful email, this time being sent to a recipient who is known to have Microsoft Outlook. Unfortunately, the recipient is puzzled when this email enters the Outlook Inbox. Here's what it may look like.

    outlook 006 Here is an HTML message sent from a program other than Outlook and your email program does not support HTML even though the message was received in Outlook.

    Reading HTML messages in Outlook

    When a message comes in that makes Outlook seem as though it does not suupport HTML, a simple setting needs to be changed. In Outlook, click "File" and then choose "Options" from the menu on the left.

    outlook 007 

    When the "Outlook Options" window opens, choose the "Trust Center" option and then click the "Trust Center Settings" button.

    outlook 009 Next, click the "E-mail Security" button and then un-check the box next to the line that says, "Read all standard mail in plain text." This will turn off the setting that is causing Outlook not to display HTML-based email.

    outlook 010 Now, click the "OK" button and then click "OK" again. Now, test to see if Outlook will display HTML mail by re-sending a sample.

    outlook 011 Outlook HTML support being reactivated now allows the email to be rendered as the sender intended.

    Image Credit (used inside sample email message): Wikimedia Commons/Ximonic, Simo Räsänen

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    Conclusion

    Here we looked at what to do when you receive an email that was sent from Outlook and your email program does not support HTML. We talked about segregating HTML and plain text recipients, mailing lists, and considered sending all email to a contact in plain text until that contact is confirmed to have the capability to receive HTML formatted messages.

    When receiving HTML mail in Outlook and it does not display as expected, a simple setting in the "Trust and Security" section of Outlook's settings is usually to blame.

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    References

    USB Pen Drive Apps. "Popcorn – Portable Text Email Client", http://www.pendriveapps.com/popcorn-portable-text-email-client/

    Microsoft. "How to view all e-mail messages in plain text format", http://support.microsoft.com/kb/831607

    Author’s own experience

    Screenshots provided by writer