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Showing Full Message Headers in Microsoft Outlook 2007: Tip #11

written by: Mojave Media Group•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 1/29/2009

E-mail messages can travel through many hops en route to your mailbox. Various tags can be added to header information to describe what actions were taken on the message. How can you see the full message headers of an e-mail received in Outlook 2007?

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    Outlook 2007 Message Headers

    Simple Message Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and internet Message format are defined in RFCs 5321 and 5322. E-mail servers are required to append routing information in the SMTP headers. In addition, optional information can be added to the headers using the letter X. These X-Headers provide information such as anti-spam actions taken or whether the message as scanned with an anti-virus application. X-Headers can also be stripped by e-mail servers en route.

    Each message will have its own unique header information. E-mail messages arriving in Outlook that originated from the internet have complete headers that are not visible by default. If an e-mail message is delivered where the sender and recipient reside on the same internal server, especially and Exchange Server, then the header information may be abbreviated or absent, depending on the client protocols used.

    Header information is more than basic headers identifying the addressing of To, Cc, and Bcc. To view the header information of an e-mail in Outlook 2007, you must first open the e-mail in its own window. Outlook 2007 uses the new Office 2007 Ribbon for messages. The Message tab should be selected already (you may have a Developers tab also). You then click on the little arrow at the bottom right corner of the Options section of the ribbon. This opens the Message Options window [See Figure 1]. At the bottom of the Message Options window is a section of text labeled Internet Headers. Yyou can work with this text from this limited window or highlight, copy and paste to a text editor, such as Notepad or Wordpad. Figure 2 shows an example of complete message headers from an inbound e-mail copied to Notepad.

    We can see the e-mail servers involved in the transaction with thie IP addresses and the unique message ID for this e-mail. We can also see that the message was scanned by at least 2 anti-virus agents and one anti-spam application. There are several X-headers that describe actions and assessments of this e-mail message. Checking message headers is a valuable tool for troubleshooting or validating message transport.

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    Figure 1 - Message OptionsFigure 2 - Internet Headers