Computer Forums are diverse communities of people not
only from different backgrounds, and, made up of many people using a
wide variety of computer equipment and software to participate and
communicate within the forum.
As a result, messages posted on large forums may be difficult to
impossible to read by some participants because these posts are made
using software that assumes that the content will be "rich text" which
may not be readable on some systems. Some email software, notably
Microsoft's offerings such as Windows Live Mail use formats which make
reading what they create difficult on other systems.
These differences often result with some users' systems showing
"garbage" or "box" characters within forum messages which are actually
formatting commands or "special" characters used by some editors.
Ironically, these postings often leave the creator of these messages unaware of the problems they create since their
software displays what they have written exactly as they expect it to
appear, so they never see the unreadable, scrambled or disappearing
lines that other readers have to cope with.
The easiest solution is to use a "Lowest Common Denominator" message
approach that assures that everyone will be able to read messages
without any difficulty or dependence on special software to display
That solution is to compose and reply to forum messages using "Plain Text"
...the equivalent of using an old manual typewriter. No fancy
fonts, no size options, no italics, just words, numbers and
punctuation. 99.99% of all forum messages can be communicated
effectively using these limits, and, if you want to SHOUT, just use
Unfortunately, as computers, software, the web and operating systems
evolve, using plain text is becoming difficult. What follows is
information on how to assure that the messages you send to forums will
be in plain text, easily readable by everyone.
The following screen shots show screens from three popular web based
email composing interfaces plus three of the most used PC based email
software programs with pointers on how to "toggle" the composition to
"Plain Text" You can click your EMail method to jump directly to
With GMail's Web Interface, there is no setting option to set
"Plain Text" as your default mode. In addition, GMail confuses
the issue as it "chooses" either "Plain Text" or "Rich Text" depending
on a variety of factors, and, rather than showing you the format being
used, GMail simply shows you the option to "toggle" to the other format.
The following example shows that the message is currently being
composed using "Rich Text" and offers the option to toggle to "Plain
The warning that appears when clicking "Plain Text" can be ignored.
With Yahoo's Web Interface, there is no setting option to set
"Plain Text" as your default mode.
Within each message being edited, Yahoo shows you the option to
"toggle" to the other format at the right of the attachments bar.
Windows Live Web
With Window's Live Web Interface, there is no setting option to set
"Plain Text" as your default mode.
Window's Live offers a "pull down" to "select" to the format for the current message or response being edited.
EMail Software Installed on PC's
While Outlook may be the most used email software, it was
written for techies by techies and it's options are often well hidden
and difficult to track down and set for your own needs.
When composing a new message or reply, the following shows how to select "Plain Text" for each specific message.
Outlook also has the option to
set a "default" format for all messages that you create in it's
Tools/Options menu as shown below.
When set as shown above, all
messages will be composed in "Plain Text" unless you select another
format when composing the message as shown in the first Outlook screen
Most EMail Client software has the option to specify what message
format will be used for messages addressed to specific contacts in your
email contact list. Outlook has this, but it's not easy to find.
To set the preferred format for a specific contact in Outlook's contact list;
Open the contact for editing
<doubleclick> the contact's EMail address
Then set the format for that specific contact as shown below
Outlook 2007 ...and up?
The newer versions of Outlook confuse things even further with a completely different "ribbon" rather than traditional menus.
Here's how to set the message format to Plain Text in an Outlook 2007 compose message window.
The "Mozilla Mail" email client comes in a a number of forms, the best known of which is named "ThunderBird"
but it is also included in Mozilla Suites such as SeaMonkey. The
different user interfaces are very similar, so the following uses
ThunderBird examples which are similar or identical to the other
Mozilla Mail variants.
ThunderBird offers the option for setting the default message format for each EMail "Account"
In the menu bar, look under Tools or Edit for "Account Settings"
Then select "Compos...." which will bring up the following screen.
Once this is set, each time
you create a new message or compose a reply, you will be given the
default mail format edit screen. For example, that screen will not have any font or other formatting options.
If, however, you want to "toggle" to the alternate, non default,
format, simply hold the <shift> key down when you click "Write"
or "Reply" For example, if you have HTML unchecked as shown
above, holding down the shift key when clicking one of these buttons
will start a compose window with text formatting and other html options.
Thunderbird also has the option to specify what format will be used for
messages addressed to specific contacts in your email contact list.
To set the preferred format for a specific contact in Thunderbird's Address Book, open the contact for editing, then select the format for emails addressed to that contact as shown below.
Note that if you have a
contact set to a specific format, you can still compose messages to
them in the other format by <shift> clicking the write or reply
Windows Live PC
When composing a new message or replying to a message using
the Windows Live Software on your PC, there is a format selection
option near the center of the compose window toolbar as shown below.
As with most other PC based EMail software, Windows
Live EMail Software software offers the option to set "Plain Text" as
your default message format.
To change the default message format, click on the dropdown menu icon at upper left corner of Windows Live Main Main Page.
Then click on Options/Mail to display the Options Window. (steps 1, 2 & 3)
Then click on the ‘Send’ tab and select desired default ‘Mail Sending Format’ in the lower half of the window, and click "OK"
Noice that the "include message" (full quoting) and "same format" options have also been unchecked.
Other EMail Options
There are many other Web, PC and Mac EMail web and software options out there, but the above six are the most common.
If your EMail setup is not one of the above, if you look around you
will probably find that it will have the same or similar options to
make these selections.
Additionally, almost all Web Based Email services such as GMail and
Yahoo offer the option of using other email clients such as Outlook to
receive and send email via their Pop3, IMAP and SMTP servers. In
almost all cases, taking the time to set up your own email client
software will make it easier and faster to handle your email needs.
Copyright © 2012, Bev Howard