Don’t receive all messages in Plain Text

When opening Outlook, all my emails are displayed in Plain Text. I have tried changing the security settings to display messages in HTML but this had no effect.

How can I receive messages in HTML?

Message format - Plain TextIn general this conversion can take place at 4 different levels;

  1. Sender
  2. ISP
  3. Receiver: Outlook
  4. Receiver: security suite or virus scanner


It all starts of course with that the sender actually sends you the message in HTML format and not Plain Text. It’s a pretty safe bet that when all your messages arrive in Plain Text, the issue is not taking place at this level.


Your ISP must also you to receive messages in HMTL format and not just Plain Text. That is pretty standard these days so it’s very unlikely that your ISP doesn’t support this. Only high security environments might have the policy to convert all message to Plain Text. Especially when you logon to the web based client provided by your ISP and you can see the message in HTML, it’s a very safe bet that the issue is not taking place at this level either.

Receiver: Outlook

Since Outlook 2002/XP, Outlook holds the option to convert all messages to Plain Text. When Outlook has converted the message for you, there will be an Infobar placed above the message which says;

”This message was converted to plain text.”

Click this Infobar to convert the message back to HTML.

To change this generic option, so that Outlook will stop converting it, you simply do the reverse of what is stated in this post. For Outlook 2002/XP, this means you can remove the registry key.

Receiver: security suite or virus scanner

If there is no Infobar displayed above you message, it wasn’t Outlook which converted the message to Plain Text. The next usual suspect is your security suite or virus scanner. Most of these come with an option to integrate with Outlook. This could cause or allow for the messages to be converted to Plain Text. Depending on the security software solution that use, it could be as a direct option. Sometimes they integrate badly and it could cause message corruption and Outlook can no longer display the item in HTML.

If it comes as an option, you are likely to find it back in the control panel of your security suite or virus scanner. You can of course also check the documentation that came with it or contact their support. Look for something like “Read all messages in plain text.”

If you cannot find such an option, it could also be message corruption caused by these very same anti-malware suites. Especially when they add a line such as “Scanned by…” at the bottom of your email you should suspect the scanner software. In this case, disable the virus scanner’s integration with Outlook and send yourself a test message in HTML and see if it arrives correctly now. Sadly, often in this case, the already received items can no longer be repaired and therefore no longer be displayed in their intended HTML format.

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