Always reply in HTML format

I’ve set my default message format to HTML but when I reply to a Plain Text message, it still doesn’t come up in HTML format.

This for instance really messes up my signature which includes some formatting and a picture.

It there any way to force Outlook to always reply in HTML format?

There is no option in Outlook to change this default; Outlook will always reply and forward in the same format (Plain Text, Rich Text or HTML) of the original message. This is to keep the original message intact, maintain the preference or technical limitation of the original sender.

For instance, several mail clients on mobile devices do not support HTML formatted messages and HTML formatted messages are also larger than the Plain Text equivalent.

If you still need to change the message format, you can do this manually or automatically via an add-in.

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Manually changing the message format

Even though using the HTML format isn’t always needed for a message, there are some instances where you have to. Some examples are;

If you want to change the message format when replying, you can do so in the following way;

  • Outlook 2003 with Outlook as the e-mail editor
    Format-> HTML
    If the current message is in Rich Text format, you’ll first have to convert it to Plain Text.
  • Outlook 2003 with Word as the e-mail editor
    On the e-mail Toolbar which also hold the Send button there is a dropdown list right next to the Options… button to change the message format.
  • Outlook 2007
    tab Options-> button HTML
  • Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013
    tab Format Text-> HTML

Compared with Outlook 2007, in Outlook 2010 you'll find the Message Format option on the "Format Text" tab instead of the "Options" tab.
Compared with Outlook 2007, in Outlook 2010 you’ll find the Message Format
option on the “Format Text” tab instead of the “Options” tab.

Re-insert your signature

After you change the message format to HTML, your signature template won’t be restored to its original HTML version.

To restore the signature to its HTML design, you’ll need to select it again from your list of signatures in Insert-> Signature.

Another way to do this is by right clicking somewhere within your signature text and select your signature again (for Outlook 2003, this requires you to have Word set as the e-mail editor.

Note: You really shouldn’t convert a message to HTML if this is just for the signature. If your signature is messed up or comes out blank for Plain Text messages, you should modify just the Plain Text version of your signature.

Using an add-in to automate the change

If you really need to make sure that every message you reply to is in HTML format and also have your signature fixed automatically, you can use an add-in called Bells & Whistles for Outlook from DS Development.

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Bells & Whistles for Outlook - Always reply using HTML

Aside from this feature, and as the name suggests, Bells & Whistles for Outlook adds a lot of other features as well like;

  • adding notes to emails
  • option to print a selection of an email
  • smart reply greetings
  • email templates with support for variables/dynamic text
  • adding tracking IDs to outgoing messages and count replies
  • and much more…