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Wrapping text automatically option doesn’t seem to work

I’ve set Outlook’s “Automatically wrap text at character” option to 40 instead of the default 76 but it doesn’t appear to do anything.

When I compose a message, the line still goes on forever and doesn’t break into a new line at character 40 at all. The same is true for the received message.

Why isn’t it working or what is this option supposed to do then?

Wrap Text buttonThe wrapping text option is a bit trickier to understand than its description suggests.

The main thing to realize is that this option only applies to Plain Text messages and controls how the message is being received by the recipient. It doesn’t apply to HTML messages nor what you see while composing the message itself.

Of course, there are a few (complex) exceptions to these basic rules just to keep things fun and interesting ;-)

Setting the wrapping option

You can set the text wrapping option in the following location:

  • Outlook 2007 and previous
    Tools-> Options-> tab: Mail Format-> button: Internet Format…
  • Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013
    File-> Options-> Mail-> section: Message format

The default value is to wrap at a maximum line length of 76 characters when wrapping is supported. Note that this break will not be done in the middle of a word, but before the word that puts the line over the configured length.

Message format option: Automatically wrap text at character: 76
This simple option has quite a few complex conditions for it to work.

When doesn’t it wrap?

Wrapping? buttonEven when you are sending out a Plain Text message, the line wrapping might not occur as you may expect. Consider the following scenarios:

  • When you receive a Plain Text message yourself (just to be clear that the setting only applies to your own messages sending out).
  • When the message is being sent with an Exchange or Outlook Hotmail Connector (MAPI) account, the wrapping settings of the sending server is being used. Client settings for text wrapping is only respected for POP3, IMAP and EAS accounts.
  • When you view your message in the Sent Items folder you will not see the automatically wrapped text unless you are using an EAS account (Outlook.com) or an IMAP account from Gmail (as in those cases Sent Items are added by the mail server upon sending the message instead of directly by Outlook).
  • When someone replies to your wrapped message, it will not use the wrapping settings of the initial message but the local client’s wrapping settings.
  • When the WrapLines Registry value has been set to 0.
  • When the used encoding character set of the message doesn’t support it (like UTF-8) and the message encoding hasn’t been set to 8-bit, lines will not be wrapped.

WrapLines Registry value has been set to 0

Regedit buttonBy default, the WrapLines Registry value doesn’t exist and lines will be wrapped whenever supported by the message encoding being used.

When you expect your lines to be wrapped and they are not, it is good to check in the Registry whether the WrapLines value has been set to 0 in one of the locations below. When it doesn’t exist or is set to any other value, Outlook will attempt to wrap the message with the exceptions mentioned above.

User key location: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\<version>\Common\MailSettings

Policy key location:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Office\<version>\Common\MailSettings

Value name: WrapLines
Value type: REG_DWORD
Value: 0

Character encoding outgoing message (UTF-8)

International Options buttonWhen you use only US-ASCII characters and have a compatible encoding character set like Western European (ISO) configured in Outlook, then wrapping text isn’t going to be an issue.

However, when you use a character set that is incompatible with US-ASCII, like Unicode UTF-8, then wrapping will only occur when you adjust the InternetMailTextEncoding Registry value to send out the message with 8-bit encoding.

To check your current preferred encoding for outgoing message settings:

  • Outlook 2007 and previous
    Tools-> Options-> tab: Mail Format-> button: International Options…
  • Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013
    File-> Options-> Advanced-> section: International options

To set your message encoding method to 8-bit, you must create and set the following Registry value:

Key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\<version>\Outlook\Options\Mail
Value name: InternetMailTextEncoding
Value type: REG_DWORD
Value: 3

Other valid values for the Registry entry are:

  • 0 – Autodetect (default): 7-bit when possible, otherwise Quoted Printable
  • 1 – Quoted Printable encoding
  • 2 – Base64 encoding
  • 3 – 8-bit (no encoding)

For more information about this Registry value, also see Microsoft KB823921: Line wrapping does not appear as expected when you send e-mail messages in Outlook 2003

Exchange administrators

Exchange 2013 buttonIf you are an Exchange administrator and want to learn more about controlling the encoding for emails sending out of your Exchange environment, this article is a nice place to start: Configure content transfer encoding.

Here it is explained when 7-bit encoding, Quoted-Printable or Base64 is being used and which PowerShell commands can be used to configure it.

If you are still using Exchange 2007, then you can configure it as explained in Microsoft KB946641: How to change the method for transfer encoding after you apply Exchange 2007 SP1 to the Exchange 2007-based server that is running the Hub Transport role.


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