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HTML in email causes problems for some email clients or their users.

The purpose of this page is to make people aware of the problems and request that they not use HTML in email. We describe the problems we are aware of, and intend to develop and maintain this list of instructions on how to turn (sending of) HTML off in various email clients. We need your help to keep this page up-to-date -- see AboutThesePages.

You can help stop the spread of HTML email:

  • please, don't send email containing HTML
  • if you know how to turn off (sending) HTML in an email client that is not yet covered here, please add instructions or comments on this page -- see about these pages
  • make an informed decision about whether you want to view HTML email

Note: Sending email causes potential problems for others, viewing HTML email (as HTML) causes potential problems for yourself, but also solves some problems. Please don't send HTML email -- make an informed decision about whether you want to view HTML email.

Thanks for considering this request!

Aside: Some military organizations use an email client (Exchange, version uncertain) for which we haven't found a way to turn off sending of HTML. Unfortunately, those organizations forbid loading of other email clients on the machines in question (for security reasons).

Note that this is a work in progress. Please register at TWiki.TWikiRegistration and add to this page appropriately.

Also, if you want to discuss the pros and cons of HTML in email, please do it on AvoidHTMLinEmailDiscussion instead of here.


Other Resources

For more, see AvoidHTMLinEmailDiscussion.

Problems Caused by HTML Email

Note: There are multiple points of view to any discussion. I am coming from the point of view that if somebody sends me email, they should make it convenient for me to read. Others feel that it is my problem for using an old browser and I should update so as to make it easy to read anything anybody sends me.

I prefer not to present both sides of the argument on this page. I suggest that discussion be on a different page, avoid HTML in email discussion. Thank you for your consideration.

In Private (Non-Commercial) Email

In "private" email, in some clients, HTML email shows up:

  • in a very small, almost unreadable size
  • with the HTML tags, which again makes it almost unreadable -- you know, something like this:

<p />
See <a href="/cgi-bin/view/Wikilearn/AboutThesePages">AboutThesePages</a>.
<p />
<p />

In Commercial Email

In "commercial" email:

  • use of HTML tends to be overdone, with graphics and other stuff that make the emails excessively large, thus increasing download time and required storage space
  • in many cases, it seems that the email doesn't download correctly in batch mode, but must reconnect to the Internet when the email is read, which is really two problems:
    • it makes life difficult for people who read their email offline
    • it has the potential of being used as "spyware"
    • it causes popups from the email

Adding Email Clients to this List

Feel free to add additional email clients to this list-- please add them at the end of the list to avoid the need for renumbering (unless you feel ambitious -- in that case insert the new one in alphabetic order and revise the numbers appropriately -- at some point in time I will reorder and renumber them). If information is different for different versions, split the heading appropriately. (See Netscape Navigator for example.)

I. Turning Off HTML (Sending) In Specific Email Clients

I.1. Eudora

I.2. KMail

I.3. Mahogany

I.4. Netscape Navigator

I.4.a. Netscape Navigator 3.0x

I.4.b. Netscape Navigator 4.x

I.5. Outlook

I.6. Outlook Express

I.6.a. For All Addressees

IIUC, this cannot be done in Outlook Express 5, it can definitely be done in OE6, and I think it can be done in OE4. Bottom line: try it -- if you get better information please revise this page accordingly.

Click on TOOLS, select OPTIONS, select the "Send" tab, under "Mail Sending Format" click "Plain Text".

I.6.b. For Selected Addressees

You can avoid sending HTML email to specific addresses by doing the following:

  • add this address to your OE address book
  • click on the Name tab for this address
  • check "Send E-mail using plain text only"

OE will convert any HTML message you send to this address to plain text (I think it alerts you first).

"I haven't tried this out myself because I'm set up to send everything in plain text all the time, but I know people who use this feature and they say it works as advertised." -- all of this section from Judy Miner in newbie@linux-mandrakePLEASENOSPAM.com on 20010820, some paraphrased

I.7. Sylpheed

II. Problems for Specific Email Clients

II.1. Eudora

II.2. KMail

_Update: I don't know if the next paragraph was true, but in KMail 3.x you can choose to display HTML email or not for each folder. There is a way to avoid sending HTML email -- I've done it but will have to refresh my memory as to how.

It is my understanding that KMail will display HTML mail, and, AFAIK, there is no option to turn the HTML mail display off. Thus if mail is received with small, colored, or unusual fonts, reading may be difficult. (HTML tags are not displayed.)

II.3. Mahogany

II.4. Netscape Navigator

II.4.a. Netscape Navigator, 3.0x

HTML mail is displayed, and, AFAIK, there is no option to turn the HTML mail display off. Thus if mail is received with small, colored, or unusual fonts, reading may be difficult. (HTML tags are not displayed.)

II.4.a. Netscape Navigator, 4.x

II.5. Outlook

II.6. Outlook Express

II.7. Sylpheed

The Future

Someday I'm hoping that all email clients will be able to receive HTML email but, at the option of the user, display it as plain text. (This would be facilitated by the fact (AFAICT) that all HTML emails include a plain text copy of the email within the HTML email.)

When that email client comes into existence, I have some other ideas on how to generate reply addresses to avoid the problems over ReplyTo and the "munging ReplyTo considered harmful" type arguments. I wrote them down somewhere else, and when I find them, I'll move them here.


  • RandyKramer - 20 Aug 2001
  • Sue Miner
  • Robert Friedrich - 13 Mar 2003
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Topic revision: r11 - 2003-03-14 - RandyKramer
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