This excellent tutorial was adapted from Paul Vigay's help page at EMail Lists are a PLAIN TEXT message exchange medium. To ensure that listmembers can all view your messages without them appearing garbled or full of unneccesary HTML codes we request that you configure your mail sending option to send messages as PLAIN TEXT and not HTML or Quoted Printable (QP) encoded email.

What's wrong with Outlook Express?

Because Microsoft incorrectly assume that everyone is using their own software (called Outlook Express) they have defined the default preferences to be rather wasteful of time and resources, mainly so that emails can look pretty to other Outlook users. To do this, they send a duplicate copy of each email message as an HTML attachment (which is automatically recognised by another user using Outlook). This results in each message effectively being sent twice and will result in more expensive phone calls, especially when sending large emails.

If you use Outlook Express to send many emails, over time this will have quite a dramatic effect on your phone bill, so it's advisable to set it up correctly - which will also please the people you're sending emails to because they won't receive a duplicate copy as an wasteful attachment.

But isn't sending as HTML supposed to make my messages look pretty?

No. In fact, quite the reverse. If you send emails incorporating fonts, colours and text styles, you may think it looks nice on your own computer, but the recipient at the other end will only receive a screenful of gobbledegook, which can make it a lot harder to read your message. Plus, because this is how viruses spread, many people disable, or 'firewall', messages containing HTML attachments. This means that your message is less likely to be well received at the other end.

OE If you click on the small thumbnail to the left, you will see an example of what your recipient sees when you send them an email composed using fonts and colours - it's not quite as you imagine it will arrive. This particular example is a junk message - but unfortunately if you send people emails using 'fancy' text, they can't tell the difference, so your message is more likely to be binned or, worse still, blacklisted so that future emails from you get blocked. Some ISPs are already doing this, because of the volume of viruses being spread via Outlook Express.

As you can see from the screenshot on the left, your original message is completely lost amid the gobbledegook of Outlook Express codes for what you mistakingly think is fancy text and enhancing your message. Unbeknownst to you, Outlook Express is making your message become unintelligible. This is why you should ensure that sending as HTML is turned Off.

Configuring Outlook Express correctly

If you follow the instructions below your future emails be compliant with the official internet protocols and not only will your phone bill be lower but you won't get any complaints from people receiving your emails.

  1. Load Outlook Express
  2. Click on the 'Tools' option on the menu bar and select 'Options...'
    This will open the options control window.
  3. Click on the 'Send' tag at the top. You should see the following window (which shows the correct settings)
    OE Options

  4. Under the "Mail sending format", ensure that the 'Plain Text' option is ticked, by clicking on it if needed.
  5. Click on the 'Settings' box to the right of this option. You should see the following window (which shows the correct settings)
    OE Options

  6. Ensure that the option "Encode text using" box is set to 'None' and click 'OK'.
  7. Repeat steps 4-6 for the "News sending format".
  8. Ensure that the 'Include message in reply' option is turned OFF - ie. no tick - by clicking on it if required.
  9. Click 'OK' to activate your new settings.

Outlook Express should now be setup correctly.

Preparing for the future

It is becoming more and more apparant that Outlook/Outlook Express are responsible for 99% of the viruses, worms, trojans and other problems that people are beginning to experience more and more.

The only real solution to this growing problem is to install alternative software which does not suffer from the same level of bad security and program design that Outlook does.

In my experience, as good alternative to Outlook is to use Eudora for email. A free version can be downloaded from There are plenty of other alternatives too, but Eudora offers all the facilities that Outlook has, includes the ability to import all your previous Outlook settings such as address book etc and is also easy to use and setup - even for novices or beginners.

Some places are already beginning to ban the use of Outlook, simply because it poses such a huge security risk. See for news of one Cambridge college which has already taken the corporate decision to ban the use of Outlook Express from its computers.

Only by helping to educate people via pages like this can we strive to ban the use of Outlook Express world wide and help eliminate viruses and other security problems.

If you have any doubt about email security on your own computer, I would advise trying out the email security test at which will attempt to analyse your computer system and tell you of any security loopholes.

Other useful links

Configuring Mail Clients to Send Plain ASCII text - a useful site giving details on setting up a multitude of different mail clients.

Once again, special thanks to Paul Vigay of for this excellent tutorial!