Thomas Gramstad 2002
Unfortunately, today some of the common e-mail clients are provided to the customer with a "rich text" setting (also known as "styled" or "stylized text", or "formatted text") turned on - instead of providing the user with a Plain Text setting and leaving it to the user to turn on a styled text feature if they want it, as an active and informed choice by the user. As a result, many users have no idea that this feature is turned on in their e-mail client, and no understanding of what this does with their outgoing mail, and the problems that this feature may cause. It's important to understand that when this text formatting is turned on, this means that the text one writes in an e-mail message is embedded in HTML code. The HTML code is what provides the formatting (or "stylization", such as fancy font types, colored text etc.) of the text in the E-mail message, in pretty much the same way that HTML code provides the layout of the text on a web page. Unfortunately, while HTML code works well (usually) on a web page when viewed with a web browser, it works really poor in E-mail, causing many problems. Therefore it's generally a bad idea to use HTML code in E-mail.
Each of the above reasons alone is a sufficient reason for avoiding HTML in E-mail! The conclusion is clear: Use plain text whenever you can - and you almost always can. Basically, HTML belongs on web pages, and e-mail isn't web pages. HTML in E-mail isn't an industrial standard (plain text is).
You can check whether HTML encoding is turned off in your E-mail client, and turn it off if it isn't. How do you do that in your particular e-mail client? Luckily, some helpful people have gathered this information for many different e-mail clients. Below you will find a list of links to such compilations of recipes for how to turn off the HTML code in your E-mail. Either one of the links should be enough to find the recipe for your particular e-mail client; if not, try another one.http://helpdesk.rootsweb.com/listadmins/plaintext.html
How to Turn Off HTML in Hotmail
How do I stop AOL from sending HTML to the Internet?
AOL version 6:
AOL version 7:
The easiest way to do this is to install a utility or script that simply strips away all the HTML code from postings automatically, and then to make sure that all your incoming E-mail is piped through the script before it ends up in your mailbox.
This is also very useful if you are the administrator of one or more mailing lists and want to make sure that all list postings as well as messages with commands to the listserver are HTML-free. You then install the script so that all the mail to the list(s) or listserver is piped through it before reaching the listserver.
The most common scripts for stripping HTML as well as other unwanted attachments are Demime and Stripmime. They are both free software that you can download from the net:http://scifi.squawk.com/demime.html
If you are unexperienced in installing such a script, team up with your local geek. If you are a list owner who want to strip your mailing list mail, you need to work together with the people who run your listserver.
Another way to help reducing the amount of HTML in your incoming e-mail is to try to educate your correspondents and posters, teaching them how to turn off the HTML encoding of their E-mail, by providing them the URL's in the previous section (or to this document). Of course, that's more time-consuming than just stripping the HTML away.
Good luck to you, and if you have more points or links that you think should be added to this document, please feel free to provide them.
Why HTML in E-Mail is a Bad Idea, by email@example.com
Friends Don't E-Mail Friends HTML, by Julia Scheeres
No-HTML plug-in for Outlook available, by Thomas C Greene
Wait! Don't Forward That E-Mail, by Julia Scheeres
Solving the Problem of HTML Mail, By Shane Coursen
To convert incoming HTML messages to plain text or Rich Text
format, by Slipstick Systems:
E-mail policies that prevent viruses, by Advosys Consulting
E-mail Etiquette (Netiquette), by Chris Pirillo
E-mail Formatting FAQ
We Can Put an End to Word Attachments, by Richard M.
Why You Should Never Ever Distribute Chain Letters by
Everything E-mail, by Mary Houten-Kemp
FAQ: Web Bugs, by Richard M. Smith
Netiquette - Internet Etiquette
Netiquette Home Page
The address of this document:
The address of the author:
EFN is a Norwegian civil liberties organization working to protect
and promote freedom of expression, privacy, the use of open media
formats on the net, public access to online resources and
information, and open standards for IT infrastructures. Inspired
by the Electronic Frontier
Foundation in the USA, EFN was founded January 19, 1995.
Last updated by Thomas Gramstad   October 23 2003.