Web & communication software

Force Mail to go 'old school'

I’m somewhat “old school” when it comes to my e-mail messages. I like to see them in plain text, without any Web page (HTML) markup, fancy colors, background images, font changes, or other garish effects to distract from the message itself. And don’t even get me started on what some of the more outrageous spam messages may look like.

Thankfully, in Mail you can get rid of any images that don’t come attached to messages. Besides toning down your HTML mail, this also takes away one of the spammers’ favorite tools. (Spammers embed images in HTML mail that are specifically designed to ping their servers and verify that e-mail addresses are good.) Choose Mail: Preferences, click the Viewing tab and turn off the Display Remote Images in HTML Messages option.

But what about the message itself? If someone used HTML to “pretty up” a message, or attached the images to the message itself, you’ll still see the results. But a quick trip to the Unix side of OS X can solve that problem, too. Quit Mail and launch Terminal (Applications/Utilities). At the prompt, type this command, then press Return:

defaults write com.apple.mail PreferPlainText -bool TRUE

You’ll just get the prompt back, as though nothing had happened. But next time you launch Mail, and retrieve new messages, you should find that the vast majority are displayed in beautiful, pure, plain text. There may still be some exceptions, especially with the more virulent spammers, as they tend to not even include a plain text version of their messages. But everything else should be text only. You can take this a step further by making Mail use the fixed-width font of your choice, too. Go to Mail: Preferences and click on the Fonts & Colors tab. Enable the Use Fixed-width Font for Plain Text Messages option (and optionally choose the font, if you wish). Then you’ll not only be seeing plain text, but you’ll be seeing it in all its fixed-width glory, which (for me, at least) makes for easier reading.

If you ever tire of plain text, you can reverse the effects by quitting Mail, launching Terminal, and repeating the above command—just change TRUE to FALSE.

I may be old-fashioned, but I just find it much easier to read a nice, clean font on an unfettered background. If you do, too, you’ll like this trick.

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