Bugs & Fixes: Fix unreadable text in black Mail messages

After installing Safari 5 (either as a separate download or as part of Mac OS X 10.6.4), Mail messages generated by applications (such as iCal or iChat) may unexpectedly have a black background. As a result, any (black) message text will be unreadable.

Before going any further, let me clarify exactly what sort of messages I am talking about here. The problem occurs with e-mails that are generated by selecting a Send Email (or similar sounding) command from within some application. As one such example, Mac OS X’s Preview has a “Mail Selected PDF Document” command in its File menu. Via this feature, you auto-generate a message in Mail. From Mail, you can further edit the message, such as adding text, before sending it.

When I tried out this Preview command, the resulting Mail message did indeed have the unwelcome black background. Initially, the message’s text consisted only of an attachment link in blue type. The blue text was easily readable despite the black background. However, any additional text that I typed could not be seen.

To make the text readable, you need to eliminate the black background. Apple offers two workarounds for accomplishing this goal:

  • Click in the message area of the document and select “Make Plain Text” (Command-Shift-T) from the Format menu. While this tip works, it eliminates any hypertext links contained in the text. If you want to save such links, or otherwise preserve the initial rich text format…
  • Cut the entire text (using Command-A followed by Command-X) and press the Delete key. This removes the black background. Next, use Option-Shift-Command-V to paste back the cut text. The text will now be readable, with links preserved.

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