Tip

A Microsoft Outlook plain-text printing anomaly

If you highlight part of a plain-text email in Microsoft Outlook and press Print, there is no option in the Print dialog to only print the selected text.

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However, if you highlight a section of a rich-text email in Microsoft Outlook and press Print, the print dialog is completely different -- and it includes an option for printing only the selected text!

This can be frustrating if you are trying to print only part of an email without having to copy and paste the whole thing into a new document. I've run into this many times myself.

When I sell something through Amazon.com, Amazon sends me an automated email that contains a packing slip. Since the email is in plain text, and the packing slip is only part of the document, printing out just that section is difficult without the use of another program.

The reason for the discrepancy is actually fairly simple. When Microsoft Outlook prints plain-text email, it uses its own form handler. For whatever reason, that handler only deals with the document as a whole; it has no provisions for dealing with selected parts of a document. (To me this doesn't make a lick of sense, but there it is.)

Related Microsoft Outlook tips and resources:
Change all Microsoft Outlook users' email to plain text

Modify undocumented Microsoft Outlook features with TweakOL

Microsoft Outlook Reference Center

However, anything with rich text or HTML is rendered through the Internet Explorer (IE) rendering engine, which has a completely different way of handling printed output. If you open a Web page in IE and hit Print, the Print dialog there is exactly the same as the one invoked in an HTML email.

Since I prefer to receive and store email in plain text format, I've had to use a workaround to enable printing selected parts of email: I select Edit -> Edit Message, then Format -> HTML. Then I can select parts of the plain-text message and print them as needed.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter.

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Do you have any information on printing the "list" of attachments included in an email message in Microsoft Outlook?

We have people in our Legal and Compliance department who want to know why some email, like plain-text formatted messages, does not include a listing of the attachments during printout, just the text.

Is this by design? If so, what is the workaround if we want to show the list of attachments as well as the message text on the printout?

Thanks for any feedback.
—Arnold E.

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I did a little testing of this on my own. I sent myself an HTML-formatted email with attachments and printed it. The printout showed a list of attachments. I then did the same thing for a plain-text email, and got a list of attachments with icons, rather than just a plain-text list. Was this what you were seeing?

I don't know if the standard message format for HTML/rich-text message printouts can be edited, but the default form for plain-text email is definitely editable.
—Serdar Yegulalp, tip author

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Thanks for the tip -- I feel great knowing I can save a tree or two as well as some frustration by avoiding the need to cut and paste the selected info for printing!
—Debbie F.

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Thank you so much! What a great tip!
—Jeanette S.

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My boss's email doesn't list the attachments on the printout message. When I print out email from my computer, it does show a list. I don't know how to configure it so that his computer's printout shows a list of attachments (when there are attachments). Any thoughts on how to do this?
—M.J.

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I've been told that switching the format of the email to plain text is one way to do this. Another solution -- possibly apocryphal, which I haven't tried -- is to go to Outlook's Help -> Check for Updates box, and reboot Microsoft Outlook after any updates have been found. That probably adds the update for this issue: HTML messages with pictures do not print correctly after you install Internet Explorer 5.5 SP1 or 6.0.
—Serdar Yegulalp, tip author

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This was first published in April 2006

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