Make HTML messages readable in Apple Mail

Long time readers may have noticed that I dislike receiving email in HTML format. It’s not primarily because HTML email uses HTML instead of plain text that I dislike it though.

No, the main reason is less ideological than that. I dislike HTML email simply because it is often very hard for me to read, since for some reason many HTML-formatted emails use extremely small font sizes.

Luckily there are workarounds. If you use Apple Mail like I do I know of two things you can do that will make HTML messages more readable.

Force Apple Mail to display the plain text alternative if there is one

I’ve been using this for years and can’t understand why it isn’t available in Mail’s GUI. Here’s what to do:

  1. Quit
  2. Open
  3. Enter defaults write PreferPlainText -bool TRUE and press enter (toggle it back by changing TRUE to FALSE)
  4. Open
  5. View an HTML message and marvel at the readable plain text

The catch is that this only works for messages that actually contain a plain text alternative, which far from all HTML email does.

Specify the minimum font size Apple Mail uses for HTML messages

As a fallback for the messages that do not contain a plain text alternative it is useful to make sure that the text at least has a readable size:

  1. Quit
  2. Open
  3. Enter defaults write MinimumHTMLFontSize 13 in the Terminal window and press enter
  4. Open
  5. View an HTML message and marvel at the readable font size

You can change the font size to whatever suits your eyes.

Apply both of these and you should be able to read most of the HTML email that you receive.

Posted on November 27, 2008 in Usability, Apple, Accessibility