outlook & extra line breaks: html formatting gone bad

I get frustrated by the tiniest of problems.  This mornings issue is with Microsoft Outlook and the way the messages it sends get formatted by other recipients.  I can’t stand the extra line breaks that I see in GMail/Live/Hotmail when I send messages from Outlook 2007.

The Problem:

I write an email that looks like this:


And when someone gets the email in GMail, it looks like this:


Notice that there is extra space between the two lines? That little extra paragraph break is driving me mad.  I can’t figure out how to tell Outlook not to wrap each line in HTML <p>aragraphs. 

It’s interesting to note that this isn’t a problem when you send mail from Outlook to Outlook.  But is in other mail clients, like Live Mail & Hotmail (both Microsoft products).  The source of the issue appears to be that Outlook uses the MS Word HTML generation under the covers, which is known to be a bit janky.


The Workaround:

The only options I’m aware of are to either (1) compose my messages in plain text or (2) get into the habit of pressing CTRL-Enter when I really want Outlook not to put in the extra space.  Option (1) doesn’t really work, because any time you reply to a message Outlook will assume you want to use the format that the sender used which is 99% of the time HTML. Option (2) is annoying as hell, but a habit I’ll probably get into.


The Solution:

There is none that I’ve found in my hour or so of googleing and testing.  Outlook doesn’t let you tweak the HTML that it generates, so I’m thinking that the only solution would be to write a VB script to scrub all emails before they’re sent and switch all of the <p>aragraph breaks to line breaks. That would be the most annoying of all workarounds, but one that’s likely possible.  The question is if I’m annoyed enough to try to fix this?  I’m annoyed enough to blog about it, so maybe I am annoyed enough to learn VB in Outlook?

22 thoughts on “outlook & extra line breaks: html formatting gone bad”

  1. I know it’s old school, but what about composing email as text instead of html?

    I had similar formatting issues with older version of Thunderbird, so I ended up switching to text composition.

  2. Composing email as text is fine, but 90% time I’m responding to mail which defaults to the sender’s formatting. That, and I *like* HTML email… italics, bold, etc… I want more control over formatting, not less.

  3. You’ll live w/ the formatting ASCII gives you and nothing more!! Learn to use ** and and more!! Bwahaha!!

    Seriously though, you use bold and italics in your work e-mail? That feels weird to me…

  4. Yah, I do quite regularly use bold, italics in work email. It’s useful for calling out action items, indicating sections of text that you’re quoting, etc. But I realized the thing that I like the most is embedding hyperlinks, which I do on a regular basis.

  5. Kevin, I can commiserate. This is incredibly frustrating. Sometimes I find myself manually removing line breaks from a long chain of emails because it annoys me so much. Then I have to smack myself because that was 2 minutes of my life that I'll never get back and I get even more annoyed.

    I've looked around for on again off again for ages and still not found a solution. That VB Script idea is looking really good now. I'll post it if I get around to writing it.

    1. Yah, please do let me know if you happen upon a solution or create one yourself. I've just found myself using the gmail web interface to avoid the problem, since I'm using outlook as my IMAP/SMTP client for gmail in the first place.

  6. I am relieved to hear I'm not alone in my frustration but also disappointed that no one else has figured out a better way to fix this issue. I hate when people tell me to press shift+enter…these people obviously don't use Outlook and/or don't care enough about this problem because pressing shift+enter is a pain in the ass. Half the time I end up pressing ctrl+enter first and then all hell breaks loose. I want to be able to type as I go and not think twice about what buttons I'm pressing. And I want formatting…lots and lots of formatting! No formatting no peace! But seriously, can someone fix this issue? I can also commiserate with "Guy"…I have done that before as well.

  7. I'm glad I am not the only one to be facing this issue, and I look forward to any solution that can be conjured up.

  8. I just got "upgraded" to Office 2007 and this issue (combined with the huge waste of time figuring out where the old commands went) is a major annoyance. There is nothing worse than being engaged in an email conversation with someone using an HTML mail reader and having the messages end up double spaced.

    This worked fine in Office 2003. I guess Microsoft subscribes to the adage "If it ain't broke, it doesn't have enough features yet."

  9. the only workaround for me is to use "Shift+Enter" instead of typing only "Enter".
    But the reall problem comes when you are lets say forwarding a long email and you can not realy go by editing the whole formated text.

    If i copy it to some text editor, whole formatting is lost. Im thinking about a possibility to install MS Frontpage and copy the rich text from outlook and then in HTML tag, remove all the

    , haven't tried yet :-)

  10. awww… looks like this forum took my html tags in the real sense, i meant to say replace paragraphs with newline tags

  11. Sorry for commenting again and again, but i have a solution for you.
    copy your whoe email body (fomatted) from outlook to MS Word and export it as htm file. Then open the htm file in wordpad and remove the meta tags only from the head part. Again save it and then open it in internet explorer.
    ctrl A => ctrl C => and ctrl V back to the outlook, line breaks will be gone now if you forward it to any hotmail account.

  12. The real cake-taker for me is that ctrl-Enter is what you use in most other Office Apps for a non-paragraph newline. In Outlook, it's shift-Enter. ctrl-Enter SENDS THE EMAIL.
    Ahahahaha (unhinged laughter). Do you know how many half-written emails I've sent because of that ? I've even taken to not putting in the recipient address until I've finished the email FOR THIS REASON ONLY !

  13. I used the suggestion from Greg above (http://www.fix-outlook-line-breaks.com/) which works beautifully, although I do hate having extra programs open on my PC. The application knows when I'm in Outlook and replaces my [Enter] keystroke with a [Shift+Enter] keystroke which eliminates the extra line break issue. I cannot believe there is not a better workaround thank this

  14. I have looked into this and you can change some of these settings in the "styles" tab on OL7. I am picky about line breaks when creating a new message, replying, forwarding ,or new appointments. I too use alot of hyperlinks in my emails. This has helped me in creating a default for all of the above.

  15. Shift+enter or replacing ^p with ^l works sometimes, but doesn't work when you are using bullets or have lines inserted.

  16. Thinking out of the box, I’ve changed my default mail formatting so that the paragraph spacing is “relaxed”.

    So when I’m composing the email I see it as others will see it when they get it, and I can remember to shift-enter instead of enter when I don’t want a new paragraph.

    1. Thank you Shadow !

      For the record it’s in :
      Format Text > Styles > Changes Styles > Paragraph Spacing
      then .. > Changes Styles > Set as Default

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