MIME/HTML formatted messages sent to B-Greek

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Fri May 10 07:42:31 EDT 2002


In recent days there's been a spate of HTML/MIME messages sent to B-Greek;
where these were from new subscribers I have been able to intercept and
reformat them so as to eliminate the MIME/HTML formatting and permit the
messages to be transmitted in plain-text ASCII only. But I have found that
older members are occasionally still sending MIME/HTML formatted messages,
and I was surprised this morning to find the daily digest was 70K, more
than half of that bulk being HTML-coded forms of messages that read as
gobbledy-gook on a screen (you can see that these messages also appear in
the web site in that double format also if you check the recent messages at:


The requirement that messages sent to the list be formatted in plain-text
ASCII only is clearly indicated in the list FAQ; I cite the relevant
portion of it at the end of this message. I personally think that
increasing use of MIME/HTML formatting is a consequence of AOL's endeavor
to force the entire internet community to adopt this formatting for e-mail
and to make MIME/HTML formatting the default setting in both public-domain
(free) and commercial e-mail programs.

While some list-members may feel that our continued insistence upon
plain-text ASCII only formatting for messages sent to the list is
unwarranted, be assured that the moderators have discussed this question
and have agreed that we are not going to relax this requirement in our
protocol. If list-members persist in sending messages to the list using
MIME/HTML formatting, we shall have no recourse but to put them on regular
moderation, meaning that their messages will be delayed until one of the
moderators has checked the message and had the opportunity to eliminate the
MIME/HTML formatting.

Here's what the FAQ says (QA#17) on this matter:
17. Is there a certain e-mail format in which list messages should be posted?

Yes, when posting messages to this discussion list, we request that you
post using Plain-Text-only format. Although some e-mail programs (AOL
especially) make this difficult, we would prefer that all messages be sent
in plain-text ASCII format only, and not in styled, MIME, or HTML format.
The default format setting for many e-mail programs is for dual-format
postings (usually mislabeled `HTML text') which creates two copies of a
single message for our list, one in HTML (web-based) format and the other
in Plain Text. We request you not to use this dual format. Preferences can
be set so that postings are in only one format, that of HTML. Since this
format will not be readable by all our subscribers, we ask list-members not
to use it for messages to B-Greek but rather to set their e-mail programs
to post in Plain-Text-only.

If you are using Outlook Express, you can select the address for the
B-Greek discussion list in your Address Book, then specify that all
messages posted from your program to this discussion list will be in Plain
Text. To change this setting in Outlook Express, be sure you have an entry
for this discussion list in your Address Book. Find that address in your
Address Book, double-click on it, click on the Name tab, then put a check
mark in the box at the lower left corner of the message screen.

In Eudora, select Tools/Options/Styled text, then select either "send both
plain and styled" or "send plain text only." You can also check "Ask me
each time," in which case you make the selection on an individual message

The "Unofficial AOL E-mail FAQ"
http://members.aol.com/adamkb/aol/mailfaq/) offers the following
advice on avoiding the HTML formatting in AOL:

"With the release of version 6.0 of its client software (and continued to
an extent in AOL 7.0), AOL began to embrace the use of full HTML in email
(see FAQ item 8 ). This included a controversial feature in the sending of
email to the Internet, in which messages were sent in a format known as
multipart/alternative (see RFC 2046, 5.1.4), which uses MIME enclosures to
include two copies of every message: one in plain text, and one in HTML.
Ideally, Internet email programs should be designed to display the version
that they understand. HTML-compliant programs can display the HTML section,
showing the formatting that the original sender included with the message;
while text-only programs would only show the text section. Even
HTML-enabled programs could be made to allow their users to choose (or
switch to) the text portion if they prefer simplicity. However, some
Internet email programs were never designed to recognize these MIME
sections, resulting in the recipient of such a message seeing both the
plain text and HTML versions of the email.

"This issue was partially corrected in AOL 7.0, which does not send HTML if
the user sticks with the default font and formatting.

"(Amusingly, AOL versions prior to 6.0 are not very good at handling
multipart messages. Although mail sent from a member using AOL 6 or later
directly to someone using AOL 5 or earlier will not show both copies, the
same mail sent first through the Internet (perhaps through a mailing list)
will result in the AOL recipient seeing both copies.)


"Ideally, users should either upgrade to AOL 7, which reduces the
likelihood of a problem; downgrade to AOL 5 or earlier; or use some other
method of sending AOL mail.

"AOL 6.0
When communicating with Internet recipients who are not using an email
program capable of selecting which MIME section to view, an AOL 6.0 user
can turn off the HTML by taking the following steps exactly as described:

   1. Change your global email preferences (only needs to be done once):
         1. Go to Keyword: Preferences (or choose Preferences from the Settings
            menu on the AOL 6.0 toolbar).
         2. Click on Font, Text, & Graphics Preferences.
         3. Click on the Reset button at the bottom of the resulting window. Do
            not make any changes in the Font Preferences area of the window.
         4. Click on the Save button.
   2. Change a specific email to plain text (must be done for every email):
         1. Compose and address the email as desired.
         2. Choose Select All from the Edit menu to highlight the entire
         3. With the mouse arrow somewhere over the highlighted text, click the
            Right mouse button, revealing a contextual menu (AKA Right-Click).
         4. Choose Normal from the Text menu.
         5. Taking care not to make any further changes to the message,
send it.

"Note that changing the text to normal will eliminate the "blue bar" quoted
text indicator, but will not remove some HTML elements of the quoted text.
The entire quoted section must be deleted (or simply not quoted in the
first place), followed by the re-entry of the text quoted manually, prior
to changing the text to normal. Changing the text to normal will also
eliminate any styled text that would have been seen by AOL recipients of
the message, which cannot be re-added. Testing also suggests that messages
with hyperlinks cannot be converted to normal text, requiring the prior
removal of the link. Finally, one must suppress their email signature if it
contains any styled text, as that will push the whole message back into

"(Thanks to Carpenma for identifying step two of the plain text solution.
Thanks to LuvsAfGrey for pointing out the signature issue.)

"AOL 7.0
AOL 7.0 only requires step one, above: using the global default font face,
size, style, and color. Any attempt to change the font face, size, style,
or color within the body of an email will send the email in HTML, as will
any attempt to use a different default font face, size, style, or color.

"Like AOL 6, AOL 7 will uses HTML when quoting a message (displaying the
quoted portion with a blue line in the left margin). And like AOL 6,
choosing Text > Normal will eliminate any indication that the text was
quoted. However, unlike AOL 6, the message will now be sent in plain text.
The quoted portion will need to be manually quoted, however.

"Like AOL 6, a formatted signature in AOL 7 may force the message into HTML."

There is likely a similar way to configure the format of messages in other
e-mail programs such as Microsoft Outlook, Netscape, Pegasus, etc. If you
have one of these programs and wish to share how to configure it, we would
be interested. With Plain-Text-only, not only will your messages be easier
to read for some subscribers who use older e-mail programs (such as Lotus
cc:Mail), but you will save bandwidth and transmission time, since HTML
messages (those sent with two formats) take up more cyberspace than
end of citation from BG-FAQ

Carl W. Conrad
Co-Chair, B-Greek List
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad at ioa.com
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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