How to create Rich Text emails with Outlook on your phone

Make your emails stand out with Rich Text Format

Close-up view of the iPhone showing the home screen

Plain text emails are fine most of the time and you don’t need fonts, styles and colours. However, to make an email stand out, use Rich Text Format in Outlook on your phone.Here’s how it works.

This is a new feature that only recently arrived in the Outlook app on the iPhone and it is excellent. It is no doubt coming soon to Android phones. Right now, it isn’t there, but keep checking for Outlook app updates because it is sure to appear eventually because iOS and Android apps are pretty much the same.

Rich Text Format (RTF) is far superior to plain text for making emails stand out and it supports many of the text formatting features that you are used to in a word processor. Think of Rich Text as Microsoft Word and plain text as Notepad on the PC or TextEdit in plain text and Rich Text modes on the Mac.

The difference is tremendous and it is possible to create headings, subheadings and body text styles, select fonts and styles and more. You probably would not use it when sending a work colleague a simple email or reply, but if you wanted to make an impression with a customer or potential customer, client, and so on, Rich Text is the best format.

There was a time when some email apps did not support Rich Text and they could only display plain text, but that was a decade or more ago. You probably get more rich text emails than plain text ones these days and every desktop app supports it.

However, on phones where there are limitations like processing power, memory, stubby fingers instead of a mouse, and so on, Rich Text support has been for reading emails and not for creating them. It is easier to make a Rich Text reader than a Rich Text editor.

It is becoming increasingly common on phones though. Let’s take a look at how the Outlook mobile app enables you to style rich text emails. I will use iPhone screenshots, but this feature will soon be on Android too.

Create a new email message

Writing an email in the Outlook app on the iPhone
Creating an email in Outlook app

Open the Outlook app on the phone and tap the button to create a new email message. The first three icons in the toolbar above the keyboard are familiar, but now there is an additional button at the end, an A with a pencil. This is use to access Rich Text Format features. Press it.

Rich Text Format toolbar

Outlook app on the iPhone, rich text toolbar
The Rich Text toolbar in Outlook mobile app

The standard toolbar is replaced with the Rich Text Format toolbar. The first icon, the cross, closes it. The other buttons are used to format the text. Press a button and start typing to enter text in that format, or select some existing text in the message and then tap a button in the Rich Text toolbar to apply that style.

Use predefined text styles

Using the Rich Text toolbar to style text in the Outlook app on the iPhone
Style the text in the email

Here some text was selected in the message and then Body in the Rich Text toolbar was tapped. Each tap cycles through Body > Title > Subhead and the selected text is styled accordingly. Also, a style can be selected first, such as Body, and then you can type in that style.

Insert a link

The Rich Text toolbar in the Outlook app on a phone
Insert a link

Links can be inserted into emails in the usual way (long press some text on the iPhone to get the iOS toolbar), but there is also another way and swiping left over the Rich Text toolbar in Outlook reveals another icon (watch here for more icons in the future). Tap the link icon.

Inserting a link in the Outlook app on a phone
Link text and URL

The Add Link form appears and you can enter text and a web link as usual. Tap the tick in the top right corner to insert it into the email.

Bullets and numbered lists

Creating a Rich Text email in the Outlook app on the iPhone
Rich Text Format emails look better

Bullets and numbered lists are available. Tap either of the two icons to create them and start typing to enter the first. Press Enter at the end of one bullet or list item to start the next. Press Enter twice to finish the bullet list.

As you can see from the simple example above, Rich Text Format emails are much better than plain text ones when you want to make an impression. It takes a bit more time and effort to create them, but it is still fairly quick and easy to apply styles to the text and create lists.

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