Testing the plain text version of your email

By Mathew Patterson on 18th May 2007

When you create a campaign with Campaign Monitor, you can select to send it in plain text, just html or multipart text+html formats. Now testing an email that is just text is pretty straightforward, and testing the html portion is also easy, but how do you see the plain text part of a multipart email? Here's how to check what people will see if their email client is setup to show text only.

Testing using Thunderbird

Thunderbird screenshot showing View menu

Thunderbird is a cross platform, free email client, and it lets you easily view the plain text version of a multipart email.

View / Message Body As / Plain Text

Testing using Apple Mail

Mail screenshot showing View menu

Apple Mail has the same functionality built in:

View / Message / Plain text alternative

In both clients, you can swap back and forth between html and text views.

Outlook: Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a way to view the plain text in Outlook. We'd suggest you just grab Thunderbird and use it to check your campaigns. Now that Campaign Monitor remembers your test addresses it's even easier to set up a consistent test process.


  • Nicola D'Agostino
    21st May

    What about Eudora?
    And by Outlook do you mean the plain one or Express?


  • Dave Greiner
    21st May

    Hi Nicola, by Outlook we mean Microsoft Outlook, that’s packaged with Office. We mentioned it because it’s one of the most popular email environemnts, but basically sucks at testing plain text support.

    There are certainly other email clients you can use to test text support, but the two we listed are great picks that are both free.

  • Damien Jorgensen - Cardiff
    24th May

    Eudora is very good in my opinion yet I love good old Outlook 2007

  • Matthijs
    25th May

    Is this option also available in Lotus Notes 6.5? I’ve been searching, but have not found the option yet.

  • Bill NZ
    20th July

    A problem I have at work is we use Outlook, and as you know Outlook doesn’t allow you to quickly change the view between HTML and Plain Text (you can if you want to go through changing your preferences every time you want to see the plain text).

    A workaround I found is using Windows Live Mail desktop.  Be default it leaves the message on the server, and can quickly switch between HTML & Plain Text.  That way you only have to send the test email to 1 address, and download the message with WLM first, and then you can also check it in Outlook. 

    I wish I could use Thunderbird at work, but until Mozilla gets a good (and compatible) calendering client,  I’m stuck with Outlook.

    A little side note though, if you set a folder in Outlook to use the Autopreview (in the View menu), you will get the first 3 lines of the Plain Text version under the subject line.

  • Dave Greiner
    20th July

    Great tips Bill, thanks for adding your thoughts.

  • Tim Marshall
    24th July

    An even easier way in Outlook 2003 and i think 2007 is to drag the email you’ve sent into your Junk Mail folder. All emails within this folder are automatically rendered in Plain Text to protect you from downloading dodgy imagery!

  • risma
    7th September

    A correction to Tim’s comment: you can drag the e-mail message to the Junk Mail folder and Outlook will convert the HTML message to plain text, however, this is not the same as viewing the plain text alternative that you perhaps painstakingly created as part of your multipart message.  (After typing a bunch of “——-” to make lovely horizontal lines… I want to see them!!)

    Fortunately there shouldn’t be much difference between e-mail readers when viewing a plain text part of a multipart message (unlike the HTML part, which can vary widely.)  So using Thunderbird or Apple Mail to view the plain text alternative once should be sufficient for testing purposes (I certainly hope so, because I’m not going to do more than that…)

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