How to Use Gmail Plain Text Mode

Send Plain Text Email in Gmail

Want to make sure Gmail sends nothing but text (no formatting and no special characters)? Find out here how to send text-only email with Gmail plain text mode.

First, Sticky Dough All Around and Over

If you have tacky dough, that sticky batter, stuck to your fingers, as is its wont, when you develop it and knead, you can turn to water and soap—and not expect much help.

Dunk your hands in flour, though, and the dough scrapes off quite easily.

Want to get that sticky formatting off your hands and emails? Let’s turn to Gmail and see:

How to Use Gmail Plain Text Mode to Send Text-Only Email

Using Gmail Desktop Plain Text Mode

Time needed: 1 minute

To send an email in plain text only with Gmail using a desktop browser:

  1. Click the More options menu while you write an email in Gmail.

  2. Select Plain text mode from the menu that has appeared.

    Already using plain text: If Plain text mode is checked, you are already composing plain text only.
    Formatting disappears: All formatting you have applied to text will immediately be removed.
    Emoji disappear: Unexpectedly perhaps, emoji you have added to the email text also disappear.
    Select "Plain text mode" to send text-only emails from Gmail on the desktop

Remove formatting just from a portion of text: How to Remove Formatting with the Gmail Toolbar

Using Gmail in a Mobile Browser

If you open Gmail’s default mobile version in a browser, all emails will be sent using both rich and plain text.

You cannot send a plain text-only email from Gmail mobile.

To still send plain text from a mobile device’s browser:

  1. Open Gmail desktop version in the mobile browser or open Gmail Basic HTML.
  2. Send a plain text email as above.

Using the Gmail App for iPhone and Android

Like Gmail’s mobile web version, the Gmail app for Android, iOS and iPadOS does not allow for sending plain text emails.

You can use Gmail’s desktop or basic HTML versions in a mobile browser such as Safari or Chrome instead.

How to Send Text-Only Email Using Gmail Plain Text Mode: FAQ

What is plain text mode in Gmail?

Gmail’s plain text mode removes existing formatting from an email you are composing—such as bold text, colors, text alignment and emoji—from the text of an email. If you send an email immediately after switching to plain text mode, it will delivered only as plain text.

Plain text mode does not affect attachments.

Will plain text mode prevent (accidental) formatting?

No.

Plain text mode does not stop you from applying formatting to your email again. This, of course, turns off plain text mode. You can switch to plain text again to remove all formatting choices.

(Note that plain text mode may prevent formatting with Gmail keyboard shortcuts—such as Command B (Mac) or Ctrl B (Windows) for bold text—, at least.)

Can I make plain text mode the default?

You cannot, but you also do not necessarily have to.

Gmail will remember the last-used settings—plain text or rich-text formatting—for the next message you compose.

Do I have to use plain text mode to send plain text email?

No.

Gmail will always deliver a text-only version of any email you send. This version includes all the text (and Gmail emoji) but none of the formatting.

Both versions are sent in one email, and recipients can choose which they prefer to see. You can also remove formatting from (select) text using the Gmail toolbar.

Can I use emoji and special characters in plain text email?

Yes.

Do keep in mind that Gmail will switch to Unicode UTF-8 encoding for all text as soon as you use anything except ASCII text, so the text will not be legible without decoding. Any current email program will decode the text automatically, of course, but legacy programs may not.

Using Gmail in anything other than its simple HTML version will also apply Base64-encoding with similar effects.

Decoding using simple offline and online tools is always possible for both Base64 and UTF-8, of course.

Can I bring back lost formatting after I switch to plain text mode for an email?

Yes.

To restore formatting (and disable plain text mode) for an email in Gmail using a desktop browser:

  • Press Ctrl Z (Windows and Linux) or Command Z (Mac) immediately after you turn on plain text mode.

(How to send text-only email with Gmail plain text mode tested in a desktop browser; first published July 2021, last updated February 2024)

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