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

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

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

Using Gmail Basic HTML

The best alternative for sending plain text email using Gmail is the basic HTML interface.

To send text-only emails from Gmail using any browser on any device:

  1. Open Gmail Basic HTML in a browser.
  2. Compose and send your plain text email.
    Send plain text email using Basic HTML Gmail

Using the basic HTML interface, Gmail will always only send messages in plaint text using UTF-8 Unicode encoding, so you can use any script and character you find in Unicode.

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

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 send 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.

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 CtrlZ (Windows and Linux) or CommandZ (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; updated June 2022)

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