A long-standing Outlook annoyance is its behaviour when you reply to a formatted email. A blue bar appears at the left of the original message, and Outlook prompts you to type above it:
That’s OK in the most common scenario, but can easily go wrong. For example, let’s say you don’t want to quote anything in the reply. You delete the entire message and start typing – and a blue bar appears to the left of your text:
Another bad scenario is when you want to type comments interspersed in the reply, or after the reply. It is extraordinary how hard Outlook makes this:
OK, the interspersed comments are in a different colour, but the blue bar makes them look like part of the message you are replying to.
There are a few workarounds. One is to format the entire message as plain text. Alternatively, it is possible to tame the blue bar. In recent versions of Outlook, Word is the email editor. The blue bar is a feature of Word called Borders and Shading. Display the Borders and Shading dialog, which in Outlook 2010 is on the Format Text ribbon tab:
In this dialog, click None and then OK.
Oops, that removed the blue bar completely! Well, that may not matter. If you want to keep it for parts of the message though, you can reinstate it. Select the text that you want to have a blue bar, click Borders and Shading, then click the option for a left bar.
Why can’t you just remove the bar for the selected text, the first time you display the dialog? I admit I am still finding this a challenge. It is something to do with the original setting, which is a border applied to “Border level 1”. I do not know what this is. Further, once the border is removed, you cannot re-apply it to “Border level 1” (except with Undo). When you next display the Borders and Shading dialog, the option disappears, and you can only choose between Text and Paragraph:
If some Word or Outlook guru can advise on this I would be grateful. Still, at least by using this dialog you can remove the blue border while retaining other formatting, and with patience you can even create a message with typing between and after the blue bar:
Note that something has changed in the bowels of Outlook now – it is now grammar-checking the quote.
For completeness, I should note that there are further choices in Outlook Options, in the Mail section:
I have tried all of these. The best may be to reply in plain text with the > character before quoted replies; though Outlook warns against this, it may cause line-wrap problems on some mail clients, and of course you cannot format your message. If you remove the prefix option completely, it is easy to type between and after the quoted message, but the only distinction is the colour of the font, which is too subtle for my taste.
It is a shame that Outlook makes it hard to construct replies in a flexible manner.
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