AOL and Plain text

Newer AOL 7.0 CD's WILL NOT allow plain text to be sent!

Click here for the
"Plain Text AOL 7.0"

Visits since 10:30 AM PST 2/3/01

This is for AOL V6.0:

[Click here to scroll down to the EARLY AOL V7.0 discussion]

As a manager of majordomo mailing lists, I've had to deal with the newest version of AOL software installed by subscribers to the mailing lists. AOL's Version 6.0 does not provide AOL users the ability to easily compose messages using plain text. Instead, all messages are sent in HTML.

HTML is unwelcome on majordomo mailing lists, especially those that provide a digest version. See Mailing List Manners 102 for a discussion of this problem.

Several AOL users asked AOL for help. They received a "boiler plate" response with two suggestions. The first suggestion flat out doesn't work, and the second suggestion is to use AOL's web-based email. AOL's web-based email does send plain text, but you can't send mail using AOL's browser if you are "already logged on" to AOL. You must use another browser, such as Explorer or Netscape, to make the connect to AOL's web-based mail.

On one of the mailing lists for people who run mailing lists, I received a post from Ron Parker. I then enlisted the aid of Jeff Culley, one of my local users who runs AOL 6.0, and after a long phone call and many messages back and forth, Jeff and I refined Ron's original post.

As far as I know this works; however, I did get one message that said a "css/plain text" document is created rather than "text/plain; charset="US-ASCII", but I have been unable to duplicate that situation.

The "solution" follows. Please do read on, however.

After the "solution", I have included the "boilerplate" response from AOL with AOL's two unsatisfactory suggestions, and following that my attempt at cracking the AOL corporate shield. They finally gave me an address to which I should send my complaint. Apparently AOL "corporate" isn't reachable by email!

Like one of the mailing list managers said as a tag line in his message thanking me for posting the solution, "Friends don't let friends use AOL".

Jay O'Brien
February 3, 2001

This web page is in the public domain. Permission is granted to copy any or all of this page with or without credit to the author.

How to send plain text from AOL V6.0:

1. Make sure your font is set to Arial 10, the AOL default.

2. Create a message using only default Arial 10 type. Any
   quoted text pasted in from another message must also be
   in Arial 10 type (no bold, other sizes or colors). Note:
   if you paste a message that was received in HTML format,
   it will probably cause you to send in HTML.

3. Hit Control-A to highlight the entire message.

4. Right click anywhere in the message itself: A 'popup menu'
   will appear. Move the cursor to "text" and another menu
   will appear. Move the cursor to "normal" and click on it.

5. Send the message.

The above "solution" has been found to work as described. However, there's no guarantees, and the author of this web page is not prepared to provide any further assistance beyond this web page itself.

Correspondence (???) with AOL
Note: All of the correspondence from AOL was in plain text.

Note: References to messages "below" refer to prior messages that were included "below" that specific email. To provide continuity in reading this correspondence thread, all messages are presented here in date/time order.

This message was sent to AOL using their web-based system at

----------original message----------

name: Jay O'Brien
subject: HTML in V6.0
message: I manage several Majordomo mailing lists. Many subscribers are AOL customers. When they upgrade to V6, they can no longer send in plain text. HTML is not acceptable as it cannot be read by some mail clients, and because it makes the digest version of the mailing lists almost unusable because the mail is sent once with HTML tags and once without. This is a real sorepoint with mailing list managers, causing much derisive comment about AOL. Before I  join them in their criticism, I want AOL's answers.

In the meantime, we are encouraging AOL 6.0 users to obtain hotmail or juno accounts they can send from in plain text. This works, but is quite inconvenient for your users. In some cases AOL 6.0 users have been banned from mailing lists due to the grief their HTML posts cause.

-Why have you eliminated the capability to send in plain text?
-Is there a way for AOL 6.0 users to send plain text without getting a juno/hotmail account?

agent: Mozilla/4.7 [en] (Win98; U)
X-Rep: 2792<BR>
X-MailId: 14847630<BR>
X-Queue: 210<BR>
X-Mailer: SwiftMail v3.85<BR>

They sent me the same boilerplate response they had sent to AOL subscribers!

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: HTML in V6.0
Date: 02/02/2001 07:40:50
From: <>
Reply-To: <>
To: <>

Dear Jayobrien,

Hi! I am Sheena from America Online (AOL). As a Customer Care Consultant
from the TechMail Department, it is my pleasure to assist you regarding any
concerns you may have.

I understand you have questions about the difficulties some recipients
experience when reading e-mail sent from America Online (AOL) version 6.0.

I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and I want to assure you that I
am here to help you resolve this issue as quicky as possible.


AOL version 6.0 sends e-mail in a multi-part alternative format that
includes support for both plain text and hypertext mark-up language (HTML).
With AOL version 6.0, you may send richly formatted e-mail to both AOL and
Internet recipients (including colors, fonts, text formats, and text

AOL is aware of some issues raised by mailing list (LISTSERV) owners and
Postmasters whose systems do not accept richly formatted HTML e-mail. AOL
Member Services is currently "collecting the data" on this issue.

In the meantime, the following alternative methods are available to send
plain text only e-mail to Internet addresses that reject rich formatting.


1. When authoring e-mail in AOL version 6.0, remove all formatting from the
message body and send the message in the AOL 6.0 default of Arial, size 10
and do not include any bold/italics/underline, colors, or other styles.

2. Use AOL Mail on the Web located at the site below:

You can send e-mail from AOL Mail on the Web to Internet addresses that
reject formatting because AOL Mail on the Web sends mail as plain text

3. For mailing lists, contact the owner of the LISTSERV that is rejecting
formatted e-mail and ask the owner to allow HTML formatted e-mail in the
LISTSERV. The owner of the LISTSERV may allow the mailing list to accept
HTML formatted e-mail if the formatted e-mail does not disrupt the normal
flow of communications between mailing list subscribers who may not use
richly formatted e-mail.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your time, effort,
and continued support.  Please feel free to write us if you have inquiries,
suggestions or comments regarding America Online Services.

May I reiterate my commitment to continue providing you competent and
efficient online services.

Sheena S.
The Techmail Department
America Online Inc.

I explain to AOL why their solutions do not work.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: HTML in V6.0
Date: Fri, 02 Feb 2001 09:39:09 -0800
From: Jay O'Brien <>


Thank you for your response. I note that your message to me was in plain
text, so obviously someone using the latest AOL software can easily send in
plain text. That is encouraging to me.

The solutions in your response to me dated 02/02/2001 at 07:40:50 do not
correct the problem.

Your solution number 1 below does not work. Following your instructions,
the software continues to send in HTML.

Your solution number 2 does not work if an AOL V6.0 user navigates to It will not allow the user to send mail as the user is
already logged in.

Your solution number 2 only works if the AOL V6.0 user has access to
another browser, such as MS Internet explorer, and visits Is is expected that the user will follow this
convoluted procedure?

To reiterate, I am not an AOL subscriber; I am a mailing list manager who
is faced with the decision to ban AOL users from a mailing list because
they are unable to configure AOL V 6.0 to send in plain text. They then
belligerently expect the mailing list and all of its subscribers to change
their software and mail clients because AOL won't provide a solution for

Once the war is started, unfortunately the only solution is to unsubscribe
the AOL user. Such an action, of course, exposes the mailing list manager
to potential civil action brought by the banned individual. I would prefer
to avoid such confrontations, and I'm sure your legal department would
agree with me.

I await your response.

Jay O'Brien

Another boilerplate response from AOL. They apologize for the inconvenience again.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: HTML in V6.0
Date: 02/02/2001 18:52:05
From: <>
Reply-To: <>
To: <>

Dear jayobrien,

Hello =), my name is Raffy.  As a Customer Care Consultant, it is my
pleasure to assist you regarding any concerns you may have.

I apologize for the inconvenience that you have been experiencing. I
appreciate your patience with this matter and I want to assure you I am
here to help you.


An AOL Customer Care Consultant will find a quick resolution to the issue.
The call is free and Consultants are available seven days a week.

Calling early in the day usually reduces the waiting time to speak to a

- For Windows, please call:


- For Macintosh, please call:


- For TTY equipment, please call:



- On AOL, please go to Keyword:


For Online HELP, please go to Keyword ASK THE STAFF , then click the GET
LIVE Online Help.

- On the Internet, please visit the Web site below:

Again, I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.

Thank you for writing to America Online (AOL).

Sincerely yours,

Rafael A. Guizzagan
Customer Care Consultant
America Online(AOL) Inc.

I try to get a human to read my email:

-------- Original Message --------
Date: Fri, 02 Feb 2001 16:18:23 -0800
From: Jay O'Brien <>

If you will read the correspondence below, you will see that you are
giving me the run around. Is this really your intent? Please review
my message below.

I am NOT an AOL customer; AOL is causing me grief. Please don't add to it.

Please forward this to the appropriate AOL person.

Jay O'Brien

AOL tells me to write to their corporate offices, who apparently doesn't have an email address:

-------- Original Message --------
Date: 02/03/2001 10:11:18
From: <>
Reply-To: <>
To: <>

Dear Jayobrien,

Hi! I am Wally from America Online (AOL) .  As a Customer Care Consultant from the TechMail Department, it is my pleasure to assist you regarding any concerns you may have.

I understand that you are having problems with AOL.

I sincerely apologize for the difficulties you are having with the service.

I want to assure you that I will do whatever it takes to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.

May I suggest that you forward your concern to our corporate office.

For answers to your questions, please contact our corporate offices.

The address is:

America Online
PO Box 10810
Herndon, VA 22070

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your time, patience and continued support.  Please feel free to write back  if you have any inquiries, suggestions or comments regarding America Online Services.

I appreciate that you have forwarded  your concerns and that you have given me  a chance to assist you with  this matter.

May I reiterate my commitment to continue providing you competent and efficient online services.

Wally C.
Customer Care Consultant
The TechMail Department
America Online, Inc.

How To Send Plain Text (no HTML!) with early versions of AOL V7.0
Note: this won't work with 7.0 from CDs distributed after fall 2001
click here for information on later versions of AOL V7.0

From now on all mail you send will be in plain ASCII.

(Thanks to Richard Sexton for this instruction)

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