Saturday, November 1, 2003

Blocking Web content in Outlook 2003


By Diane Poremsky

Last week we introduced you to the exciting, new Outlook interface. This week we introduce you to one of the most important (though controversial) new features: blocked Web content. This feature protects your privacy by blocking "Web bugs." Unfortunately, it also blocks a lot more; possibly more than you'd like.

As you will quickly discover, newsletters and advertisements that you receive in Outlook 2003 won't display their images, as shown in Figure A.


Outlook 2003 hides images in HTML emails. (click for larger image)

While images are the most noticeable blocked item, any downloaded content is blocked, including scripts and external style sheets. Remember, you can also block bad content by having an anti-virus program and keeping it up to date. This will likely give you a better email-reading experience in the long run.

How to get your pictures back

Obviously, if you're reading OutlookPower or any legitimate HTML email message, like other newsletters, you're going to want to see the images. Right click on any picture placeholder or on the Infobar to show the images and Internet content.

You can add senders or domains to the Safe Senders list if you always want to see the images on some messages automatically. You should probably do this now for OutlookPower. If some contacts frequently send you messages containing Web content, use the safe sender list instead of trusting all senders in your address book.

Tip: If you use Outlook on a dialup account, leaving images blocked prevent Outlook from initiating a connection as you read your messages. You can enable the images on each message when you are connected to the Internet.

In addition to, or instead of blocking Internet content, you can configure Outlook to display messages using plain text only, as shown in Figure B.


You can read messages in plain-text, but that obviously diminishes the usefulness of some mail. (click for larger image)

Read messages as plain text by using Tools, Options, Email options. Like Web content, you can enable HTML on any message by clicking on the Infobar, but you can't enable it for some senders through the use of the safe senders list.

My preference is to leave images off, not trust my contacts or use safe lists. I'll right click and show images as I read the message--it takes a split second to enable. I don't use the plain text setting. Plain test is harder to read and I'm comfortable with the security of Outlook 2003's Reading pane.

[Because our weekly updates are in HTML format, we obviously recommend you turn images on for the ZATZ newsletters. -- DG]