Mail 2.0: Should include minimum font size setting for HTML e-mail messages

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Mail
October 4th, 2005 • 1:52 pm

As Mac users, we have all experienced this problem at some point in our lives as e-mail readers. A person using Windows has sent us an e-mail, and this person’s e-mail client is configured to send e-mails formatted in HTML, and the default font size used by this person is way too small to view on a Mac. (For example, text in 10 pt is typically much smaller on a Mac than it is on a PC.)

In such cases, we end up having to make the text bigger manually using Mail’s “Bigger” command, which is available in the “Format › Style” menu or through a button in the message window toolbar.

The problem is that, of course, we have to do this each and every time we receive such an e-mail. It’s a tedious, repetitive task.

It seems to me that the very purpose of a computer is (supposedly) to make life easier for us by eliminating repetitive tasks that can be easily automated. Isn’t this precisely such a task?

Mail is perfectly capable of reading HTML code and parsing tags that specify font sizes (since it renders that code). It should therefore have no difficulty detecting tags that specify font sizes that are unacceptably small to view on a Mac.

I realize that the minimum acceptable font size may vary from user to user, but there’s nothing that prevents Apple from adding a preference similar to the one included in Safari, under “Advanced” in the application’s preferences dialog. The option appears under “Universal Access” and says, “Never use font sizes smaller than,” and then lets the user specify a minimum font size.

Why not adopt the same kind of preference setting for Mail? After all, when Mail renders an e-mail that is in HTML, it effectively acts as an HTML renderer, just like Safari. It’s not a case of adding too much complexity to Mail. It’s a case of establishing feature parity with Safari when it comes to rendering HTML.

4 Responses to “Mail 2.0: Should include minimum font size setting for HTML e-mail messages”

  1. Tim says:

    Hey Pierre

    I agree with you. The option would be great.

    In the meantime, though, isn’t the second option outlined here an easier way of dealing with the problem than the Make Bigger button/menu option?

    P.S. I enjoy reading your blog a lot. You have a great eye for detail.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    The option you mention only works if the HTML formatted e-mail has a plain text alternative, in which case you can indeed get Mail to display the plain text alternative by default with the first option you mention. And I have that on my machine already.

    But this doesn’t solve the problem of HTML formatted e-mail messages with no plain text alternative. For such e-mails, the only solution is the Bigger button/menu command.

    Thanks for your kind words :).

  3. ars says:

    There is a work-around, documented here:
    The hint described there was originally for Mail in Panther, which no longer works in Tiger. The comment section describes how to fix it under Tger.
    I agree with you that we should need to have to do this in such a complicated way.

  4. Pierre Igot says:

    Thanks for the link. Does indeed sounds like the “MinimumHTMLFontSize” setting exists, so the issue is why it’s not part of the Mail 2.0 interface. Maybe someone at Apple has this on his “to do” list…

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