Create Permanent Custom Styles in Outlook

One of my peeves in Outlook is the formatting of code snippets that I send in email. Nine times out of ten, I’m copying and pasting from Visual Studio. That works pretty well; you get keyword highlights and all that fun stuff. Life is good–unless you happen to have a dark background. I like the dark theme for Visual Studio 2012, but I can’t stand that pasted text comes with a black highlight! It’s not that I mind the black background, but the highlighted text looks like a disaster.

DarkBackgroundCodePasteIntoOutlook

At this point, you’ve got three options: go back to a light-background theme in Visual Studio, deal with it, or adjust the formatting in Outlook. It looks too ugly for me to ignore, so option #2 is out. Until know, I’ve been exercising option #1, living in a default-themed world. I decided to go in a different direction today, though. I created a style that I can use to quickly format my pasted code. (An easy solution that I considered using for a while was to use LINQPad as a formatting buffer. I’d copy/paste code from Visual Studio to LINQPad and then re-copy/paste from LINQPad to Outlook. It works.)

The key to making this as painless as possible is getting the style configured correctly. Here are the steps I used to create my new style in Outlook 2013:

  • Choose “Create a Style” from the Styles gallery (FORMAT TEXT > Styles)
  • Change paragraph spacing options
    • After: 0 pt
    • Line Spacing: Single
  • Modify borders and shading
    • Border Setting: Box
    • Border Color: White
    • Border > Options > From text (all sides): 12 pt
    • Shading Fill: Custom Color (RGB: 30, 30, 30)

To ensure the style sticks around for future emails, do the following:

  1. Change Styles > Style Set > Save as a New Style Set…
  2. Change Styles > Style Set > Set as Default
  3. Restart Outlook for the new default style set to take effect

When I paste code from my dark themed Visual Studio, it still looks ugly. I can make it prettier by simply selecting the text and applying my new style. As a final beautification, I select the text and remove the black highlight from the text. (The removal of highlighting wouldn’t be necessary if I were content to use a black background, but I think 30/30/30 gray looks nicer, and so I will remove the highlight.)

DarkBackgroundCodePasteIntoOutlook_Better

It’s definitely a few extra clicks anytime I’m sending code, but the end product looks good!

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4 thoughts on “Create Permanent Custom Styles in Outlook”

  1. Thanks for this! I was confused as to how to make it a permanent change to all new e-mails. Your directions are super clear and worked the first time! Thanks from saving me from right-clicking so much every time i email code!

  2. Thanks for this. Very nice and clear directions. I set up a style named “Code” for a nice green on black old school look. Useful for shell command listings, Java code and such.

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