How to Use AOL
to send Plain Text only
(for the AMSAT mailing lists)

Note: it is no longer necessary to worry about this for AMSAT mailing lists.

To use the AMSAT mailing lists and majordomo subscription system successfully, your mail program must be set up to send plain text only. Many users of AOL 6.0, 7.0, and 8.0 have had difficulty with this. Reportedly, AOL 9.0 once again makes it easy to send a specific message in plain text mode. Just right-click in the message field and select Compose as Plain Text. If you don't want to upgrade to version 9.0, here are some tips on how to get AOL to do the right thing.

Note that these tips are based on one particular version of AOL. Details may vary from version to version. These are reasonable settings to use all the time for most people, but you may prefer others. Feel free to use other settings for your other email, but please use the settings suggested here when you send mail to the AMSAT.ORG system.

The Trick for AOL 6.0

  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.

Configure for Plain Text on AOL 7.0

  1. On the tool bar click on SETTINGS.
  2. A menu pops up and you click on PREFERENCES.
  3. Another window opens up with 3 columns on it.
  4. Under the one headed COMMUNICATIONS click on FONT, TEXT & GRAPHICS.
  5. This window opens and you go to the bottom of it and click on RESET then click on SAVE.
  6. Do not change anything else in this window.
  7. Then close your windows and you are done. From now on all mail you send will be in plain ASCII.

No Hope for AOL 8.0

Reportedly AOL 8.0 can't be configured to send plain text. Sorry.

An Alternative

AOL users can send plain text by using the AOL Mail on the Web facility.

Another Alternative

Advanced AOL users may want to consider using AOL Communicator, their advanced email program. It is available from keyword AOL Communicator or from the AOL Communicator page. In Communicator, under Edit, Preferences, uncheck the option Use Rich Text.

Testing Your Settings

You can check whether you've got all the settings right by sending a dummy command to

  1. Start AOL again.
  2. Begin to send a new message.
  3. For "To" enter "" (without the quotes).
  4. Put something you'll recognize later into the "Subject" field, perhaps something like "settings test #1".
  5. In the big box for your message text, put just one word, "which" (without the quotes). This is the command for Majordomo to tell you which mailing lists you currently subscribe to.
  6. If you're using AOL 6.0, use the trick described above.
  7. Click Send.
  8. Wait a while (a few seconds to a few hours, depending on network conditions) and check your mail. You should get a response from
  9. Look at the response. If it contains a sensible response to your "which" query, then you're set up correctly. A sensible response is either a list of mailing list names, or a brief message stating that you don't currently subscribe to any mailing lists. If you see an error message followed by a lengthy set of instructions, you've done something wrong. The text of the error message may give you a clue. Try again to get all the settings right.

Here is an example of a reasonable response, if you subscribe to a few mailing lists:


>>>> which
The string '' appears in the following
entries in lists served by Majordomo@AMSAT.Org:

List                    Address
====                    =======


Here is an example of a reasonable response, if you don't currently subscribe to any mailing lists:


>>>> which
The string '' appears in the following
entries in lists served by Majordomo@AMSAT.Org:

**** No matches found


This test is not an absolute guarantee that everything is right, but it should catch most common errors.

Created December 29, 2001. Modified March 4, 2004. Based on by Jay O'Brien ( Thanks to Richard Sexton for the AOL 7.0 instructions. Thanks to Mike Enloe for AOL 9.0 and Communicator information. Comments on this page to KB5MU. If you find problems with these instructions, please let me know. Permission is granted to distribute this page without restriction.