[pcductape] odd characters on freelists.org - Revisited

  • From: "Pam" <ltf01@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <pcductape@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 3 Sep 2003 15:28:12 -0500

Remember a while back when we were trying to figure out how to get rid of
the odd characters that freelists seem to put on the end of some lines in
some posts?

This is a solution to the same problem, if you are using a version of
Outlook, discovered by someone in another group.


Messages sent to Freelists.org lists often have extra characters inserted
at the ends of lines.

Freelists, like many subscription based messaging systems is designed to
work with plain text messages as described in RFC2646
(ftp://ftp.rfc-editor.org/in-notes/rfc2646.txt). There are many
'stylistic' issues with plain text, though. Amongst them is control of
line breaks. Without this control (or a proper semblance of it) a writer's
attempts to confine a paragraph to 76 characters (standard shell screen
width) can cause paragraph structure to fall apart as it is rendered on
other systems.

Outlook XP is set by default to use Base 64 encoded text, part of the MIME
specification (RFC2045 - ftp://ftp.rfc-editor.org/in-notes/rfc2045.txt)
and this is the source of unusual line breaks (lines terminated with '='
and '=20' characters when sending mail to freelists.org. By no means is
this to say that Freelists' mail processor doesn't have compliancy issues
since it is supposed to cleanly support Quoted-Printable and Base 64
encoded text. However, those extra characters are a huge annoyance and, up
to now, Outlook XP users have been largely unsuccessful in using Outlook
to post clean, readable messages to Freelists.

In older versions of Outlook, users could control text depending on
whether Outlook was in Corporate Workgroup mode or in Internet Only mode.
Corporate Workgroup mode users had no control of the text output. Internet
Only users had a variety of options by which the output text encoding was
controlled. With the introduction of Outlook XP, the ability to switch
modes disappeared and, with it, so did most of the ability to control
plain text formatting in a message. Also in Outlook XP, a new mechanism
called Intelligent Encoding was introduced. Intelligent Encoding works on
this logical flow:
- Clients attached to an Exchange Server use the format specified at the
- Clients nto attached to an Exchange Server use the same rule set as
would Exchange Server. From MSKB article 278134 -
"Outlook 2002 encodes each plain text body part for which Outlook creates
Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) by using the same algorithm
that Exchange servers use to send plain text to the Internet. In general,
if 25 percent or more of the message is comprised of 8-bit characters,
Outlook uses Base 64 encoding, otherwise Outlook uses Quoted-Printable

Outlook XP will ignore the algorithm by which it decides to change the
encoding of text and can also be set to consistently follow a single
specification. There is no interface provide for this, though, and can
only be implemented through a registry setting.

Note that making mistakes in the registry is generally not a good thing.
It is possible to make a mistake which will render a system useless.
Follow the guidelines for registry editing in MSKB article "256986
Description of the Microsoft Windows Registry"

1. Look for the registry key
2. If the DWORD value InternetMailTextEncoding doesn't exist, create it.
3. The following values change Outlook XPs behavior in this fashion (from
MSKB article 278134," OL2002: How Outlook Applies Encoding to Plain Text
If the value data is 0, Outlook is set to Encode Intelligently.
If the value data is 1, Outlook uses Quoted-Printable encoding.
If the value data is 2, Outlook uses Base 64 encoding.
If the value data is 3, Outlook uses no encoding and leaves 8-bit
characters as 8-bit characters.

Setting the value to 3 will ensure that no encoding will be applied to
messages composed in plain text. This will allow your posts to Freelists
to remain clean of unwanted characters.

If you've been mucking about with Outlook XP in an attempt to control this
hair-tearing little annoyance, you can easily undo all your changes by
going to the Tools menu and choosing Otions->Mail Format->Internet Format
and clicking the Restore Defaults button. Then, change the outbound format
back to plain text. In the "automatically wrap lines at" input, change the
value to be at least 72 characters (76 is standard) and then clicking OK
and OK again. Close Outlook XP and restart it. Come back to this article
and set the above described Registry key and DWORD value.


Greg Chapman

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  • » [pcductape] odd characters on freelists.org - Revisited