Change how the Reading Pane looks and works

You can preview items in your Inbox without opening them by using the Reading Pane (Reading Pane: A window in Outlook where you can preview an item without opening it. To display the item in the Reading Pane, click the item.) — just click the message to display the text of the item. In the Reading Pane, you can also open attachments, follow a hyperlink, use voting buttons, view the follow-up information in the InfoBar (InfoBar: Banner near the top of an open e-mail message, appointment, contact, or task. Tells you if a message has been replied to or forwarded, along with the online status of a contact who is using Instant Messaging, and so on.), and respond to meeting requests.

Security  You can view messages safely in the Reading Pane. Potentially malicious scripts or attachments are not activated or opened automatically in the Reading Pane. Although most malicious attachment types are blocked by Outlook, messages and attachments from unknown or unsolicited senders should always be treated with caution.

 Note   Global changes to the Reading Pane, with the exception of options set in the Reading Pane dialog box, cannot be made; you must make them individually for each folder. To make a global change to Reading Pane options, on the Tools menu, click Options. Click the Other tab, and then click Reading Pane.

ShowChange when messages are marked as read

  1. On the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Other tab.
  2. Click Reading Pane.
  3. Select the options you want.


To quickly display the shortcut menu for the Reading Pane, right-click the border of the Reading Pane next to the list of messages.

ShowHide the message header

  1. On the View menu, point to Arrange By, and then click Custom.
  2. Click Other Settings.
  3. Under Reading Pane, select the Hide header information check box.

 Note   To show message headers, clear the Hide header information check box.

ShowChange the location of the Reading Pane

  • On the View menu, point to Reading Pane, and then click Right or Bottom.


To turn off the Reading Pane and view more of the list of messages, on the View menu, point to Reading Pane, and click Off.

ShowResize the Reading Pane

  • Point to the left border of the Reading Pane, and when the pointer becomes a double-headed arrow Double-headed arrow image, drag the border to the left or right.


  • The Reading Pane is not available for the Drafts folder.
  • By default, Outlook is configured to block external content, such as links to pictures or sounds, in HTML messages that you receive. These links are references in the HTML source code to an external location on the Internet. When you open or preview the message, your computer downloads the external content so that the picture can be displayed or the sound played. Sometimes, junk e-mail senders use the downloading of external content by your computer to verify your e-mail address as valid so they can add it to their spam list. For more information, see Blocking external content.
Applies to:
Outlook 2003