Highlighting Text In Mail Messages

One formatting option missing in Mac mail is the ability to highlight text by adding a background color to a text selection. This is useful when you want to point out a passage in a response and is commonly using in Windows email clients. While there is no way to do it with standard text styling in Mail, you can create a custom style by copying and pasting an example from Pages, creating a style, and then applying that style later on in other messages.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Highlighting Text In Mail Messages.

So here's a interesting challenge I saw recently in a discussion forum. Somebody wanted to highlight text in a response to an email message.

So you can select text, say when you're responding to somebody, and you can select it, make it bold, or you can change its color for instance. A lot of different things that you can do to point out the text that they have put there. But what would be nice is to actually have a highlight that's like a yellow marker highlight on it. This apparently is something that is commonly done in the windows world in mail but there doesn't seem to be any way to do it in Mac Mail.

So I figured a way to do it. It's really convoluted but I though I'd share it with you. Now I'm going to start by going to Pages. Pages is going to have a lot more options for styling text than Mail would. So I'm going to type some sample text here and I'm going to take this word here, highlight, and I'm going to assign to it a background color. The way I can do that is over here with Format, Style. If I go to the little control here I can set the text background. I'll select a bright yellow text background.

Now I can see that I get the highlight right there in Pages. So far so good. So now I can select all that text, Copy, go over to the message here and Paste. I get the text pasted in and I see right away proof that Mail is capable of having a background like that but the only way to get it is to actually do it in Pages and then paste it in here.

But you can do this directly in Mail. You have to start off like this but once you get one example of highlighted text in here I can select it and I'm going to Control click, not Command click, but Control click and I'm going to go to Font and Styles. This brings up this little Style window here and I can switch to Document Styles and it's going to show me what I have selected but it's going to use the Font name there and it will show me that the Font name and its got that background.

So now I can hit Add To Favorites and I'll come up with a name for it. So I'll call it Highlight and I can do things like include the font as part of the style, yes or no. I'll just leave that off. Tell it add. So now that I've got that I can apply it to text that already exists. So with this text selected I'm going to Control click again and go to Font, Styles, and then I can select from this list here Highlight which I added. Then I'll hit Apply. There I go.

Now I can do this in a new message very easily. So I'll just do Command N for a New Message. I'll start typing here and let's say I want to just highlight one word. Now I do Control and Font, Styles, and I can select Highlight and it will do it.

Comments: 6 Responses to “Highlighting Text In Mail Messages”

    Linda Taylor
    2 years ago

    Thank you Gary…I’m going to use the same process with different colors – Highlight yet, Highlight blue, Highlight green – and will (hopefully) have a variety to suit my needs at the time!

    Ruth Keeble
    2 years ago

    This is great! Thank you for your investigative process.

    Mitchell Kennedy
    2 years ago

    I confirmed this same process works from MS Word as well as Pages (for those of us not using that software).

    Thanks Gary…

    G. Humphrey
    2 years ago

    As always you’ve gone the extra mile for a “work around”. That method takes so many steps, although if you wish to highlight, that is what you have to do. Thank you. I’d think it would be easier if Apple/Mail programmers would just add it as a button. Too easy, I know, but it doesn’t hurt to dream!

    John Tomlinson
    2 years ago

    The highlighting appears in the message being sent, but if you send the message to yourself, and presumably if you send it to others, the highlighting does not appear. It does not survive the transmission process.

    2 years ago

    John: That depends on the client on the other end. I tested sending to myself (Mail, Sierra), and also sending to a Gmail address to read it in the Gmail web interface. The highlighting appeared in both examples. What appears at the other end of any email is dependent on the client for anything you put in your email. They could be using a text-only viewer or an old phone to read it, which may not show special characters, formatting, attachments, etc.

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