Mail in OS X 10.7 (Lion) doesn't allow me to set a default font for outgoing messages, and it's finicky when I change it in the message.

When I show the font bar (by clicking the A button at the top right of the message window), the font bar doesn't retain its value if I set it before typing any text. If I change it and then start typing, it changes to what I set it as, but if I delete all my text then it reverts to default (Helvetica).

How do I get around this? Is there a plugin to solve this, is it considered a bug...? I found the Universal Mailer plugin, which is now open source.

3 Answers 3


You should be able to do this by going to Mail Preferences > Fonts & Colors and selecting the following option:

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  • 7
    Mail Preferences do not in fact affect what is seen at the other end. To do that you have to set your font, size, color, etc for each outgoing individually in the New Message pane. Or use Stationery. Many users have complained about this over the years, but Apple has not changed it. Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 13:44
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    It maybe because not all systems have the same fonts. So what you set on you Mac, may not be on a Windows PC. I.e. 'Handwriting - Dako. So it makes sense that each mail viewing app. determines its own viewing font .
    – markhunte
    Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 14:54
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    I think this affects the default font of what is displayed in messages you've received, not what you send. Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 15:52
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    The accepted answer is wrong. Mail Fonts & Colors only sets the fonts for the viewing side ("you"), not the fonts "encoded" in outgoing mail messages.
    – myhd
    Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 8:35
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    @MattLove Unfortunately if you look at the generated HTML, Mail.app does not set a font at all. The “Message font” preference only affects how the message looks when you compose it, and how incoming messages with no defined font look when you view them. To actually set a font you have to manually select a different font while composing each message. Yuck.
    – Nate
    Commented Oct 29, 2012 at 18:49

Mail has lacked the ability to set a default outgoing font via its Preferences since at least 10.4. Users who really need this, often switch to Outlook/Entourage or Thunderbird. There are also some plugins, such as Universal Mailer or Message Font that can do this.

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    I have tried Universal Mailer (1st link) and it actually works and completely solves the problem. The first answer actually solves vey little.. Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 14:46

Unfortunately Matt Love has it wrong. I was pulling my hair out because of this issue, particularly when sending to people who use Outlook. I did some digging, and if you take a look at the message source you'll notice that Mail does not use the font-family tags around the body text. Therefore, the Mail client will default the body text to whatever it's default is. In the case of Outlook, it's Times New Roman. Beyond that, it's particularly frustrating if you've created a signature and clicked the "Always match my default font", because in that case Mail will wrap the signature with size and font-family, but the body text will look totally different. Worse, in some cases where text is wrapped to indicate font size, it's using the relative CSS term "medium", which can produce strange results. Also, since no font-size for the body text is declared, in Outlook it ends up larger than my signature which is set at 14px, but when viewing through Gmail in a browser, the body is smaller than the sig.

You can also poke around with the actual signature files to get a feel for what's going on:

~/Library/Mail/V2/MailData/Signatures (Mountain Lion, exact paths may differ)

I stripped the font-family declarations (so at least if it does end up as the mail client's default all the text is the same font) and made sure every font-size declaration was in px, and it's somewhat consistent now other than the difference between sig and body.

In my opinion this is a bug; maybe we should all go file it as such through Apple to get their attention. In the meantime, Tom Gewecke's suggestions might be the only solution.

Update: I tried Universal Mailer and as the commenter above describes it works perfectly. You have to pay $4 to get the full version otherwise you get additional text put on the bottom of every email.

Update: It looks like Apple has fixed this is OS X Mavericks. I've done some basic testing and it seems far more consistent now.

  • Erebus, I'm very keen to do away with the disclaimer text you mentioned at the bottom of emails when you use the free version of Universal Mailer. I'm therefore most interested in your comment re paying $4 to get the full version. How/where did you find this information, and how do I go about doing this? Surely it's not via the "donation" link? Many thanks, Erebus. I look forward to hearing from you.
    – user35183
    Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 14:47
  • It looks like the developer's site has changed recently and there's no mention of the full version without the promotional text. I did have to "Donate" in order to unlock the full version. I checked my email, and even the page I used to log in and download the full version isn't around anymore (noware-it.zxq.net/restricted.php) so not sure what's up.
    – Erebus
    Commented Nov 24, 2012 at 1:00

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