In the past, some companies encouraged their users to turn off the Reading Pane in Outlook to safeguard against virus infections. That memo probably went out in your office about the same time they started casual Fridays. While this may have been a concern in the early days of HTML e-mail content, today's Reading Pane isn't any more of a threat to the organization than khaki pants.

Why the fuss over HTML content? HTML is a Web format. If you've ever visited a Web page with some type of interactive content, chances are you've knowingly or unknowingly downloaded something to your local computer. HTML e-mails can work the same way—and therein lies the rub. Prior to Outlook 2003, previewing an HTML email in the Reading Pane would instruct the message to retrieve any necessary components, like graphics, from a Web server. Any time you download information from an untrusted source, you run the risk of infection or, at the very least, confirming for a junk e-mailer that your e-mail address is valid.

In Outlook 2007, images and other linked content in HTML messages are blocked by default, giving you the choice of whether or not to download them. If you wish to view the content, click the InfoBar at the top of the message and select Download Pictures. If you prefer a deeper level of protection, open the Trust Center from the Tools menu, then check the Read all standard mail in plain text box on the E-mail Security tab. This will display all messages in plain text along with an option in the InfoBar to revert back to the original HTML or Rich Text format.

For more information on Microsoft Office Outlook 2007, visit http://office.microsoft.com/outlook.

For more tips and tricks for the 2007 Microsoft Office System, pick up a copy of Evan Archilla's new book, So That's How! Timesavers, Breakthroughs, and Everyday Genius, available now wherever books are sold.