As a mail and collaboration program designed for interacting with information onscreen, Outlook lacks the sophisticated print layout tools that other Microsoft Office programs have. To help reduce your frustration with Outlook printing, I thought it might be useful to review some of the limitations and available workarounds for common problems related to printing messages in Outlook.

One of the most common problems related to printing messages is that when you print an HTML-format message that includes attachments, the printout doesn't include any information about the attachments. (When you print a plain text or Rich Text Format—RTF—message, the printout shows an icon and filename for each attachment.) One solution for this problem is Sperry Software's Print On Demand Outlook add-on, which adds two new printing buttons. One prints the message with the attachment names appended; the other prints just the attachments.

Another message-printing problem is that if you use WordMail as your editor, the To, Cc, Bcc, and Subject fields don't appear on the printout of an unsent message. One solution is to print the version in the Sent Items folder after you've sent the message. Another is to close and save the message, then choose Tools, Options, Mail Format and turn off WordMail as your editor. Then open the message from the Drafts folder, and it will appear in the regular Outlook editor, which prints all the message fields—even for an unsent message.

Have you ever received a message with a huge number of recipients? I've seen messages in which the list of recipients was longer than the message. Outlook provides no quick way to suppress printing of that long recipient list, but a couple of workarounds exist. One is to use the File, Save As command to save the message as a .txt, .rtf, or .htm file—depending on the message format—then open that file in your choice of editor, delete the To information, and print the file. Saving the message as a file also lets you print selected information or specific pages from mail messages you receive. You can edit the file to print exactly the pages you need.

Here's another way to suppress the printing of the To list: Open the message, then choose Tools, Forms, Design This Form. Right-click the text box control that shows the To names, then choose Properties. In the Properties dialog box, select the Validation tab, clear the "Include this field for Printing and Save As" checkbox, and click OK. Close the message, and choose Yes when you see the "Do you want to save changes?" prompt. Now Outlook will hide the To recipient list when you print the message. One advantage of this method is that you don't have to clutter your system with a file copy of the message.

To save paper, you might want to print multiple messages one right after the other, rather than starting a new page for each message. However, the Print dialog box's "Start each item on a new page" checkbox is selected and disabled when you try to print messages. The File, Save As command comes to the rescue again: You can select the messages in the order you want to print them, save them as a .txt file, open that file, and print it to produce a plain text printout of all selected messages as one print job.