You may sometimes see strange characters or character combinations instead of punctuation marks in messages. Typically, these are three-character groups like â€™, or sometimes or ¿. This article explains how the encoding settings in Windows Live Mail 2011/2012 cause this to happen and how to avoid it.
Keywords: "weird characters", "odd characters", gibberish, apostrophe, quotation, quote
About character encoding
All email messages have to be converted to a stream of ASCII text characters for transmission. If a message contains characters that aren’t in the ASCII character set, email programs and services use various ways of converting those characters to combinations of ASCII characters for transmission. This process is called character encoding, and both the sending and receiving computer have to use the same technique if recipients are to see what the sender intended them to. This doesn’t always happen.
Messages you have received
When displaying a received message, Windows Live Mail will use the encoding specified at
Read > International settings if Use default encoding for all incoming messages
is selected. Otherwise, it will use the encoding specified in the message headers, or if none is given, its best guess at an encoding based on the content of the message.
- If you see strange characters in a received message, click the Encoding button on the ribbon and select a different one, like Unicode (UTF-8). If this makes the text display properly, you may find it best to leave
Use default encoding for all incoming messages not selected.
- If the wrongly-displayed text doesn’t change, it may have been hard-coded into the message by the sender, for example by forwarding or replying to a message wrongly displayed at his end. You can’t do anything about this other than draw the sender’s attention to the fault.
Messages you have composed and sent
Windows Live Mail 2011/2012 converts "straight" quotes and apostrophes in HTML messages to “curly” ones.
This will with some settings involve using Unicode characters, so the message will be transmitted using Unicode (UTF-8) encoding regardless of the setting at Options > Send > International settings. If recipients then read the message using a different encoding – like Western European – they will not see the characters you intended them to.
Sadly, there is no command in the program’s user interface to change this behaviour. If you see it happening, you can reverse the change by pressing Backspace, by clicking Undo on the Quick Access Toolbar, or by pressing Ctrl-Z.
To stop the behaviour altogether requires a change in the Windows Registry.
With Windows Live Mail closed, type regedit into the start search box and press
Enter. Give UAC permission if asked.
- In the left-hand pane, navigate to
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\ Windows Live Mail\Compose\Preferences\PostEditor\Autoreplace
and click on Autoreplace.
- In the right-hand pane, double-click on SmartQuotes. Type 0 (figure zero) into the
Value data box and click OK.
- Press F5 and then close the Registry Editor window.
- Launch Windows Live Mail and test.
Kudos to Peter.R, who first identified the undocumented registry key involved.