Font Color – Gray Text of Read Messages in Windows Live Mail 2009


  • Windows Live Mail 2009 by design changes the color of mail and news message(s) text from Black to Light gray once a message(s) is read.
  • The color of the text is controlled by the Windows’ Appearance properties ‘Disabled Item’
  • Multiple options are available depending upon the operating system(XP, Vista, or Windows 7)
  • Gray Text of read messages also applies to Sent messages

How To Change/Override:

1. Rules (XP, Vista, or Windows 7)

For all messages
Highlight it with Black
and Stop processing more rules

or optionally

For all messages
Highlight it with Default
and Stop processing more rules


– A rule is applicable to received messages for Pop3 Email accounts and NNTP Newsgroup messages.

– A separate rule must be created for each(Mail and/or News).

– A rule can be applied manually to items in the Sent Items and/or Storage Folders

2. Modify Display Properties (Disabled Item)

XP: Changing the color of ‘3D Objects’ in Windows ‘Advanced Appearance’ options which will automatically modify the color of the ‘Disabled Item’ as well as other 3D Objects. Thus if not acceptable for your viewing then use one of the above ‘Rules’ instead

  • Control Panel\Display\Appearance\Advanced\<Scroll and select the ‘3D Objects’>

– Change the option labeled  ‘Color 1’

Vista and Windows 7: Changing the color of the Disabled Item font will only modify the ‘Disabled Item’

(Note: in each method below, the Control Panel was ‘configured to be shown on’ and ‘accessed from’ the Start Menu[Orb]

  • Vista:

Control Panel\Personalization\Windows Color and Appearance\Classic Appearance Properties\

– Click Advanced, click the Down Arrow in the ‘Item’ field, then scroll and select ‘Disabled Item’

-> Change the option labeled ‘Color’ (e.g. to Black)

  • Windows 7:

Control Panel\Personalization\Window Color\Advanced appearance settings

– Click the Down Arrow in the ‘Item’ field, then scroll and ‘Disabled Item’

-> Change the option labeled ‘Color’  (e.g. to Black)


Sept 04, 2009: Draft Creation date

Sept 08, 2009: Original Publish date

Dec 31, 2009: Updated to add Option 2(Disabled Item)

Jan 14, 2009:  Edited for readability

About Winston
Microsoft MVP

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