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Removing information from an email you forward is as simple as editing the message prior to hitting send. And yet, sometimes not quite that easy.
How do I remove the senders address form an email before forwarding it? I am using Mozilla Thunderbird email.
I'm kinda surprised at how often I get this question. As someone who's used email now for well over a quarter century, I take for granted how conceptually easy it is.
Clearly, given the number of times I get asked this, it's certainly not obvious to everyone, so I'll walk through the steps.
I'll use Thunderbird, but the same concepts apply to almost every email program I've ever encountered.
Here's an example email that I sent to myself:
Very simple, from me to me, using two of my email addresses so you can see the difference.
Now I'll hit "Forward":
The original message has been placed in the body of the new message, ready to be forwarded. At this point you might add your own notes and comments before forwarding the message to someone else.
The key that many people miss is simply this: the original message is just a part of the body of your new message and can be edited.
Here I'll select the "From" line:
I press Delete:
And the sender, the From: line, is gone.
HTML can be different.
The above example was a simple, plain text email. With some emails, the HTML can end up being very complex; particularly emails composed using overly powerful HTML or word processing programs as their email editors (I'm not mentioning any names here, but let's just say that the outlook isn't good).
So let's review the example with an HTML formatted email instead.
Here's the original:
After pressing Forward:
And once again I simply select the text I want to delete and delete it ... or do I?
This is where it gets ... weird.
When I click in or around the "From:" line I get these grey lines around the email message's header.
In fact since we're forwarding in HTML format, what Thunderbird has done is formatted the header of the email that you're forwarding into a table with two columns, and 4 rows. Many email programs actually do something very similar.
But it does make editing a little more difficult.
You can click inside any of the cells within that table, and edit or remove the contents of the cell. Here I've removed just the From: address by clicking on it and deleting it character by character:
I delete character by character because it's too easy to select too much with your mouse. And if you select data that cross from one cell into another - delete often doesn't work. This is the source of most people's confusion and frustration.
You can also delete the entire "From:" line by clicking on the tiny circled X that appears in the line when you hover your mouse over it:
After clicking on that:
If you're not using Thunderbird, exactly what your email program does with this scenario will vary slightly. The most common difference is the mechanics of deleting table cells, table rows and the like. With complex emails - often those that have been forwarded repeatedly without being cleaned up - you can end up with tables inside of other tables, often nested several levels deep. It can get quite confusing.
There's at least one constant: you can click within a table cell and delete (or alter) its contents with the delete and/or backspace keys. So you can almost always find and remove the sender's address.
There's another, perhaps simpler, way.
Just because you got the email in HTML doesn't mean you need to forward it as HTML.
And the conversion to plain text removes all of the complexity.
In Thunderbird, you can hold down the shift key when you click on Forward, and it will choose the "other" format - meaning that if forward defaults to plain text, shift+forward gets you HTML, and vice versa.
If I forward my HTML example email as plain text, this is what I get:
You can see that all the formatting has been removed (and in the body, some has been replaced with plain text pseudo-equivalents). The header of the forwarded message is now just plain old text that you can edit as you like.
A closing note: the ease with which we can edit a message before forwarding it should be a warning to you. We've just edited the header to remove the "From:" line, but there's nothing preventing you from editing the body to make the message say something it did not. The lesson?
It's trivial to fake email.
Always consider the circumstances, and keep a healthy dose of skepticism on hand at all times.
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