Tips for Using Your AOL Mail Account

Have you ever run into an annoying problem when trying to use your AOL Mail account? Or maybe there is a feature in AOL that feels more like a flaw to you. Whatever the case, we’ve got some tips in this post for four common complaints people have with their AOL Mail: getting a blank screen when trying to log in to AOL Mail, not being able to view images in AOL emails, addresses being automatically added to your contact list when you email them, and not liking the size of the different panels in the AOL Mail inbox.

AOL Mail tips: Blank screen when signing in to AOL

If you are trying to log in and all you get is a blank screen, something in your internet browser is probably not playing nice with AOL Mail. Here are some things you can try to fix this problem:

Close and reopen browser

First, close your browser, reopen it and try again. This is the ultimate cliché in tech support, but it is often all you need to do to solve your problem. Completely exit whatever browser you are using (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc.), open it back up, and try logging in to AOL again.

Clear browsing data

If that doesn’t work, your next step is to clear the cache, cookies, and history from the browser you are using. This process is slightly different for each browser, but the general steps are the same. In Chrome, you can access this function through either “History” or “Settings”.

For “History”, open your browser menu (three vertical dots in the upper right-hand corner of Chrome), and click on “History”. Then, click on “Clear browsing data” in the left sidebar, which will open a pop-up window (in Chrome).

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For “Settings”, open the browser menu and choose “Settings”. The option to “Clear browsing data” will usually be under “Privacy and security” or a similar heading. In Chrome, this will open a pop-up window, just like if you had gone through “History”.

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This is the window that will emerge for Chrome users. You can select the time range in which the cache, cookies and history will be deleted using the drop-down menu at the top. For example, if you were able to sign in to AOL Mail yesterday with no trouble in the same browser, then clearing the data from the past 24 hours may be enough.

You can also choose which types of data will be deleted by checking and unchecking the boxes. When you have everything selected the way you want, click on “Clear Data”. Then, exit the browser, reopen it, and try signing in to AOL again.

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Try a different browser

If you have another browser installed on your computer, try to log in to AOL Mail using the other browser. Even if you don’t want to use that browser, it can help you confirm whether the issue is in your preferred browser or somewhere else, like a firewall.

Check your firewall settings

Speaking of firewalls… if you have one on your PC, and you can’t sign in to AOL in any browser, your firewall settings may be to blame. This might be something you don’t have control over depending on whether it is a personal computer or not. For an institutional computer, you might have to contact the system administrator to try to fix this.

Enable JavaScript

Your browser may have disabled or blocked JavaScript, which could cause a blank screen to appear when you sign in to AOL. To check that JavaScript is enabled, go into your browser’s settings. In Chrome, this option is found under the subheading “Content settings”.

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Trouble viewing pictures in emails

If you are unable to view pictures in an email that someone has sent you, there are a few things that could be going on.

First, check whether the image is actually embedded in the email, or if it was sent as an attachment. A picture attachment will have to be downloaded for you to be able to look at it.

Second, see if you can find the file extension for the image to know what type of image it is. Not all image files are compatible with AOL Mail, so one option is to ask the sender to convert the picture to a JPG or GIF file and then resend it to you.

Third, just like with the login issue, you can try clearing your cookies, cache, and browser history following the steps in the previous section.

Finally, it is possible that you can’t see the pictures in your AOL emails because of a simple server traffic jam. In this case, you’ll just have to wait and try again later.

AOL Mail automatically add contacts when you email them

For some people, this default setting is a helpful feature of AOL Mail. But others would prefer to have more control over who ends up in their address book. If you don’t like email addresses to be automatically added to your contacts list just because you sent them a message, this is how you can toggle this option on and off:

From your AOL inbox, click on the “Options” menu (located under your username in the upper right-hand corner of the screen). From the dropdown menu, click on “Mail Settings”.

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In the left-hand sidebar, click on the “Compose” section. Then, scroll down until you find the subheading “Sending”. You will see an option labeled “Automatically add email addresses to Contacts”, which is checked (enabled) by default. To turn this off, just uncheck the box and click “Save Settings”.

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You can also turn on spell-check for your emails here, which is never a bad idea.

Change the size of panels in AOL Mail

Did you know that you can change the look of your AOL inbox by adjusting the size of the left and bottom-left panels?

By default, the left panel is expanded to a fairly standard sidebar width, and the bottom-left panel is minimized or collapsed. You can adjust the size of the left panel by clicking and dragging the line separating it from the main panel, and you can expand the bottom-left by clicking on the ^ arrow that sits above it.

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This is what the layout looks like with the left panel expanded to a wide width and the bottom-left panel collapsed:

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This is what AOL Mail looks like with the left panel minimized (it can’t be removed, just collapsed):

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This is what it looks like with the left panel at its default width and the bottom-left panel opened/expanded:

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So, there you have it: a few common complaints from AOL Mail users, resolved. Make sure you check out our next post on some tricks for getting the most out of your AOL email with filters, calendars, customization, and more.

How to Format Emails in AOL Mail

Although it’s the content of an email that really matters, formatting can be a good way to add clarity, emphasis or even a bit of fun. AOL Mail gives you the ability to change the format of the text in your messages much in the same way you can in a word processor like Microsoft Word.

So, this post will serve as a crash course in email formatting options in AOL Mail. We’ll go through all of the basic tools you can use to change font style, size, color, etc.


In this tutorial, we’ll assume you have already created an AOL account, know how to sign in to your AOL Mail inbox, and compose a basic email. We will start on the “Compose” screen with a blank email like this:

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Formatting toolbar in AOL Mail

All of your formatting options for emails can be conveniently found in one place: the formatting toolbar. This is located at the top of the composition screen, between the “Subject” line and the body of the email.

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However, if you don’t see it there—if it’s just a white space with no format buttons—don’t worry.

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Just go up to the main action buttons in the toolbar above the “To:” field. The second from the right has the familiar B, I, and U for bold, italics and underline, respectively. Clicking on this button will show or hide the formatting toolbar. So, if there is no toolbar under the subject line, all you need to do is click on this button, and it should appear.

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Email formatting options in AOL Mail

For the sake of illustration, in this tutorial I will use the sample email shown below. We’ll start with the basic, unformatted text, and then play with each of the AOL formatting buttons in order from left to right. (Obviously, you don’t have to use them all when writing your own emails.)

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The first formatting option, on the far left, has a button that looks like two capital “F”s. This button is used to change the font style. Arial is the default font in AOL Mail, but you can change any text in your message by highlighting it to select, clicking on the “FF” icon, and choosing the new font from the list of options. I’m going to change the font in my entire email to Tahoma:

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Moving to the right in the formatting toolbar, the next button looks like two capital “A”s, a large one and a smaller one. This is what you will use if you want to change the font size in your email. 10 pt is the default font size, and you can choose a font as small as 8 pt or as large as 36 pt. In my example, I’m going to change the font of just the first section of the email to size 14 pt:

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These next few buttons might look familiar to you if you have spent any time using a word processor program. In order, they are the Bold, Italics and Underline tools. To bold any text in your email, just highlight it and click on the “B” for bold.

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Note: You can also use the standard hotkeys here, such as Ctrl + B to bold text on Windows OS.

Just after bold, we have “I” for italics.

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Followed by “U” for underline.

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Next, you have a button that looks like a small eyedropper, which is an icon that is often used to mean color selection. In AOL Mail, this is how you change the color of your font. All you have to do is use your mouse to highlight the text that you want to change to a new color, click on the eyedropper, and then choose your desired color.

Darker colors are usually best for most emails with a standard white background because they are easier to read.

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The button to the right of the font color icon allows you to change the background or highlight color of the text. You may have guessed this from the fact that the icon itself looks like a pen being used to highlight something. Just like with font color, just select the text you want to “highlight”, click on the button and select the highlight color.

When your font color is dark, light colors are preferred for highlighting to aid in readability.

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Moving to the right, you will now see the text alignment option. You can choose to have your message be aligned left (default), centered, or aligned right. Just select the text whose alignment you wish to change, click on the alignment icon, and choose your desired alignment. In this example, I’m going to center just one line of text to make it stand out:

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If your email will include a list of some sort, formatting it with either numbers or bullets can be helpful for the recipient. The next button, whose icon looks like a numbered list, allows you to add numbers or bullet points to your email in AOL Mail. Since I have included step by step directions to my house in this sample email, I will create a numbered list by selecting those lines, clicking on the list button, and choosing “Numbered List”.

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The next button allows you to increase or decrease the indent of any text in your message. For example, if I want to set off my email sign-off, I can just select those two lines, click on the indent button, and click on “Increase Indent” as many times as it takes to get the text where I want it to be. I only had to increase it one time to shift it to where it is in this sample email (see the completed email at the bottom of the post).

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A horizontal line can be a good way to clearly divide an email into different sections. You could type one in with a bunch of repeated hyphens or underscores, but AOL Mail has an easier way. First, click on the line where you want the horizontal line to go, as if you were going to type on that line. I’ve marked this line with a star, and you can see that my blinking cursor is there. Then, click on the horizontal line button, and a line will be inserted right there.

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Emoticons, emojis, smileys… whatever you like to call them, they have practically become a language of their own. While generally not appropriate for formal emails, they can be fun to add to personal messages.

Just like with the horizontal line, you need to click on the spot where you want to insert the smiley, so that your cursor is blinking there, as if you were going to type. As in the previous example, I’ve marked my cursor with a star so you can see where the smiley will end up. Then, just click on the smiley button and choose your desired emoticon. It will appear wherever your cursor was blinking when you selected it.

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Finally, there is something called “Stationery” in AOL Mail, which—in theory—allows you to add festive backgrounds to your emails for special occasions. However, I was not able to get this option to work despite trying several times in various ways. I suspect that you are supposed to get a menu of stationery options when you click on the button, from which you would then make your selection, but I was never able to get anything to happen after clicking on it. Maybe you’ll have better luck than I did!

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And that is all of your formatting tools in AOL Mail! Here is a zoomed-out version of my sample email so that you can see everything we did to it in one shot:

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Now you have all the knowledge you need to add a personal touch to all of your emails with formatting options. To keep your AOL account secure, make sure you check our next post on security tips for AOL Mail.