E-mail Attachments

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Tutorial Overview

Topics covered in this tutorial (click link to jump to topic):

1. Email Attachments 4. Opening Attachments
2. Large Attachments 5. If you can't open an attachment
3. Attachment Compatibility    


E-mail Attachments

As well as providing the ability to send and receive typed messages, e-mail also allows users to include other types of computer files with their messages. Other files that are included with your message are called "attachments". Examples of files that may be attached include:

  • scanned pictures or digital photographs
  • sound or music files
  • video clips
  • spreadsheets, databases and in fact, any other data in a computer-readable format
  • computer programs

You can attach any file accessible from your computer to your e-mail message and send it with the message. Look for the "Attach" or the paper clip button (see below) on your e-mail client’s toolbar.

Look for the paper clip button (available in the "New Message" window.

Pressing the "Attach" button opens the standard Windows Browse dialog box, permitting you to select the file(s) that you wish to send with the message. You may have to go up a few directories, perhaps to the My Documents directory on your Windows computer to locate the file. Drag and drop is also supported for attaching files in some e-mail software packages.

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Large Attachments

Do not send large attachments to people (e.g. a computer program you have downloaded from the Internet, or a digital photo that is 2 or 3mbs in size) without first asking them if they want the file. Consider cloud services like Dropbox or HighTail for exchanging large files.

If you send a large attachment it may take a very long time to download the file, so it is courteous to ask first. It may also take up that person's mail box quota, and the mail box will start "bouncing" (rejecting) other messages. In a commercial context, this could become costly (in lost business) to your correspondent, so resize those images before you send them. A good size for an e-mailed photograph is about 600 pixels across or 50kb.

Most users will be able to avoid downloading a large message once it arrives in their mailbox by using some form of webmail, like www.mail2web.com for example.

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Attachment Compatibility

Be careful exchanging word-processed documents. You must send your correspondent a file they are able to open. If you created the file in MS Word 7.0 and they only have MS Word 6.0 they may not be able to open your file. How can you work around this problem?

Try saving your file in the same file format as their software. If they use Windows95, 98, ME or XP, 2000 try saving the file as an *.rtf or Rich Text Format file. This file type can be opened in Wordpad (go START, PROGRAMS, ACCESSORIES, choose WORDPAD). All Windows95, 98, ME and XP, 2000 users have Wordpad. If all else fails save the file as a text (*.txt) file. This strips out all text formatting and tab stops and just saves the text.

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Opening Attachments

When you receive an attachment with a message, your Inbox summary line usually indicates this with the Paper Clip icon on the left.

To open an attachment that has been sent to you, first open the message by double clicking on the message summary line. The message opens and displays the appropriate icon for every attachment that is included. To open an attachment double click the attachment's icon. Your computer should automatically recognise the file type, and launch the correct application for the file it is opening. However, beware! The main way a virus can enter you computer is by e-mailed attachments. If the file ends in .exe, .pif, .scr, .zip DON'T OPEN IT. It is mostly certainly a virus. Learn more>>

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What Should I do if I Can't Open an Attachment?

Not all file types are recognised by your computer. Sometimes you may be sent a file that your computer does not recognise because it does not have the attachment's file type associated with a program. In other words you do not have any software installed that recognises the type of file you have been sent.

In this case your e-mail program asks you to specify the application that you wish to open the file with. Usually you need to install some software that will understand and open the file type that you have been sent, or perhaps ask the sender to send the file in a different format.

For instance, there are many types of multimedia files and many different applications that can open and play those files. You may receive a music file in MP3 format and when you double click on it, your computer automatically opens your Windows Media Player and plays the MP3. However if you were sent a Liquid Audio music file your Windows Media Player would be unable to play it, and you would need to install software that can play Liquid Audio file types.

Similarly you may receive an attached document called letter1.doc for instance. In this case when you double click the attachment, your computer recognises the .doc extension as being an MS Word file, and Windows launches Word automatically if it is installed, and opens the file.

However if you receive a file called letter2.pdf your computer may not recognise the .pdf extension if you have not previously installed the Adobe Acrobat Reader. PDF (Portable Document Format) is a specific format designed by Adobe to ensure that documents always appear the same regardless of the computer they are opened on, providing they are opened with the Acrobat Reader that is given away free from www.adobe.com.

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