How Do I ... Understand Email Attachments
- File Extensions
- Special Note Regarding Attachments
- Transmission protocol (encoding)
- Note about viewing attachments saved to disk
When sending an email message, you may want to include a document that was created with another application (i.e. a document that is already prepared rather than the message you are typing in the mail package's message window). Examples of documents you may want to send are a Word or WordPerfect file which includes all the formatting information, an Excel spreadsheet, an image, etc.
These types of documents are non-text (i.e. Binary) and cannot be just copied into the message body. They need to be sent as attachments. Most mail packages have a way to send a document as an attachment so that none of the original formatting is lost in the transfer.
The person on the receiving end:
- must have an email package that can receive the attachment, such as Thunderbird or Outlook.
- must be able to start the application with which the original document was created, such as Word or WordPerfect, in order to view it properly
It is strongly recommended not to change the default file extension of a document that you are creating with an application such as Word or WordPerfect. The file extension is the three letter code after the "." (e.g. in myfile.doc, doc is the extension). The first part of the file can be anything you like. If the extension of a file that you send as an attachment is kept as the default, then the person who receives the attachment can just double click on the file and the appropriate application will open with that document. If the extension is changed, the receiver may have problems opening the document properly.
Some common default extensions are:
- doc (Word)
- wpd (WordPerfect)
- xls (Excel)
With the large increase in virus and malware activity that uses email to spread itself through the internet ITS has stopped transmitting ZIP files among others, as email attachments either incoming or outgoing.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause but it is a security & protection measure for the University community at large.
For a full list of the blocked attachments please refer to http://www.uwo.ca/its/email/blockedfiles.html.
In order for an attachment to be sent correctly via e-mail, it needs to be converted into a format that can be sent over the Internet. You need to find out what kind of e-mail package the receiver is using and what kind of transmission protocols it recognizes (e.g. MIME and Binhex are some popular protocols).
The e-mail package takes care of transmitting the document in the proper format automatically and the receiving mail package will automatically convert the document back to its original form.
The most popular type is MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions). Most mail packages use this protocol. All of the UWO/ITS recommended mail options support MIME.
- Double clicking on the attachment to open it assumes that you have the appropriate application installed on your PC (e.g. Word if it is a Word attachment).
- If not, you may be able to read the attachment into another application that recognizes that format (e.g. some times, you can read a Word file into WordPerfect and vice versa).
- However, there are some exceptions. For example, a lower version of an application generally can't read a document written by a higher version of that application. Also, Word and WordPerfect are not always compatible.
Disclaimer: The provided instructions are for information purposes only. Neither The University of Western Ontario nor the Division of Information Technology Services assume any responsibility for loss of use or damage to a computer system (including any data or software contained within the computer system) which is the result (directly or indirectly) of the application of these instructions. Any problems, questions or concerns not addressed by these instructions should be directed to the vendor and/or the manufacturer and not to The University of Western Ontario or any of its employees or incumbents.
©2010, The University of Western Ontario. Permission is granted to copy in whole or in part provided that due credit is given to the authors, Information Technology Services, and The University of Western Ontario.