Sending attached files
- tools page for compression/encoding and expansion/decoding tools. Also the Virus page for important precautions.
- TipJar DeMimeUlator "Unpack a base-64 MIME attachment with this web page."
Sending attached files:
Alternative method of attaching a file:
- While preparing a message in your e-mail application, choose the attach file command.
- Select the file from your disk (in the same manner as when, for example, you use the "open" command in your word processor to open a document that already exists)
- You should be able to type the "body" (normal text) of your message before and/or after attaching a file. You can also usually attach multiple files.
- Many e-mail programs will let you drag and drop a file onto the open message window or onto the applications icon on the desktop. In the latter case, a new message might open up ready to be addressed and written, with the file(s) already attached.
- Compression is optional, but can be a courtesy as well as saving time and money on both the sending and receiving end. (Not everyone in the world has unmetered Internet access or unmetered local phone calls.)
- Compressing the file makes the file smaller, and thus it takes less time to send and receive the file. The recipient then needs to decompress the file after receiving it, in order to make normal use of the file. (see "receiving" section below).
- Some e-mail applications have compression and/or decompression features built in or available as a plugin
- (see tools page)
- Attached files get "encoded" in order to be sent via e-mail. You should not encode the file yourself, however, as your e-mail application should encode the file(s) for you.
- Ask your recipient what encoding schemes their e-mail application can decode, and choose one of those schemes to send the attachments. (Hopefully the program you use will have at least one overlap in schemes supported with the program your recipient uses.)
- The only times you should manually encode attached files:
- Your e-mail application does not support attached files
- Your e-mail application does not support the encoding scheme you need to send.
- In either of the above cases, encode the file manually, and then open the encoded file in a text editor in order to copy and paste the encoded text into the body of the e-mail message. (Or you might be able to open the encoded file directly from your e-mail application if it will open text files.)
Receiving attached files:
- Sending files in the body of the message, rather than as attachments:
- To send a text file in the message, rather than as an attached file, see if your e-mail application has an "insert in the message" type of command. (It might show up at the time of choosing the attached file, if the file is a text file.)
- Note that text files are a particular type of file containing text -- most word processing documents are not text files, unless one has used the "save as" command to save the file in text format. (not rich text)
- In general, however, sending an attached file, whether a text file or a word processing or spreadsheet document does not add to the body of the message -- the recipient receives separate files at their end that they need to open with separate applications. See the section below on receiving attachments for more details, but beware that sending an attached file of a word processing document does not automatically put the text in a format your recipient can read just because they can receive e-mail.
- Ask your recipient what format files they can use. As mentioned in the note above, sending an attached file does nothing to put that file in a format your recipient can necessarily use. Successfully sending an attached file is similar to giving someone a disk with a file on it. Just as you wouldn't give them a floppy with a file they can't use, don't send a file they won't be able to use.
- See the receiving attachments section below for more explanation.
- If you have brand A spreadsheet or word processing program and they have brand B spreadsheet or word processing program, you can still usually successfully exchange data.
- Sending the attached file won't be a problem, but they may have problems reading the file at their end
- One option is to use your spreadsheet program's "save as" command to see if it will save into the proper format for their program, or into a generic format (such as tab delimited text for spreadsheets or rich text format for word processing) that their program can import (you may lose some formatting)
- Another option is to check if their program can import files created by your program, in which case it should be okay to send the file as is.
- You might also try a file translation program by DataViz.
- Exceptions: these days, many e-mail applications display attached pictures in the body of the message, allow you to play attached sounds, etc.
Decoding the received attachment:
- Your e-mail application should receive these files so that you can use them just like other files on your hard drive.
- You should know what compression/encoding formats you can decompress/decode, and then ask the sender to use those formats. Check the manual or menus in your e-mail application for formats supported. Most e-mail applications can decode at least one format, but supporting decompression is not as common, but you can easily obtain decompression tools. (.sit/.zip for compress, MIME for encoding, otherwise binhex/uuencode)
Decompressing the attached file (if needed):
- If the sender encoded the file in a format your e-mail application supports, then the file will be decoded by your e-mail program. If not (i.e. you see an e-mail message full of garbage), either ask the sender to send in a format your program does support, or decode the file manually:
- Copy the coded text and save it into a separate text file.
- Run the text file through a decoding program.
If the sender manually encoded an attachment and that attachment was then encoded again by their e-mail application, you might have to decode a file after your e-mail application has decoded it once, or decode it twice if manually decoding.
- An alternative would be to get an application that specializes in opening e-mail attachments.
Where is the file?
- Your sender may have compressed the file in order to save time sending/receiving the file. If your e-mail application does not have decompression built in or as a plugin option, then run the attached file through a decompression program.
Virus scanning (and trojan horses)
- You can usually doubleclick a file in the message window, but I would strongly caution you to scan the file for viruses first.
- You might be able to drag and drop the attached file from the message window to your desktop or to another location on your hard drive.
- Most programs have a setting to indicate where attachments should be stored. Look through your settings to see what the setting is. If nothing is set, use your operating system's find file command to search for the location of the file. (And set up a directory for future attachments to be saved to, while you are at it). Some mail programs allow you to use filters on attachments to transfer them to various directories based on certain criteria.
Using the file successfully:
- Know your sender. Don't trust attached files from people you don't know.
- Don't trust attached files from people you do know.
- Run the attached files you receive through a virus checker before opening or running them.
- Receiving (and decompressing/decoding) an attached file successfully does not automatically mean you can use the file.
- If the file is an application: double click it to run it
- But if the application is not for your operating system, then you can't run it. While it is easy to trade documents across various computing platforms, applications as a general rule don't run on different platforms that that for which they were compiled.
- Another problem might be that the application depends on additional support files that were not sent.
- If the attachment is a text file: you should be able to open it in a variety of applications, perhaps even your e-mail application, or a text editor, word processor, etc.
- If the attached file is a document other than a text file:
- If you have an the proper application for that type of document, then open the document from that application.
- But receiving an attachment successfully does not automatically mean you can open it. The process of e-mailing and receiving the attachment won't convert, for example, a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet file into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet file.
- Various ways you might open the file:
- Double click the file and see if your operating system will direct that file to another application that will successfully open it (and display it meaningfully).
- Try opening it from a similar application, using the "open" command in that application. Most word processors, for example, can open other word processors' files (sometimes limited to versions that existed at the time the program was released, as newer versions might have different formats.)
- Ask the sender to resend in a format you can handle. For example, the sender can use the "save as" command to save a spreadsheet as a tab-delimited text file, or a word processing document as rich text, or perhaps in another format you can read. If sending a word processing document, the "save as" command usually lets one save in a variety of formats, for different word processors and/or different platforms.
- Ask the sender to use a file conversion program (see tools page) to convert the file for you before sending it.
- Use a file conversion program (see tools page) to convert the file after receiving it.
- Get a "helper" application for that format. (see tools page)
- Get a "universal" opener or file converter (see tools page)
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