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Most e-mail programs let you send and receive files as e-mail attachments to messages. These files can be text (word processing documents), spreadsheets, data files, sound files or graphics.

E-mail attachments are useful when you want to send a file that contains graphics or when it is important that the file maintain its format (bold, italics, tabs, etc). You can attach any type of file. However, if the file contains several graphics or is several pages long, zip or compress it first.

The procedure for e-mail attachments varies depending on the type of e-mail program you use. In general, you click on an icon, such as a paper clip, located on the toolbar of the program. You then select the file you want to attach by locating it on your hard drive or on disk. Once you've selected the file, either its name will appear as part of the e-mail header, or as an icon within the body of your e-mail message.

If you receive an e-mail attachment - DO NOT OPEN it without scanning it with an up to date antivirus program.

First of all we cannot get infected by viewing a simple text file (with extension .txt) or by viewing a JPEG or a GIF file (extensions .jpg or .gif). Even if there is a code of a virus in a text file, by viewing it, the code will not be executed, and thus cannot do any harm. For this reason, files with filename extensions such as .txt, .jpg, .gif, and many other e-mail attachments are safe for viewing, and there is no risk in viewing them.

However Windows, and also programs such as older versions of Outlook and Outlook Express, by default show filenames without their extensions. If a virus or a worm sends itself as an e-mail attachment , with the filename: picture.jpg.vbs (just an example), your e-mail program in many cases (according to its setting) omit the extension (.vbs) and will show the file as picture.jpg. It might mislead you to think that this file is a harmless JPG file, while in fact, opening it or double-clicking it will cause it to run as a .vbs file (.vbs is an extension of a visual basic script which is executable code that may include harmful instructions). Such tricks are very popular and are used by many viruses to cloak their true nature. Most of the e-mail viruses and worms today use similar tricks.

If you're having problems opening an e-mail attachment , you're not alone. Remember, if you can cut and paste the text into the body of the e-mail message, and avoid having to send an e-mail attachment at all, you'll avoid problems and make people happy. When you click on the e-mail attachments sometimes your computer doesn't know what application to use to open it. Even when the computer does know what application to use, the e-mail attachments may appear garbled if there is an incompatible version trying to open the application.

Lastly if you do save your e-mail attachments to your hard drive - over a period of time this can use up a lot of hard drive space. So if you really have no need to save it after scanning the e-mail attachments and viewing it, it is wise to delete it or save it to a floppy disk.


  • () ValHaring - 30 Jul 2002
  • <If you edit this page: add your name here; move this to the next line; and include your comment marker (initials), if you have created one, in parenthesis before your WikiName.>

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Topic revision: r2 - 2002-10-19 - ValHaring
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