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Using Attachments

Tips for the Sender

Please keep in mind the following when sending attachments via e-mail. There are few things more frustrating than to send an attachment that cannot be easily opened by your recipient.

If you are sending more than one file, you might want to considering compressing your files into an archive so you only have one attachment. Compression (also know as "zipping") is a fast, friendly, and commonly accepted way of sending multiple files.

Compressing Files in OS X

In OS X, select the files you wish to archive, then Ctrl-click on them and select "Make Archive of ... files". This will create a ZIP document containing the files you selected inside the same folder that the original files were.

Compressing Files in Windows

On Windows XP and Vista, you can right-click anywhere inside a folder or on the desktop and under the New menu, select Compressed (zipped) Folder. Then just drag and drop the files you wish to send into this ZIP file.

Sending via Webmail

To ensure that a file retains its identity (i.e. as a text file, music file, word document, spreadsheet, etc), make sure that you append the appropriate three-letter extension to the end of the document (For example, *.doc, *.xls, *.pdf for Word Document, Excel Spreadsheet, and PDF file, respectively). This will prevent your recipient from getting an extensionless file that his or her operating system cannot identify or open.

Sending via Apple Mail

Before sending attachments via Apple Mail, make sure that under the menu Edit> Attachments, the option Always Send Windows-Friendly Attachments is checked. Selecting this option helps to avoid problems even when the recipient of the email is using a Mac.


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Tips for the Recipient

Apple packages files in information forks, consisting of a data fork and a resource fork. Sometimes when these files are sent through Webmail, they are separated, making it difficult to tell what to download. In almost all files, the data fork is the important one. Webmail will tell you which is the data fork and if you download that, rename it with the correct three-letter extension.

Webmail Attachment

If you have received a file that just won't be recognized as its true format (such as a purportedly *.doc file that Word thinks is an *.xls file), you have a few options:

  1. Convince the parent program (in our example, Word) to recognize the file in its true format.
  2. Open the file in some other program (such as SimpleText, TextEdit, or Notepad for text-based files) in order to extract the essential information without the formatting.
  3. Ask the sender to resend the file, this time in a compressed format (i.e. ZIP).

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Tips for Mac OS X

  1. To convince the computer that the file is indeed a *.doc, try adding the three-letter extension to the end of the file (by re-naming and confirming the change).

    Alternatively, you can Ctrl-click on the file and select Get Info. Then, expand the Name and Extension option and edit the extension. Then click OK.

  2. If you are having trouble with a document that should be some sort of text file (not a spreadsheet or an image, for example), TextEdit is a good standby program. It won't look pretty, and you might have to scroll past gobbledygook, but at least the file will open. From there, you can copy the important material (such as an essay) and paste it into an empty document. To do this,
    • Open TextEdit and go to File > Open. Navigate to the file and click Open.
    • Alternatively, you may locate the file in Finder, Ctrl-click on it, and select Open With..., picking TextEdit or some other appropriate program (Tip: Preview or Photoshop both handle multiple image document types).
  3. If all else fails, ask the sender for another copy of the file in a ZIP archive. Otherwise, if you are on your own computer, try an IRC Mac.

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Tips for OS 9

If you have downloaded a data fork off webmail, with no creator or user information and no three letter extension then it will just sit there on your desktop, a white page with a corner turned down. There are three questions that you should ask yourself about this kind of file before trying to open it.

  1. Do I really want to go through the effort to open it?

    It could take some effort to open up the file, and if you have absolutely no idea what the file is or is about, it may be a better option to reply to the sender and ask them to either zip the file before sending it, or add a three-letter extension.

  2. If you really want to open it, then do you know what type of file it is supposed to be?

    If you know the file type then you can append a three letter extension to the file and then it may open. This part may take some guesswork. If it is an image file then it is probably a .jpg or a .gif, if it is a MS Word file then it is .doc, an Excel file then .xls. You can try several file extensions and see if they will then open. To append a three letter extension to a file:

    • Click on an icon to highlight it.
    • Press Cmd-I to bring up the "Get Info" pane.
    • Edit the name of the file in the top field, appending the extension.
    • Close the "Get Info" pane and try to open the file. If it opens, great. If not, try another file extension or try the alternative below.
  3. If you really want to open it, but don't know the precise file type, do you know what class of files it is?

    Is it an image file, or some sort of document? For document files, try using Word to open it.

    • Open Word.
    • Go to File > Open.
    • Click on "Show All File Types" if available.
    • Navigate to the file you are working with. Select it and click Open.

    This will not always work. Sometimes a program insists on having file type and creator information to open. If this is the case, or you do not know any of the information and have absolutely no idea what type of file it is supposed to be, then you are probably best off asking whoever sent you the file to send it to you again, this time in a form that you can easily open. You can also try to open the file in the IRCs, where there may be more plugins and programs installed that can open your file.

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Tips for Windows

If you have received a data fork without an extension, you can usually open the file in one of two ways.

  • Append the three-letter extension by renaming it.
    • To view file extensions, open an explorer window. Go to Tools > Folder Options. Click on the View tab and uncheck "Hide extensions for known file types".
  • You can double-click on the file and select the program you want Windows to use to open the file. If you do this, make sure to uncheck the option marked "Always use this application to open this kind of file."

It is possible that the resource fork had some really important information in it. If this is the case, the file will not open, and you should ask the sender to send you the file again, this time zipped.

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