Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tech Tip: Handling Email Attachments

Most of us may already know what email attachments are, but don’t know what to do when we can’t open an attached file. Attachments are files such as Word documents, pictures, and PDF’s, that are sent through email. Always be sure you are opening files from a trusted source. Learn a few tips that may help you with files you have a hard time opening.

For instance, opening strange emailed attachments can be a quick way to get a virus. In fact, email is one of the number one causes of infection! But you can keep your computer safe by not opening emails from people you don’t know that have attachments. Also if you get a strange email from a friend with an unexpected attachment, be sure to contact that person first before downloading it, just to make sure it was really from them. And of course always keep your computer up to date and use virus protection software if you have a Windows computer.

When you receive an attachment but then can’t open it:

1) The computer says it doesn’t know what the file is,

2) the computer tries to open the file with the wrong program (i.e. The emails says it’s a text document but the computer tries to open it with iTunes) or

3) you get an error message that doesn’t make sense.

First, check the file properties (called file info on a Mac). On a PC, right click on the file and choose properties. On a Mac, control click and choose Get Info. Look at the file size: if it is 4KB or smaller, then something may have gone wrong when the file was sent so ask the sender to try again (most files are much larger than that, even simple Word documents tend to be 10KB or larger).

If the file size isn’t a problem, the next thing to check is the 3 letter file extension. Most files have a 3 letter extension at the end of the file’s name that tells the computer what type of file it is. This also helps the computer determine which progtam to use to open the file.

Example File Extensions

.doc = Word

.mp3 = audio file

.avi = video file

.rtf = rich text file

.pdf = portable document file

.ppt = power point

Sometimes the extension is missing and the computer gets confused. By selecting “Open with” in the drop down menu, you can tell the computer which program to use to open the file. You need to know what the file is for this to work. If you are not sure, then ask the sender or check the initial email for clues. When you think you know what type of file it is, click “change” (Mac: use the pull down menu) and choose the appropriate application.

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