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Email Attachments

Page history last edited by Suzanne Baschieri 15 years, 5 months ago

What is an attachment?

An Email attachment is a computer file which is sent along with an email message.  The file is not a separate message, but now it is almost universally sent as part of the message to which it is attached


Sending Attachments

How do I send an attachment?

Open or compose a new email just like you would normally.

  • address it
  • give it a subject line
  • write your letter or message

Attach your file before you send your message.

  • Look near the top of your screen for an icon that looks like a paperclip or that says "Attach", "Attachment", or something similar.
  • Press that button and a box will open up allowing you to navigate to where you have stored the file that you wish to send.  (You might find it easiest to save the file that you want to attach on your desktop so that you may find it easily).
  • Click on that file name and then the Insert button (might say "open", "browse", "attach", or something similar).
  • Click the send button, and you have just sent your attachment.

What size and type of file can I send?

Almost any document type can be sent to someone else, but that doesn't mean that all file sizes can be sent.  Email servers have limitations on the file attachments that tye receive.  Most of these limitations are about 1.5-3 Megabytes in size.  If you are not sure what that means, don't worry.  Pictures or any kind of text document should not be a problem unless they are enormous.


Can the user open my file?

Although most any file can be sent, that doesn't mean that the receiver can open it.  They must have the program necessary to open the file.  In most cases, pictures are not a problem.  However, you might run into an issue if you send a Word document to someone that doesn't have Word on their computer.  The same holds true for Excel, Publisher, or Access.  If a file is saved as a Microsoft Office '08 version, it will not be compatible with prior versions of Microsoft Office.  Keep these things in mind when saving and sending files. 


Receiving Attachments

Why can email attachments be dangerous?

Some of the characteristics that make email attachments convenient and popular are also the ones that make them a common tool for attackers:

  • Email is easily circulated.  Forwarding is easy and allows viruses to infect many machines.  Some viruses can scan the user's machine and automatically send the email to all contacts.  Most users will automatically trust and open any message that comes from someone they know.
  • Email programs try to address all users's needs.  Almost any type of file can be attached to an email message, so attackers have more freedom with the types of viruses they can send. 
  • Email programs offer many "user-friendly" features.  Some email programs have the option to automatically download email attachments, which immediately exposes your computer to any viruses within the attachments.


What steps can you take to protect yourself and others in your address book?

  • Be wary of unsolicited attachments, even from people you know.  Just because an email message looks like it came from someone you know, it doesn't mean that it did.  Many viruses can make the return address look like the message came from someone else.  If you can, check with the person wwho supposedly sent the message to make sure it is legitimate before opening any attachments.  This includes email messages that appear to be from your ISP or software vendor, especially those claiming to include anti-virus software. 
  • Save and scan any attachments before opening them.  If you have to open an attachment before you can verify the source, take the following steps:          
    • Be sure your anti-virus software is up to date.
    • Save the file to your computer or a disk.
    • Manually scan the file using your anti-virus software.
    • Open the file.
  • Turn off the option to automatically download attachments.  Many email programs offer the feature to automatically download attachments.  If you have concerns, you may want to disable this feature. 
  • Consider additional security practices.  You may be able to filter certain types of attachments through your email software or a firewall. 


For more information on a specific subject, please see one of the following links:

Learn the Net: Step By Step: Sending an Email Attachment - this tutorial will give you an idea of how to attach a document to an email.

How To Avoid Viruses Sent by Attachments and Other Useful Tips

Troubleshooting Email Attachments

For a video tutorial and more information on one of these email services, please see:

Attachments: Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo!


If you don't find the answer to your question, want more or advanced information on a topic, need further clarification of a concept, would like to see another topic covered, or have any other comments or concerns, please contact me!  I will be more than happy to assist you!  The great thing about a wiki is that it can easily be updated, continually improved, and constantly developed.  Your feedback will only make this site better!

Suzanne Baschieri

Consulting & Continuing Education Administrator

Alliance Library System  


(309)694-9200 ext.2109



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