Managing Email Attachments

This Web page on managing attachments focuses on use of Eudora or other similar e-mail software. For information on ANGEL, go to ANGEL Help at


Attachment - a computer file that is sent in conjunction with an e-mail message.

Most files (word processing files, spreadsheets, graphics, audio, etc.) can be sent as attachments, but the recipient can view it only if he or she has the appropriate software to open the attachment.

Angel drop boxes for tracking student's assignments

You may use Penn State's Course Management System, ANGEL, for homework submission within an ANGEL dropbox. You may easily create a drop box for each assignment. You can put deadlines on submission, and you can have "late drop boxes" if you wish.

You can view students' drop box submissions by selecting the drop box and viewing the text typed or copied into the drop box field or, if students uploaded a file, by clicking on the link that is created when students upload. You can provide feedback to associate with the submission. You can allow a dropbox to have peer review and specify which class members or course team can use the dropbox to view submissions and submit reviews.

Another alternative for having students share projects or papers is to use the ANGEL message board. Each message in this discussion forum can have attachments. Any message board can be limited to a specified student team. To have multiple similar discussion forums, you should create one message board and duplicate it as many times as needed for your class teams.

Attachments folder in e-mail

  1. You should receive your attachments into a folder where you can easily find them. To do this, go to the computer desktop and create a folder on your disk or hard drive. You may want to call it "Attachments from e-mail."
  2. In your email client, select the attachments folder you would like to use.

Retrieving Attachments

Usually you can double-click on an attachment to either open it or download it to your attachments folder.

Spotting an Attachment

To determine whether an e-mail message contains an attachment, look for a "document" or "paper" icon at the left of the header when you are displaying a mailbox.

The attachment will appear either at the bottom of the message (with an appropriate icon indicating what type of document it is) or in a different location (top, header or elsewhere) depending on the software you are using.

NOTE: Some attachments such as JPEG/GIF image files or multimedia files may appear directly in the message.

Opening an Attachment

Before you open an attachment:

  1. Make sure you personally know who sent the attachment. For instance, you may want to avoid an attachment sent by an advertiser. Many viruses come as attachments as "special offers" or disguised as desirable images or software. Others may be sent inadvertently from users with infected computers.
  2. Determine which file types they are. Many viruses come as the following file types:
    • .exe - Executable program
    • .vbs - Visual Basic Script
  3. If you see an extension type you with which are unfamiliar, don't open it until you know what it is.
  4. Make sure the sender has described the content of the attachment - that means he or she deliberately sent it. If in doubt, ask the sender what an attachment is before opening it.
  5. If you think you have received a virus attachment, but have NOT opened the file, then just delete the file. In the majority of cases, that will solve the problem.
    (NOTE: Microsoft Outlook is vulnerable to some classes of viruses that will run automatically even if you haven't opened them.)
  6. If you HAVE opened the file or your machine acts oddly after deleting a virus file, contact your tech support or consult the ITS Help desk for assistance or read more at
  7. ADDITIONAL VIRUS PROTECTION: The virus protection software Symantec AntiVirus is available to the Penn State community free of charge. More information and download is available at
  8. A FINAL VIRUS NOTE: There are now about as many virus hoaxes ( as real virus warnings. If you see a warning about a virus that does not come from a certified source such as a virus listserv or a tech support specialist, you may want to check to see if it's a hoax first. You should not pass on a virus warning unless you have verified that it's real.

Opening and Saving Attachments

  1. To open an attachment, just double-click on the file name to open it. This should open it in the appropriate software.
  2. If you don't have the appropriate software, you will see an error message that the file couldn't be opened. This can happen if you receive a file that the sender created in a later version of the software than you are using.
  3. Some email clients store attachments in a special folder. If you want to be able to use the file again, make sure you know where the attachment folder is. Alternatively, you can resave the file in a folder location you will remember.

Sending Attachments

Etiquette on Sending Attachments

Along with the power of attachments comes the ability to send viruses and clog Internet pipelines. Here are some etiquette tips that will make people much happier to receive attachments from you.

  1. Don't send attachments to the general public. If you want a publicize your work on a public mailing list (listserv) or share an amusing graphic with the department, provide a link to the document so users can view it or download it at their convenience. Attachments should only be sent to people you know will need it or be directly interested in the content.
    If you're not sure an attachment is welcome to a specific person, ask permission to send it first. Some people are very selective in opening their attachments because of the threat of viruses.
  2. Say what the attachment is. Tell people you are sending an attachment, what format it's in and what's in it. Otherwise a recipient may miss that there's an attachment and could even delete the e-mail with the attachment.
  3. Send only one attachment at a time. Not all e-mail software can retrieve multiple attachments. If you have more than one attachment, send multiple e-mails with one attachment each.
  4. Use formats common to the group. For instance, most people at Penn State have access to Microsoft Word, but may not have access to another word processor. If you have an unusual file type, try converting it to another format such as RTF or saving it as a Word document. Most programs include a Save As... function that allow you to save a copy of the file in another format.
  5. Don't send a paragraph as an attachment. If you want to send short text, it's probably better to cut and paste it from your word processor, rather than attaching a word processor document.