How can I send someone an attachment, if it’s blocked by their copy of Outlook?
Sending and receiving attachments appears to be risky business these days.
The recent MyDoom virus was mostly an attachment-borne virus and it’s
still causing a fair amount of trouble. Unfortunately that trouble just proves
the point that a lot of people still cannot be trusted to know the difference
between a safe attachment and a malicious one.
To make attachment borne viruses more difficult to propagate Outlook and
Outlook Express now come configured by default to prevent access to certain
types of files because they are common targets of viruses. Unfortunately, the
ability to transfer files as attachments via email has become a critical
component of many people’s use of the internet. If your recipient
can’t open your document then what can you do?
Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!
I’m going to assume that asking your recipient to work around the
issue at their end is not an option. (It’s outlined in this previous
article: Why can’t I
open attachments in Outlook? Instead we’re going to look at things you
The simplest and most over looked option is simple: Does it have to be
sent as an attached document at all? I’ve often received attached
documents that are nothing more than lightly formatted text. It could just as
easily have been sent as the body of the email message itself. Not only does
this completely bypass Outlooks attachment filter but it makes for smaller
email that is quickly sent and received.
Do you have the ability to send it in another format? If the
document is only for the other person to read perhaps you can save it as a PDF which will preserve all of the graphics and formatting
and is typically not blocked by default. If you don’t already have the
ability there are several Adobe PDF creation tools on the market such as Adobe Acrobat as well as others, some of which are free. In
some cases even sending as a plain text file is sufficient though if
that’s the case I’d once again question whether it should be sent as
an attachment at all.
Just ZIP it. The ZIP file format is a compressed archive. It’s a way
to compress and combine several files into a single file from which they can
be later extracted. Windows XP actually has some rudimentary support for ZIP
files built in so it’s very likely that if you send your attachment as a
ZIP file then your recipient will be able to access it. The popular ZIP programs
include WinZip and PKZip.
Rename it. Outlook bases its decision on whether or not to block a
file by looking at the file’s extension (the characters after the last
‘.’ in the file name). If you rename FOO.DOC to FOO.LEO then email it
as an attachment then your recipient should be able to save FOO.LEO to disk, rename
it to FOO.DOC, and be on their way.
Don’t use email. It might just be that email is simply the
wrong solution to transfer the file. The most common alternative if you have
the ability is to upload the file to a web site and then send a link to the
file rather than the file itself. Your recipient can then simply download the
file at their convenience. Sending large attachments or sending attachments to
a large number of people is considered bad “netiquette” anyway because of the
resources and bandwidth used. This approach allows people to get their email
quickly and then gives them a choice to download the file now or later or not
Now it kind of goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway – all of the
techniques I’ve listed above are ways to circumvent Outlooks attempts to
keep the recipient safe from viruses. If your document contains a virus then
ZIPping it, renaming it, or uploading it won’t make the virus go away when
that document finally lands on your recipient’s computer. This then implies
that you as the sender have a responsibility to ensure that
the documents you’re sending are in fact virus free.