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Is there a way to easily open email that's been forwarded multiple times as attachments?

I use Outlook 2003. When I get emails from people that have been forwarded
numerous times, I try to open them and I have to keep clicking open the email
attachments until I get to the originator’s email to be able to read what’s in
the body. How can i fix that so that I can just get to the original email
without having to open all the others? Isn’t there a setting that can fix that?
It’s really annoying.

It is annoying. I get these types of emails all the time (many of which make
their way to my humor site Forwarded
Funnies
).

I can explain why it happens. I can even point out something that some of
your senders might be able to do.

But so far, I’ve not been able to figure out a way to avoid it if you’re the
recipient of these messages.

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When email is forwarded, the mail program doing the forwarding has a couple
of options:

  • The mail program can place the forwarded message in the body of the new
    message. Typically it does so by extracting a couple of the “interesting” email
    headers like “From:”, “To:”, the date and subject, and placing those first, and
    then following up with the actual body of the original mail.

    There are two problems with this approach: the original email headers are
    lost (things like the routing headers that you don’t normally see anyway), and
    the message may be reformatted from plain text to HTML or vice versa. In other
    words, the forwarded message isn’t exactly like the original. It may
    have been changed in some presumably inconsequential ways.

  • The mail program can take the original message in its entirety and
    unchanged, and wrap it up in an attachment. When the recipient opens that
    attachment they see the original message exactly as it was when forwarded. (In
    practice I don’t expect that this is always exactly true because of
    the ways different mail programs behave, but for our purposes it’s true
    enough.)

    The problem, as you’ve seen, is that it’s an attachment which takes more
    work to open. And a series of forwards in this mode compounds that problem.

Now, sometimes the sender can control this. In Thunderbird, for example,
there’s an obscure setting that allows you to specify whether forwarded
messages should be in-line or as attachments. (In the Config Editor, set
mail.forward_message_mode to 0 to send as an attachment – apparently the
default – or set to 2 to forward as an inline message.)

Other mailers don’t have this setting, and either simply do one or the
other, or perhaps decide based on some characteristics of the mail being
forwarded. Perhaps message of the same format (rich text versus plain text) are
forwarded in line, while a plain text message forwarded as HTML, or vice versa,
is forwarded as an attachment. Or perhaps messages with attachments are,
themselves, forwarded as attachments.

I know of no way to shortcut unwrapping all the
attachments…”

Two important take-aways from all that:

  1. it’s confusing and inconsistent

  2. it’s the sender that decides what happens

Which, ultimately, means that when you and I receive a message that’s a
forwarded attachment in a forwarded attachment in a forwarded attachment –
we’re out of luck. I know of no way to shortcut unwrapping all the attachments
to get to the one you really want, short of doing it manually. I’ve certainly
not encountered a mail program that recognizes or helps this situation.

Perhaps readers will have some other ideas.

Do this:

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9 comments on “Is there a way to easily open email that's been forwarded multiple times as attachments?”

  1. “In Thunderbird, for example, there’s an obscure setting that allows you to specify whether forwarded messages should be in-line or as attachments. (In the Config Editor, set mail.forward_message_mode to 0 to send as an attachment – apparently the default – or set to 2 to forward as an inline message.)”

    Why not just click on View and toggle “Display Attachments Inline” on or off?

    Reply
  2. —–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
    Hash: SHA1

    The View menu item is for recipients looking at a message.

    The obscure setting is for senders forwarding a message.
    —–BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE—–
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    iD8DBQFFzQ6xCMEe9B/8oqERAtRwAJ9s/8noK4gDgYvfpDztEs+J2mM8gQCeMezl
    /G3YpTP1ovXQCHMDTPeLXjA=
    =O63A
    —–END PGP SIGNATURE—–

    Reply
  3. AT THE FINAL FORWARD -I CLICK FORWARD TO SEND TO OTHER E-MAILS THEN I DELETE ALL OTHER FORWARDS ADDRESSES– THEN SEND –ALL THE E-MAILS I SEND HAVE NO ADDRESSES AND OPEN TO ONLY E-MAIL SENT

    Reply
  4. I do not understand why people will copy themselves and then *BCC* others. I have found (at least in Outlook Express) there is no need to place anyone or any address in the *To* line. Just put all the addresses in the *BCC* line leaving the *To* line empty.

    Reply
  5. —–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
    Hash: SHA1

    a) Some mailers don’t let you have a blank “To:”

    b) Whether or not they do, email without a valid “To:” is often
    considered spam, and may not be delivered at all.

    Leo
    —–BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE—–
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    iD8DBQFF12XaCMEe9B/8oqERAsV7AJ4pTT2Ht+iq1YAJ7MP1SAwzmivVHwCghY4Y
    VLCuWvQPE4eQg6EXHfpWIm8=
    =Nk0z
    —–END PGP SIGNATURE—–

    Reply
  6. The only email program that will open multiple
    fowards is Netscape mail v7.2 Unfortunately it gets installed with Netscape browser which is useless as it crashes constantly. You would say
    just don’t use the browser, but the problem is every time you click a link sent in an email it opens Netscape even if it’s not the default browser. I get around that by copy/paste the link into IE.

    Reply

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