Why can I not see or open an email attachment?


Trying to view and/or open an email attachment received from a user but not able to see and/or open said attachment


There are several possible reasons this could be happening.

1) The attachment has special characters (Such as 'á' and similar) in the file name

2) The attachment is formatted in a way that is not consistent with its file extension

3) The attachment is formatted in a way that is not compatible with your email client

4) The attachment has preexisting assumptions about what program it will be opened in.


1) For the situation of the attachment having special characters in the file name, the file needs to be renamed, removing said characters from the file.  In some cases, you may need to ask the user to resend the file omitting the specialized characters.

2) Changing then file extension in most cases does not change the base file type. For example renaming your image.png file as image.jpeg does not convert your file. In fact, it can mess up some email clients. The solution in this case is to try not to send incorrectly named files in the first place, and if you have an incorrectly named file messing up you settings, try clearing your default view settings, then opening up a file you know is formatted correctly.

3) It is possible to send emails as plain text, rich text, simple HTML, original HTML, etc ...  All options except of plain text allow you to encode custom fonts and bold face or insert pictures inline in your emails. Unfortunately this can also mean your recipients do not see all this fancy formatting and have to decipher your messages from a lot of funny (strange) characters. Some email clients may even remove all HTML formatting as a security feature.

In general, most email clients have a way to "view" messages in different formats. However it is generally better to have the sender fix how they are sending emails to avoid future issues.


Setting your default to plain text (recommended) in Mac OS X Mai (AppleMail)l:

  1. Select Mail | Preferences… from the Mac OS X Mail menu.
  2. Go to the Composing category.
  3. Make sure Plain Text is selected from the Message Format (or Format) drop-down menu.
  4. Close the Composing preferences dialog.

To send a single email using but plain text from Mac OS X Mai (AppleMail)l:

  1. Compose the message as usual in Mac OS X Mail.
  2. Before clicking Send, select​ Format | Make Plain Text from the menu.
    • If you cannot find this menu item (but Format | Make Rich Text instead), your message is already in plain text and you don't need to change anything.
  3. If an Alert pops up, click OK.


You may want to inform the user that they may need to adjust the mime type actions on their Thunderbird before sending attachments again using the following link: http://kb.mozillazine.org/Actions_for_attachment_file_types


Instructions on how to change formatting are in drop downs at the bottom of the following article: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Change-the-message-format-to-HTML-Rich-Text-Format-or-plain-text-338a389d-11da-47fe-b693-cf41f792fefa

4)Save the attachment to your desktop, right click on attachment, choose "open with..." pick your preferred program to open the attachment.

Tags: attachment, Mac, mail, pdf
Last update:
2017-04-19 03:16
Marc J Miller
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