E-mail Attachments

27 November 2006 (updated)

This guide explains how to attach files to messages you want to send by e-mail. There are also tips on what to do with attachments you receive from other people.

What are Attachments?

When you send an e-mail it is possible to send other files along with it, such as images or documents. You 'attach' the file by selecting the file on your PC and then using your e-mail program to upload the file into your e-mail account, so it can be sent along with your message.

Sending Attachments

This example shows how to send a file to a friend along with a message describing it. The instructions are for Hotmail but it should be a similar process with most other e-mail programs or web services.

Log in to your e-mail account and click on New Message. Fill out the To: and Subject boxes and write your message. Now click on Attach and select File.

You now need to tell the computer where to find the file you want to attach. Click on the Browse button. When you find the file you want, click to select it then Open. Now either click OK to confirm, or click OK and Attach Another if you want to add more than one file.

Your file will now be uploaded (transferred) to the Hotmail server and should appear listed between the Subject and Message boxes under the list of Attachments. It also tells you how large the file is in MB (megabytes). With a free Hotmail account you can send up to 10MB in one message, though the larger the file the longer it will take for the recipient to download your attachment at their end.

You can now send the message as normal and the attachment file will be sent with it.

Making Large Files Smaller

Large files will take longer to send and receive. To check how large a file is before you send it, right-click the file on your computer and click Properties. If the total of all the files you want to send is over 10 MB you will not be able to send them all at once in Hotmail.

There are several ways to reduce the size of pictures and other files.

Picture Files

Probably the most common type of file attachment is picture files. Normal image files are called Bitmap files with the filename extension .bmp. These can take up a lot of file space, so to reduce this they are often compressed into smaller-sized filetypes which may loose a little quality, but are usually still good enough for most purposes. Most picture files on the Web or sent by e-mail are .jpeg or .gif files.

To convert an image to one of these compressed filetypes, right-click a picture file and choose to Open With.. and select Paint. Alternatively right-click the file and choose Edit to use your default graphics editing program.

In Paint, click File and Save As.. and in the Save As Type drop-down menu, select a filetype such as JPEG. Give the picture file a name then click Save and the picture will be converted to this filetype.


.jpeg file sizes can be many times smaller than typical .bmp files. If you right-click the new file you have saved and view Properties you should see a difference in file size compared to the original.

With pictures that are very tall and very wide, even .jpeg file sizes can be very large. The solution in this case is to resize the picture down to a reasonable size.

Open your original picture in Paint again and click on Image then Stretch/Skew. Now you can type in a percentage to stretch the file by. If you input a figure less than 100% you are actually squeezing rather than stretching, for example if you type 50% for horizontal and 50% for vertical then click OK, the picture will be squeezed to half of its original size.

This is a simple way of reducing a picture's physical size and therefore file size. Once you have squeezed the picture to the size you want, save it as a .jpeg as before and when you view the file's Properties again the file size should be much smaller.

Other Files

Other files such as Word documents (.doc files) will need to be compressed into .zip files with a program such as WinZip. See this article for more information:
Compress Files with WinZip

However, not everyone will know how to open a .zip file. If they have Windows XP they should be able to open it by double-clicking it. If not, they may have to download a program like WinZip to actually open the file you have sent them.

Opening Attachments Safely

You should be very careful when opening any file attached to an e-mail. This is one of the most common ways for viruses to travel on the Internet and if you are not careful your PC may become infected. There are some simple rules to follow to keep yourself safe:

  • - don't open any e-mail attachments you're not expecting especially if you don't recognise the sender's address
  • - don't assume that because it's from a friend's address it will be safe
  • - always download the file to your computer first then virus check it before opening it

Hotmail automatically scans all attachments for viruses although it is still possible some infected files will come through. When you click on an e-mail with an attachment, if it is a picture file it may automatically open and appear along with the message.

If you want to save any type of attached file on to your computer, click on the name of the attachment under the Subject heading at the top then click Download File.

If it is a picture file it may be opened in a new window, if so right-click the image and select Save Image As.. to save to your computer. For other types of files, after you click Download File, choose Save To Disk to save to your computer.

Once saved, you should scan the file with your virus checker before opening it.

Printing Image Attachments

If you want to print a picture file you have been sent, download it to your computer then right-click and open with Paint, adjust the height and width if necessary by using Stretch/Skew as described above and then click on File then Print. You can click Print Preview to get an idea of how it will look before you print it.

If you have been sent several images (such as a collection of holiday photos) you may want to put them all together to print on one page. One way of doing this is by opening Microsoft Word then clicking Insert then Picture From File. Do this for every picture you want to include and you should see them laid out on a page.

If you click on a picture in Word to select it, you can then click and drag the corner handles to stretch or squeeze the image, this way you will be able to adjust the pictures until they all fit on one page for printing.

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