Email FAQs

Email should be simple, right? Viewing attachments should be a no-brainer. But now that we have programs set up to protect us from ourselves, it’s not as easy as it should be. Neither is restoring the Taskbar to its intended position.

Can’t view images in email
One of the most frequent questions I’m asked by clients and by readers of this column is, “Why the heck can’t I see these pictures?!?”

Sometimes the answer is simple. Sometimes the fix is simple! Other times, you have to keep looking. Here’s a procedure for troubleshooting the stubborn attachments problem:

The first thing to check is whether your email program is blocking you from opening attachments. A “feature” of Windows XP Service Pack 2 is to turn off images Outlook Express. That drives everyone who bought a computer in the last year or two up the wall trying to figure out how to turn images back on. Try this:

  • Open Outlook Express
  • Click on "Tools"
  • Click on "Options"
  • Click on the "Security" tab
  • The top part of that is "Virus Protection".  Make sure the settings are
       -Internet zone = selected
       -Warn me... = selected
       -Do not allow attachments... = NOT selected
       -Block images and other... = NOT selected
  • OK your way out.

    If that doesn’t solve the problem, probably something else is blocking attachments. The usual suspects are Norton Security Center, Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security, and some firewalls, including ZoneAlarm. If you are running any of those products, check the configuration for email scanning, and make sure attachments/images are allowed to download/display. The settings differ for each product, so you might need to use the product’s Help to find what you need to do.

    If that doesn’t work, the next thing to check is if your email program is set up to view emails in plain text. If it is, that will create a problem viewing some images. To correct that in Outlook Express:

  • Open Outlook Express
  • Click on "Tools"
  • Click on "Options"
  • Click on the "Read" tab
  • Un-check the box that says “Read all messages in plain text”
  • OK your way out

    Sometimes you can’t view an image in an email because it was never actually sent. So if you’ve received a message with red x’s instead of pictures, it could be that the sender’s email program is set up not to forward image attachments. Or it could be the sender just sent a shortcut instead of an image. This happens often with messages that have been forwarded more than once. In that case there isn’t anything you can do except complain to the sender.

    Other attachments
    If you are trying to view an attachment that is not a picture you need a program that will let you see (or hear) the attachment. Audio or video files should open politely in Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, or QuickTime. However, I have noticed a lot of PowerPoint Presentations circulating lately. These files have a .pps extension. If you don’t have PowerPoint, you need to download a free PowerPoint Viewer from Microsoft, available here: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=428d5727-43ab-4f24-90b7-a94784af71a4&displaylang=en Once you download and install the viewer, you can view a .pps file by clicking on the paperclip icon in your Outlook Express message, and then clicking on the name of the attachment.

    Wandering taskbar
    I don’t know how this happens to people but it happens a lot. Somehow clients get their Taskbar, which is meant to be at the bottom of the screen, on the top or docked to the side of the screen. I receive lots of phone calls and emails asking how to get it back where it belongs. Try this:

    Close all open windows so it’s easier to see what you’re doing.
    Move your mouse so the cursor is on an empty area of the Taskbar.
    Click and hold the left mouse button and drag the Taskbar to the area of the screen where you want it to end up, probably the bottom of the screen.
    Release the mouse, and the Taskbar will snap into place.

    People swear this doesn’t work, but it does, honest. I think the confusing part is that while you are dragging, you don’t see the Taskbar moving. But trust me. If you drag it to its final destination and then release the left mouse button, the Taskbar WILL snap into place.

    More about the Taskbar in this previous column: http://rlis.com/columns/column19.htm Remember, you can browse through previous columns at any time by pointing your browser to the Column Archives at http://rlis.com/column.htm Thank you for reading, and thanks for all your comments and questions!

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    About the Author

    The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

    Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

    Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

    E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

    Computer Care Kelowna

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    The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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