Warning! Some of the screenshots and step-by-step instructions appearing in Part 5 are only applicable to Windows 7.
The screenshots and instructions pertaining to Gmail – i.e. how to open an attachment – will be the same for everyone, but the instructions for finding a picture on your PC [in order to attach it to an email] will only be relevant to Windows 7 users. This is because people using other operating systems – such as a MAC or Windows XP, Vista, or one of the 8’s – may not see the same things on their own PCs.
What are attachments?
Attachments are simply files that you send along with your email message. Most of these files cause no problems whatsoever, but some hackers will use attachments to sneak viruses onto your computer. These viruses are triggered when you ‘open’ the attachment. For this reason, ALL attachments should be treated with caution.
Internet security and staying safe
When I first started browsing the internet I thought I would be safe from viruses because, well, you know, how would a hacker even know I existed? It was not as if I was someone important.
-blushes with embarrassment-
What I did not know was that hackers do not care about me personally. In fact, they do not target me at all. Quite simply, hackers throw out huge, baited nets and wait to see what bites. And yes, my PC did get infected.
I’ve learned a lot since then, and one of the things I’ve learned is to be very, very wary of attachments. Before I click on an attachment I check a couple of things carefully:
- do I know the sender? If the answer is ‘no’, I automatically assume the attachment is suspect and delete the whole email,
- does the sender [someone I do know] sound a bit odd – i.e. is the email a generic sounding one-liner such as ‘hi, thought you might like this’ or something similar? If it is, I’ll delete the email and the attachment first and apologise, if necessary, later.
This lack of certainty when it comes to attachments brings me to a bit of netiquette – if you are sending someone an attachment, it is a really good idea to tell them about it in the email message itself. It’s a small thing but will reassure the recipient the attachment is safe to open.
As a general rule, however, I will never open an attachment if the filename ends in ‘.exe’ or ‘.zip’.
[Note: for a description of filenames, see ‘How can you tell what’s a picture file and what isn’t?‘ below].
There are exceptions to this rule of thumb, but beginners should probably delete first and ask questions later.
So what attachments are safe to open?
Picture files are generally safe to open, unless there is something else suspicious about the email – e.g. it’s from someone you’ve never heard of, or promises something unsavoury.
How can you tell what’s a picture file and what isn’t?
Like people, files have a ‘first name’ and a ‘family’ name. The ‘first name’ describes what’s in the file while the ‘last name’ describes what kind of file it is – i.e. one of the picture files, a text file, a music file, etc.
To illustrate this naming process, have a look at the following example:
picture file example.jpg
‘picture file example’ = the first name of the file
‘.jpg’ = the family name of the file – i.e. what type of file it is. In computerspeak, this part of the file name is called the file extension. The file extension tells the computer how to handle the file – i.e. as a picture file rather than, say, a music file.
Examples of picture files
The following are examples of the most common types of picture files. Notice that only the file extension changes in each filename:
If you get an email from a friend, and if the attachment in that email ends in any of the above file extensions, the attachment is safe to open.
How to open an attachment in an email
Returning to our friend, Kenneth, I discover that he has sent me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The email has a file attached. When I read the email, this is what I see:
As you can see, part of the picture has been truncated in the preview. To see it all, I point the mouse at the picture. This causes an overlay to be displayed:
[Note: A huge picture file would be shown in GB, an average picture file would be shown in MB, and a small picture file would be shown in KB. Thus the attachment from Kenneth is quite small and will take next to no time to load]
The overlay also contains the buttons for two options – Download and Save to Drive.
Save to Drive option
Clicking this option will save the file to Google Drive [a storage area in the Cloud]. This option is not covered in the Beginners guide.
Clicking the ‘Download’ option will copy the file from the email and save it to my own PC. Once the file is on my PC, I can do whatever I want with it. This is the option we will be exploring.
When I click the Download button [in Windows 7], the screen changes to display the last location at which I saved something. In the example below, you can see that it was in ‘Libraries, Documents, My Documents, My Games, Final Fantasy xiv – A Realm Reborn’. This is not where I want to save the attachment.
To make it easier to see where I’m going, I will close the Documents folder I am in. To do this I simply click on the small arrow next to ‘Documents’ in the navigation pane:
I can now see the main folders quite clearly, including the folder I want to reach. It is called ‘Pictures’ :
A single click on the ‘Pictures’ folder causes the ‘Pictures Library’ to be displayed. In the Library is a folder called ‘Sample Pictures’. This is where I want to save the attachment:
The easiest way to open the folder is to click on the ‘Sample Pictures’ icon once. This will highlight the icon, and it will cause the ‘Save’ button to change to ‘Open’ [as shown above]. Now all you have to do is click the ‘Open’ button.
Once ‘Sample Pictures’ opens up, the ‘Save’ button reappears.
Click the ‘Save’ button to save the attachment to this location.
Now that I’ve saved the picture file to my PC I can edit it if I want to. I do, I did, and this is the result:
Before I click the ‘Send’ button, however, I click the small ‘Attach Files’ icon shown at the bottom of the compose form.
It looks like this:
Clicking the attach icon in Gmail causes the following screen to be displayed in Windows 7:
This screenshot is almost identical to the one we saw before…except that in this one, the image peeping out of the folder is of the edited house. That’s because I saved the edited file to the same location as the attachment.
Click on the ‘Open’ button [as shown above]. The following pictures are available for you to attach to your email:
Clicking on an image displays information about it, including its dimensions and size. You will also see a much larger preview of the image. When you are sure you have the correct image, click the ‘Open’ button as shown.
You should now be back in Gmail, looking at the message you typed to Kenneth. Down near the bottom of the form, you should also see the name of the file you have attached to the email. This is what mine looks like:
Click the ‘Send’ button and that’s it. As always, Gmail will display a yellow confirmation message telling you your message has been sent.
Before I finish, a quick word about the other way of attaching a photo to an email. And yes, there is another way. It looks like this:
The difference between ‘Insert Photo’ and ‘Attach Files’
If you click the ‘Insert Photo’ button, you will be given the choice of inserting an image as an attachment or as an inline picture.
If you select the ‘Inline’ option, the image will be embedded into the body of your email message like this:
Sometimes it’s nice to embed a photo like this because it means the recipient doesn’t have to do anything but look at the email. Unfortunately, the drawbacks are that:
- the process is not quite as straightforward as it should be, and
- the recipient cannot easily download the image onto his/her own PC. It can be done, but not in a straightforward way.
If I ever do an Advanced Gmail how-to [shudder], I will include the ‘Inline’ function, but given the unfinished state of Gmail at the moment, I don’t see that happening any time soon.
I did not intend to review the new version of Gmail, but after a month of working on it for this series, I can honestly say I am not impressed. I had to work around certain key functions – like Contacts – because the interface was so poorly designed and/or implemented. And even the Inbox functions leave a lot to be desired. Too much is hidden, making not-so-advanced functions hard to find, hard to use and hard to explain.
In many ways, the new Gmail reminds me of Windows 8. There too, key functions were hidden, or implemented in ways that were not at all intuitive. And people hated it, myself included.
I truly believe that function should never be subordinated to form. I don’t care what something looks like so long as it works. Sadly both the new Gmail and Windows 8 placed form well and truly over function.
To be fair, I understand that mobile devices have made it necessary to simplify all applications in order to conform to the new ways of doing things, but we have not yet reached the point where serious work is done on those devices. Imagine trying to write your magnum opus on your mobile phone! Or if that’s not your style, imagine trying to create a complex spreadsheet on your phone.
Mobile devices are simply too limited for the kind of work we currently do on desktops or laptops. Therefore it does not make sense – from a user’s point of view – to reduce everything to the common denominator of the mobile device. Yet that is exactly what Windows 8 and this new Gmail are attempting to do.
As the younger generation would say – ‘Fail’