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Problems with winmail.dat attachments

34230 Views 33 Replies Latest reply: Feb 28, 2013 11:03 AM by Sandra MacPherson RSS
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marcfromeugene Calculating status...
Currently Being Moderated
May 3, 2011 11:55 AM

Hi--I work in a large department full of Mac users using various Intel Macs and Snow Leopard, with Mail.app as our email client. There are a couple of Windows users using Windows 7 and Outlook as their mail program. The Outlook users have had their preferences set so they are sending HTML mail rather than RFT-formatted mail. When they send attachments, some of us get readable attachments (they're usually Word and PDF files) while others get unreadable winmail.dat attachments. None of us have downloaded any of the various file conversions programs available that do this conversion automatically. This suggests to me that there is some difference in some setting somewhere on the Mac that enables some of us to read these attachments while others of us cannot. I can't find it anywhere, though. Does anyone know what this might be? It does not seem to have anything to do with what exact version of Snow Leopard we are using--there is some variability, but the variability occurs both among the people who can view the attachments and those that can't.

 

Many thanks,

Marc

Intel Macs, Mac OS X (10.6)
  • a brody Level 9 Level 9 (62,025 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 3, 2011 12:06 PM (in response to marcfromeugene)

    The .Dat file often is an addressbook entry for the user in question.  Verify with the sender that they desired to send an attachment.  Sometimes it is just an artifact of using a Windows e-mail program that can be ignored.

  • a brody Level 9 Level 9 (62,025 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 3, 2011 1:45 PM (in response to marcfromeugene)

    Email attachment formatting barely works between Mac email software.  When it works crossplatform, note the procedure that works and stick to the version of software in question and known working procedure.  Much more reliable is a shared FTP server with FTP software.  Macs have Rbrowser and Fugu, Windows has WS-FTP.

    That way you don't have to add text encoding which may or may not work.

  • Stress Test Level 4 Level 4 (1,265 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 4, 2011 2:42 AM (in response to marcfromeugene)

    Winmail.dat are attachments that are compressed by Outlook before sending. You can normally extract them with TNEF's Enough

  • a brody Level 9 Level 9 (62,025 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 4, 2011 5:23 AM (in response to Stress Test)

    Glad to hear someone has made an extractor.  Sounds like http://www.apple.com/feedback/ needs to be pinged by users asking that Mail gets that capability incorporated built-in.  So many have attachments these days you can't open any other way.  And if you use Thunderbrid, Eudora, or some other e-mail client, please give them feedback it is needed.  Because as I've found very few clients support anything other than MIME attachments.

  • Stress Test Level 4 Level 4 (1,265 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 4, 2011 5:38 AM (in response to a brody)

    But it's more a problem of the sender, that it compresses an attachment automatically before sending. Or use a format like .zip ...

  • a brody Level 9 Level 9 (62,025 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 4, 2011 5:59 AM (in response to Stress Test)

    How often do you get e-mail from people with attachments that don't have a reply to address.  Which is easier, asking each such sender to send it uncompressed and learn their e-mail program, or asking the e-mail program author used by the recipient to be able to extract any attachment regardless of how it is compressed?  If e-mail programs started to be standardized on attachment standards, my advice to use FTP would not be necessary.

  • Ernie Stamper Level 8 Level 8 (37,445 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 4, 2011 6:11 AM (in response to a brody)

    a brody,

     

    For having come so lately to an understanding of the problem, I think your criticism of Apple is ill founded.

     

    This is issue is well known to those frequenting the Mail forums, and has been for a long time.

     

    Ernie

  • a brody Level 9 Level 9 (62,025 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 4, 2011 9:39 AM (in response to Ernie Stamper)

    I'm not being critical of Apple in particular.  All e-mail client developers need to consider attachments handling seamlessly a goal to be met.  If enough end users don't ask for it, it may not happen until the tide has turned in favor more seamless integration.  I can't tell how many times I've had to deal with social groups that try to send mass e-mails with attachments to manage their finances of the group, or communicate that which can't be communicated with plain text, such as tables, images, you name it.  It is not like the e-mail attachment formatting was invented yesterday.  And it isn't like every e-mail client uses MIME either.  I know Microsoft has meddled by adding its own formatting, but it is so widely used, I don't think it can be ignored.  After all, if a third party whom I've never heard about has resolved that issue with taking an extra step, the question becomes, why is that extra step even needed?  E-mail is probably the most widely used application on the planet, even by the most novice computer users.  To add an extra layer of complexity to something that novices don't wish or don't have time to deal with makes life difficult.  It is bad enough that not all attachments are inlined.  That an extra conversion on top of finding a reader for what is encoded is needed just seems like adidng more layers to the onion than is needed.  I'm not expecting Mail to read Microsoft Word.  But winmail.dat files I see quite often, thinking they might just be an addressbook entry, for the author, since that's what I've seen on the Windows side before my office stopped using Outlook.  Now that I see it can be used for many other formats, that tells attachments in e-mails still have a long way to go before being considered simple for novice users.  So please post feedback to the authors of the clients you desire to use most often.  Maybe you'll finally get what you desire and need.

  • RaiMan Level 1 Level 1 (35 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 9, 2011 2:36 AM (in response to marcfromeugene)

    Since the time, when I switched to Mac from Windows a few years ago, I have to deal with the winmail.dat-challenge, since most of my contacts are still on Windows/Outlook/Exchange. Until today I never dived into this deeper, since somehow I always solved it.

     

    Today, encouraged through this post, I read some sources on this topic and am pretty sure, that the Mac side cannot be somehow configured to handle a winmail.dat automatically (as long as Apple does not built in the automatic decoding into Mail.app). The origin is Outlook/Exchange and there the decision is made wether you get an attachment as winmail.dat or as directly readable Mime-type.

     

    From a very helpful Wiki-entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_Neutral_Encapsulation_Format

     

    Within the Outlook e-mail client TNEF encoding cannot be explicitly enabled or disabled (except via a registry setting[2]). Selecting RTF as the format for sending an e-mail implicitly enables TNEF encoding, using it in preference to the more common and widely compatible MIME standard. When sending plain text or HTML format messages, Outlook prefers MIME, but may still use TNEF under some circumstances (for example, if an Outlook feature requires it).

     

     

    All other entries found in the net, assured me, that the tnef extraction tool written and maintained by Mark Simpson (http://sourceforge.net/users/verdammelt/) downloadable at http://sourceforge.net/projects/tnef/files/tnef/tnef-1.4.8.tar.gz/download (command line version,  well documented, easy to build from source) is what I need. first tests from command line are looking fine.

     

    Now I decided, to wrap this command up in some Applescript to have it available in the ServiceMenu and/or context menu from an open mail containing a winmail.dat:

    - get information about the contained files

    - an option to selectively copy files to a configurable folder

     

    If I have something to show up, I will come back here.

  • RaiMan Level 1 Level 1 (35 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 10, 2011 10:02 AM (in response to marcfromeugene)

    As promised, to check Mark Simson's tnef tool together with Applescript:

     

    This is a basic script that works fine just standalone:

     

    The unpacked attachement files will be in the folder given in the first line of code "set theOut...."

     

    # in this folder the file operations take place

    # save winmail.dat and unpack contained files

    # it is supposed it contains the tnef command

    set theOutputFolder to "MainHD:Users:rhocke:Downloads:99_MA:"

     

    # Mail should be open and a mail selected

    tell application "Mail"

      # get the selected mail

              try

                        set m to (get first item of (get selected messages of first message viewer))

              on error

                        display alert "No mail selected!"

                        return

              end try

     

      # check attachement for existence of winmail.dat

              try

                        set a to (get first item of (get mail attachments of m))

              on error

                        display alert "Selected Mail" & linefeed & "has no attachement"

                        return

              end try

              if not (name of a as text) = "winmail.dat" then

                        display alert "No winmail.dat attachement"

                        return

              end if

     

      # save an existing winmail.dat to the given folder

              set theSavePath to POSIX path of (theOutputFolder & (id of m as text) & (name of a))

              set theSavePathMsg to POSIX path of (theOutputFolder & (id of m as text) & "message")

              try

                         save a in theSavePath

              on error

                        display alert "Could not save winmail.dat" & linefeed & "at" & theSavePath ¬

                                  & linefeed & "Check: folder exits?"

                        return

              end try

     

      # prepare the tnef commands

      # tnef is supposed to be in the given folder

      # if not, change the commands

              set cmd to "cd " & (POSIX path of theOutputFolder) & linefeed

              set cmd1 to "./tnef -t -f " & theSavePath

              set cmd2 to "./tnef -f " & theSavePath

     

      # check for contained files

              set ret to do shell script cmd & cmd1

              if ret = "" then

                        display alert "No files in winmail.dat!"

                        return

              end if

     

      # just for fun: make a list of contained files

              set my text item delimiters to "\r"

              set theLines to text items of ret

              set my text item delimiters to {""}

              set my text item delimiters to "\t|\t"

              set theFiles to {}

              repeat with f in theLines

                        set end of theFiles to item 1 of (text items of f)

              end repeat

              set my text item delimiters to {""}

              set ret to ¬

                        (choose from list theFiles with title "Files in Attachment" OK button name ¬

                                  "Unpack" cancel button name "Cancel" with empty selection allowed)

              if ret = false then # was it canceled?

                        do shell script "rm " & theSavePath

                        return

              end if

     

      # unpack the contained files

              set ret to do shell script cmd & cmd2

              do shell script "rm " & theSavePath

    end tell

     

    The next step will be to find a way to make it usable with one shortcut or mouseclick.

  • Sean Nolen Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Oct 4, 2011 6:37 PM (in response to marcfromeugene)

    Marc - were you ever successful in overcoming this issue?

     

    Here's some fodder to add to the mix - I get about 50 emails a day, mostly ofcourse from Windows users, poor souls - but only one of these has that infernal winmail.dat attachment. It drives me nuts and I told him so.

     

    He has the latest windows version and called in his IT guy to help him. IT Guy has a Mac, and sure enough, he cann cc him an email and he DOESN'T get winmail.dat - he gets an attachment as expected.

     

    This guy's girlfriend has a Mac and she gets mails as expected too.  It's just me!

     

    As mentioned; there is no other correspondent which displays this issue. None! Of all the thousands of emails each year, it's just his!

     

    So, surely there is somoene on this planet who had the same problem and now does not?

  • Ernie Stamper Level 8 Level 8 (37,445 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Oct 4, 2011 6:42 PM (in response to Sean Nolen)

    An important fact here would be whether either of these Macs is using Mail as the email reader?  If, for example, they have MS Office, with Outlook, that would be able to read the proprietary encoding.

     

    Ernie

  • Sean Nolen Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Oct 4, 2011 6:46 PM (in response to Ernie Stamper)

    Ernie,

     

    My correspondent uses Outlook I assume (one doesn't enquire into the habits of windows users too much...) his girlfriend uses Mail (Windows users have girlfriends? Wow) and his IT Guy uses a mac, so I assume he uses Mail as well?

     

    S.

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