The official home of It's Geek to Me on the web!

Issue #192: March 27, 2011

Dear Mr. Geek,

I sometimes receive emails from friends with a .eml attachment.  When I try to open it, I am asked if I want Outlook Express to be my default.  I say no.  I use Yahoo email, and I know nothing about Outlook Express.  It does open in an Outlook email screen, but doesn’t seem right.  Is there some way else I should open them?  Do they come this way because the sender is using Outlook Express? If so, wouldn’t mine go out as .yahoo or something?

– Brenda H.
Fort Walton Beach, Fla

P.S. – Computer expertise: Low!

A: It sounds like you have a fundamental misunderstanding of file extensions, Brenda.  I won’t hold your self-described level of expertise against you, though, so let’s start with the basics.  Ever since the days of the old Microsoft Disk Operating System – MS-DOS – filenames have carried an extension – the part of the name after the dot.  The basic purpose of the extension is to define the file’s content type, and thereby, allow you to tell which program(s) can make use of that file’s content.   Windows took this concept one step further, creating “File Associations” that establish a link between file extensions, programs, and explicit actions, like “Open”, “Print”, and others.  These associations are all stored in the Windows Registry.  In your case, the extension in question, .eml represents that the file contains “Electronic Mail” or e-mail.  .eml files are typically opened by Outlook Express, but can also be opened by regular Outlook, Internet Explorer, and even non-Microsoft products, such as IncrediMail, Mozilla Thunderbird, and other e-mail client software.

Obviously you have Outlook Express installed on your system, even if you don’t use it.  Your system has an association linking .eml files to OE, but OE is not set up to be your default e-mail reader (the one the system uses every time), hence the question you get asked.  Just because you tell it “No” to the “Default” question does not change the file association, and the .eml file opens using its associated program, which remains Outlook Express.  This does not happen because the sender is using OE; it happens because the person has sent you an e-mail that has another e-mail as a file attachment.  But how does THAT happen?  Well, I’ve seen this behavior in Outlook if I highlight more than one e-mail, and then click “Forward” –  I end up composing a new e-mail with .eml file attachments.  If I just highlight only one and click “Forward”, I end up composing an e-mail that contains the text from the forwarded e-mail at the bottom, and no file attachments.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no such file extension as .yahoo, and I hope after reading the above you’ll see that no matter what e-mail reader you’re using, if you encapsulate an e-mail within a file, the logical extension is .eml.  If you’re getting these as attachments from people who send you e-mail, you might consider asking them to look at their e-mail configuration.  Chances are they have their e-mail program configured to forward e-mails as an attachment rather than inline.  Makes it tough to read when you’re using webmail that doesn’t automatically convert the .eml attachment.  Say “pretty please” and tell ‘em “The Geek” says so.

Leave a Reply

April 2024

Search the site


Copyright Notice

All content on this site is Copyright © 2007-2024 by Jeff Werner – All rights reserved.