Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Whoever is sending this email message to you seems to be doing it in a way that is making this unnecessarily difficult.

I have Paint Shop Pro 12 on my new computer. I belong to several lesson groups who use .eml mail format. Now, often, within that mail, there is another zip. That zip is the zip for supplies for the lesson. I can view the lesson itself via a reader or IE, but I cannot open the supplies. Outlook Express had that ability 100%, but now I can only view the lesson and not be able to obtain the supplies. Do I need a better email software program? My lessons go to a Gmail address, but I use Windows Live.

In this excerpt from Answercast #56, I look at a situation where attachments are being sent in a non-standard manner and are difficult to open.

Email attachments

So, I'm not really sure specifically what email program you are using to look at your email. Windows Live could mean many things. If you mean Windows Live Hotmail, that means you're using a web-based interface and the .zip files should be something that you can simply download and extract.

If you're using Windows Live Mail, that is more or less the same as Outlook Express was for this particular scenario. It should be able to also open the attachment or at least save the attachment that is the .zip file.

.eml files

Now, what I suspect is happening is that you're receiving things in what I would consider to be a very non-standard way.

If you're actually seeing these things as .eml files, that probably means that whomever is sending them to you is actually creating .eml files (which really are email files) and attaching them to a message. That's technically the wrong way to do it. .eml files really only happen when you try and save an email message that you've already received.

Yes, they're a common way to store email messages in their entirety, but they're just not used for sending email messages back and forth like this in any regular manner. Whoever is sending you this message is presumably trying to send an email message as an attachment and that just seems kind of odd, to be honest.

Download the email

The best solution I can think of right now is if that's happening... I'd go grab Thunderbird. Thunderbird actually understands .eml files natively. If you double-click on an .eml:

  • Thunderbird will open it.

  • It will display it;

  • And it will correctly interpret all of the attachments that might be included with that .eml file including the .zip file.

You should then be able to simply click or double-click on the .zip file that's included with that message and it will open like you expect - much like you did with Outlook Express.

Change the email method

But like I said, right now, I fundamentally question whoever is sending this email message to you in that perhaps they're doing it in a way that is making this unnecessarily difficult.

What you normally should see would be your lesson in the message body itself. There would be no .eml attachment. The message would simply contain your lesson and the attachment that would appear with it would be the .zip file.

But like I said, since somebody is sending this to you, that's not something you probably have control over. A quick and dirty solution to this problem would be to install Thunderbird, which would simply interpret the .eml files just like you were used to them being interpreted by Outlook Express.

Article C5858 - September 27, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Mark J
September 28, 2012 12:25 PM

When you forward an email some email programs ask you if you want to send the forwarded email as an attachment or in-line (send the forwarded message in the body) or as an attachment. It could be that the person sending you the email is using the attachment option, thinking it's necessary because the message contains an attachment.

Fred W
September 28, 2012 9:33 PM

Windows Live Mail desktop client program is probably what he's referring to. And, as well as Thunderbird, it also opens .eml files natively (and also saves emails as .eml files).

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to to ask your question.