Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Pictures in email don't always display. The reasons pictures in email don't display are many, and confusing. We'll look at some of the factors.
I often get pictures sent to me by some people. Sometimes when I open the mail, I see the pictures automatically, other times instead of the picture all I see is something like pic123.jpg, and I have to click on each attachment separately to see them. This thing kind of comes and goes on its own. Can you please solve the mystery?
Yes, I think I can. And it is a bit of a mystery, involving a complex mix of email formats, email programs, and email security settings.
It may look like it comes and goes, but there's actually method behind the apparent madness. Complex method, but method nonetheless.
As I said there are at least three things that can come into play to determine how an email program displays images in an email. And, of course, within each of those three things are more possibilities.
Email can be formatted to include the images in-line or as attachments. That means part of what determines how the email is displayed is exactly what format the sender used to compose their email.
HTML and Rich Text formatted email both allow images to be embedded within the actual message. Naturally, there are different ways to do this; for example the image can be included within the email as an attachment to be displayed within the message, or the image can be linked to from a web site. Both formats also allow images to simply be included as regular attachments without any relationship to the message body.
Plain text email, on the other hand, only allows for images as attachments.
Some email programs try to be helpful. When they receive an email that has images as attachments not meant to display in the body of the message, they automatically display the attachments after the body of the message. This avoids you having to open each attachment by hand ... you simply scroll down the message, and there they are.
This apparently confuses come people, because they see the attachments as part of the message body when they are not. Thus, when they switch to a different email program that behaves differently, they believe the new program to be broken. A great example is that Microsoft Outlook Express will display attached images below the message, and Microsoft Office Outlook will not. Neither is right or wrong, they're simply different.
Yet another possibility is that some email programs will display the in-line images as "normal" attachments in addition to displaying them in the message body. Remember that I said that one of the ways in-line images could be included is as attachments with the email that are referenced from within the body of the email. Some programs simply see those as more attachments to be listed like any other.
Email Security Settings
The security settings in effect in your email program have a major role in determining how in-body images are displayed.
Most email programs will automatically allow images that are intended to display in the body of an HTML or Rich Text message, if those images were included (as attachments) with the email. If the images are referenced from an external website, then most programs will not display them until you specifically indicate that they should be; and even then, you'll need to be connected to the internet in order to fetch the images.
Some programs allow you to indicate that certain senders are "safe", and that images in email coming from those addresses can be displayed immediately. Other programs will assume the same thing if a sender is in your contacts or address book.
Occasionally security software outside of your email program, such as firewalls or anti-malware programs, can also interfere and prevent images from being displayed properly.
Three Rules of Thumb
You can't control how your sender formats the email you're getting, but there are some steps you can take to maximize the chances that you'll see images. Exactly how you do these, and perhaps even whether you need to, will depend on exactly what email program and possibly what security software you have running on your machine.
Understand how your email program handles images as attachments, and whether or not you should even expect to see them below the body. If it's important to you, see if there's a setting to enable it. If not, and it's very important to you, consider using a different mail program.
Add the addresses of people you know and/or expect email from to your address book, or to your "safe senders" list.
Make sure that your firewall or other security software doesn't get in the way of your email program's security. For example, if your email program is properly blocking and allowing images from the right sets of senders, there's no reason to have your firewall try to do the same thing.
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