Please help me send Word attachments and do my job
December 19, 2007 6:04 AM   Subscribe

I can't send Word attachments any more. I have to, it is how I pay the rent. Please, please help me.

When I attach the Word file it looks fine and says "22k" or however big the file is. However the person receiving the email gets a file with "0k" and it can't be opened. When you try to open it Word says that it needs a Japanese conversion thing and then it shows you a page with three strange characters. This happens with my normal email and with my backup yahoo account. I can send photos, pdfs, and Word documents saved as rich text, just not normal .doc things. Also I can send Word files just fine with skype. It's been happening since at least Monday, when a client told me they didn't get the file in readable form. If I think back it seems to me that maybe Firefox updated itself over the week-end, but I'm not sure. I don't have any other browsers.

All I do for a living is receive texts, translate them, and send them off, so this is absolutely critical to my survival on this earth, and moreover I would like to meet a deadline this afternoon. PLEASE help me if you can.
posted by creasy boy to Computers & Internet (43 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have WinZip or similar, have you tried zipping (compressing) the file and emailing that?
posted by ceri richard at 6:07 AM on December 19, 2007

Also, do you want to email me a sample doc and I can try opening it here? (email in profile)
posted by ceri richard at 6:08 AM on December 19, 2007

Response by poster: I have an unregistered test version of winzip. Pretty certain I can't use it to zip files, just to unzip. I am emailing you two attempts at a word document and a .rtf document right now. At my end here it looks like this: Template_Dept1 (869 KB), TextMarco (21KB) and Dept 1 as rich tect (358KB) but I predict that the first two will show up as 0KB or not at all.
posted by creasy boy at 6:13 AM on December 19, 2007

I can't open the document either (just replied to your email) - are you on Windows or Mac?
posted by ceri richard at 6:19 AM on December 19, 2007

Also, as an alternative to WinZip, lots of freeware, shareware and paid for zip utilities are listed here.
posted by ceri richard at 6:20 AM on December 19, 2007

Response by poster: Windows.
posted by creasy boy at 6:21 AM on December 19, 2007

If you are using Windows XP you can right-click on the file and choose "Send to" -> "Compressed (zipped) folder" to zip something.
posted by XMLicious at 6:21 AM on December 19, 2007

XMLicious, don't you have to have a working compression software for that or is it native to WinXP?
posted by ceri richard at 6:23 AM on December 19, 2007

Response by poster: The problem must be with my version of Word, no? Although I can open and read documents fine, I just can't open them properly after sending them to myself through email.
posted by creasy boy at 6:24 AM on December 19, 2007

creasy body, can you check the file permissions on the file you sent me?

Also, ZipGenius is great for what you need.
posted by ceri richard at 6:25 AM on December 19, 2007

It could be but why suddenly? Have you recently upgraded, done anything else out of the ordinary, e.g. installed/upgraded Trados?
posted by ceri richard at 6:26 AM on December 19, 2007

p.s. I can open a version of creasy boy's document in WordPad if that helps anyone with the diagnostics.
posted by ceri richard at 6:27 AM on December 19, 2007

That's native to XP. XP treats zipped files as folders for most purposes though its compression algorithm seems to be less efficient than Winzip or the other tools I've used.
posted by XMLicious at 6:28 AM on December 19, 2007

Response by poster: Another facet of this problem is that my whole system is in German. And I am ignorant. Changing it to English would be another Askme question. Is "permissions" the thing in the info menu that says if it's protected against overwriting? Because there I have three options: write-protected, hidden, and archive. All my Word files seem to be "archive".

I will download Zip Genius.
posted by creasy boy at 6:28 AM on December 19, 2007

Response by poster: I tried to use Trados last year and didn't get very far. I don't think it's still in my system. A few weeks ago I downloaded some Go software. And my Firefox updates itself every now and again.
posted by creasy boy at 6:30 AM on December 19, 2007

When sending an e-mail, make sure you're sending it as a Plain Text e-mail (New Message -- > Format --> Plain Text). I've seen it a number of times where Office tries to send under its own Rich Text format and all the MIME information and attachments get fubared.
posted by jmd82 at 6:37 AM on December 19, 2007

Er, that is assuming you're using Outlook. I don't see what program you're sending the e-mail through.
If it's through an Internet web portal, I'd try using a different e-mail service than what you're sending under and see if the issue is still there.
posted by jmd82 at 6:40 AM on December 19, 2007

Response by poster: OK. I zipped a Word file, sent it to myself, downloaded it, unzipped it, and it worked fine. So this works as a stop-gap solution. Thank you very much for getting me this far.

I would still be interested in getting to the bottom of the problem. I try to look serious and competent in front of my customers and not like a fuck-up.

jmd82: no, no Outlook. I use my old college server and I also tried it with a yahoo account, same deal.
posted by creasy boy at 6:43 AM on December 19, 2007

Good point jmd82 (I can't tell from creasy boy's email address), but sending it zipped should help things. I suspect that the file might have a problem before it leaves him though, the error message I get on trying to open his Word file is:

Word experienced an error trying to open the file.
Try these suggestions.
* Check the file permissions for the document or drive.
* Make sure there is sufficient free memory and disk space.
* Open the file with the Text Recovery converter.

Then from the Show Help:

This error message can appear for several reasons.

The document may be corrupt or damaged. Use either the Recover Text converter or the Open and Repair feature. Both are available from the Open dialog. The Recover Text converter is in the Files of type: drop down and the Open and Repair feature is available from the Open button (select the down arrow and not the button itself).
File permissions may be set so you cannot access the file (read denied). It is even possible you do not have permissions to open anything within the drive or folder the file is saved to. In this case, contact the owner of the drive or folder and request permissions to access the file.

It is possible you have run out of system resources (disk space or RAM) or another program on your system has consumed all the available memory. It is even possible for a program to have a memory leak that is using up large quantities of memory. The best method to recover memory consumed by a memory leak is to restart the computer. It may be possible to shut down the offending program by using the Task Manager, but it is not recommended since it may further destabilize the system.

There may be a read lock on the file you are attempting to open. Another user may have the file open, or even another application that has a link to the file has placed an exclusive lock on the file and is not allowing Word to open the file. If a custom application has opened the file, it may have opened the file using an incorrect method.

More information about this error message online.

posted by ceri richard at 6:45 AM on December 19, 2007

creasy boy, do you want to send me the zipped file to test before sending it to the client?
posted by ceri richard at 6:45 AM on December 19, 2007

Another couple things to try - if you have Windows then you almost certainly have Internet Explorer in addition to FireFox. So, try sending through Internet Explorer.

If you don't see the blue "e" icon anywhere, go to "Start" and click on "Run" then type "iexplore.exe" in the dialog that comes up and click "Ok" to start it.

Also, did you install antivirus software or anything like that recently? If so, try disabling the antivirus software before you write and send the email.
posted by XMLicious at 6:45 AM on December 19, 2007

You say that both your "backup yahoo account" and your normal email package/service show the problem. What is your normal email package/service? The implication is that it is some sort of web-based service that you access using firefox.

Are you sure you don't have access to another web browser? All Windows machines come with IE, so I would be surprised if you do not have access to this.
posted by oclipa at 6:48 AM on December 19, 2007

Also, I would suggest delivering files via email/ftp in compressed format as a more permanent measure - unzipped files can get corrupted occasionally.
posted by ceri richard at 6:48 AM on December 19, 2007

Thanks for the error message ceri richard - it gave me one more idea. creasy boy, is there any chance it's related to whether or not Word is open at the point you write and send the email? Sometimes Office applications put funny file locks on their applications. Try making sure that Word is closed before you write and send the email.
posted by XMLicious at 6:50 AM on December 19, 2007

Response by poster: I don't have Explorer. In some kind of fit last year I deleted everything that wasn't absolutely necessary. Should I try re-downloading Firefox? Or some other browser?

Sending .zip definitely works, I just tried it a few times.

I have some stupid Antivir shit that pops up every day to tell me something, but I've had it for years. I just deactivated it and will try to send Word docs again.
posted by creasy boy at 6:52 AM on December 19, 2007

If you change the extension on the file (rename it from file.doc to file.cod or something) and send it (to yourself), then rename it when you receive it back to file.doc, does it still get messed up?
posted by inigo2 at 6:54 AM on December 19, 2007

" there any chance it's related to whether or not Word is open at the point you write and send the email" - excellent point!

Once the delivery panic is over (oh how I sympathize!) I would:

1. Continue to deliver zipped files.
2. Always make sure that the file is closed before zipping.
3. Reactivate the anti-virus software or install a new one (the free versions of AVG and Avast are highly recommened).
4. Go make yourself a nice pot of tea and relax, you deserve it!
posted by ceri richard at 6:55 AM on December 19, 2007

Response by poster: oclipa: I used "" and I have also tried using Both have worked for years. I have never used Outlook, I just go straight into my email.
posted by creasy boy at 6:55 AM on December 19, 2007

Make sure you try out that "Run" thing above for starting IE - it's usually more difficult to delete IE than other programs.
posted by XMLicious at 6:56 AM on December 19, 2007

Response by poster: Are you all sure emailing zipped files is better? If so I will happily change my habits. I send texts with funny shit like ö and ä and with notes in the margin, whatever has the least chance of corruption is best for my peace of mind.

inigo2: the files are not actually called ".doc". That part of the name only shows up once its up as an attachment.

XMLicious: I will try that right now.
posted by creasy boy at 7:00 AM on December 19, 2007

The best reason to send zipped files is that the antivirus software on the end of the person receiving the email might decide to block all .doc attachments.
posted by XMLicious at 7:03 AM on December 19, 2007

Response by poster: It doesn't matter whether or not I have Word on at the time.

I definitely no longer have IE.
posted by creasy boy at 7:06 AM on December 19, 2007

Well, you could try downloading and installing IE now. Or if you don't want it, I'd wait until after your deadline this afternoon to try reinstalling Firefox.
posted by XMLicious at 7:10 AM on December 19, 2007

(but also, I'm not entirely confident that the browser is the problem... if sending the file zipped works it might be best to leave everything as it is.)
posted by XMLicious at 7:14 AM on December 19, 2007

Response by poster: I am downloading IE.
posted by creasy boy at 7:16 AM on December 19, 2007

I have a vague recollection about a similar problem, and I think corrupt word files may have played a role. Make sure you are saving the files as ".doc" word files.

Unless it is part of your business process that your clients edit your final word documents? Otherwise I suggest that you print them to a pdf file and send that.
posted by ewkpates at 7:35 AM on December 19, 2007

Response by poster: Yes there is lots of editing back and forth and I need my "track changes" and my comments in the margin. I haven't tried explicitly calling them .doc. I will try that. I am also about to try IE.
posted by creasy boy at 7:51 AM on December 19, 2007

Response by poster: I failed to download IE properly. I am just not good enough. And calling them .doc changes nothing. However, it looks like I'll just be sending .zip documents now, and I guess that's fine. Thank you everyone.
posted by creasy boy at 8:01 AM on December 19, 2007

Oh creasy boy, don't blame yourself - Word sucks when it's just a plain one page document of text, start getting "complicated" by adding margin notes and revision/tracking changes, well....!

If you've some time over the Christmas vacation why not get a knowledgeable friend/colleague to sit by and give you a hand getting your system back up and running - changing to an English interface, uninstalling and reinstalling Microsoft Office (or just Word) and making sure that you're covered on the anti-virus/spyware front.

You've got my email address, do feel free to shout if you need help!
posted by ceri richard at 12:27 PM on December 19, 2007

This might be way out in left field, but have you tried looking into a web-based program like Writely/Google Docs? You can make modifications and edits and then track the changes, and it's easily accessible. If you don't have a google account, it's probably worth it just for the the Docs alone.
posted by eralclare at 12:58 PM on December 19, 2007

Couple of issues I think may help:

1. File extensions are hidden by default in XP (damn you, Bill Gates). If you save a Word file as "My File" and it shows up as "My File" in your My Docs folder, it is really called "My File.doc" but the .doc part is hidden. You really ought to unhide the extension. It's hidden by default because if it were not, renaming a file might cause you to change the extension by accident, if you don't realize that the extension is important. I unhide the extensions because (a) I understand what they are, and (b) lots of viruses take advantage of hidden extensions, to make an .exe file look like a .doc file, for example. In any window showing you files on your computer, go to View --> Folder Options --> and uncheck "Hide extensions for known file types".

2. Sounds like you are accessing your email using a web browser. Have you tried using a desktop mail client like Thunderbird, etc? You could be having an issue uploading files. Some servers might be scrubbing "suspect" files during upload, or some other process on your computer might be doing it. You can test this fairly simply: Try copying a Word file to a disk or USB drive, and try to send that file from a different computer, using whatever web browser is there to access your email. (Make sure you can open the file on that computer before sending, of course!) If the doc is scrambled, it's your email server at fault. If it sends just fine, there is something wrong with your system specifically. I strongly recommend using something besides web-based interfaces for email, anyway - I find a unified local interface much easier to use than web-based tools, and much less problematic. Most university servers will have specific instructions for configuring desktop email clients.

3. Scan your computer for viruses, macro viruses, and spyware/malware. If any program is infecting your Word docs (a common target) your email servers will (or should) automatically scrub or delete the files for security.

4. It isn't possible to completely remove Internet Explorer, as far as I am aware; furthermore, doing so will likely cause some strange system problems. Windows uses IE to render things like help files, etc.; you may have removed references to it, you may even have deleted the folder in Program Files that contained the executable file, but parts of it still live somewhere on your computer. You might be best off doing a repair install of Windows to fix any problems caused by deleting IE.

Just as a general rule, I would NOT recommend sending zipped files, or files with file extensions altered, unless the recipient knows EXACTLY what to do with them. If your job depends on these files, your job also depends on you not placing any unnecessary burden on the recipient. Even something that sounds as simple as renaming a file upon receipt is in practice very likely to confuse the hell out of many average computer users.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:45 PM on December 19, 2007

Windows XP has zip file handling built in natively (it's called Compressed Folders). Installing WinZip or some other zip program will often screw that up, and if all you need to do is simple zipping and unzipping, you're far better off with the native stuff.

I recommend you get rid of WinZip, 7-Zip, WinRAR and any other compression programs you have no specific need for, using Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel, then restart Windows. This will most likely leave you with broken native Compressed Folders support, which you can then fix as follows:

Go to Start->Run, type regsvr32 zipfldr.dll in the box, and hit Enter. You should see a popup saying something like "DllRegisterServer in zipfldr.dll succeeded". Then restart Windows again.

You should now notice that any .zip file looks like a folder with a zip down it, and that you can open one up and see what's inside it just by double-clicking it - it will work like a folder, and you can freely drag and drop or copy and paste files into it and out of it.

You can create a new zip file just by right-clicking and choosing "Create New->Compressed Folder" and then drop or copy files into it just as if it were an ordinary folder. You can also right-click on any file and choose "Send To->Compressed Folder", which will make a .zip file with the same base name as the file you right-clicked on, containing that file. Finally, you can use ctrl-click to select a bunch of files, right-click on any one of them, and choose "Send To->Compressed Folder": this will put all the selected files into a new zip file whose name is derived from the particular file you did the Send To on.

Sending people .zip files as email attachments is absolutely standard practice, and will not cause anybody any difficulty, since most systems will just open them up automatically on a double-click (either natively or using whatever compression utility has been installed).

One final thought: if your mail service is Gmail, I've found that attachments work far more reliably if your original connection to Gmail is made via as opposed to http://anything.

Oh, yeah: two more things. Unless your Word files are graphics-heavy, sending them as .rtf is actually the polite thing to do. Many non-Word word processors can open .rtf but can't deal with .doc. Also, .rtf files compress very nicely when zipped.

If you're sending stuff for somebody else to read and print only, and there is no requirement for them to do further editing on what you send, you should not be sending word processor source files at all: PDF was built for precisely that job, and works better than any word processor format. If you use something like CutePDF to turn your Word doc into a PDF file before mailing it, and check the result before you do mail it, you can be quite confident that it will look exactly the same to your recipient as it looks to you - there will be no brokenness due to missing fonts at the far end, or different choice of printer or whatnot. PDF files also have a fair degree of internal compression, and unless you're sending a bunch of them at once, zipping them first typically doesn't buy you much.
posted by flabdablet at 4:59 AM on December 20, 2007

Response by poster: Wow. Two very long answers. Thank you both. I will stick to .rtf or .zip then. Then only clients I have that cannot cope with unzipping a file are art galleries, and they are equally confused by every format and make up the least part of my income. Perhaps when I get back from vacation I will install Thunderbird, a new virus program, etc. Yeah and probably I should reinstall Windows.
posted by creasy boy at 9:12 AM on December 20, 2007

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