File attachments from Exchange senders that you cannot open

Filed under notes to self and maybe this will help you, too. What is a winmail.dat file, and why should you care?

Someone I know got an email w/ attachment with that name. Filetype unknown (it shows up in MacOS as a graphic converter document, but it is not). I was asked to help. Deadlines are involved.

Here’s what I found:

It’s some Microsoft Outlook/Exchange file encoding thing that makes life just ducky for people living inside the Outlook-to-Outlook world, but for those on the outside, life is like “You’re not with Microsoft email? We’ll make you miserable by imprisoning file attachments in a format that’s opaque and useless to you.”

A nice, plain English description of the problem and solution. “If you are sending these winmail.dat files: …Although you are not the one having the problem, you are the one who gets to fix the problem.”

Microsoft’s terse explanation in a hurts-my-eyes format. I don’t know if this is anthropology or deconstruction, but based on that page, I can tell you that the world of Microsoft contains two types of people: administrators and end users. MicrosoftWorld favors Administrators. They’re higher status. Administrator options are listed first, and there are more of them. The lower-status End User must hunt through each of the Administrator options and ask onesself, “Does this apply to me? No. (keep reading)” The End User needs to create settings for individual people in your personal address book to deign to send them email attachments in a way that the rest of the non-MicrosoftWorld can read.

Hello? Microsoft? What ever happened to making stuff so it just works? It’s what the rest of the world calls interop (short for interoperability). I don’t know, but I doubt interop is enabled by default.

Apple has a quick note about winmail.dat files. Unlike this post, Apple cuts to the chase:

To avoid seeing these attachments in the future, you ask the sender to deselect the email’s “Send to this recipient in Microsoft rich text format” checkbox or preference setting in mail client before they send the message.

So, in the meantime, what kind of software acts as the Get Out of Jail Free card to spring the attachment from its winmail.dat jail? For the Mac, TNEF’s Enough (TNEF is the 4-letter acronym for MicrosoftWorld’s Email Attachment Prison). For Windows, it’s WMDecode. While looking for a Linux utlility, this page lists both linux utilities and a web-based extractor.

Hm. Related. What is it about today and file attachments and MicrosoftWorld domination? While composing this post/rant, I got a call from my Dad asking questions about a file my brother emailed to my Dad. A MS-Office style document. He was asked to pay $300 to purchase a license to MS Office in order to occasionally open files he is sent, but he and my Mom aren’t the “we need to use MS Office” people. Dad, meet NeoOffice. NeoOffice, meet my Dad

I think this is a sign that I need to get out of doors today. But I have pretty pictures (and sound!) to post here, and computing cleanup chores to do, first.