WinZip can offer help with MIME e-mail


Plugged In


From time to time I get e-mail in the file format MIME. My XP Pro under Windows and MSN Mail can't handle it, so I have to delete the message. All I get is lots of ABCs that make no sense. These e-mails come from friends and probably hold some interesting info.

- Tony Checkowski, Lansdale, Pa.

Multipurpose Internet mail extensions, or MIME files, date back to the dawn of the Web and now are outdated but still used by quite a few diehards who cause a lot of consternation.

In essence, a MIME file is written in conventional text (A to Z and 0 to 9) rather than the gibberish of special binary code used by modern file types. At the start of things, computers could transmit only traditional alphabet characters rather than the complex symbols now used to designate data in binary files for pictures, sound and nearly everything else. MIME was developed to translate things like photos and sounds and movies into simple text at one end that could be translated back into their graphic splendor at the other end.

Every day uncounted thousands of MIME files get rejected by Windows users because their e-mail software can't handle the format.

The fix that I prefer is to download a trial copy of WinZip, a powerful archiving utility that creates Zip and a bunch of other compressed files ( When you run the WinZip setup program, it will recognize MIME files by their extension of .mim and give them an icon showing a big blue C-clamp. When you click such an icon, the software will walk you through extracting whatever songs, photos, movies or whatever your friends are sending your way. Yahoo has apparently changed how to view picture attachments by sending them directly to the attachments folder. Often when I am sent clip art, pictures, etc., within the body of an e-mail, they don't show up either.

However, if I forward them, I can view them in the forwarded text area. It seems as if you can't delete the attachments unless you delete the entire e-mail. Can you explain this?

- Alpha J. Jordan,

Don't you wish everybody drove on the same side of the road on the information highway? I do, but go tell it to Yahoo or Google or Microsoft or AOL, and each will say that's OK as long as they're the one to pick which side of the road. So it is with Yahoo over the decision to automatically incorporate attached images into the body of e-mail messages. Some like this, and some hate it. I hate it, but I can see a big upside for those who want to spare friends from needing to download an image and then open it before seeing what was meant in the message.

The downside is that a lot of times having a striking image splashed across the screen takes attention away from whatever the words were supposed to convey. And then there's the issue of offending somebody who happens to be looking over your shoulder.

You can fix things in a way when you forward messages by removing the attachment using a feature built in to the e-mail display. Look for a little blue line called Remove just below the Subject line. Selecting Remove will strip the attachment just as you want. However, it also will prevent the images from showing inside the messages you forward.

Jim Coates writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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