Email: Email Message Attachment Best Practices | Information Technology | University of Pittsburgh

Email: Email Message Attachment Best Practices

You can attach any type of file to an email message. But keep in mind that to view the attachment, your recipients will generally need to have the same software program installed on their computers that you used to create the attachment. For example, you need to have Microsoft Project installed on your computer to view an attachment that was created in Microsoft Project.

For this reason, it is best to attach a file format that can be read by anyone who receives your message. For example, files in portable document format (.pdf) can be read by almost anyone. Consider using PDFs for your email attachments, particularly when you are sending a message to an email distribution list or a large group. Instructions for converting files to PDF files are provided below.

In addition, keep in mind these best practices for sending email attachments:

  • Consider including a link in your email message rather than an attachment
    If the information you would like to attach is available on a webpage, link to that webpage in the body of your email rather than attaching a file. Anyone will be able to view the link using a web browser.
  • Avoid sending large email attachments
    Users of any email service usually have a limit on the size of their email Inbox (known at Pitt as an email quota). Sending large email attachments may cause some of your recipients to exceed their quotas. If a file is larger than several megabytes, you might want to compress it into a smaller file using a program like SecureZIP before attaching it. SecureZIP can be downloaded at no cost at the Software Download Service at My Pitt. Please note that some types of files, such as graphics files, are already compressed and may not benefit from a program like SecureZIP as much as other types of files, such as spreadsheets or documents created with word processing programs.
  • Be aware earlier versions of Microsoft Office cannot read Microsoft Office 2007 files
    Keep in mind the latest version of Microsoft Office (Office 2007) saves files in a format that cannot be read by earlier versions of Microsoft Office. For this reason, you may want to convert Office 2007 files to PDF (see below) or save them as Office 97-2003 files before attaching them. To read Office 2007 files, users of earlier versions of Office must install the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack.

Convert a file to PDF

Converting a file to PDF is one of the easiest ways to ensure that others can view your attachments. Anyone who has installed the free Adobe Reader can view a PDF file. There are two basic ways to create a PDF file.

Create PDFs with Adobe Acrobat

Adobe Acrobat Professional is a program available for purchase at Software Distribution Services that allows you to convert files into PDFs. Some free software programs for creating PDFs are also available. However, Pitt IT has not tested these tools and is not able to provide support for them. The instructions below explain how to create a PDF using Adobe Acrobat.

  1. After you have installed Adobe Acrobat Professional, open the file you want to convert using the program you used to create it and select the Print option.
  2. In the Print window, select Adobe PDF as the printer and click Print.

Print window

  1. Select a location to save the PDF file and click Save.
  2. Attach the PDF file to your email message.

Save Files as PDFs with Microsoft Office 2007

Microsoft Office 2007 includes a built-in feature that enables you to save Office files as PDFs.

  1. Click the Office button in the upper left corner of the program.
  2. Select Save As and then select PDF or XPS.

Save as PDF or XPS

  1. Select a location to save the PDF file and click Publish.
  2. Attach the PDF file to your email message.

Trouble opening a PDF file?

If a PDF file does not open automatically when you double click on it, you may need to set the file association. Setting a file association tells your computer what program to use when opening a specific type of file. To set a file association for PDFs, right click the PDF file on your desktop, select Open with, and then select Choose program. Select Adobe Reader from the list of programs, select the box next to Always use the selected program to open this kind of file, and click OK.