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The Help Place
These guidelines, troubleshooting steps, and usage tips collected by Information Technology will help you with most common problems and questions. This information is provided "as is" in order to provide you with a starting place for addressing common issues. If you are uncertain about any of the steps or methods described below or need further help, please contact the Help Desk.

Telephone: 4357 (575-574-4357 off campus)
On-line Help Request: Fill out and submit this form.
In person/Walk-in Assistance: Castorena Hall

Please note that walk-in assistance is limited to staff availability, and that it is much easier to diagnose and resolve issues with your computer if you contact us while at the computer with which you need assistance.

On-line Help Documents

Hardware Help
Mouse Cleaning Printer Troubleshooting
E-Mail Help
Blind Carbon Copy E-mail Attachments
E-mail Etiquette E-mail Messages Not Text Wrapping
Spell Checking Your
Problems with winmail.dat files
File Storage Help
Backing Up Your Data  
Software Help
Tips for Word 2000 Keyboard Shortcuts
Navigating Documents  
Other Help
Setting Up University Web Mail (Faculty/Staff) Subscribing to the Faculty/Staff E-mail Lists

Receiving winmail.dat files: the problem and the solutions

This information was taken from the help page created by Dr. Julia E. Benson, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgia Perimeter College.

The Problem

E-mail users sometimes find that they receive e-mail messages with a strange file attached, called winmail.dat. When they attempt to open this file, either it can't be opened at all, or it contains "garbage" data.

The situation causing this is that people are using several different e-mail client programs to receive, read, and send e-mail. The most commonly used e-mail client programs at GPC seem to be Microsoft Outlook and Netscape (specifically the Messenger component), with a small minority of techno-geeks using Eudora. Unfortunately, Outlook does not "play nice" with the other e-mail programs all the time. This causes problems, not for the sender of the e-mail, but the recipient, particularly when actual files are attached to messages.


Outlook is a rather powerful e-mail client program with a number of features that look very attractive. Most notably, Outlook allows users to send e-mail in a variety of formats:
  • as plain vanilla text with no formatting
  • in Rich Text Format, which allows for a limited amount of formatting, such as boldface/italic/underlined text or different fonts
  • formatted with the HTML formatting language so that it appears (sort of) like a web page
  • formatted as a Microsoft Word document.
It's these formatting options that cause the problems.

When an Outlook user composes and sends a message using either Rich Text Format or HTML Format, Outlook automagically generates a file, winmail.dat, and attaches it to the end of the message. winmail.dat contains formatting information, in a human-unreadable form, that Outlook will use on the receiving end to display this e-mail message correctly. Unfortunately, Outlook is the ONLY e-mail client program that can use this information! Netscape Messenger, Eudora, and other e-mail client programs don't understand this information. (Eudora can, and does, display HTML formatted e-mail messages in HTML format, but it does not use the winmail.dat information to do so.)

The Solutions

If you are receiving these winmail.dat files

I assume at this point that you are not using Microsoft Outlook as your e-mail client program, since this wouldn't be a problem if you were using it.

One solution to the problem is to visit and download the WMDecode program found there (look about halfway down the page). This will at least allow you to decode the winmail.dat files and extract any useful attachments from them.

Other than this, there's not much you can do on your end to fix the problem, since it's not your e-mail program generating the problem. If you just don't want to deal with the problem, the other approach is to reply to the individual who sent you the offending e-mail and ask that they re-send the message, with the attached files, as a plain text message, not in Rich Text Format or HTML. If they don't know how to do this, you can, of course, refer them to this document!

If you are sending these winmail.dat files

If someone e-mails you to complain that they couldn't read your attachments, or to ask what this "winmail.dat" file is that you sent them, chances are you sent this e-mail using Microsoft Outlook 97/2000 (or, very remotely possibly, another product using Microsoft Exchange Server). Although you are not the one having the problem, you are the one who gets to fix the problem.

You have multiple possible ways to fix the problem, depending on how you have set up your address book capabilities and whether or not you are using a mailing list or group mailing to send out the offending e-mail. Please read the remainder of this section before you begin making changes to your settings, as there are two special situations, discussed first, that you must consider before choosing the appropriate solution.

Special Situations

If you are sending messages to a mailing list or as a group mailing:

In this situation, you MUST set ALL users up so that they receive plain text e-mail. If even one user is set up in your address book, or your default setting is to receive Rich Text Format or HTML format e-mail, everyone will receive that format. You must either edit every address book entry for every individual on your mailing list, or change your default sending mode to plain text. Both methods are described below.

If you use an online directory (LDAP server) to look up the recipient's address:

In this situation, you have no address book entry to edit, so you may either change your default sending mode to plain text or change the sending mode manually for each message.

Solution details

If the recipient is in your address book:
  1. Open up your Outlook Address Book, either by clicking on the Address Book icon or by choosing Tools> Address Book
  2. Select the recipient's entry in your address book and open up their Properties, either by clicking on the Properties button or double- clicking on the recipient's entry.
  3. Select the "Name" tab in the Properties dialog window.
  4. Check the box at the bottom of the window that says "Send e-mail using plain text only".
  5. Click the "OK" button.

If you enter the recipient's address manually in the To: line of your e-mail message:

EACH TIME you send a message to this person, you must:
  1. Create a new e-mail message as you normally would, but before sending it,
  2. Choose Format>Plain Text from the menu bar.
  3. Now send your message.

If you want to change your default sending mode:

You may change your default sending mode in Outlook, thereby sending all e-mail messages as plain text, by doing the following:
  1. Select Tools> Options from the Outlook menu bar.
  2. Select the "Mail Format" tab in the dialog window.
  3. In the first drop-down list, under the "Message Format" heading, select Plain Text
  4. Click the "OK" button.

E-mail Messages Not Text Wrapping

To set the line length in incoming messages in Netscape Communicator:
  1. On the Edit menu, click Preferences.
  2. Click on the triangle next to the Mail and Newsgroups item.
  3. Click on Messages, then click in the square next to "Wrap incoming plain text message to window width".
  4. Click on OK.
(Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express default to this setting.)

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Printer Troubleshooting

  1. Is the printer turned on? Is it physically connected to your computer/to the network? Don't laugh - it happens to all of us.
  2. Is it in ready mode? This is usually indicated by a steady green light on the printer's front or top panel. If this light is not on or, is not green your printer is not going to print. Try turning the printer off and then back on.
    Note: if the green light is flashing steadily, this usually means the printer is receiving your document (or someone else's document, if it is a networked printer) for printing. If this continues for more than 15 - 20 seconds without the printer starting to draw paper from the tray and print, though, then there may be a problem with the document you are trying to print: it may have corrupt fonts, corrupt formatting, or it may just be too large for the printer's memory. Try printing that same document to a different printer to test this, and a different document to your printer, to test this.
  3. Does the printer have paper? If your printer has a tray to hold paper, sometimes having just a few sheets in the tray is not enough to activate the sensor that tells the printer that paper is present. Try adding more paper, but be careful not to overfill the tray as this can cause damage. If there is a lever or guide in the tray that should fit against the paper, make sure that is moved into place.
  4. Is the printer waiting for a manual feed? This is common if you are sharing printers with someone else. Typically there is a light on indicating a manual feed or a message on your computer screen that says the printer is waiting for manual feed (this varies with the brand of printer). Try adding paper to the manual feed tray.
  5. Is the print queue stopped?
    a. Macintosh OS 9 - a hand inside of a stop sign will appear on your desktop printer.To restart the print job, go to the Finder, select Printing, select Start Print Queue.
    b. Macintosh OS X - in the hard drive, go to Applications (not "Applications (OS 9)"!)>Utilities>Print Center. Select your printer from the list. From the top menu, select Printers>Show Jobs. If "Paused" is highlighted, select "Resume".
    c. Windows (depending on the version of the operating system) - go to Start>Settings>Printers. Sometimes your printer will appear gray, or the printer settings window will say "Paused". Right mouse click on the printer and make sure there is not a check next to Paused Printer or Work Off-line .
  6. Are you using a network printer?
    a. Macintosh OS 9 - go to the Chooser in the Apple menu. Click on the type of printer you are using (such as Laserjet). Look and see if you can see the printer listed in the window to the right. If not, check to make sure that the printer is turned on.
    b. Macintosh OS X - Go to the Print Center as described in 5b. Look for the printer in the list. If it is not there, select Add, and then select the name of the printer. If the printer does not appear, then check to make sure that it is turned on (and, if the printer is connected to the network through another computer, that that computer is turned on).
    c. Windows - is the printer connected to someone else's machine via a print server? If yes, then make sure that computer is on and logged onto the network.
  7. Does the printer have a paper jam? Carefully remove the jammed paper, opening the case if necessary (some printers require you to open the top cover even if the jam is in the trays). Be sure to check the paper tray, and to flip down/open any covers to look for jammed paper. If you are printing to a different type or weight of paper than usual, then check the printer's documentation or call the Help Desk to see if any printer settings need to be changed.
    Note: Do not try to save paper by printing on the bank side of already printed paper; this often leads to paper jams. If you need to print to two sides of a page ("duplexing"), then make sure that your printer is capable of and has been set up for duplex printing.
  8. Does the printer need an ink cartridge or a toner cartrige? Replace if needed.
  9. As a final step if none of the previous steps work, turn off the computer (shuting it down properly) and the printer; turn the printer back on first, wait for it to warm up completely, and then turn on the computer.
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Blind Carbon Copy

How do I send e-mail without showing a recipient's addresses or name in the e-mail header? Some people don't like to have their e-mail address appear in an e-mail sent to a group of people (some of whom they may not know). Also, a long list of e-mail addresses in the header can make it harder to read the e-mail, and easier for someone to accidentally use "Reply to All" instead of "Reply." To avoid this, you can use BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) instead of TO or CC in the "address to" portion of the e-mail message you send.
  • In Netscape:
    1. Click on the triangle to the right of the TO
    2. In the menu that pops up, select BCC
    3. Type in the address or select the name from the address list
  • In Outlook and Eudora there should already be a BCC visible field for you to type in the address or list.
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Backing up your data.

What do I back up? How do I do this? How often should I back up data? You should regularly back up all of the documents you create: memos, Excel spreadsheets, databases, e-mail - anything you do not want to lose if your computer crashes. You do not have to back up applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. unless you have a specialized application.

To back up data, you copy the data from your hard drive to a storage medium. Floppy disks used to be the standard storage medium, and can still be useful if you just need to take a file or two from machine to machine. However, backing up your machine to floppy disks will almost certainly take many disk, is not always reliable (floppy disks are much more easily damaged, and the damage is usually not spotted until the disk stops working), may prevent you from backing up very large files, and is not an option for those using newer Macintosh computers without floppy disk drives. If you have a CD writer (they are not common on campus) you can follow its instructions to copy your documents to a CD. Backing up to network drives is a common practice on campus and can be arranged with the appropriate systems administrator (a call to the Help Desk at ext. 4357 (574-4357 off campus) is all it takes).

A general rule of thumb is that you should back up as often as you do not want to retype the data that you have entered since the last backup or if you have recently added information that you do not want to lose. This can be either a time-consuming or a simple task depending on your machine and how it is configured. The IT professionals on campus would be glad to assist you with setting up your machine and software so that regular backups are convenient to perform.

Some Rules to Prevent Data Loss:
  • Always keep multiple copies (clearly labeled) of critical documents Start them when you start the document, and when you save changes, save those changes to the copy as well.
  • If at all possible, keep your copies in a different location, such as on a network drive.
  • If you back up to floppy disks, make two copies on two different floppy disks. If a floppy disk ever starts to make strange noises, takes a long time to read, or acts strangely at all, immediately get your data off of that floppy to whatever other medium you can find and throw that floppy disk away.
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Spell-Checking Your E-mail

Mustang Express and WNMU's Web Mail have built-in spelling checking. To set up spelling checking in other applications:

  1. From the Edit menu, choose Preferences.
  2. Select Messages from the Mail & Newsgroup Preferences category.
  3. Click on the box next to Spell Check messages before sending.
  4. Click OK.
  1. From the Tools menu, choose Options. Then select Spelling Tab.
  2. Click on the box next to always check spelling before sending.
  3. Click OK.
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WNMU Information Technology
PO Box 680  Silver City, NM 88062
Phone: 575-538-6436    Fax: 575-538-6491