Walt Mossberg

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Dealing With Attachment Issues

There’s no other major item most of us own that is as confusing, unpredictable and unreliable as our personal computers. Everybody has questions about them, and we aim to help.

Here are a few questions about computers I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability. This week my mailbox contained questions about troublesome email attachments and finding a hand-held mobile product that doesn’t include a cellphone.

If you have a question, send it to me at mossberg@wsj.com, and I may select it to be answered here in Mossberg’s Mailbox.

I use a Macintosh, and sometimes when a Windows user sends me an email attachment, it comes through as a file called “winmail.dat,” which can’t be opened. Is there a way around this?

Most attachments sent from Windows to the Mac come through fine, and vice versa. The situation you describe apparently occurs when the sender is using Microsoft Outlook and sends a “rich text” email that requires Outlook to decode. Since there isn’t a version of Outlook for the Mac’s current operating system, it comes through as a useless and mysterious winmail.dat file.

However, there is a free Mac program, called TNEF’s Enough, that can unlock the attachments buried in these winmail.dat files, so you can read and use them. You just save the unreadable attachment as a file on your hard disk, then open it in the free program, which converts it to a usable file or files. I have tested the program and it works well. It can be downloaded at: www.joshjacob.com/macdev/tnef/index.html.

Is there a hand-held mobile product that would enable me to surf the Web and attend to a few emails, using my home’s existing Wi-Fi system? I have several desktops and laptops, so I don’t need another computer, and I don’t want a cellphone. I just want something less cumbersome than a laptop.

A:Yes. Palm, Hewlett-Packard and others make PDAs (personal digital assistants) that don’t include cellphones but do include Wi-Fi receivers, email programs and Web browsers. Palm’s new $299 TX hand-held is a good example. So is HP’s iPAQ rx1955, which also is $299. Both have Wi-Fi Internet connectivity, large, bright screens and built-in email and Web-browsing software. The H-P is lighter, but the Palm’s screen has higher resolution. www.palm.com/us/products/handhelds/tx. Information on the H-P is at www.hp.com.

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Because of the volume of e-mail I receive, I can’t routinely answer individual questions by e-mail, or consult on individual problems or purchasing decisions. I read all questions I receive and select three each week to answer in the column.

Write to Walter S. Mossberg at mossberg@wsj.com

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