You or a counterpart received a file called “winmail.dat” attached to an e-mail, and you just do not know what to do with it. Open it ? But how ? Ignore it ?

Well, the good news is that you can just ignore it, it does not matter much if you do not use Outlook. And if you used Outlook, chances are high you would not be reading this page.

If you still need to view this  file anyway, some programs that can help you do that are indicated at the end of this post. Just click “more”.

Click “more” also to see how to stop sending this file with your mails and upset your counterparts. 
This Winmail.dat file is sent from people using Microsoft Outlook as their email program. The file allows Outlook users to send Transport Neutral Encapsulation Format (TNEF) information along with the email so that it retains the look and feel of the document with formatting, fonts, and colors when its received by another Microsoft Outlook user.

Unfortunately, the file is only relevant and used by Microsoft Outlook. Users of Outlook Express, Eudora, Netscape Messenger, Lotus Notes and other email programs will receive the attachment called winmail.dat with the email.

The file is attached to the email because the original sender is sending emails in Microsoft Outlook Rich Text Format instead of Plain Text format.

So, basically, you can just ignore this file as it just contains text formatting information that you cannot use outside of Outlook anyway.

Stop sending this file with e-mails

To Turn off Rich Text sending for messages in Microsoft Outlook

1) Click on Tools
2) Click Options, and then click the Mail Format tab.
3) In the Send in this Message Format list, select Plain Text, and then click OK.

This will set your default sending method to Plain Text, which will lose your special formatting options with fonts, colors, etc. However everyone, no matter what email program they are using, will now be able to receive your email with no problems.

There is more information on this topic in the Microsoft Knowledge Base

Viewing the WinMail.dat file

If you want to view the winmail.dat file and see the message, there are programs that decode the file and allow you to view it. Listed below you will find some of these programs.

Will work on Win9X, NT, and 2000 computers. But does not work on Windows XP

Program using a simple drag and drop procedure to view winmail.dat contents

TNEF’s Enough
Macintosh program to decode winmail.dat TNEF attachments