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Will you still love me when I'm Base64?

Thank you AOL for that lively look at file extensions. It almost covers everything you need to know. Here's the rest of the story.

One of the biggest Net no-no's is to attach more than one file to an e-mail message. If a Mac user does it, chances are high that their e-mail client will kick in as it's supposed to and compress the multiple files into one attachable file. And that file will almost always be a Stuffit file. No problemo!

But if a PC user does this -- and trust me, folks, they do it all the time -- you'll get something that just won't open... unless you have the right tool for the job.

Here's a rule of thumb: if you double-click a file and it opens in a text reader as lots of garbage text, start scrolling down from the top. Somewhere in the first 30 or 40 lines -- and quite often within the first 10 -- you'll see something that will give you a clue as to what you're dealing with. You'll either see the words "Base64" or "uuencode." Bingo! Now you've got them!

IMAGE imgs/Email_Envy05.jpg

Figure 5: Don't throw out the garbage -- One person's trash is another's useable file. If you open a received file and see "garbage text," look closer to find out what it  reallyis. In this example, notice the line near the top that says "content-transfer-encoding: base64." That means that if your e-mail program didn't correctly decode the file, a dedicated Base64 utility most likely will. If not, the file was probably corrupted in transit. It happens.

Make sure and download a utility that can handle these formats. Believe it or not, the aforementioned MPack can do it, and an even better one is YA Base64 Decoder . (YA is a typical Net term for "yet another...") Drag and drop the file on top of the icon and out will pop your original file as if by magic.

If you spy the word "uuencode" you'll need something that can handle it. Try using uucd from: www.pobox.com/~riff. (See the "uucd" section.) All of these utilities speak MIME and all can do the job. Stuffit Deluxe also can handle these formats, but to varying degrees of accuracy. When in doubt, call in a specialist!