End Office and Windows Annoyances

What do Outlook, Office, and Windows have in common--other than they're from Microsoft? They can sure be annoying. This week I've got a handful of tips for dealing with some of the hassle--like weird attachments, messy e-mail quotes, confounding file formats, and lost Windows passwords.

Eliminate Annoying Winmail.dat Files

A friend asked me about a weird e-mail attachment he constantly receives from one his friends. "The file's unreadable," he said, "I can't find a program that can view, decode, or convert the thing." He said the file's always the same--winmail.dat.

My friend is using the ancient e-mail tool Eudora and is receiving e-mail from someone using Outlook.

Quick aside: Don't even consider switching to Eudora; it's no longer being sold or even upgraded. There's a new version in the works, but don't hold your breath.

The winmail.dat file is generated from Outlook (or Microsoft Exchange) and it's loaded with Rich Text Format code--italics, bold, and font info. So the file appears as an attachment, but it is useless to my buddy.

If you're in the same boat--or the Outlook user--it's easy enough to turn off the option to send Rich Text Formatted e-mail messages. In Outlook 2003, choose Tools, Options, then select the Mail Format tab, click Internet Format, and choose Convert to Plain Text Format from the menu. Click OK, then OK again to save the change.

It may also make sense to stop using Word as the e-mail editor. Do that by selecting Tools, Options, and clicking the Mail Format tab, then deselecting "Use Microsoft Office Word 2003 to edit e-mail messages."

Fix Outlook's Messy E-Mail Quotes

Did you ever notice how well Outlook can mess up e-mail quotes? You know, the way it takes and causes line breaks to make your messages look like hell?

For the cost of a download, you can make your Outlook e-mails look sharp and, more important, easy to read. The trick is Outlook-QuoteFix, a add-in that automatically takes out the tedium of fixing Outlook's quoting style.

Outlook-QuoteFix works perfectly in Windows XP and with Outlook 98 through 2003; there's a macro that makes it compatible with Outlook 2007.

Using Office 2003? Download These Converters

I know the hassle: Someone sends you an Office 2007 Word or Excel document. You can't open it because you're old-fashioned (or a cheapskate, like me) and decided to stick with Office 2003.

The fix is a quick download away. Microsoft has a compatibility pack that updates your old version of Office 2000, Office XP, or Office 2003 to let you open, edit, and save Office 2007 file formats (such as .docx).

If you have friends who are older than I am and still have ancient Wordstar, Lotus AmiPro (gosh, remember that program?), or even dBASE II files, there's an official converter pack for you, too.

Reset Your Windows Admin or User Password

You ever forget your login password? Probably not, because it's 1234. (LOL--just kidding. I know you use strong passwords.) Nearly two years ago, I told you how to find it; see "Find Old E-Mail Messages Quickly" and scroll to "I forgot the password"). Unfortunately, that fix would have cost you $70, about a fill-up for your car.

I have terrific news. PC Login Now is a freebie that gives you a fairly straightforward way to reset Windows Administrator or user password. The strategy is to download the ISO, burn it onto a CD, and boot from it. The wizard talks you through the steps. The tool works in Windows Server 2008, 2003, Vista and XP.

One more thing before you leave: If you need to find the product key for any office product, read how to do it in "Five Smart Fixes for Dumb PC Annoyances."

This Week's Roundup of Time Wasters

You ever get annoyed when people sling around acronyms and you haven't a clue? Get a clue with Acronym Finder, a handy site that looks up the pesky shorthands, such as WTF, SOL, HIPAA, and, well, you get the idea.

Want to see what you looked like back in 1970? Upload an image to Yearbook Yourself and let the site work its magic. Carefully, there's music and if you click on one of the pink, diagonal lines, you'll end up at a shopping site.

In this U.S. Geological Survey video taken in Glacier National Park, a solitary wolf tries playing with a momma bear and her two cubs. The bear, needless to say, ain't in the mood for this kind of nonsense.

There's a ton of water coming out of a drain along a highway and it appears as if a sewer cover popped onto the road. Some poor schnook stopped, got out of his car, and, well, watch the video. (I hope the guy kept his mouth closed...)

Steve Bass is the author of "PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer," available from Amazon.com. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.

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