iPad Week: Previewing Files in Mail

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Q: Why is it that I'm unable to open some files when I check email on my iPad? Does it only support certain file types?

Probably the easiest way to move a file between your computer and your iPad (or smartphone) is to send the file as an email attachment. You create the email on your computer and attach the file you want to be able to use on your iPad. Then you send the file to yourself, using an address in a mail account that you can access on your iPad. Mail on the iPad can preview PDFs; iWork files; and Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files.

There's a catch, however: The iPad can preview only certain file formats. You can view these files in Mail -- or see them or hear them -- but you can't edit them in Mail. If you want to modify or edit these files, you need another app.

If you do have an app that can edit a file type, Mail may know about it and ask whether you want to open the attached file in that app -- another task that we cover later in this project.

If Mail or the iPad doesn't support the format of an attached file, you see the name of the attached file in the body of the email, but you can't open it on your iPad. You may be able to open it on a computer, however.

Emailing yourself a file to preview on the iPad:

  • Using a computer instead of your iPad, address an email to yourself. Be sure to use an address in an email account that you've set up on your iPad. Fill out the Subject line, too, so that your Internet service provider won't think it's spam.
  • Attach a file that you want to read on your iPad.
  • Send the email to yourself.

MAIL ATTACHMENTS THAT THE IPAD CAN PREVIEW

By preview, Apple means that you can view, read, or play the following file formats within Mail. You can't edit previewed files, though you may be able to use the Copy command.

  • Adobe Acrobat and Preview (Mac) files: .pdf
  • ASCII/text files: .txt
  • Audio files: .aac, .aiff, .mp3, and .wav (all of which you can play in the Mail app)
  • Image files: .gif, .jpg, and .tiff (displayed as inline images in Mail)
  • iWork files: .key (Keynote), .numbers (Numbers), and .pages (Pages)
  • Microsoft Office files: .doc and .docx (Word), .ppt and .pptx (PowerPoint), and .xls and .xlsx (Excel)
  • Rich-text files: .rtf
  • vCard files: .vcf (which you can import into Contacts)
  • Web pages: .htm and .html

Tools mentioned in this entry:

More questions? View the complete Toolkit archive.

Excerpted from THE IPAD PROJECT BOOK by Michael E. Cohen, Dennis Cohen and Lisa L. Spangenberg. Copyright 2011. Used with permission of Pearson Education, Inc. and Peachpit Press.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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