OS X Mail discarding attachments for saved messages

Saving e-mail messages as text files in OS X Mail may result in attachments being discarded.


One of the features of Apple's Mail application in OS X is its option to save a specific e-mail message as a text file to a desired location on the hard drive. If you press Shift-Command-S or choose "Save As..." from the File menu with a message selected, you will be given the option to save the message in either Rich Text, Plain Text, or Raw Message formats.

If you choose either of the text formats, then you will have the option to include any attachments in the message with the text document. This will result in the file being saved as in the "RTFD" format, which is an extension to the basic rich text format that allows for embedded media attachments, be they PDF documents, images, or music and video.

This feature has worked in past versions of OS X, but in OS X, Lion users are finding that the resulting file from the "Save As" feature does not contain any attached files, even though the format of the file is the specified "RTFD" format and not "RTF" or "TXT." While the message text is saved in the file with the proper formatting, all attachments from the original email message are missing.

Since the attachments in the RTFD format are embedded in it, if people use this option regularly to save their e-mails but do not check the resulting file, then their files may be missing the attachments without any indication other than the file size may be far smaller than the original message size.

This problem is present even in the latest version of Mail and OS X Lion, so if you do use this feature to save attachments with your messages, then you might consider other options until Apple fixes Mail:

  1. Save as Raw Message Source
    If you choose the "Raw Message Source" format when saving your message instead of the two text options, then the resulting file will contain the original message's attachments. This option is a little more restricting since it will only allow the file to be opened in Mail, but it should preserve your attachments. It may be more favorable in some circumstances because it preserves the file's exact format as it was received, including text colors and font, which may be stripped when saved as text.

  2. Drag messages from Mail
    An alternative to using the Save dialogue's format selection option is to simply drag the message from Mail to the desired location on your hard drive. Click and drag the file to a Finder window, and the cursor will show a green plus sign. Releasing the file will make a copy of it at this location.

  3. Copy and paste all content
    If you still wish to create a text document, then the only option is to copy the contents of the message to a new text file. In Mail click within the desired message and then press Command-A to select all contents (this should include attachments). After doing this, copy the contents with Command-C, and then open a new document in TextEdit and press Command-V to paste.

    At this point, all of the e-mail's message and attachments should be in the new TextEdit document, which can then be saved to the location of your choice. To make accessing TextEdit easier, you can use the spotlight menu (Command-Space bar) to search for TextEdit and launch the application, instead of using the Dock or browsing through the Applications folder.

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