Outlook Express Tip - Turn Off The Preview Pane For Added Safety

Marilyn Asks About Outlook Express Preview Pane
Hi, enjoy your articles, wondering if when you use the preview in email (Outlook Express) and it turns out to be spam, does that show whoever sent it that you opened it? I've always heard don't open the email and I was wondering if preview is the same thing as opening it. thanks

Our Answer
Thank you, Marilyn. Viewing your email in the preview pane is the same as opening it. If you have Windows XP with SP2 installed and you don't uncheck "Block images and other external content in HTML mail" (under Tools, Options, Security) then it's not the same as opening it. But, leaving that box checked is inconvenient because most newsletters (including this one) call images off the Web so that the size of the email does not become too large. Calling images off the Web is considered "External content" but the only other way to include images in a newsletter is to embed them thus increasing the size of the newsletter (kilobyte-wise). 

Spammers use images called off the Web too. One of the reasons is to keep the size of the email smaller and therefore less costly to send and the other reason is because images can be used as tracking devices, especially when linked to or through a script that extracts data about the recipient. So, to answer your question about "do spammers know you opened it" the answer is: yes.

The best solution to this is not to use the preview pane and uncheck "Block images and other external content in HTML mail". Then the only mail that is opened is the mail that you open, not every mail viewed in your preview pane. It's very simple to turn off the preview pane - just open Outlook Express, click "View" (on the toolbar), then click "Layout". Uncheck "Show preview pane". Now when your email comes in you'll see the sender, subject, date, and time. If it is from a recognizable source you simply double-click the mail to open it. If you know it's spam you can delete it without opening it and if you're not sure, you can right-click on it, select Properties, Details and then click "Message Source". You'll be able to read all the email headers and message there, in a protected environment, without opening the email at all. If you determine it's spam, you can then delete it. If it's legitimate you can close the Properties dialog and double-click the message to open it.

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