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Send Me E-Mail

Copyright © 1999-2005, 2007, 2008, 2010-2012, 2016 by David E. Ross

I am @ David at RossDE dot com (specified this way to avoid spam)

But, before you send me E-mail, please read the following:


Files attached to an E-mail message can be quite handy, or they can be disastrous. This is a very easy way to send a picture or useful software application. This is also the primary method of spreading computer viruses. Because of that risk, I trash — unopened — any unexpected attachments and the messages to which they were attached. This includes vCard files (extension .vcf), which I always delete without opening them.

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When I ask that you not send me attachments, I mean none at all. That is, don't send me audio files, vCards, or winmail.dat files. If you insist on sending HTML mail instead of plain ASCII, please do not include gratuitous graphics (GIF, JPEG, BitMap, etc) used to decorate the background, borders, or lines between paragraphs.

Note that, contrary to popular belief, inline images in an HTML-formatted E-mail message actually travel though the Internet as attachments to the message. They are merged into the HTML only when the message is opened in an E-mail client. Furthermore, GIF, JPEG, BitMap, and other image files have been known to carry serious malware (e.g., viruses). Thus, I set my own E-mail client to block merging image files with messages.

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Aside from the risk of a virus, attached files can create other problems. E-mail messages are usually queued on a mail server in the order they were received. Before you can download newer messages from the server, you must first download older messages — and their attachments — that you have not yet seen. That is, until a message and its attachment are downloaded, you cannot access any subsequent messages. Further, some E-mail clients will lock while downloading, preventing you from reading or composing messages while you wait for a large attachment. To avoid these problems, I truncate any message more 100 KB (including attachments), leaving the rest on my ISP's server. What remains on the server, I often delete without reading.

Therefore, instead of attaching files to an E-mail message, you should consider making the files available through a Web or FTP server, from which the files can often be downloaded more quickly than through a mail server. Also, many FTP and Web clients have excellent recovery capabilities that allow them to resume from where they were interrupted if an Internet connection fails.

At the least (especially when you have no access to a Web or FTP server), first send an E-mail message without an attachment to ask whether your recipient is interested in receiving the attachment. Then, if you do attach a file to a message, indicate in the message what is in the attachment. Also, you should specify the type of file you have attached, either in terms of the application that uses it (e.g.: Word, Excel, Acrobat) or in terms of its file-type (e.g.: PDF, ASCII Text, JPEG). Do not make me examine the file extension to learn what kind of file you sent me. If the format of a file varies according to the version of the application that created it, the version must be indicated (e.g.: Word 7, Excel 97); this is never revealed by the extension.

For other opinions about E-mail attachments, see Larry Magid's The curse of attachments and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Using Caution with Email Attachments (note the first bullet under "What steps can you take to protect yourself and others in your address book?").

Further Suggestions

When you send E-mail to anyone:

A winmail.dat file is an artifact of various Micro$oft E-mail clients. It contains formatting specifications for messages that are not plain ASCII text. For most non-Micro$oft E-mail clients — including the client I use — a winmail.dat file is garbage that cannot be processed. Those Micro$oft E-mail clients that create winmail.dat files can be configured to disable the sending of those files. Please do disable them before sending me E-mail.

Last updated 10 August 2016

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