This week I was reminded of e-mail etiquette and attachments. I think e-mail attachments are overused. We are used to using our word processor (the default now a days is Microsoft Word) to format our documents and it is too easy to just attach the file and send it off in an e-mail.
Let’s digress a little and discuss what is e-mail. Originally e-mail was to send text messages between people. In a typewriter era this was fine, but the text was not formatted, but most business correspondence was not either. With a type writer only has on font so there is very little formatting. A common idea was to provide a way you can attach documents that support your e-mail. At this time the Internet was used for research at universities, so these files were data to support the research. As business started using the Internet e-mail these attachments became documents, and your e-mail program became you file cabinet.
This works but has several issues.
If I want the message to be read by the recipients of my e-mail, attachments can be an issue. Etiquette would dictate that I would want the recipients to read the message, but if they do not have the program needed to open the file, or if they have a slow Internet connection you may cause more frustration. Word is the most common word processor but not everyone, especially home users, have Word. Even if someone has Word is it compatible with the document I am sending. For a techie this is not too much of a difficulty, they can find a way to open the document, but some the average user will become frustrated and call on their favorite techie.
If the recipient has a slow Internet connection such as dial up, It will take a long time to down load attachments, especially pictures. I know one executive that was using a cell phone connection in Europe a few years ago, before the wide availability of broadband this is not an issue but it was a few years ago. This cell connection in Europe was slow and there was a per kilo bit connection charge. The charge was nominal for normal e-mail messages, but someone sent a e-mail with a large picture attachment. 1/2 hour and $100 later the user could get the rest of his messages.
What can we do?
- Most e-mail clients allow you to format your text in html. Html is pretty standard and the recipient can read your message. This works well for simple formats, but if you include pictures or complex formatting this can make the e-mail large and slow to load.
- If you must send an e-mail attachment make sure the recipient can read the attachments. Consider sending the attachment in the PDF format. PDF stands for Portable Document Format, almost every machine can display a PDF. There are free programs to create a PDF. http://www.cutepdf.com/Products/CutePDF/writer.asp
- Consider uploading your document to something like Google Docs, you get free Google docs with your account. You upload your Word document to Google docs, then it is displayed in any web browser, then you can include a link to this document in your e-mail. If it is a picture consider using Google Picasa or one of the picture sites to create a photo album and include a link to this album.
The recipients of your e-mails will be less frustrated and like you better if you make sure they can easily read your e-mail.