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Dont Attach That!

The topic of sending attachments by e-mail is not one that is discussed as much as it probably should be. It is easy to attach a file to an e-mail. Almost too easy! E-mail programs allow you to attach almost anything, regardless of the size and format without giving the sender any sort of guidance as to the consequences of their actions.

And yes, there are consequences. Like shutting down other's e-mail accounts and causing subsequent e-mail to bounce. Now, that's not a very nice thing to do, is it? And to think with just a bit of thoughtfulness you can avoid embarrassment and set an example of proper technology use!

Most that forward attachments or send photos along are doing so with good intentions not purposefully wanting to cause any problems for the other side. That said, though, one has to take a moment and think before attaching files to an e-mail and clicking Send. To simply attach files without taking the time to consider the person on the other side can come off as self-serving not to mention reflecting your overall lack of tech savvy.

Here are some quickies you should run through before you arbitrarily attach any file to an e-mail and send it on its way:

=> What is the file's size? If you don't know, find out. If you don't know how to find out, learn. For example in Windows, you can view the file's size in Windows Explorer. Make sure the Views option at the top right is set to Details. This will allow you to see a Size column reflecting each file's size.

=> If you are sending a file over 200,000 (200KB) in size consider how you can minimize the file's size either by reducing the physical dimensions or by using file compression software. And, even then, courtesy dictates you ask the recipient first if it is O.K. to send them an attachment and what is the best time of day to do so to ensure they are available to download your file and keep their e-mail flowing.

Never send attachments without warning especially after business hours or on weekends when the recipient may not be there to clear out their inbox.

=> Files over 1M (that's 1,000,000 bytes!) should not be sent by e-mail and will have a hard time going through the pipeline. Just because you can physically instruct a computer to attach a file of that size doesn't mean you should. You could also instruct your computer to reformat/erase your hard drive but you don't do you?

=> Files should only be sent in a format that you know the other side has the appropriate software to view - because you asked first! For example, not everyone has MS Publisher, Excel or PowerPoint. If the other side does not have Excel and you send a Excel file to them, they most likely will not be able to open it.

=> When it comes to graphics and photos, just assume the files are gargantuan. Whether the files are for business or personal matters, here again you need to compress either the file's size with one of the many compression utilities available or reduce the physical dimensions of the graphic or photo.

Learn how to resample/resize the graphic to no larger than 600 pixels in width. 600 pixels is large enough for the majority of uses - especially if you are just sharing photos with friends or family. For use on your Web site, they need not be larger than this either. Photos thousands of pixels wide easily get up into the 2-4M range! Yikes!!

=> Never send anyone an e-mail with an attachment about anything, (particularly your product or service) if the recipient did not specifically e-mail you for that information and you are responding to his or her request. By sending overly large files (even several personal photos) you can cause the other person's e-mail box to fill and all their subsequent e-mail to bounce.

You have no insight into the other person's e-mail volume to assume activity to be minimal or storage capacity to be optimal to receive your files. You do know what happens when you assume? Many e-mail accounts are only 5M in size and can be filled up very easily by those who either don't care to or don't know how to determine file size.

To send an attachment without notice that someone didn't ask for is the epitome of lack of courtesy for those you are e-mailing. No matter how important you think that attachment is - you now have no excuse to ignore the above issues when attaching it to an e-mail. Don't attach that file without first knowing its size, format and notifying the person on the other side that it is on its way.

Just a little common courtesy can go a long way to you being perceived as a person who is a pleasure to communicate with and who also understands the technology in which they are participating.

About the Author:
Judith Kallos is an authoritative and good-humored Technology Muse who has played @ for over a decade. Check out her popular Software, Programming and Web Design Cheat Sheets @

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