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With the ability to send attachments to e-mail messages comes some responsibilities. Before attaching a file to an e-mail message, you should understand the implications of doing so.

Are there alternatives to sending attachments?

If your attachment contains text based content, then you can (and in most cases should) include the content in your e-mail message. To do this, copy the content from the file you want to attach (using Edit, Copy and Paste) into your e-mail message.

What are the potential concerns of sending information as an attachment?

There are many issues and potential concerns related to using attachments. Following are a few related to sending a word processor document as an attachment:

  • Attachments are larger files and take longer to download, they use more bandwidth and more disk space than a text file with the same content. This adds an additional cost to the organization.
  • If the recipient is receiving their mail over a dialup connection it takes much longer. Also it adds to the cost when they are accessing via a long distance call.
  • When sending e-mail with attachments to multiple recipients, it taxes your bandwidth (slows down everyone's internet connection in your office and in the offices that are receiving multiple copies).
  • When sending e-mail with attachments to multiple recipients, it also increases the likelihood of incompatable operating systems, e-mail programs, etc.
  • The recipient must go through the process of detaching and opening the application to view the contents.
  • Not everyone has the same version of word processors. Someone with MicroSoft Word, can't read a StarOffice document.
  • Not everyone is using an e-mail application that automatically launches the correct application to display the file. Therefore the recipient must detach and save the document, then guess which application to use to open it (if you didn't tell them that it is a WordPerfect 6.0 document) and then open that particular file.
  • Most people have a limited amount of space for their email. Sending attachments may push them over their quota and keep them from receiving other messages.

When should I send an attachment?

Reserve attachments for the following:

  • The content is other than text. For example, graphics or images, spreadsheets, and applications. (Only send application or executable files when you are certain that they do not contain viruses).
  • The layout of the information is as important as the content, such as registration forms, flyers, newsletters that have been formatted and the recipient would want a hard copy rather than just the content.
  • The recipient prefers to receive the information as attachments.
  • You know for certain that the recipient has an e-mail program, operating system, applications, internet connection and knowledge necessary to easily and conveniently detach and read the application.

How can I make using attachments easier for the recipient?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Make sure the file has the correct filename extension.
  • Learn the preferences of those you share files with. What applications do they use?