Monday, November 5, 2012

Attachment Disorder

A regular reader suggested I bring the use of attachments to the fore here on Text-to-Me.  You know what I mean, those lengthy missives people attach to their brief well written emails - usually for the purpose of you reading them! Pretty much any file attached to your email is considered an attachment. It might be a text document, video, image or pretty much any file which meets the size (or other) requirements of your particular email server.

From: Freedigitalphotos
Sending attachments around the globe, and so quickly, was one of the reasons I really liked email when I first started using it. It makes for an easy and speedy way of sharing work with others. While in some quarters email attachments are becoming less popular - with the use of cloud accounts like Dropbox  or Google Docs where you can share documents, or Flickr where you can share photos - they are a part and parcel of the email culture in most organisations.

A good receiver be!

Let's start with the receiving of attachments. A little like the rules in administering first aid - first do no harm. Ensure you only open attachments from a trusted source, and ensure that your security software checks them all.  This includes the settings on your mobile devices. Remember that emails are filtered by corporations and may not get to your inbox if you have attachments which are deemed unsafe or possible SPAM.  So if you are expecting attachments from a colleague, check to make sure their email has not ended up in your SPAM folder. (you DO check that folder occasionally don't you?).

Secondly - know your email software. Attachments will 'appear' different in various email programs.  If you have more than one program ensure you know how to check, send and open attachments in all programs. Most programs will have a paperclip symbol accompany emails with attachments in your inbox as a hint.

Importantly - read them.  Or at least open them to see what they are (if you are sure they are from a 'safe' source).  The sender intended you to have them for some reason - so do the courtesy of checking them. If they are useful or you may need them in the future, save them in folder on your computer - don't assume you will be able to find them again on your email program in three months time! It is frankly annoying, and not great relationship building, to have to ask someone to re-send them because you never thought enough of them to save them.

Be a courteous correspondent.

Now to sending them. If you want your attachments read, then you might want to take a little more time in preparing them for sending. First - is it necessary to send them?  For example if you are working on a virtual team project there are many other ways to work collaboratively on documents using cloud based file storage or internal file exchange systems. This is particularly useful for large files. If you have a large number of visuals, a cloud based storage may be a better option for these too.  Failing that - consider zipping (compressing) the files so they don't use up too much space.

Having determined the attachments are necessary to send, consider your reader. If they are critical, you may wish to pre-empt the attachment's arrival. Anyone working in a large organisation may never receive them if they are considered SPAM by the incoming server. If they are expecting them, they will at least be able to track them down. If you don't warn them - perhaps send a followup email.

Another polite consideration is the file name.  While it might make sense to you to have the file called GTR-456 or PDF6, ensure it also makes sense to the recipient. Calling the file by the report title, with a date and version number could be much more effective.

You also need to consider the format you send your attachments. If you want to ensure they are easily read consider sending them as a PDF.  With the predominance of iPads in the tablet market you probably don't want to send attachments requiring Flash to view them, as iPads and Flash still aren't (easily) compatible .

Always use a pertinent subject line and perhaps a line in the body of the email as well letting the recipient know what you want them to do with the attachments. Are they FYI or do they require action? Be specific.

If the attachment is of a private nature, first consider if email is the best way to get it to the recipient, and then consider encrypting it or passwording the file. Of course you wouldn't send the password in the body of the same email would you?

Whether recipient or sender be - consider the netiquette of attachments.  And if you haven't used cloud based programs for sharing documents yet, now might be the time to consider their use.

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