About Overcome Email Overload with Eudora 5
Other email material by Kaitlin Duck Sherwood:
Humorous looks at email:
Overcome Email Overload with Eudora 5|
Copyright © 2001 Kaitlin Duck Sherwood
What you see when you create a paper document is the same thing that your correspondent will see when reading it. On the other hand, there are a lot of different email programs, each with their own way of presenting messages. Your email program might display a message quite differently from how your correspondent's software displays it. It is relatively easy to send someone a message that they can't understand.
Why is this? For starters, when people first started using Internet email in the early 1970s, the technical and social environments were very different. Early email messages used only very simple text. Anything else would have been impractical:
The first email standards didn't allow attachments, styled text, or even non-Latin character sets. Later, when people decided they wanted to be able to send more kinds of messages, the software had to stay backwards-compatible with the simple text. This means that everything sent by email today--from video to Chinese hypertext to Spanish spreadsheets--is encoded in Latin characters.
Furthermore, because the Internet grew out of a U.S. government project, it was aggressively non-profit for the first twenty years of email. No one person or company was allowed to control the email standards, so nobody could control the software. Anybody could write email software, and pretty much anybody did. (Even I have written two non-commercial email programs.) There are now many different email programs, each with different features and capabilities.
Finally, it would be impossible to make all email programs understand all file formats. In 1993 the email specification was extended to allow people to send attachments --documents in any arbitrary formats. However, the email program doesn't have responsibility for showing those documents. Instead, you must have "helper" programs that understand the various formats. If you don't have a helper program that understands a format, then you can't read that type of attachment.
While your close co-workers might all use the same email program that you do, you might need to correspond with people in other divisions, other countries, or even other companies. They might not have the same email program that you do.
If you send a message that your correspondent has a hard time understanding, he or she will probably send you another message. You will then need to spend time both reading his or her message and re-writing your original message.
To figure out what email program your correspondent uses, open one of his or her messages in its own window, then click on the BLAH BLAH BLAH button in the upper left of the window. The name of the email program is usually in the X-Mailer: or User-Agent: header.
Some versions of Eudora don't use X-Mailer: or User-Agent: . However, you might be able to recognize Eudora messages from the first few characters of the Message-ID: header. A Message-ID: that starts with v , p , or a followed by four digits usually means that Eudora sent the message. (The four digits give the version number. For example, v0421 means the sender used Eudora version 4.2.1.) Message-ID : headers from Eudora for Windows frequently start with three digits, separated by periods which correspond to the version number. For example, Eudora for Windows version 4.0.1 sends messages with Message-ID: headers that start with 4.0.1 .
Most current consumer-grade email programs (including Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Outlook Express, Netscape Communicator, and AOL) understand styled text. However, some older or more obscure email programs only understand plain text. Italics, bold, and color changes will show up to those programs as commands in the text. The sender might see something like this:
You can set Eudora to prevent you from sending styled text. Eudora will then strip all formatting out when it sends messages. To do this, go to the Tools -> Options... -> Styled Text (Windows) or Special -> Settings... -> Styled Text (Mac OS) window and select the radio button next to Send plain text mail only .
You can also strip formatting from your message while you compose it. First, select the text you want to make plain. If you are using Eudora for Windows press Control-Space . If you are using Eudora for Mac OS, press Command-Option-t . Alternatively, you can press the "strip formatting" button. This button is at or near the right end of the formatting toolbar, as circled in Figure 36 and Figure 37:
You can make Eudora send two messages in one, with the first part plain and the second part styled. Advanced email programs will use the styled part. People who use an older email program will see the plain, intelligible text first followed by the same kind of unintelligible text as in the previous example. To set Eudora to send both versions, select the radio button next to Send plain & styled both .
Despite the name, the button labeled Send styled mail only will only send styled text if you make some text styled (like italicized, underlined, or a different fond). Most of the time it will send plain text.
This is a fixed-width (or monospaced) font.
However, you need to be careful when using a proportional-width font. Even if your correspondents' software has the capability to change fonts, if that font you used isn't on their system, their software might substitute a different font. That new font probably won't have the same spacing as the font you used. Any vertical alignment that you have in your message (especially in tables) will probably get messed up.
Even if your correspondents use an email program that can display different fonts, they might not choose to see different fonts. People who frequently get fonts that are too small to easily read might instruct their email program to always use their default font. Thus, what they read might not look the same as what you wrote.
Because HTML removes extra spaces and tabs, messages that are displayed in HTML might look different than the messages you composed. This most commonly happens if your correspondent reads email through a Web-based service. The previous message can sometimes look like this when read from a Web page:
If you need to send tables of information to someone who reads their email with a web-based service, ask if they have a different account. If they don't, you might want to send the information in a different form.
Unfortunately, not everyone's email program can recognize URLs. Even if your correspondent's program can, it is a lot dumber than your correspondent: the software will guess wrong sometimes. You can help the software recognize URLs correctly by taking care when writing messages.
Many email programs look for the character string http:// to decide if something is a URL or not. If the opening http:// isn't there, the software will think it is just regular text. This means your correspondent will have to copy the address and paste it into a Web browser by hand.
Outlook and Outlook Express will recognize URLs that start with www or ftp followed by a period. However, even Outlook and Outlook express can't recognize URLs that start with something besides www or ftp. I don't know of any email program that can recognize that these are URLs:
While Eudora usually recognizes where a URL finishes and where punctuation begins, some other email software doesn't recognize the end of a URL as well. Sometimes, email software includes any punctuation that follows the URL. For example, look at the following message:
Some email software thinks that the last period (after html ) is part of the URL. Thus, if someone clicks on the link, they'll get an error that the page doesn't exist. This can lead to an unproductive email exchange, with one person insisting that the page doesn't exist and the other insisting that it does.
Unfortunately, angle brackets right against the URL make it slightly harder to cut-and-paste the URL. A few years ago, I had repetitive strain injury, and had to operate a trackball with my foot. I was using an older email program that required cutting and pasting URLs, and had a really hard time getting the cursor between the < and the http . While I understand that not many people mouse with their feet, there are a lot of diseases that decrease coordination, making it difficult to get the cursor between the < and the http .
Attachments allow people to share any file in any format. GIF images, JPEG images, Word documents, WordPerfect documents, Photoshop files, Excel spreadsheets, and executable files are just a few of the types of documents people routinely attach to messages.
This can work very well: people can skim through the text of a message and save long attachments for later. However, if the reader's email software doesn't recognize attachments and receives a non-text file (like a Word document, a binary, a picture, or even compressed text), it will appear as lots of garbage. Pages and pages of garbage, usually.
Even if the readers have email software that understands what attachments are, they still need to have the right software to read the document. Think of it this way: somebody can use the Post Office to send you any kind of document. However, if someone sends you microfilm, you won't be able to read it without microfilm equipment.
In general, it is a good idea to check with your correspondents to see what kind of attachments they can understand before sending one. Be sure to ask about version numbers and hardware platforms as well. Someone who has a Macintosh running Microsoft Word 3.0 will have difficulty opening a Word for Windows 6.0 document.
If some of your correspondents are low on disk space or have a slow Internet connection, they will not be happy to receive a large attachment--like a 200MB video--no matter how funny it is. It is almost always better to post large documents on the Web and email the URL instead of the file. If you don't have that option, please email your correspondents first and ask if they want the attachment.
Even if your correspondent is able to view your attachments, he or she might be afraid to. You've probably already seen the problems that viruses in attachments can give an organization. Plain text messages, on the other hand, can't carry computer viruses.
If there is a mismatch in the line length between the sender and the receiver, the message will look ugly on the receiver's screen. Some email software will keep displaying the line until there is a carriage return, forcing the reader to scroll to the right:
Eudora, like many email programs, can word wrap--move words to a new line if the line length is longer than the window is wide. Eudora will always word wrap incoming messages, so the previous message would be easy to read with Eudora:
Eudora can also wrap outgoing messages, so that your correspondents won't have to scroll to the right to read all of your messages. Eudora will wrap outgoing messages as long as you don't uncheck the box marked word wrap in Special -> Settings... -> Composing Mail (Mac OS) or Tools -> Options... -> Composing Mail (Windows).
However, you need to be careful not to put in carriage returns at the ends of your lines. If Eudora has a different opinion of where the end of the line is, your correspondent might see alternating long lines and short lines. The break at the end of the long line will be from Eudora word wrapping; the break at the end of the short line is from the Return/Enter that you put in.
Eudora will let you unwrap a message--remove the carriage returns and make the line lengths more uniform--but the option isn't easy to find. With Eudora for Mac OS, when you hold down the Option key, the Edit menu will change to have an option Unwrap Selection . Select the text you want to unwrap, hold down the Option key, and select Edit -> Unwrap Selection .
If, after unwrapping, you end up with `>' signs at only the beginning of each paragraph, you can try rewrapping the selection. Selecting Edit -> Wrap Selection converts paragraphs that start with one `>' to a paragraph with `>' at the beginning of every line.
Eudora normally marks quoted material with vertical black bars--what Eudora calls excerpt bars --to the left of the quoted text. However, most email programs use ">". Even if you compose a message with excerpt bars, unless your correspondents use Eudora, they will probably see ">" where you see excerpt bars.
How can they see ">" when you see excerpt bars? Eudora sends the message with ">" marks at the beginning of every line of quoted material, but sends a special instruction hidden in the header. That instruction-- format=flowed --tells Eudora that lines starting with ">" can be word-wrapped. When Eudora receives a message with format=flowed , it then converts the ">" marks into excerpt bars and wraps the text.
You need to be careful if a line in the body of a message starts with "From " (with a space after the "m". Because of some shortcuts taken when email was young and didn't know any better, "From " at the beginning of a line is always modified.
Email was traditionally stored as one long file of text, with one message after another. The first line in any email message starts with From followed by Space . (Eudora hides that line, so you won't ever see it.) Email programs could thus tell where one message stopped and the next message started by looking for " From " (with a space) at the beginning of a line.
However, if someone wrote a message that had " From " at the beginning of a line, it could fool the receiving email program into thinking that it had reached a message boundary. Thus, when sending a message, email programs are required to modify lines that start with From (with a capital F) followed by Space .
Eudora modifies lines that start with " From " by putting a space at the beginning of the line. When Eudora receives a message that starts with " From "(with Space before and after the From ), it takes the space out.
This means that if you are sending a message that has "From " at the beginning of a line, your correspondents might see a space that you don't. In messages that you receive, a line that starts with >From might not be a quote:
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