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USE E-MAIL EFFECTIVELY


July 1, 2000
By Pulp & Paper Canada

E-mail is now a well-established means of communication. However, I am often surprised to run into people who use basic E-mail routinely, but miss out on some of the benefits available beyond sending …

E-mail is now a well-established means of communication. However, I am often surprised to run into people who use basic E-mail routinely, but miss out on some of the benefits available beyond sending and receiving simple messages.

Virtually all readers of the magazine should have convenient accessible E-mail at work, with their own address, if they are to work efficiently. Having E-mail at home for personal reasons is worth the cost for many.

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It is worth knowing about the following features, if you are not already comfortable using them.

Sending attached files: The most useful feature of E-mail that I see underused is the ability to attach files to messages.

An “attached file” refers to any computer file that is sent with an E-mail. You can attach a letter, report, spreadsheet, picture, CAD drawing, or music.

All E-mail software supports attaching files, normally by using the “Insert” or “File” commands while writing the E-mail. If your E-mail software is compatible, and properly installed, most or all of your Windows based software will have an option “Send” or “Send to” under the “File” menu. When you click on it, one of the choices will be “Mail Recipient” or E-mail” or similar. Simply clicking on it will do what is required.

Attaching files to E-mail is easy, but making sure that the recipient of your missive can read it is not quiet so simple. When sending from within your word processor of other software, you often have the choice between sending the files directly, or “as attachment”. If you select the latter, the recipient must have the same software as you are sending from if he/she is to be able to open the file.

If you do not routinely communicate with your addressee, you can phone first to find out what he has, or just try sending one or more popular file formats, and ask him to respond if he cannot read them. The most common difficulty is when you have a more up-to-date version of a program than your addressee. All the major software today allows you to save files in older formats, normally by using the “Save As” command under the “File” menu. Unless you are using the more exotic features of the latest version of the software, nothing will be lost by saving in an older format.

One fairly safe way of being sure your addressees can read a file is to send a PDF version, as discussed in the April 2000 issue, but this necessitates your having the Adobe Acrobat writing software.

There is a bewildering variety of file formats for pictures. Virtually anyone can read a file saved in JPG format, and most graphics software can save in this format. Sometimes the command is under “File” then “Export” instead of “Save”.

Receiving files attached to E-mail: When you receive a file attached to an E-mail, you can often open it by double clicking on the filename or icon in the E-mail. Once you have read the file, you can save it, print it or delete it, as you wish.

About half the people who call me because they cannot read a file that I have E-mailed to them have the necessary software, but do not know how to access it to read the file.

The surest way of dealing with received files that do not open readily is to first save them to a folder of your choice. In most E-mail software you can click on “File” then “Save Attachments” to do this. Right-clicking on the name of the receive file will often lead you in the appropriate direction. Once saved, the file can be opened with the appropriate software, just as if you had created it yourself.

In the Microsoft Windows environment, there is no label attached to a file that defines its format explicitly. Most people use the filename’s extensions (the three letters after the last dot in a filename) to define the format. In many cases, the user does not even choose the extension, because his software does it automatically. Unfortunately, some users, mostly those using Word Perfect, use the extension for other reasons, confusing some of the software trying to read the file.

To improve your computer’s ability to open files by a simple double click, you may have to inform Windows which program to use for each type of file. To do so, go to Windows Explorer, and click on “My Computer” on the desktop or in Windows Explorer, then pick the “View” menu at the top of the screen, then “Other Options”, “File types”. You can then fill out the dialog box, using Windows help if necessary.

Another, and perhaps easier, way of training your computer is to save the file, then double click on its name in Windows Explorer. A dialog box called “Open with” will usually appear. This gives you a way to decide which software to use to open a file. There is a check-box in this dialog that allows you to decide whether your computer should remember this extension, and to use your selected software to open all files with this extension in future.

Fax vs E-mail: Assuming that you and your correspondent can both process attached files, E-mail allows transmission of much higher quality graphics than Fax. Transmission costs are zero for E-mail, whereas Fax costs up to about $0.50 per page for overseas calls.

Color pictures: Scanned color pictures can be sent by E-mail, but the files can become quite large. Unless you have other arrangements with your correspondent, it is usually best to convert pictures to JPG format, because anybody with any web browsing software can read them, and the file size is normally relatively small.

Most graphics editing software, including Microsoft Photo Editor, which is included free with Windows 98, allows you to set the number of pixels (resolution) in the image.

If the image is to be viewed primarily on a screen, then adequate quality can usually be achieved if there are only 800 pixels wide. Some graphics can be a few thousand pixels wide, generating large files, so it is often useful to adjust this. You have to experiment with a few values, and save the files to see how much disc space they take, to decide what value is most appropriate.

Copy graphics into E-mail: You can easily cut and paste a graphic into an E-mail, but this can be a problem for some recipients who use older E-mail software. This approach is most useful with regular correspondents with whom you have tested the idea.

E-mail on-the-road: Many companies have set up their E-mail systems so that users can dial in from any phone.

Several organizations, including Yahoo, Hotmail and Canada.com provide free E-mail service. All are rather clumsy for full time use, but since they can be accessed from any computer on the web (if you know the password) they are very useful when traveling.

Security: I feel that, on a practical level, E-mail is as secure as Canada Post, couriers or the telephone. The risk of wrongly addressing a letter (or hitting the wrong speed dial button on a Fax etc) is probably greater than criminal interception.

It is very easy to protect any file with a password, E-mail it, and to provide the password to the recipient by an independent route. This provides considerable security, but of course, nothing is proof against a resourceful and determined criminal.


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