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Email attachments can create all types of problems from simply forgetting to add the attachment to sending the wrong attachment, to sending it in a format the reader can't open. Although these situations are aggravating, they can usually be remedied. Much more serious issues are sending a large attachment that could shut down the receiver's server, or fill the inbox, causing subsequent emails to bounce. Also, many computer viruses that completely wipe out all the files on a company's hard drive are sent through email attachments.
So let's look at what you can do to send and receive efficient and safe attachments. Oops, I forgot the attachment in my previous email or, guess it would help if you actually had the attachment. Ever have to send one of those embarrassing messages? I certainly have. You hit Send, and the second you let go of the Send button you realize you forgot the attachment. Since the entire point of the email is to send the attachment, you might try to get into the habit of adding the attachment before composing the message. Of even more help are programs, G-Mail for example, that will look for words such as attachment, and will alert you that you may not have attached anything after you hit Send, but before the message is actually released.
Ever sent the incorrect attachment? To keep this from happening, after you attach the file, open it from the email before you send it to double check that it is the file you intended to send. If a file has been edited and the file names aren't clear, the incorrect version may get incorrectly attached if each version wasn't clearly named. Another concern is being sure the recipient can view the attached file. If you aren't certain what types of files your recipient can view, consider using plain text. Avoid bold and underlines and fancy formatting for example.
These may look fine on your computer, but the message may look strange to the reader or completely unreadable. If you want to preserve all the formatting and graphics, you might convert it to a PDF file. Most recipients can open PDF files because they are not operating systems or software specific. Free software is available for the conversion. Next, consider the size of attachment and the number of attachments. Large attachments or multiple attachments, which can add up very quickly, could shut down the recipient server.
Be aware that the receiver system may have a limit to what can be received. Most email applications can send and receive attachments up to 1 megabyte. If you need to send a larger file or multiple files, you could compress it or zip it. Those actions, however, come with their own set of issues. For example, many mobile devices can't open ZIP files. Another possibility is to consider if the information you want to attach is available on a web page. If so, you could include that link in your email message, rather than sending a large attachment.
What if you are the recipient of an attachment? All recipients should be wary of unsolicited attachments, even those that look like they are from a trusted source. Viruses can duplicate return addresses making the message look legitimate. If possible, check with a person who supposedly sent it to make sure that it is legit. If you have to open an attachment before you can verify the source, be sure your company software is up to date. Many systems automatically update patches. Or you might also check to see if your email program will allow you to disable the automatically download attachment feature.
If so, turn it off. So, before you attach that next file, or open an attachment you've been sent, consider these important issues. Is the correct file actually attached? Will the format be readable? Can the file be opened? And is it virus free? Taking precautions before sending or opening that next email attachment is well worth the extra effort.
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