Missionary Geek

I recently talked with a missionary and asked him what he either loved or hated about technology. Immediately he said that he did not understand email attachments. He did not know how to do them or how to open them. I trust this little guide will help you know what to do with attachments.

Should You Use Attachments?

paper attached to a clotheslineGenerally I would encourage you to avoid attachments in email. If you are attaching a document that is basically text to start with, then just copy and paste the text into the email and be done with it. It is a waste of time and resources to make your recipient have to open an attachment when everything that is in it could have been said in a simple email.

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Attachments can contain viruses and malware. Even previously benign formats like PDF and JPG can carry harmful software, so is better to use known PDF software as sodapdf for any conversion you need. If your recipient is overly cautious (which they should be), they may throw out your attachment without even looking at it. Opening attachments, even from people you know, can be harmful.

Sending Attachments

If you determine that you need to send an attachment here are a few things to consider.

Try to choose a standard file format. If you are sending a text-based or graphics-based document (and have the ability) send it as a PDF. This is better than a proprietary word processing document like an MS Word file. Even if you think everyone uses Microsoft Office don’t send MS Office specific files. Various versions of Office won’t even open other versions of Office files. Make sure you pick a file format that is readable by any of your recipients on any machine and operating system they may be using.

Don’t send an empty email with an attachment. Explain to the person what the attachment is and why you are sending it. This lets the recipient know that it was not automatically attached to every email you send. If it were automatically attached, that would be an indication that you have a virus.

There are various ways to actually attach the document. The simplest is to look for a paperclip logo or the word “Attach/Attachment” at the top of the email creation dialog box. Click that button and another dialog box will pop up and allow you to navigate to the file you want to attach. Select the file and press OK.

Keep in mind that some email providers limit file attachments to 5 MB. Of those that let you attach larger files, most limit the size to 25 MB. If your recipient is paying for online time, has slower bandwidth speeds or pays per MB of downloads, attachments can be difficult for them to receive. All of these situation could be true when sending files to other missionaries. In these cases, it would be better to upload the file to a file server and tell the recipient where they can get a copy of the file. It creates more work for them to get the file, but they have the option to download the file or not.

Receiving Attachments

The safest way to handle attachments is to immediately delete the email that contains the attachment and write the person who sent it and ask them to send you a plain text email with the information. While that is the safest thing to do with attachments, it may not be the most practical. If you must open an attachment, here are some guidelines.

Scan all attachments for viruses. Usually this can be done with a right-click on the file and choose the option to scan with your virus software. Some email programs may require that you save the file to your hard drive before you can scan it for viruses. If that is the case, save the file and then right click on it through your file browser (Windows Explorer or Mac Finder). Choose the option to scan using your virus software.

After the attachment has been cleared of viruses you can usually double-click the file in your mail program to cause it to open in the appropriate application. Again, you may need to save the file to your hard drive before you are able to open the file for viewing.

If, after trying to open the file, a pop-up says you need to install something to view the file, then that should be a red-flag telling you that the file might have a virus or that the person sending you the file choose a file format that your computer cannot read. Ask the person to resend the file in some other format. Or, better yet, ask them to resend just the text of the file as an email and avoid the attachment altogether.

You should try to help your family and friends avoid using email attachments. Attachments are not difficult to do, but there are potential virus and software compatibility problems to deal with for the recipient. By intelligently avoiding attachments you can eliminate some of the frustration and anxiety associated with them.

About David Peach

David is a missionary working with the Deaf. His focus is helping churches in Latin America start ministries for the Deaf in their communities. He currently lives with his wife and kids in Mérida, México. David also serves as the Director of Deaf Ministries for his mission board, Baptist International Outreach.

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