Email Attachments Are Obsolete

Sending a large file to someone by attaching it to an email is a bad idea. It’s like moving a refrigerator using the US Mail. It’s like giving someone a turkey sandwich, using the whole turkey. It is now completely unnecessary.

It has always been a bad idea. But in the past we didn’t have better options. We could use a CD, a DVD, a flash drive, etc. But email is how we communicate, and Internet companies were not giving us good places to store and share files online. The evolution of cloud storage and computing in recent years has changed this entirely, and email attachment is no longer a good method for sharing documents.

We will still use email to share the file – we just don’t have to attach the file to the email itself. Now there are more efficient ways to transmit large files using email. They’re free and easy to use, too.

The Problem with Email Attachments

When you send a file by email, a copy of it is made, uploaded to the internet, and attached to your email message. The email is sent and stored in your email account. The recipient receives the email, which includes a link to download the file from a server. They download the file, and the copy is stored in their email account.

There are now 4 copies of the document: one on your hard drive, one in your email, one in their email, and one on their hard drive.

When you have large files stored in your Web email account, the account takes longer to load up. It’s bogging you down. It’s using your space. It’s doing the same thing to the people with whom you share large files.

Instead of uploading the file to your email account, why not upload it to a place that’s designed to share large files with people, using email? Send that fridge with a moving company, not the mailman.

Use Dropbox

When you put a file in your Dropbox folder, within seconds it is automatically uploaded and stored on the Internet, just like when you attach a file to an email. So that part of the job is already done.

A link is also created, for use in sharing that file with others. Now all you need to do is send that link in an email. You have shared the file, but the email message stays light and small; it won’t bog anything down.

To send a link with a PC:

  1. Open Dropbox and locate the file you want to share.
  2. Right click it, select Dropbox > Share Link.
    Your Web browser will open and display the file.
  3. Copy the Address from the Address field at the top of the window.
  4. Paste the link into your email.

share link

The file is safe. No one except the person with whom you share the link can find it. Here’s a link to a file stored in my Dropbox.

As you can see, there’s no chance anyone else could guess that link: it’s like having a secret password to the file built in.

Does the recipient need to have Dropbox too? No. The recipient doesn’t have to do anything special or log in or sign up for anything. Just click the link, and they’re done.

Keep in mind that the button in an email to download an attachment is also a link they have to click. This isn’t more complicated, it’s just better.

Dropbox securely backs up the file and syncs it with all of your computers. Including your smartphone or tablet. So you could be riding (not driving!) in a car, open your Dropbox iPhone app and share a link. Dropbox will even start and compose the email for you!

To share a file from iPhone:

  1. Open the Dropbox App, locate the file, and tap to open it.
  2. Tap the Share icon, which looks like an arrow flying out of a little square.
  3. You are given a list of options for sharing the file, including email, text, Facebook and even Twitter.

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Other Services

This same kind of functionality is also available with Skydrive, Google Drive, Box, and even your own Web site if you have one. But I’m focusing on Dropbox for now, because of its ease of use across platforms.

Being Unreachable

Lifehacker: How Being Unreachable Makes Me More Productive

What a helpful article this is. It’s not wildly insightful, it’s common sense. Sometimes that’s just what I need. Technology is turning each of us into a walking, taking bubble of always connected inefficiency. Sometimes it’s necessary to disconnect. And it will be necessary to teach those we live and work with how to deal with it. Thoughts?

AOL Scam

Are you now, or have you ever been a member of America Online? Check your bank statement. You could be paying them monthly for service you’re not getting and don’t need.  

Don’t miss this post on my G+ stream. It leads to information on my AOL is ripping off a couple of million people – mostly older Americans – every month.

The company still gets eighty per cent of its profits from subscribers, many of whom are older people who have cable or DSL service but don’t realize that they need not pay an additional twenty-five dollars a month to get online and check their e-mail. “The dirty little secret,” a former AOL executive says, “is that seventy-five per cent of the people who subscribe to AOL’s dial-up service don’t need it.” [Link to original source.]

A Smartphone May Not Be The Smartest Choice

(For me, at least.)

I’ve been thinking about my next phone. Maybe it should be a smart one. I have time because my new phone date is in December. So, I’m watching the discussions on iPhones and Androids. But now maybe there’s another option: keep using little pocket phones and get a Nexus 7 Android tablet instead of a smart phone. Here’s my thinking.

My communications toolbox currently includes desktop, laptop, and cell phone. Not a smartphone, just a little phone that fits nicely in a small pocket.


My current phone has all the phone features of an iPhone or a Droid. You can talk to people and tell them they’re breaking up, then call them back when the call gets dropped. Your odds are better with a landline on the other end. But I don’t know of anybody using any mobile phone who has a better experience than that.

This is because the technology for adding abounding features to phones moved very fast. Nobody in the mobile phone business had much time to get the call quality working well before the phones became cameras, personal organizers, and computers. So they didn’t bother. In terms of talking, cell phones work just a little better than they did 10 years ago, right? … Can you &@$%+! hear me now?

The reality as I see it is that smartphones are great little computers. But they’re a little too big to be phones. They’re a little too small to be useful computers. And they are not superior for voice calls.

Using a smartphone makes your cellular bill go up. You have to pay for data. And right now, there’s a lot of chaos in the wind because cell companies are changing their pricing and forcing people into data plans they don’t want. The costs are going up, especially for single people like me. Check out a CNET article and short video here.

So I’ve been thinking, what I really want is a tablet, like an iPad, not a new phone. But the iPad is expensive (roughly $400 – $700, depending on version and options) and maybe it’s a little too big. I already have a full size 17” laptop. Maybe I want something smaller – in between the smartphone and the iPad. And less expensive.

There are other 7” and 10” tablets on the market and I’ll probably check out more before I make a choice. But Google’s Nexus 7 is, by all reports so far, an awesome little computer. Bigger than a smartphone, smaller than a tablet, about the size of a Kindle. At $200, it’s ⅓ the price of an iPad. It’s doesn’t require a data plan because it’s not a phone. It connects via WiFi. So why not have a Nexus 7 for mobile computing, and keep using the kind of phone I’ve got? It’s a win win solution, right?

Check out the Nexus 7 in this video.

Share your thoughts using the reply function below, or just email me if you prefer.

Glitches in Google Docs

I like Google Docs (Drive). I used it to compose this post. Even though I write almost entirely on my own computers, use Dropbox, and have plenty of options for word processing and text editing, I just enjoy using it. It makes sense.

I’ve been using Google Docs for as long as the public has been able to; in fact, I used Writely a little before Google bought it out.

The text editor is great for short, simple documents, especially if you’re collaborating. The spreadsheet is just an awesome alternative to Excel. And who doesn’t like not having to Save?

All that being said, there are problems with G-Docs document writer. It’s not fully compatible with MS Word. And sooner or later, most of my documents will get exported to Word for advanced formatting and layout, before publication.

G-Docs exports OK in rtf and odt, but not in doc (I use Word in MS Office 2003 Pro). If I export to doc and open the file in Word, the spelling checker in Word won’t work. I’ve tried it in Win7 and XP, using Chrome and Firefox (not that the browser should matter.)

There must be an artifact in the G-Docs document template which conflicts with MS Word. The spellcheck won’t work, even if I copy-paste into Word from Google or open a new Word file and paste in from the original Word export.

There are 3 workarounds:

  • Paste into Notepad, then copy and paste again into Word (and lose all your formatting).
  • Export to rtf then open in Word.
  • Export to odt, open in LibreOffice or OpenOffice, then save as doc.

I’ve noticed other problems with line and paragraph breaks, and paragraph formatting, when exporting to Word. Tables almost always get messed up, and must be formatted again. And when I pasted this blog text from G-Docs into my blogging software for upload, the text was one big glob, no line breaks. So I pasted into Notepad first, and that worked fine.

The release of Drive has revealed more glitches, such as the fact that folders created in the desktop app may never show up online. But it seems to be fine to create folders online, then use them on the desktop.

I know, this has to be the epitome of First World Problems. But geek is as geek blogs. (Now that’s a sentence that my Grandfather wouldn’t recognize as English.)

Google docs – Drive – is surpassingly cool. I hope in time Google will iron out the kinks, so that it grows into a platform worthy of trust and respect, not just admiration.

Save Files from Gmail to Google Drive

So far, Google hasn’t given us the ability to quickly save attachments from Gmail to Google Drive. Yes, it seems obvious they should. But until they do, a tech columnist named Amit Agarwal has devised a brilliant work-around.

Send your Gmail Attachments to Google Drive »

You can apply the #GoogleDrive label to any Gmail message to quickly save all the attachments in your Google Drive.

How To Write

I came across these 10 good tips on writing well for business. This is from a 1982 internal memo by David Ogilvy, a famous businessman.

His ideas apply to creative writing too, I think. I studied business writing and rhetoric in college, as well as creative writing. I believe all writing skills inform each other.

I’m going to follow his list by repeating it with my thoughts. Because, you know, I’m a writer and it’s my blog. I have to do the heavy lifting around here.

  1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
  2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.
  3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
  4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
  5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.
  6. Check your quotations.
  7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.
  8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
  9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
  10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.

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