PAA e-mail lists--Don't send attachments; put them on web site instead

Submitted by Bill Crosier on January 18, 2006 - 12:16pm. ::

This FAQ explains why you should not send e-mail messages with attachments to our lists, and how to share those files with everyone in another way.

Many people want to share the latest political cartoon, photo, MS Word or Powerpoint file, MP3 song, flyer with embedded text about an event, or other file, to other people on our e-mail lists.

This sounds a good way to communicate ideas, and can certainly be more interesting than reading a lot of text. It's easy to send an attachment, and most people can get and open most attachments without a problem.

However, some people have problems opening attachments, and they can also cause other big problems, so we strongly discourage you from adding attachments to messages you send to our lists. This includes forwarded messages, too. There are better ways of sharing your files with others, and we'll help you do this-- see below.

Some reasons why you should not send attachments to our list:

1. Attachments are one of the main ways that viruses, worms, and other malware spread, especially to Windows users. EXE executables are one obvious way they can spread, but not the only way. For example, MS Word files can also harbor macro viruses. Just because a message appears to come from someone you know and trust does not mean that it's legitimate. Many viruses use names and e-mail addresses from an infected user's address book as the "From" address when they generate messages to spread to others in that same person's address book, to make it look like a friend is sending you a file you should open.

2. People who use digest mode for our lists often can't open the attachments, and sometimes it interferes with them reading other messages in the same digest. (Digest mode is where the mail server collects messages sent to the list, and then sends them out at the end of the day in a single "digest" message, so you don't get so many individual e-mail messages each day.)

3. Large attachments take a long time to download for people using dial-up Internet connections, and is guaranteed to annoy people who get too much e-mail and have a slow connection. If they don't want the attachment, or are running short on disk space, they'll just delete it anyway, and it irritates people when you force them to download a file that they don't want just so they can delete it and get to their next mail message.

4. Large attachments eat up bandwidth and disk space. A single photo can take the same bandwidth and disk space as many text messages, and when you send it to everyone on a list, these requirements are greatly multiplied.

5. Netiquette guidelines say that you shouldn't send large files or messages to people unless you know they want it.

6. Attachments can't be accessed from the Mailman archives on our web site. Thus, people who want to find an attachment that was sent to the list in the past can't get to them, unless they personally saved the attachment on their computer.

7. Attachments can't be located with the search function on our web site. Text describing a file that is in our photo gallery or downloads sections can be easily located via by searching, though.

8. Not everyone may have the application needed to open your file.

9. People may not have the time to look at your attachment when you first send your mail message, but they may want to find it later (perhaps weeks later). It's difficult or impossible to do this if it's attached to a mail message, especially one without a descriptive title, or which the recipient deleted because it took up too much disk space.

10. One of the main reasons why some people don't want to be on our e-mail lists, or drop off of our lists after being on them for a while, is that they get too much e-mail and especially don't want to get messages that take too long to download or take up too much disk space. We don't want people to drop off of our lists because of this.

11. Flyers with embedded text don't always display properly on all computers, and can make it impossible to find the information you sent out among the hundreds of e-mails that we all get by using a search function with our e-mail program.

12. Large graphics in e-mail messages, or attached to messages, may not be viewable by people reading their e-mail on their mobile phones, as is becoming more common all the time, plus they may not appreciate having to download large graphics and pay extra for their data plan on their phone.

13. Messages which have text embedded in graphics rather than as plain text violate one of the requirements for universal access -- that the information be in text form so that screen readers (such as those used by the blind) can know what's in the message.

We don't want to discourage you from sharing photos, cartoons, songs, or other files with people on our e-mail lists. We just want to keep from annoying those folks who won't be able to enjoy the file (see above), and to make it easier for people to find the file later.

So, do this instead:

1. The best and easiest way of making text information available to people on an e-mail list is to just copy and paste the text into the body of the e-mail message. This is much, much better in numerous ways and is easier for recipients to use and makes it more likely that they'll actually see and read it.

2. If the information has to be in a separate file, make sure the file is in a format that everyone can open. This means it's best to avoid proprietary formats (for Microsoft MS Word, Excel, Powerpoint, or Adobe Illustrator, etc.), or other formats that require a program that not everyone may have and which require non-free programs to open. RTF (interchange format) is best for formatted word processing documents that someone may need to edit. PDF (Portable Document Format) is best for formatted documents that don't need to be edited. MP3 is best for audio files. GIF is best for photos and similar graphics. If you aren't sure, or need help converting a file to a different format, send a message to our web team at and ask.

2. Run a virus check on the file with your favorite virus checker, to make sure it's not going to infect other people's computers. This is especially important if you got it in an e-mail from someone else.

3. Rather than sending a file as an e-mail attachment, it's better to upload the file to the photo gallery or downloads section of the PAA web site, then send a text message to one or more of our lists, giving a short description of the file and giving the URL (address, link) on where to find it. For example, you could send an e-mail message that says "If you want to get the flyer we distributed at the 2006 Martin Luther King, Jr. parade in Houston, you can get it from the PAA's web site, in the Impeach downloads section, at . It describes how Bush is destroying MLK's legacy, why Bush should be impeached, and has contact information for Houston-area US Representatives. You can find other downloads at ." A message like this makes it easy for people to find your file using the web site's search function, because the text of your message is posted in our forums, and all that is searchable.

We don't have a way (yet) where you can upload a file to our web site yourself. So, in the meantime, please mail it to and we'll upload it for you, and send you a link that you can include in a mail message like the example above, that you send to all your friends (on our lists or others).

This may seem like a nuisance for you to do this, but it's often a nuisance or worse (in the case of a virus) for multiple people when attachments are sent to our e-mail lists. Let's please be courteous to others.

Again, if you have questions or problems, please contact the PAA web team at

Thanks for your understanding and cooperation!