By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers
I've never come across an e-mail program that gave me a fighting chance.
All of them assume the wrong thing — that I don't want to know how some features work because I'm too dumb or too busy, or that I already know how they work so I don't need any additional information.
Phooey. Like you, I end up learning by trial and error. And that means a LOT of error and a very trying time. Some of what I've learned probably seems obvious to many of you, but I'll bet I can still come up with a couple of tricks you've never heard about.
Let's start with your e-mail address. Do you know what it is?
Not so fast, bud. Do the world a favor and send yourself a letter. It doesn't have to be fancy — "You deserve a raise" would be enough for the content — but it does have to have your address as the destination.
When it arrives, take a good luck at it. Is it from you?
No, I'm not kidding. I get mail all the time from "firstname.lastname@example.org" and "Your name here." (Those folks really get around.) When I see that, I know that the e-mail writer forgot to set up the mail program properly. You have to do it yourself. You have to type in the name that will show up at the top of letters you send.
So check the mail you sent yourself. Make sure the letter says it's from you and not from "Fill in your name here."
How about all the fancy backgrounds and typefaces you use in your letters? If you're using Outlook Express or another up-to-date mail program, you can send mail that looks dreamy or dreary, full of big and small type and pictures. It's your choice.
But what will the people who get your mail see?
Glump! Send mail like that to an AOL user and you might as well have saved yourself the trouble. All that AOL folks see is the text, without your fancy type and backgrounds. Send it to anyone who's using a Mac and you're almost guaranteed to get the same deadly-dull result. Send it to anyone who has an old mail program and there's no contest: Do not pass Go. Skip the $200. And watch your mail get mauled in the process.
So think twice before you slave over the look and feel of your letters. Just write a normal note and send it off. Forget the decorations.
What about those neat little photos you created with your Boxomatic Software Picture Stitcher of all the family at Verona Beach? Send them to all the relatives by e-mail, right?
Hold it, pal. Image formats make up the last refuge of babbling idiots. The people you send the pictures to won't be able to make sense out of them unless they're stored in a standard image format. And I've seen dozens upon dozens of oddball programs that store their images in everything but.
Bitmaps (BMP files) are always safe for Windows users. JPEGs (JPG files) are, too, now that everyone seems to have a Web browser; browsers can show JPEGs very nicely. (You just drag the icon of the JPEG image onto the browser and let it go.) But BMPs are often huge files, so don't even think of sending them by e-mail unless you have a cable Internet connection. Send JPEGs instead. (If your software won't save the images as JPEGs, don't mail them to anyone else unless the recipients have the same software.)
And how about those letters you've been getting from Bill Gates or Bill Clinton? The ones you send on to me and a dozen others every time they arrive? Yessir, yes ma'am, those two Bills just sit around all day looking for things to do, so they write to a couple of million people every few days asking for help, for money, for you to send more chain letters, all that kind of thing.
Want to know what to do with letters like that? How fast can you say "Delete key"? They're hoaxes. Please, ever-so-sincerely-please believe me; they're hoaxes. As are ALL of the virus warnings you get in the mail. No one sends out real virus warnings to strangers by mail.