Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
h a l f b a k e r y
Romantic, but doomed to fail.

idea: add, search, annotate, link, view, overview, recent, by name, random

meta: news, help, about, links, report a problem

account: browse anonymously, or get an account and write.



Missing attachment reminder

Reminder that you forgot the email attachment before sending.
  (+24, -3)(+24, -3)(+24, -3)
(+24, -3)
  [vote for,

Forgetting to attach a file to an email looks stupid and wastes time. If the email client scanned the body of your message for phrases like "see attached", or "draft version" then it could ask you if you meant to attach a file before sending the mail.

The word list triggering the missing attachment reminder should be customisable and perhaps learn from the vocabulary of previous mails sent with attachments.

niall, May 20 2001

Baked http://www.zdnet.co...10615,79694,00.html
Baked almost exactly as described [mwburden, May 20 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]


       It's a waste of your time trying to polish a turd.   

       The whole attachment idea is founded on the benighted premise that recipients everywhere will have software to read every screwy message format on the planet. It's never been true, it will never be true, and it only serves to balkanize the internet. There was a brief golden era, after the great mail-addressing shakeout of the late '80s (who else remembers mail addresses like ucbvax!mcvax!argle%foonly.arpa@nosuch.com?) but before the advent of MIME, when anybody could send mail anywhere and expect it to be read. (OK, it wasn't quite a golden era for those needing non-ascii alphabets, but it was as close as we'll ever be.)
td, May 20 2001

       Now, now, [td].   

       People want to send files to each other, right? If you're collaborating with someone on a document, you'll want to send them copies in progress; and there are good reasons to want to send images to people. (What are you going to do, send Grandma an ASCII art picture of your newborn baby?)   

       What are you proposing, that people use FTP to send each other files? I don't see how that would make the world any happier.   

       Attachments are not the problem. Wanton use of nonstandard formats to represent simple text content (rather than attachments which are intrinsically non-textual), and the widespread assumption by people (helped along by their tools) that every recipient in the world will be able to decode Microsoft-centric formats, are the problems.
egnor, May 21 2001

       I've actually forgotten attachments plenty of times. It's rather embarrassing. "You said to see the attachment; what attachment?" "Oops..."
egnor, May 21 2001

       [UnaBubba] comments "Can't you just look to see the attachment is attached?" - well of course you can, but people forget to check.
niall, May 21 2001

       niall: please see attached croissant.   

       egnor: same here. Most embarrassing occasion: job application, "...please see attached CV*"   

       *for USians read 'resume'
st3f, May 21 2001

       If you forget to attach a CV to an e-mailed job application, surely you *deserve* to look silly. :-)
angel, May 21 2001

       Looked silly, deserved to look silly but on the whole would rather have avoided the whole silliness aspect of the situation. For this reason, I'm with [niall]. Good one.
st3f, May 21 2001

       I think this is a good idea. I forget to attach, probably, 10-15% of the documents I intend to send. Attachments are a good idea when used conscientiously - don't be sending oddball formats to general recipients.

Microsoft-centric formats are not oddball, they are the defacto standard. If one is in business they had better be able to grok MS stuff or few partner-businesses will have patience or understanding. The anti-Microsoft religion can be a very expensive one.
lummox, May 21 2001

       Oooooh, lummox, you're in danger of starting a war. I must admit that most people want my CV in Word format, though. I'm trying to train my agencies on PDFs, though. Give it time.   

       <added in response to below>PDF or not PDF: Each to their own.
Alternative unattachment prevention methods: I'm still with niall.</added in response to below>
st3f, May 21 2001

       Instead of scanning your message to check if there is a reference which *might* indicate that you intended to attach something, and asking you confirm it (in case you said something like 'this piece should be attached to that piece'), why not let it detect the absence of attachments and pop up a message box: 'Do you want to attach anything?'?
angel, May 21 2001

       PDF is an awful format. I love Adobe, but PDF is a turkey. The Acrobat user-model is just ..plain ..horrid. And the file size is ridiculous. It does print well, but on-screen ... yuck.

Angel: I suppose that an e-mail program could begin by asking if you are going to attach anything, and if you answer "yes," then, when it's time to send, and you have forgotten to attach, it can remind you. [came back and fixed spelling]
lummox, May 21 2001

       I'm with Lummox on this one. We need a standard and MS is easily the best one. I rarely ever have problems with them (unless someone send one from a Mac with no file extension--but, being a Mac owner, I am used to that). I like the fact that MS has thought of almost everything. I like the fact that most folks I do business with have, and expect others to have, MS stuff. I also think pdf's are a pain. I often have crashes related to the handling of pdf's. I cannot remember the last time Word crashed.
bristolz, May 21 2001

       You all keep talking about thIS "MS Standard" thing which would make sense except almost all the other mail reader (even Lotus Notes) use the same format so what are you all winging about?   

       There has beena standard in e0mail attachments for years now! Where have you all been for the last 5 years?   

       Regards compression - if you just install winzip on the machine...   

       Anyways, great idea, simple to code, why not do it? Most mail programs spell check the document before you send it, so why not attachment check it too.
CasaLoco, May 21 2001


       For the record, it's not "anti-Microsoft religion", it's "pro-choice religion" (and not about abortion, either). I don't like the state of affairs that keeps everyone using the same operating system and the same applications and the same file formats forever just because a gentle local minimum (helped out, in no small part, by the vendor of the aforementioned operating system and applications and owner of the aforementioned file formats) keeps us using them.   

       Diversity is healthy. Single supplier lock-in will ultimately be fatal to all.   

       But, I realize that for any single person (who does not have a strong personal reason to disobey) in any single circumstance, it will be easier to slide down into the comfortable Microsoft pit, even if it's not globally preferable that we all do so. Tragedy of the commons.   

       However, you who do happily wallow in that pit might have a little respect for those of us who work to keep Microsoft honest -- we who use alternative operating systems (be they MacOS or FreeBSD), who send and request perfectly reasonable cross-platform document formats (PDF, PostScript), and who do not build software with a million tight connections to the Microsoft web of technology. If nothing else, we make them try harder.   

egnor, May 21 2001

       egnor: well said.   

       PeterSealy: I think niall intended for this to search for phrases like the one you mentioned.   

       To avoid this, I usually try to attach files early on in the process of writing the email, either right when I start, or right after I type something like "I've attached such-and-such" rather than waiting until the end when I might forget.
PotatoStew, May 21 2001

       egnor, I agree, in spirit, with most of what you are saying about lazy acceptance of MS, however, I think there are so many more important things to devote a lot of energy to than fighting what has become a widely supported, and really quite acceptable, format for documents (Word). I do believe though, that they (MS) try very, very hard to make good stuff. I also stick by my description "Anti-MS religion" because those who practice it generally do so with such ardent anti-MS zeal, and such lack of sound fact (in particular, the substitution of personal value choices and habitual, or cultural, attachments as objective technical evaluations) that it appears to me as an anti-MS religion. I would accept a pro-software choice religion if 80% of the words and energy expended were not anti-MS ranting.
lummox, May 21 2001

       This approach suffers from what I'd call "wizard-itis".   

       You have an interface that, for some reason, is bad. People can't really express what they want to do; they have to slip into some silly language for it, and in translation stuff gets lost. For example, you can't really "send someone a CV"; instead you have to write a letter, and then remember to _attach_ the thing that you wanted to send in the first place.   

       [Some interfaces support sending documents directly, and that's a step into the right direction.]   

       Wizard-itis happens when, in order to fix this, we don't take a step back and redesign the interface; instead we make things more complex by having the machine second-guess the users.   

       This may improve a few specific cases, but it isn't good - the software gets more complex, expects users to behave a certain way, and in the end we find ourselves in a slow, error-prone dialogue with the software's guesses as to what we might have wanted to do - rather than being able to use it as a simple, predictable, powerful tool.   

       [How could e-mail interfaces be redesigned to be more useable?   

       The one I use a lot hides the attachments in one of three panels, behind the list of people the message is addressed to. I have to click on a half-inch square to even see my list of attachments, and I will obscure that list as I address and send the message. I don't see whether an e-mail is "full" or "big" or "empty"; I don't get used to thinking about that as an attribute of the message, since it's not expressed on screen.   

       In a good interface, an email that misses its most important part (as per your intentions) would be as obvious as a text that is too short. You wouldn't even have to think about it.   

       It wouldn't just be a missing line in a header or an unentered list item in a hidden panel; it would be like trying to draw a flamingo and forgetting the legs. Yes, it would make an okay swan, but you _do_ remember that you wanted to draw a flamingo. The gestalt on the screen would directly clash with the gestalt you had in mind when you thought that you'd now send an email with an attachment.]
jutta, May 21 2001, last modified May 23 2001

       True, jutta. I guess that's where the expressions "kludge" and "hang a bag off the side of it" come from.
lummox, May 21 2001

       What good is software other than to attone for the foibles of humans? Is that not the point?

Re-educating the majority of users that accidently press send before attaching is a much harder problem than engineering a reminder for those who are willing to be reminded.

Illustration: In the height of this whole exchange, I forgot to attach the draft of a promissary note, for a very significant amount, to the e-mail I just wrote my attorney. A reminder might have caught that (especially because I used the word "attached" in the body of the mail).
lummox, May 21 2001

       [This was in response to something waugsqueke wrote] I'm not talking about blame. I'm talking about the entire reason software exists. Why do you use software? I use it because it does something I cannot do, or does something I can do but at a much greater speed or level of precision. I use feature-rich software because it does yet more of those things that I cannot do, or cannot do efficiently. I find it absurd that one would set out to use software that only performs some sub-section of a given entire task if there exists software that does more -and does it well. Refusing to use a spell-checker, or other convenient feature is, in my mind, like insisting on writing every routine in machine-language, carrying the bath water in from the cistern, and hitching up the horse and buggy to go shopping.
lummox, May 21 2001

       I'm with lummox on this one.   

       The spell checker is helpful, not essential. There's a difference between lacking the education needed to spell something correctly and lacking the time to print a copy, proof it and have your neighbor proof it before sending it.   

       In short, both the spell checker and this idea are meant to catch mistakes, not supplement knowledge. And to that end I support them both.
iuvare, May 22 2001

       waugs: If you don't agree with [lummox] (and yes, he is baiting you a little) how about [iuvare] who says it all simply and concisely:   

       //In short, both the spell checker and this idea are meant to catch mistakes, not supplement knowledge. And to that end I support them both.//   

       You've said you can spell. To refute [iuvare] using the same logic you must also be incapable of making an error.
st3f, May 22 2001

       waugsqueke: //It's silly to build in a routine to compensate for human absent-mindedness. //
iuvare: //both the spell checker and this idea are meant to catch mistakes, not supplement knowledge. And to that end I support them both.//

       waugs: I can't fault your argument. Based on your belief that software should not catch human error your opinion logically follows. I, on the other hand, like the software that assists me in my work to include the ability to catch the errors I make.   

       Looks like a fundamental difference in outlook to me.   

       <preemptive>Although I approve of systems that catch my mistakes, I do like to learn from them. I do not approve of, for example, Microsoft's autocorrect feature as this corrects errors without telling you that a mistake has been made.</preemptive>
Oh... and sorry about the pun.
st3f, May 22 2001

       I'm with [lummox] over [waugsqueke] and [PeterSealy] over [jutta] (gasp!).   

       I agree with Jutta's point in general, but not this application. I don't think there's anything wrong with this specific interface that needs redesign. (As others have pointed out, you *can* send someone a CV directly.) I also think that it's perfectly reasonable for software to compensate for human mistakes. Machines are, after all, much better at vigilance and correlation tasks than we are; I see no reason we shouldn't allow them that role.   

       The only question I have is whether text analysis heuristics would correctly deduce intent often enough to be useful.
egnor, May 23 2001

       Well, I am in control . . . in control of software that does the little crap like proofing my copy (albeit in bold US English). Next thing we'll be hearing about how we shouldn't do DNS lookup because it isn't pure enough and that we should just enter the IP addresses
bristolz, May 23 2001

       The problem you're complaining about is not computers attempting to second-guess you, but computers attempting to second-guess you and failing. Likewise with UnaBubba and spellcheckers (most spellcheckers I know include a British English dictionary, but maybe they're not very good).   

       The question is, what would happen in this case? You'd get a popup, which you would have to dismiss. With a good design, the popup would have a nice checkbox "Don't ever display this message again". You and waugsqueke would check that box; the people here who are always forgetting their attachments would not.   

       I would probably learn the "key words" it used and make sure to include them in any message I planned to add an attachment to.
egnor, May 23 2001

       I'm puzzled by this notion that Microsoft's 'monopoly' needs to be broken. Firstly, they don't *have* a monopoly (there are other OSs out there); secondly, if it's so difficult to produce anything significantly better, why complain? OK, so Win98 crashes now and then, NT has serious security issues, ME is a total donkey, but if you factor in the number of users of course you're going to get a lot of complaints. Perhaps you hear fewer moans about Linux et al because people made an active choice to use these and are less likely to admit that they made a bad choice. How many people buy a Skoda or <insert your local notion of a *really bad car*> then tell you it's awful?
angel, May 23 2001

       Take the Microsoft debate offline, please?
jutta, May 23 2001

       //With a good design, the popup would have a nice checkbox "Don't ever display this message again". //   

       [egnor] wins the day.   

       On pretty much every software package I have, there are lots of gewgaws and whatsits that I never use, just as there are some that I can't live without.   

       e.g. I don't use spell-check (since Canadian English is a worst-of-both-worlds combination of US and UK); I do use Auto-Complete.   

       Because so many features are useless to me, and hence annoy me, I've learned how to turn them off. If the software helps me turn them off, all the better.   

       [niall], this is a splendid idea.
MrWrong, May 23 2001

       HomeBaking! In outlook press Alt-F11 In the window that appears browse to ThisOutlookSession Paste the text below, save and exit. Voila!   

       Private Sub Application_ItemSend(ByVal Item As Object, Cancel As Boolean) a$ = Item.Body b$ = Item.Subject   

       If (testset(a$)) Or (testset(b$)) Then If (MsgBox("Please confirm you wish to send this message now", vbOKCancel) = 2) Then Cancel = True End If   


       End Sub   

       Private Function testset(aa$) 'Tests aa$- a body text, to look for the keywords that could indicate an attachment was intended... Dim n$(20) n$(1) = "attached" n$(2) = "see below" n$(3) = "as promised" n$(4) = "enclose" Count = 4 attach = False For a = 1 To Count If InStr(1, UCase$(aa$), UCase$(n$(a)), vbCompareText) > 0 Then attach = True End If Next a testset = attach End Function
emf, Aug 19 2001

       Man, this discussion is quite lengthy, and from what I read almost pointless (as jutta pointed out) - I think the idea is great, because I just wanted to see if it is baked or if I was on to something after a shop where I ordered something just sent me a message "You find the confirmation of your order in the attached HTML document" - and guess what? Right, no attachment in sight. I must have sent and received loads of these neat mail-two-packs, about a minute apart, with the last one saying "Oops, here's the file, duh :)" So GOOD EFFORT, niall.
literaryace, Apr 09 2002

       Yep, I reckon the main idea is a good one. This is something everybody does sometimes, even people much cleverer and more organised than me, so I've kinda stopped feeling so stupid when I (occasionally) do it. One practice which helps is to do the attachment first, but this is counter-intuitive. I particularly liked the 'learning' bit.
RusNash, Jul 01 2003

       Proposal: Add a different hotkey/toolbar button/menu selection for "New message with attachment". Works identically to "New message" except that if you fail to supply at least one attachment before sending the message it will pop up a reminder.
supercat, Jul 01 2003

       Bun, purely because I've just had much the same idea (having just failed to attach a document to an email sent to a client).
Steve Adams, Jan 02 2007

       [edit] This is based on jutta's idea, rather than the original one of guessing when there should be an attachment. [/edit]   

       Proposal: when you're typing your mail, there's a special key to mark a word as referring to an attachment. If you press it more than once you can mark a multi-word phrase. The marked phrase is visibly different, maybe underlined blue like a web link. In the attachment area, all these phrases are repeated, and beside each one you can select the appropriate file. If there are any missing files you can't send the e-mail.   

       The underlining and repeating of the attachment phrases is just for the user, the sent e-mail needn't have them.
caspian, Jan 08 2007

       As suggested previously, I don't think I would like the wizard to second guess me when I am doing something. For instance, in MS Word, I could be writing myself a reminder or an office memo only for the wizard to pop up and say, "I see you are writing a letter! Choose from the available letter wizards..blah..blah..." Thats aggravating.
Jscotty, Jan 08 2007


back: main index

business  computer  culture  fashion  food  halfbakery  home  other  product  public  science  sport  vehicle