Handling email attachments
I've never seen email clients that do a good job of downloading (and not downloading) attachments and files attached with URLs. The problem with downloading all attached files is that it can spend time synchronizing that you don't want to waste. Some clients offer the user a limit -- e.g. "automatically download attachments under 50k". Then, the client needs to offer a GUI that shows the user un-synchronized attachments. Ideally the user would quickly be able to scan big attachments and decide what to do.
Attachments done as URLs are even tougher to handle automatically. One problem is that spam can contain these URLs, and if the URLs are followed the spammer knows that the email address is valid. OTOH, URL-attachments are very useful because they guide the user to a shared copy of the resource, rather than proliferate different unsynchronized versions and copies around peoples' email servers and email clients. If spam reduction is good enough, then should an email client automatically download URL attachments (under a given size, and possibly only certain MIME types) for offline use?
- 06 Oct 2004
I've heard users ask for two modes: broadband and narrowband. When connected to a bigfatpipe, they want the attachments downloaded automatically (except, of course, for spam). When they are bandwidth-limited, they want it to not download attachments unless requested, to a first approximation.
I don't know how easy it is to figure out what your client's bandwidth resources are, but even an easy-to-flip switch (i.e. not buried down in seven levels of Preferences dialogs) would improve people's lives.
- 08 Oct 2004