Email has been called the first "killer app," or killer application of the Internet, although we can actually trace its roots further back, to Local Area Networks. Email over the Internet has brought us the ability to send a message to anyone, anywhere in the world in seconds at practically no cost. It is, without a doubt, the single most-used feature of the Internet.
For most purposes, standard email is an adequate means of communication. Current email clients (email programs) also expand that capability and allow us to send pictures, formatted text or any file on your computer. This is what is known as an "email attachment." I'll give you an example.
I am typing this article on my computer using Microsoft Word. If I want to send it to the Beacon using email I have two options.
First, I can compose an email message and include the article in the body of the text. This is the simplest and easiest method but it can have limitations. Originally all email messages could only be sent as plain text, which meant that one could not use tabs in the text or choose a typeface or font size. Everything was displayed in the "default" font - usually either Courier 10 or Ariel 12 - and any tabs used when composing the message were ignored at the receiving end. This is why you sometimes see email messages in which a line only carries one or two words of the middle of a sentence before a new line starts. Current email clients, like Microsoft's Outlook Express, offer the user the choice of sending their messages in "plain text" or in "Rich Text Format" (.rtf). RTF files allow you to select typeface and size as well as set tab stops and format your paragraphs, such as indent the first line, etc. Be aware that the receiving email client must be able to accept email in that format (most email clients in use today do this automatically).
The second way for me to send my article to the Beacon via email is that I can compose the article in Microsoft Word and then save it to my hard drive. Then I can compose an email message to the Beacon and add the file (this article) to that message as an attachment. I start that by either clicking on the "Attachment" icon on the toolbar (it looks like a paperclip) or by pulling down the Tools menu and selecting File Attachment. Either way, I would then find the file I want to attach and select it.
The ability to add attachments to email greatly increases the versatility of emailing. You can attach picture files, document files, spreadsheet files, in short, any file you can save to your hard disk can be sent as an attachment.
There is one very important caveat here. Make sure that the attachment you send can be read by the receiving party. For instance, if the file you are attaching is a Microsoft Word file and the party you are sending it to has only WordPerfect and not Word, they might not be able to open and read your file. If in doubt, save your document file as an RTF file and attach it in that format. All word processing programs can open an RTF file.
Likewise with picture files, make sure the receiver can open the file you send. In the case of pictures, or image files, you are safe sending them in JPEG format (they have a .jpg extension), as this image format is universal across the Internet. If the receiver doesn't have an image program to open the file in, it can be opened and viewed using their browser, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, Mozilla Firefox, etc.
Finally, when it comes to image files, make sure the file you attach isn't too large. Image files, even when compressed, as in the case of JPEG files, tend to be very large. Use your image program to resize your images so that they are as small as possible without losing necessary detail. (A resolution of 640 x 480 pixels is a good size.) Try to limit image file attachments to less than 40 kilobytes. The bigger those image files are, the longer they will take to download.
If you have a computer-related problem or question that you would like answered in this column, please send it to the Cedar Key Beacon by email at editor@cedarkeybeacon or PCTech@islandcity.net.