E-mail: How to Make a 'Killer App' Even Better

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Net Log John Makulowich

E-mail: How to Make a 'Killer App' Even Better

There seems little question that e-mail is a killer app - a universal communications tool that is easy to use and allows the sender and receiver to achieve higher levels of productivity, value-add, effectiveness and efficiency.

However, while the use of e-mail and the length of messages are increasing as Internet and intranet use grows, some simple and sensible rules of the road are overlooked.

Two rules immediately come to mind, given the number of newsletter-type messages and organizational missives that are populating our collective in-boxes. They are the use of anchors as internal hyperlinks allowing users to jump to selected information, and the use of the bcc: (blind carbon copy) field to hide multiple recipients.

Admittedly, not all e-mail programs handle HTML-coded notes or, of those that do, handle them well. Still, many are robust, such as Qualcomm's Eudora Pro 4.0, Netscape Communicator's Messenger and Microsoft's Outlook Express.

By now, most of us are used to sending URLs and e-mail addresses to others by using the standard HTML coding, that is, http://www.domain.tld/ or mailto:userid@domain.tld. (tld stands for top level domain, such as com, edu, gov or org.)

Using anchors is a two-step process, creating the hyperlink to the anchor location inside the document and then marking the text to which the hyperlink points.

The two pieces of code look like this:

<a href = "#anchor-one"> ... </a>

<a name = "anchor-one"> ... </a>

Using the next subject of this column as an example, the anchor code could look like this:

<a name = "effect"> Improving your e-mail effectiveness with the bcc: field</a>.

Also, you could code a table of contents at the beginning of the column this way:

<a href = "#effect"> Improving e-mail effectiveness with the bcc: field</a>.

Thus, the user could click on the hyperlink and connect directly to the anchor, the specific content they were looking for. There are some qualifications that could be made, but they can await another Net Log column.

The next time you send e-mail to multiple recipients, put the name list in the bcc: field.

That way the first thing a recipient sees is the content of your message and not a list of names several inches long.

Another reason to use the bcc: field is to avoid fodder for spammers. If you leave the names in the To: field, it's a trivial exercise to re-use them to deliver spam.

For those who wish to delve deeper, you can review this information by connecting to the World Wide Web Consortium and retrieving the newest version 4.0 of the HTML specifications, released by the W3C last December.

The URL is www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40-971218.

For those who wish to see anchors in action, send e-mail to john@journalist.com with the word Anchor in the subject field.

I will send you back e-mail with this page coded in HTML using FrontPage 98. Of course, you will need a mail agent that can handle hyperlinks.

You can send John e-mail at john@journalist.com; his Web address is www.cais.com/makulow/.


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