Coded responses that irritate

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 January, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 January, 1997, 12:00am

This paragraph is dumped in my mailbox regularly as a warning about an attached file: 'The following is an attached file item from cc:Mail. It contains information that had to be encoded to ensure successful transmission through various mail systems. To decode the file use the UUDECODE program.' It explains that somebody has sent me a file but they expect that I run an electronic mail client program that makes it easy to decode and I have the time or patience to decode it. Usually I just send it back and say I do not have the patience. Please send as a pure text file and preferably not as an attachment.

I am not terse. I just politely ask that in future they send the message in a format to which I am accustomed.

I always send files in pure ASCII text. Never have I had a reply saying: 'This message was too straightforward and perfectly legible. Can you please save it in an obscure format so I can have fun using my utilities programs to decode and convert and/or convert to a readable format?' It would probably take only a few keystrokes and clicks to decode or save as a new file. But when I get five a day and often the documents are not worth decoding, then it is a waste of time.

Sometimes I use PINE to retrieve and send e-mail. It's quick, harmless and with words - which is all I need to see when I send mail - they don't need to be in fancy colours or fonts.

Most of the time I use Netscape's inbuilt mail function because I haven't got the time to configure anything else.

Often I receive attached Word documents - even Corel's marketing people in Ottawa send documents occasionally in Word format, even though the firm bought WordPerfect last year.

These are also annoying because they imply that I use Word every day. 'Surely everybody uses Word?' they ask. I just want the words, please, not Word.

Now it seems I am tempted to become one who sends encoded documents.

I have on my desk a box containing Office97, the new suite of productivity programs from Microsoft.

I first saw the interface three months ago under non-disclosure, which means I was not supposed to talk about it.

Microsoft took a few reporters into a dark room and handed us pieces of paper that said they would sue the hell out of us and our publications if we caused financial disadvantage to Microsoft by divulging some details without permission. Only then did they show Office97 with its task-based operation.

I was so intimidated by this document that I didn't sign it and instead kept it as a souvenir. To this day I'm unsure if Microsoft was just too polite to ask for the signed copy back, or they did not know that I took it with me.

Now the product is on the shelves, I am safe. I can talk about it. The new Office works on the principle that if you call up a file, there is a good chance you want to send it somewhere - back to where it came from, to a network address, to an e-mailbox or to dump it. Office97 will simplify operations on a Windows-based computer markedly.

Personally, I have no use for 98 per cent of the functions in Office because I write words and little else.

But for those who use spreadsheets and want to do fancy presentations and send bloated e-mail files done up with colourful logos and clipart, then it would be a godsend.

They will not have to open and close applications all the time. It will supposedly happen seamlessly.

So if I start sending a file to you in a strange format, you know that I am just too lazy to send it in ASCII text and expect you to be running the same software.