Why msword .DOC attachments are a bad idea

From: Happy-go-Dudey
Subject: so he goes like, cool, man

... hey, here's a crate with bananas! (I assume you have all the tools to open it, and by the way, it might also contain a few tarantulas)...

             Content-Type: application/msword;
             Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64
             Content-Disposition: attachment;
  1. The sender of a .DOC attachment assumes that the recipient is using the same operating system and application as he/she does.

  2. The email application is traditionally ASCII based. Recipients may be on an internet-enabled phone, organizer or are simply accessing email via telnet/ssh. They will simply not be able to read the .DOC contents.

  3. There is a fundamental distinction between sending text and attaching a file. Attaching a file means: deferring immediate use. The responsibility for decoding the non-standard binary material into something legible is dropped with the recipient.

  4. The .DOC files are notorious for the presence of macro viruses, again, causing work at the recipient's end to apply anti-virus software before reading the content of the message.

  5. The life cycle of .DOC files is spurious. It cannot be predicted whether the format will be legible next year. The software industry only has a limited interest in standardization, because standardization reduces the need for renewal purchases.

  6. The (re)usability of .DOC file contents is extremely limited since the WYSIWYG approach (What You See is What You Get) means in practice: what the sender saw may look rather different on your own screen (WHSWHG: What He Saw is What He Got. Yes, we are PC: WSSWSG exists too). On the other hand, in ASCII, LaTeX and manually written HTML format, the focus is on the content of the message.

  7. Since most of the typographical additions are very limited anyway in most letters, sending .DOC is like killing a fly with a canon.

  8. The .DOC file format is very inefficient. Just look at the RTF or HTML version of a .DOC file generated by MS Word: it is infected with useless and often even ineffective style tags.

  9. What is worse, however, is that the .DOC file contains residual text fragments of earlier editing operations by the sender. A Unix user, for example, can easily find those with the 'strings' command, potentially leading to embarassing situations.

Proposed Etiquette

L. Schomaker