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How to Send Files Via E-mail

Computers, the Internet and e-mail have transformed the genealogical community from a slow, leisurely pastime of writing everything by hand and sharing information by mail, to a lively, exciting hobby and avocation where you can communicate almost instantly with anyone, anywhere around the world and connect to new lines of relatives, transferring them into your own family file with the press of a few buttons and clicks of a mouse.

Sharing information by e-mail is especially rewarding as you meet new relatives and other individuals who are working on the same family lines as you are.

There are several ways to send information by way of e-mail messages.  Some involve text while others involve graphics and attachments.  Consideration should be made as to the capabilities of the receiver of the e-mail.  Some service providers limit the size of messages and attachments; others are pretty much unlimited.  For example, Hotmail accounts currently are limited to attachments of 1 megabyte or less.  If you have several pictures that you want to send that total more than 1 megabyte you would have to send them in separate messages.  

A Note About Compression
File size is of major concern when sending e-mail messages.  Many people have relatively slow connections and large files can take a long time to download.  People in rural areas with older wiring can often have trouble staying connected long enough to receive big files.  Therefore, the smaller the files you are sending, the better.

Most files can be compressed to a much smaller size before being sent.  The Zip format is the industry standard compression method and can often squeeze a file down to a tiny fraction of its original size.  WinZip is the most popular program for managing zip files.  You can download a copy of this Shareware program from:

There are also many other programs that compress files, many of which use the same compression format as WinZip.  If you search for WinZip in your browser, many of these will also show up.

Some files, such as jpeg picture files are already compressed and will not get any smaller with WinZip.  Legacy backup family files are also compressed.

In-line Text
The easiest way to send information to another person via e-mail is to include the information right in the body of the message.  In text-only e-mail message you can only include unformatted text.  You cannot include screen dumps or picture files.  These must be sent as attachments (see below). 

Most reports in Legacy can be sent to a text file.  At the conclusion of generating a text format report file, Legacy offers to open the file in your default text editor.  From here it is easy to select all the text (Ctrl-A) and copy it to the clipboard (Ctrl-C), and then paste it into the body of your email message (Ctrl-V).

In-line Graphics
Note:  If you capture a screen using PrintScreen or Alt-PrintScreen, you cannot immediately paste into an HTML or Rich Text formatted e-mail message.  Straight bitmaps cannot be pasted like that.  If, however, you have Microsoft Word, you can open it, paste the screen onto a page, click the graphic and press Ctrl-C to copy it to the clipboard again.  Now you can paste it into an HTML formatted e-mail, right in the body of the message.  This does not work with WordPerfect.  Microsoft Word does something in their copy and paste procedure that makes it possible.

One of the most common ways of including separate files with an e-mail message is to send them as attachments.  Attachments ride along with the main message and can be separately viewed and/or saved by the person receiving the message.

Most attachments should be compressed before attaching them to the message. (See Compression above.)  Bitmap files benefit greatly by compression and often get reduced to less than five percent of their original size.  For example, a 2 megabyte bitmap can end up less then 50 or 100 kilobytes after compression.  Text files, including RTF and HTML also get compressed to a fraction of their starting size.  Jpeg format graphics and Legacy backup files are already compressed when they are created so compression programs have little effect on their size.

How to Send Attachments
Here are some examples of how to send an attachment using some commonly used e-mail programs.  Click the desired link for instructions:

America Online (AOL) 
Netscape Communicator 
Outlook Express 

Downloads from Your Web Site
Sometimes the files you want to send are large and cannot be accepted by the person you want to receive them because of size limitations imposed by his or her Internet service provider. There are also people who cannot receive attachments at all. Another way to transfer a large file is to upload it to your own web site and then sending the person a link pointing to the file that can then be downloaded.  Most Internet service providers offer their customers some disk space for a personal web site.  This often ranges from about 5 megabytes to 30 megabytes or more.  

Uploading the File
To upload a file from your computer to your personal web space requires an FTP program. This stands for File Transfer Protocol.  You will also need a host address (where to upload to), a login name and password, and sometimes an initial path pointing to the particular folder from your ISP.  There are several good FTP programs available, some of which are shareware and can be tried and then purchased for a very reasonable price.  A good place to look on the Internet is  Search for FTP.