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Knowing this information ahead of time will save you a lot of time and grief. That's why the simplest thing to do when starting an e-mail relationship with someone -- for example, starting a new project that involves sending files back and forth to a PC using client -- is to ask them these questions up front. "What kind of document will you be sending me? WordPerfect for Windows? Microsoft Word 97? And what format would you like to see from me? Do you use Binhex or do you prefer uuencode? Do you have or use compression programs such as Zip or Stuffit?" This simple idea is the cornerstone of accepted E-mail Etiquette: it shows willingness on your part to accommodate your friends and clients, and at the same time it makes them think about these things as well... maybe for the first time.

Squash that code!

The first category we in the Big 3 Questions above deals with "compression." This is when you squash a file down to half its former size or more, and requires that the person on the other end can successfully unsquash it. If a file is small -- such as a typical Word file -- compression isn't necessary. But if it's a big graphics file you should consider using it. That's another rule of E-mail Etiquette: "if you can save the receiver time and/or money when getting e-mail from you, by all means do so." You never know what kind of modem that person is using: a 14,400 connection can take almost an hour to download a large graphics file! Cutting 50% out is always a good idea.

The standard on the Macintosh has always been Stuffit. America Online has Stuffit built-in, and both Eudora and E-mailer support it directly. Web browsers may or may not internally support Stuffit; if not, it's a good idea to get your own freeware set of DropStuff EE and Stuffit Expander EE from Aladdin Software. Go to www.aladdinsys.comto download version 4.5. If you buy the commercial version called Stuffit Deluxe, you'll get True Finder Integration, Contextual Menu support, and an enhanced translation function that now decodes MIME files and many other esoteric Net formats. If you do a lot of e-mailing, it's worth the money.

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Figure 1: Stuffit Settings -- Every Mac user should have the latest version of Stuffit. If you buy the Deluxe version, you get a beefier application and True Finder Integration via the Magic Menu. Here we see some of the formats Stuffit can handle with just one keystroke.