Why I don't accept some formats in email

You are probably visiting this page because you received a response to one of your emails to me (spaf) indicating that the email had been rejected.

My mailer is configured to reject various formats, and particularly to reject documents in Microsoft Word ".doc" format. The reasons for this are:

  1. Spaf (and many other people) do not use Word or Windows. Common is not the same as standard.
  2. Microsoft Word is a document processing system, not a transport encoding mechanism. It was not designed for creating or sending email.
  3. Even some systems with Microsoft Word can't read all Word documents! There are many versions of Word, and not all types are interoperable
  4. Email with attached Word documents take up lots of space, and cannot be searched with standard software on non-Windows systems.
  5. Using word processing documents for simple memos and statements contributes to unnecessary data bloat. For example, to send a simple 10 word email message as a Word document may require adding over 50,000 (or more) bytes of context, macros, fonts, and other cruft that is unnecessary to convey the words. This contributes to larger files, more wasted disk space, and longer transmission time. Many other formats also contribute to larger files for no good reason -- there is no need to send fancy formatting for simple messages.
  6. Email with some attached formats is a common vector of macro virus transmission and/or information leakage. Some formats are worse than others, and most of those are blocked by Spaf's mailer -- including Word documents.

If your document has no special formatting, then please consider sending it as plain ASCII text. The MIME e-mail standard defines "richtext" formatting for sending email with some additional formatting. This will work with most MIME-compliant mailers on any platform, and does not carry viruses, nor does it vastly inflate the size of a document. Alternatively, if there is special markup or formatting, Adobe PDF is compact and portable (and usually safer than Word, but not totally so). Level-2 PostScript is also a good choice, as is XML/HTML.

I recommend you read:

Plus, you can do a search on all the computer viruses that have been spread via Word documents over the years and consider -- I have never had a computer virus on any computer I have administered.

What Do I Use?

Oh, and as to the issue of what I use for formatting documents.... Over the last 20 years I have authored or edited four books, a dozen book chapters, four major reports, over 150 published articles, and literally thousands of letters. I have used FrameMaker, TeX/LaTeX, Clarisworks/Appleworks, Apple Pages, troff, and a variety of HTML editors (principally BBedit). I used Word on only one of those proposals. I am not interested in installing Open Office on my machines, either — the software I use works fine, thank you.

Note that I am not particularly opposed to use of Word. I am against people sending dangerous formats in email, and assuming (or trying to force) people to standardize on a particular product.


I look forward to seeing your email, resent in some safer, more portable format!

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