Re: MIME encoding

Subject: Re: MIME encoding
From: "Peter Ring, PRC" <prc -at- PIP -dot- DKNET -dot- DK>
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 1996 13:02:16 +1


On 11 December, you asked:

> Can anyone please explain to me the advantage in an encoding
> scheme such as MIME for text messages?

There are 2 purposes for using MIME or other encoding schemes like
UUencode or BinHex:

1. To be able to include a complete file in an e-mail, for example a
Word document or a programme. This facilitates e.g. formatting,
which is not possible in normal e-mail messages.

2. Most non-English latin-alphabeth languages are using national
characters, which are placed in the area ASCII 128 to 255. To be
able to transfer them, you need to use an encoding scheme like
MIME. This problem has forced many non-English writers to tick
the "encode with MIME" box in their e-mail programme, and many
people are not aware of the problems it causes on a mailing list.

Most high class e-mail programmes will more or less automatically
translate these messages to normal text, but there are problems
with these attachments if you - like approx. 50% (?) of us - are
receiving the mailing list in digested form. Then you have to be
very active to be able to read the text. For the specially
problematic MIME 64 I am able to read most of these messages with
a little freeware DOS-programme called MimePack, which I have
found on the net. I copy the text to a separate file, run this
file with munpack.exe and open the file in a suitable reader.
Very annoying and time-consuming, which means, that I only do it
if it really looks interesting on forehand.

Both purposes are linked to the peculiar fact, that the Internet in
most cases only transfer 7 bit characters. This means, that it don't
transfer characters above ASCII 127. In English text, this is normally
not a problem at all. But if you see a German mailing list, these
problems are evidend. You will for example see the German character "u
umlaut" spelled "ue", or it is missing, or it is replaced by strange

However, as you (Ian) indicated, none of these purposes are normally
relevant on an English language mailing list like TECHWR-L. If you
see the German mailing lists, these problems are evidend. You will
for example see the German character "u umlaut" spelled "ue", or it
is missing, or it is replaced by strange characters.


1. When you are sending mail to a TECHWR-L mailing list, make sure
your e-mail programme's MIME feature is DEselected.

2. If you need to include a file, maybe because you need special
formatting or an image, either
- tell what it is in plain text before the appended file.
- offer specially interested people to request it directly by
off-list exchange of e-mails.

Greetings from Denmark

Peter Ring
PRC (Peter Ring Consultants)
- specialists in user friendly manuals and audits on manuals.
prc -at- pip -dot- dknet -dot- dk
- the "User Friendly Manuals" website with links, bibliography, list
of prof. associations, and tips for technical writers.

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