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The On Ramp

The Blue Mountain Internet Customer Newsletter

 Issue # 66 April 2009 
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    by Matt Stephens
    April 2009

    Hello to everyone. As I write this it's finally sunny and warm outside. It is spring here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, so by the time I'm done writing this it could be freezing and raining again, but let's hope not. A little while ago I received a letter from one of our customers with a suggestion for the newsletter. I thought they had a great question and I was going to write an article on it that month, but I couldn't find the answer. Okay, so here is the question that has effectively baffled me and others:

    "It used to be that when a repeatedly forwarded letter had this little symbol that looked like >, or was it < , anyhow now it seems that there are colored lines on the left side of the page. I can't figure out how to remove them if I want to clean up an email before sending it on. What is the procedure for ridding the page of them?"

    First, the bad news. There is no easy way to do this. It's going to take some work from you, but it can be done. Here's a little explanation of what causes this. Email formatting can get messed up when default line breaks are inserted by email programs and the email is then forwarded. Most modern email applications can automatically wrap full paragraphs of text to match the current window size, just like a word processing document, so the word wrap option should be turned off if your application uses it. However, some older email programs and Internet mailing list software do not have this ability, and can only handle lines up to a maximum length, usually something less than 80 characters. In order to help these older programs, some email programs automatically cut paragraphs into a series of individual lines by inserting carriage returns (line breaks), sometimes at 80 characters, some at 76 characters, some at 71 characters, and sometimes at even shorter lengths. This usually works fine the first time an email is sent and produces fairly normal looking text. But if the email is forwarded, and goes through a second trimming at a lower character count, then it can get messed up and end up looking like the following, or worse, like the example below.

     >>>This works fine the first time it is done. But if the email is forwarded to someone else and
    >>>goes through a second trimming at a lower character count, especially if it has been through
    >>>a few forwards and has been lengthened with "
    >" characters, you get something that
    >>>looks like this, or worse.

    As you can see this is exactly what our customer was referring to. Email message that was sent to them has strange line breaks and funny characters that separate words from sentences and cause the email message to become very difficult to read. But how can you fix it? Well, the answer is a little time intensive. Here's how you do it.

    Copy the part of the email message you want to forward on. Then paste it into a word processing document such as a blank Microsoft Word document. Now is a good time to save your work so that if you happen to hit the wrong key, you can easily go back.

    Once you have the message in your word processing document, press the CTRL key and the H key together. This will bring up your replace window. In the Find What box, type ^p . In the Replace With box, put a space (just tap the space bar one time) and then click Replace All.

    This will remove all the line breaks and turn what you started with into a single paragraph. This is where it can get a little bit more time intensive though. Let's say the message you started out with was one of those fun surveys with 50 questions you have answered a thousand times. You now have all the questions and answers in one paragraph. What you'll need to do is go through and separate them by finding the beginning of a question and hitting Enter to bring that one down to the next line.

    So it may not be quick and easy, but it's not hard either. In writing this I went through and edited one I had saved and it took me about 5 minutes once I found the information on the Internet.

    In closing this I would like to say thank you to Lola for sending in such a great question! Please feel free to follow her lead and send your questions to In the subject line put FAQ idea for Matt.

    Thanks everyone, and enjoy the spring time weather, whatever it may be.
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    The On Ramp is a monthly publication of Blue Mountain Internet.

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