The prefix problem isn't getting any easier, or better

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/07/18 03:01 -04:00, original URI:

The other day Diego 'Flameeyes' Pettenò suggested over in the Suggestion Box:

I've written a post about prefixes used during replying on emails and newsgroups by Outlook or Outlook Express ( here ) when I wrote it I thought it was just an Italian issue, but it seems like it's more than that. You surely know more than me about this and I hope you could shed me (and everybody else) some light about this choice...



Now this is an issue I have talked about indirectly a bit before, like in My heart palpitates at the thought of receiving 'Zugesagt: The big feature!', where I point another limitation/bug in this area (that one in just Outlook without the cross-platform/product/version problems).

And it is a pretty controversial one, to be honest. Diego's point about what happens wide the wide variety of support across

is frankly quite frightening, from a scenario point of view.

Within any one version of one product one might have a really good story, but the nature of email really denies that as being a reasonable restriction on the scenario....

But what can one do, without any kind of real standard in the area?

There is RFC 2445, the iCalendar document, but Outlook is hardly the only product whose support has tended toward differing non-identicalness between versions compared to that RFC, and to be frank it is kind of incomplete on this issue given the varying nature of some kinds of messages that are sent (plus I don't think the behavior always matches what people might expect).

In fact, as MUI support in Windows gets better, this situation appears to not be getting better at the same time; one could argue it is getting worse as the UI language support story gets better and allows for more possible languages.

After all, how can a mail program know the random prefixes and other changes between different platforms and versions and products and languages? Even my straw-man suggestion (always use the recipient's language info), though neatly sidestepping most issues, is still smack dab in the middle of the fact that who knows what a client might be trying to send.

Then add time zones and calenders to the mix, and watch the whole situation completely explode!

Is this issue even solvable given the various companies and platforms and products and versions? My guess is actually NO, even with the increased interest in both calendaring and time zones....


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John Cowan on 18 Jul 2008 12:56 PM:

Um.  Hmm.  Well.

"Re:" isn't English (arguably, it's Latin) and isn't supposed to be localized.  Thus spake RFC 2822:

When used in a reply, the field body MAY start with the string "Re: " (from [the ablative case of] the Latin "res", in the matter of) followed by the contents of the "Subject:" field body of the original message.  If this is done, only one instance of the literal string "Re: " ought to be used since use of other strings or more than one instance can lead to undesirable consequences.

Michael S. Kaplan on 18 Jul 2008 4:49 PM:

I am always suspicious of any "standard" that suggests the answer is something that by coincidence is easier for people in the US who speak English to deal with.

Including *that* one.... :-)

But the number if people who even know the original source is Latin or the even smaller number of people who think it still does -- compared with the number of people who think it is English and based on "reply" or somesuch? Like 1 to 10,000 or better, I think....

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