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From John Haxby <>
Subject Re: Best Practice: emails and file-attachments
Date Wed, 16 Aug 2006 13:00:51 GMT
lude wrote:
>> You also mentioned indexing each bodypart ("attachment") separately.
>> Why? ....
>> To my mind, there is no use case where it makes sense to search a 
>> particular bodypart
> I will give you the use case:
> [snip]
> 3.) The result list would show this:
> 1. mail-1 'subject'
> 'Abstract of the message-text'
> 2. mail-2 'subject'
> Attachment with name 'filename.doc' contains 'Abstract of
> file-content'
> Another Use-Case would be an extended search, which allows to select if
> "attached files"
> should be searched (yes or no).

That's a good use case. File it as a bug and close it WONTFIX :-) The 
problem that you have is trying to determine whether something is going 
to be inline or an attachment. I'll give you a real-life example that 
caught out some old code the other day. We had a message with this 


Is there an attached file in there? Think before you read on.

The answer should be "no". Are you surprised that at least one client 
decided that there was? What we have is three representations of the 
same document: plain text, html (with two pictures) and MS Word. The 
original, the Word document obviously has the best fidelity and comes 
last. The one client I'm thinking of (and I've lost track of which one 
it was) correctly suppressed the display of the text/plain alternative, 
displayed the HTML with its pictures in-line and then mistakenly 
displayed the Word document as an attachment.

This is a fictional example, but it could exist:


The gif image (and let's assume it can be indexed sensibly) is 
"obviously" a picture in the HTML bodypart. What's the word document? 
It's referenced from the HTML as a link just like the picture is. Is it 
an attachment? What's the difference between the word document 
referenced as a link within the multipart/related (by content-id) and a 
link to an external document (by http URL)? From a user perspective both 
are the same, but is one an attachment and the other not? I'm being 
unfair, this is not only an unrealistic problem but there isn't a right 
or a wrong answer. The word document isn't an attachment because it 
doesn't (or shouldn't) appear in the list of attachments and it's not 
in-line because you have to click on something to see it.

So yes, I agree, your use-cases are good; I'm just not sure how you're 
going to identify an attachment :-)

I do like the idea, though, of when you do a search for "xyzzy" that you 
get the abstract of the bodypart that contains "xyzzy" rather than the 
abstract (or subject) of the entire message and I'm going to think about 
that one some more. The problem that immediately springs to mind though 
is that a message can have an arbitrary number of bodyparts so if I have 
BODY-1, BODY-2, ..., BODY-N (where N is unknown) how hard is it for me 
to construct the search? I think I probably should construct the search 
that way because the score depends upon the size of the document and it 
seems to make sense that the document is the bodypart, not the entire 
message, but it seems more complex than is useful for mail messages.


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