Terry Zink's Cyber Security Blog

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Oops. Wish I could take that email back

Oops. Wish I could take that email back

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I came across the Gmail blog the other day and they were announcing a handy little feature that lets you take back email messages before they are actually delivered to the Internet.  For example, let's say you were sending a friend a message:

Hey, Jack,

I was chatting to that girl you like the other day.  She says that she does like you.

You, being the good friend that you are, are doing him a favor by doing a little bit of investigative work.  But as you hit send, you notice something.  You forgot to add the word not after the word "like" and before "you".  The sentence "She says that she does not like you" completely changes the tone of the message.

Normally, if you were to do such a thing, you'd be out of luck and have to send a follow up email.  I know that in many of the emails that I send out, I notice the typo just as I click and release Send.  I'm like "Noooooo..."  But this new Gmail feature allows you to click the Undo link just as you send it, and if you do it within 5 seconds, you are then returned to the Compose window.  Pretty handy.

Of course, Outlook/Exchange has had this feature for quite some time.  There are two versions of it -- one that works and one that doesn't.  For the one that doesn't work (and I say this tongue in cheek because it has only worked for me once in the dozens of times I have tried to use it), if you send a message and want to recall it, you can go to your Sent mail folder.  If you double-click on the message to open it and click "Other Actions" you can actually Recall the message. There are two Recall options, retrieve unread versions, and retrieve and replace the message.  So if you make a mistake in email and send out a message you actually didn't mean to send, you can undo it.  I consider this feature purely theoretical because I have yet to see it work for me in real life.

The other option is similar to the Gmail feature.  Outlook lets you specify a delay on the time you hit Send to the time the message is delivered.  I think that the default is 5 minutes.  So, if you send a message and it sits in your inbox for a while, that gives you time to go back and fix it before it gets sent out to the world.  It's a feature that I don't use because when I send email I expect it to go out instantaneously.  I don't even know where to set that feature but I know it exists.  Perhaps if I dropped the threshold to 30 seconds I would be alright with it.

So, while the Gmail feature is neat, it has been around Outlook for a long, long time.

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  • The last time I tried to use that feature in Outlook it was really broken, for a couple reasons

    * Although you can configure the interval, the lowest value you can set is 1 minute.

    * The mechanism that Outlook (or at least Outlook 2003) uses to calculate the interval is busted, since it doesn't look at the seconds field. So if I send my message at 3:59:59 then it will wait for one second before sending, but if I send it at 4:00:00 then it will wait for 60 seconds before sending.

    The feature may have been around Outlook for a long, long time, but in Gmail it actually, you know, *works*.

  • The retrieve/replace feature only works if all the recipients are using one of a small number of centralized mail storage systems, Exchange being one example, and even then I believe it only works if Outlook is connecting directly to the same instance of such a system as all the recipients.  It doesn't work for any message that has transited through SMTP.

  • Hi Take That How Are You

    I Love You You Are Brill

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