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Wincode: Send Files by Internet E-mail

Paul Cipywnyk

Code?! Whoa, don't run away - if you think coding is something that only programmers do, try again. In the ever-expanding world of the Internet, there are other kinds of coding that anybody can use to make 'Net life easier and more useful. In this article, I will introduce you to a simple Windows utility called Wincode that automates "Uuencoding/Uudecoding" - a process which allows you to transfer programs and application files all over the world by e-mail.

Let me say a few words about the convenience of sending files by e-mail. Normally, e-mail messages can contain only simple ASCII character text. But what if you want to send friends or coworkers a shareware program? How about a spreadsheet or a word processor file that they could open and run with all the formatting intact? Such files are called "binary" files, and they contain many characters that are outside the range of regular ASCII text. One common way to transfer such files is to compress them and upload them to a BBS or a commercial network system and have the receiving person download them. But by encoding such files and "attaching" them to e-mail messages, you can zap them in minutes to anyone who has access to Internet e-mail.

Here's a succinct explanation from an Internet FAQ (a compilation of Frequently Asked Questions on a particular topic) that is included with Wincode:

If you were to try to send a non-ASCII file via e-mail (this includes files that people commonly mistake for text files, such as WordPerfect files), the receiver would end up with a *very* corrupt file (you could also crash your e-mail handler!). So what can you do? Well, a while back someone developed an algorithm to convert the *funny* binary codes (8-bit) to the manageable ASCII codes (7-bit). This was originally done for UNIX-to-UNIX e-mailing (hence the UU in UUcode) but has since become somewhat of a universal standard. With this in hand, users are able to send ANY type of Binary file over standard e-mail lines. You just encode the binary file and send the uuencoded file as the e-mail message. The receiver then decodes the file to obtain the original binary.

Still a bit hazy? I'll give you an example from the real world. My brother-in-law lives in Hong Kong. We both have Internet accounts, and enjoy sending e-mail to each other. A few weeks ago, he wanted to send me some Excel spreadsheets and WordPerfect files concerning a project he was working on, so I could comment on them. I needed to receive these files in their original file formats, so that I could open them in my copies of the respective programs, to read and manipulate them.

There are any number of ways that he could have sent me the files. He could have copied them to a floppy and mailed them to me, and I would have received them in about a week. He could have air expressed the floppies at great cost, and I would have gotten them in, say, 24 hours. We could have gone through the rigmarole of arranging to have his modem call my modem, and would have had to pay the consequent long-distance charges. Then I would have had to reverse any of these cumbersome processes to return my comments.

So what did he do? He simply e-mailed me the files. He uuencoded the WordPerfect and Excel files and attached them to an e-mail message, and sent me the message on the Internet. I downloaded my e-mail as usual, saw that the message contained attached encoded files, saved the message to my hard disk as a file, and decoded it. Voila. There were the enclosed files on my hard disk, ready to be opened with my application programs. Fast, simple, and cheap.

Some e-mail programs have uuencoding/decoding capabilities built in, and some also support a rapidly spreading file attachment standard called "MIME." MIME is a more advanced, and in ideal situations more automated standard than UUcoding, but since UUcoding is still a more widely accepted standard, and can be used with all mail programs that allow attachments, I'm not going to get into MIME in this article. (Flash! As I was finishing this article, I discovered that the latest Wincode version supports Base64 MIME.)

What if your mail program doesn't have encoding/decoding built in? That's where Wincode comes to the rescue. Wincode is a Windows utility that encodes and decodes attached files. It works like a charm.

Wincode is easy to install, easy to set up, and easy to use. You don't have to manually edit or mark attached files for decoding - Wincode reads files and figures out how to handle them. Just use Wincode to open an encoded e-mail file, and Wincode will ignore headers and extra messages, and spit out the decoded files in seconds.

Wincode has many features, including drag and drop encoding/decoding; "smart" decoding, which automatically decodes multi-part files, or single files containing multiple files; and all sorts of other goodies. Sometimes mail will get split up into a number of messages if the length of the file exceeds the maximum message size limit of your e-mail system. Never fear, Wincode includes a sub-utility called Winsort, that will read and arrange the split files into the proper order.

The latest version of Wincode (2.6.1) can call PKZIP/UNZIP to automatically ZIP (compress) files before they are encoded, or automatically UNZIP zipped files after they are decoded. This new version can also be "hooked" to other Windows programs so that Wincode will appear on their menus. To be honest, I'd been using Wincode 2.3 until the day I was polishing up this review, and ran across version 2.6.1 at the last minute, so I haven't tried these features yet.

Wincode handles seven coding styles, is "100% compatible with all standard UUcoders," and is also capable of encoding files into MS-DOS, MAC, or UNIX file types. The bottom line is that Wincode is a very powerful, yet easy to use utility.

I got Wincode, version 2.3 on a disk that came with the book "Navigating the Internet - Deluxe Edition". Then I discovered version 2.6.1 out on the 'Net, and I've uploaded a copy to the TPC BBS. It's in the Windows Utilities (#15) file area, under the name WNCOD261.ZIP.

Wincode is written by George H. Silva, and is copyright Snappy Inc. (1993, 1994). It is freeware, and also "PostcardWare." In other words, if you mail the author a postcard, he'll put you on a mailing list for updates, etc. Wincode 2.3 came with a complete help file, but 2.6.1 has only eight pages of documentation included, which should be enough to get you going. It really is that easy to use - honest! If you don't need the full documentation or support, the program is FREE.

If you want full documentation and e-mail support, you have to send $5.00 to the author, and he will send the complete help file and updates to you via e-mail. If you don't have Internet e-mail, you can have the files shipped to you on floppies for $10.00.

George Silva
Oxford Heights: Buckingham #5
Albany, NY 12203

Addendum: The following quote from the Wincode "readme" file may be of interest to TPC members who are programmers.

NOTE TO DEVELOPERS: WCODEDLL.DLL contains ALL of Wincode's 'working' code (currently) accessed through 66 functions/procedures. We created this SIMPLE interface to allow Developers to integrate the Wincode Engine into any program. We will provide the API and royalty free usage to interested developers under certain conditions. Please contact Snappy_Inc. for more details.

There you have it! A wonderful program, easy to use by novices, yet powerful and configurable enough to make computer "nerds" happy.

Download Wincode 2.6.1 by ftp.

© Algorithmica Japonica Copyright Notice: Copyright of material rests with the individual author. Articles may be reprinted by other user groups if the author and original publication are credited. Any other reproduction or use of material herein is prohibited without prior written permission from TPC. The mention of names of products without indication of Trademark or Registered Trademark status in no way implies that these products are not so protected by law.

Algorithmica Japonica

June, 1995

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

Submissions : Editor

Tokyo PC Users Group, Post Office Box 103, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo 150-8691, JAPAN