Almost every day we are faced with an error related to the “Reply All” function. It is probably not ideally designed, it is quite old in the age of instant messaging, but until the email dies it is important to use it well.
We often hear that the mail is dead and it is true that the Humanoid group, publisher of Numerama, is now organized around instant messaging and project management tools such as Notion and Slack. The mails therefore took on a secondary function which is that of trace in the hard, compared to the instantaneousness of the fast message. Ironically, this is the quality we gave a few years ago to paper mail compared to mail.
Therefore, our summary emails are often sent to several people, with aliases “in the loop” which allow several people concerned to follow the progress of a project, a freelance, a job interview … in short, important things. And what is our surprise when, almost every day, we realize that the communication has not passed or that a message has been missed by almost the entire group, sometimes leading to misunderstandings or meetings. you missed.
At issue: a person “in the loop” who did not use the “Reply to all” function or Reply to all on English interfaces.
As indicated by his name, it allows you to keep a group of people (or rather, email addresses) as a copy of a response. Generally, when you receive an email and the sender has applied to copy several people, he sends you a clear hint: except for a confidential reply message, it is necessary to keep all addresses in copy. The button we are talking about effectively allows you not to have to enter them all by hand.
Answering everyone, a vestige of an old digital time
If we are writing this little post, it is because we have the impression that the functionality is not as obvious as before for users of the web. On our small scale, we find that these errors are increasing. It is very likely that instant messaging, much more anchored in the habits of people today, is in question. Its ergonomics are basically much clearer: either you speak privately to a person, or you speak in a group. On the good old mail, you always have the choice to reply, reply to all or forward. And many times the default choice is a to respond simple which does not intelligently take into account the sequence of exchanges.
On Gmail for example, the functionality is in the text composition field at the bottom of a message line or behind the options of the reply button. It can also be configured as the default action through a setting in the General tab. All mailboxes, on the web or in software, offer similar options.
So yes, we will probably come across as bewildered to those for whom behavior in the face of a bulk email has become second nature. But after all these years of evolution of the web, some classic uses are not as obvious as before and we hope that this nice reminder will be useful to some users for whom it is. reply to all is a vestige of little-known times, with some sort of ergonomics. And rather than judging, we always prefer to inform.
So think about Reply All, at least until the email dies altogether. This will avoid misunderstandings!
Article originally published on January 26, 2018 and updated on September 24, 2021