The "View" link allows you to look at the photo within the browser, and the "Download" link causes the file to be saved to your local harddrive. For the novice user this type of "preview" with clear indications on how to look at, and how to save the file is way more intuitive than the commonly used paperclip icon.
Intrigued by this design I wondered if one could create a rich text e-mail with some CSS and provide the same type of "user interface", but instead of attaching the file, include links to a cloud service (e.g. Amazon S3). That way you can shift the load of the attachments from the e-mail server to the cloud service, process more e-mails in a shorter amount of time, and get the e-mail quicker to the customer (in case of a photo service).
The implementation was fairly simple: include a thumbnail, and create two links to Amazon S3. The "View" link would connect to a URL on S3 with the metadata Content-Disposition set to inline. And the "Download" link would associate with a URL on S3 with the metadata Content-Disposition set to attachment. It worked fine except for one case: Gmail in combination with Internet Explorer. When clicking the "Download" link, Gmail seems to get completely confused and unless you completely shut down IE, there is no way to get back to your inbox.
These are the steps I used to produce the issue:
- Open Hotmail (or any other mail client that allows sending Rich Text e-mails with hyperlinks).
- Compose a message with a hyperlink to: https://s3.amazonaws.com/lautumar.bug/ie8_gmail_bug.jpg
- This link refers to a file on Amazon S3 with the Content-Disposition set to attachment.
- Send this e-mail to a Gmail account.
- Open Internet Explorer, surf to http://www.gmail.com and log in.
- Open the e-mail message you composed earlier.
- Click on the hyperlink pointed to S3.
- With the default security settings, a new window will open but with the following security warning "To help protect your security, Internet Explorer blocked this site from downloading files to your computer. Click here for options.".
- Click on the message and choose "Download File...".
- More importantly when trying to access Gmail by typing http://www.gmail.com in the address bar you will now get "Connection Problem" in IE. Or simply get logged out of Gmail.
- The only way to get Gmail to work is to shutdown and restart IE.
For those interested in following the status on this issue: there's a bug report on the Gmail Help Forum where you can "Star" the problem and stay up to date.