Free Application Helps To Avoid Clogging Inboxes; Speeds Still Might Vary
How many times have you wanted to email a large attachment - like a bunch of digital photos, an album of songs, or a hefty video -- but didn't do so because it exceeded your email provider's, or the recipient's, limits on attachment size, or because it might max out the recipient's mailbox?
This frustration is growing increasingly common as better digital cameras produce bigger photos and large video clips, and digital music becomes more widespread. Computer hard disks have grown nicely to accommodate these files, but limits on the size of email messages haven't. And, even if you could send such large attachments, it can take forever to send them via email, partly because broadband upload speeds lag far behind download speeds.
Instead of suffering the frustration of a bounced email, many folks have resorted to Web-based services like Shutterfly or Kodak EasyShare Gallery or YouTube.com or Google Video for sharing digital photos and videos. They upload the files to these sites, then send links to their friends and family. But this method has major drawbacks. The recipients don't get the full-size files on their own computers, and sometimes must register with the sites to view your material.
This week, we tested a new, free, application called Pando that aims to solve this problem without requiring you to use an intermediary Web site. Pando lets you email huge attachments -- up to one gigabyte each -- to anyone, without breaching email size limits, or clogging anyone's inbox. It comes in versions for both Windows and Macintosh computers, available for downloading at www.pando.com.
It sounded fishy to us, too, but Pando, from Pando Networks Inc., performed really well in our tests -- even in its current "beta," or trial, stage. It's simple, fast, and effective, and it solves the large-attachment problem.
Pando works by merging the mechanism of email with its own small program and a modified version of BitTorrent, a back-end file-transfer system best known until now for speeding up the downloading of large, unauthorized files, like pirated movies.
Here's how you use Pando. First, you download and install the small Pando program. Then, you select the files you want to send. These can be any type of files you want, or even whole folders of files. Then, still using the Pando software, you type in the addresses of the recipients, the subject, and a message. The software then does three things: it creates a Pando Package, a small special file that instructs the recipient's computer on how to fetch the files; it sends an email containing that package file, plus any text you want; and it uploads the files to a Pando server.
On the recipient's end, an email is received in his or her normal email program containing the Pando Package as a tiny attachment (one huge 94 megabyte attachment we sent required only a 22-kilobyte attachment). The recipient just opens the Pando Package attachment, and it in turn launches the Pando software, which then downloads the files or folders you sent. The first time the recipient receives a Pando email, he or she will have to download and install the Pando software. There's a link in the email to the download site.
Once downloaded onto the receiver's computer, all Pando files can be found in a special folder that Pando automatically creates. In Windows, it's called My Pando Packages and is in My Documents. On the Mac, it's called Pando Packages and is in the home folder. The files are also listed in the handy Received list in the Pando software.
As a bonus, Pando can sometimes transmit these large files faster than your email program or Web browser could. That's because it uses a modified version of the speedy BitTorrent technology.
We downloaded and installed Pando in just a few minutes. Opening the small Pando email attachment from Microsoft Outlook on Windows or Apple Mail on the Mac prompted a little Pando window to pop up, in which all sent and received files were organized. This window is simple, showing a thumbnail image and text description of each file. A list of received files shows who sent the file and when; the sent list shows to whom you sent files and when.
We started out big, sharing a 95-megabyte, high-resolution video. You must create a username and password to send using Pando, which we did, entering our email and first and last names. A simple "Send New" icon opens the email-like form, where we dragged and dropped this big video file.
No Pando Package can total more than one gigabyte, and an automatic tally shows you how large the Package is becoming as you drag and drop more files into it.
The Pando software program allows users to send large email attachments without running afoul of normal size limitations
Another way to send files using Pando is by right-clicking on any file or folder in your computer and selecting a "Send With Pando" option that appears after the software application is downloaded. Selecting this also opens the familiar sending window. But this works only in Windows.
The 95-megabyte video took eight minutes to upload, and nine minutes to download - impressively fast times. Another Pando Package filled with 44 high-resolution digital photos totaling 65 megabytes took six minutes to upload, and six minutes to receive.
But Pando can't entirely overcome slow Internet connections, so your speeds may vary considerably. This is especially true on the uploading side, as even broadband cable and DSL connections typically offer upload speeds that are a fraction of their download speeds. In our tests, at our office and homes, our download and upload speeds ranged from 30 kilobits per second to 250, depending on where we were and when we were testing.
Even if you didn't see any speed improvement with Pando, you'd still benefit from the sheer ability to send huge attachments. That's a big deal.
On July 25, Pando Networks will introduce a special plug-in for Outlook, making it even easier for users to send huge files without worrying about inbox congestion. And the company also has plans to introduce plug-ins for Web-based email programs like Google's Gmail and Microsoft's Hotmail.
If you're tired of bounced emails, and of using Web sites to share your personal videos or photos, Pando is a straightforward solution that anyone can understand in a matter of minutes. It's a great solution to a vexing problem.