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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Use relative paths for e-mail attachments

When an attachment (such as a sales invoice, statement, quote, or purchase order) has to be automatically created for inclusion with an e-mail to be sent from a software program, the attachment normally has to be saved somewhere before it can be attached to the e-mail.  Once the e-mail is sent, the attachment can then be deleted (or optionally retained).

In Advanced Accounting, there is a setting for the attachment path for this purpose.  In establishing this path, sometimes users create a path that is only accessible by a single computer.  If the same path, whether locally or across the network, doesn't exist from the point of view of other client PC's on the network, users working from those PC's will not be able to send e-mails with automatically created attachments.

While you could use a local drive letter with a subdirectory path that exists on every PC, that could still create issues when a new PC is later added or replaced on the network and the same path then doesn't exist from the perspective of that PC, plus it means that attachment files (typically PDF's) could be littered across the system rather than exist centralized (if retained).   Or the local path could be different for every user on the network as well (might be important only if the e-mails are being retained rather than deleted).  One reason to create a local path would be to protect confidential attachments (created in PDF format).  But most accounting software documents that are commonly e-mailed are not so highly confidential that they can't be placed on a shared network drive (and for those documents, a subfolder with limited read/write access could be created), and they are deleted after being sent, there is really little to no possible exposure of confidential information.

So for ease of maintenance and to most easily allow all users to be able to send e-mails with attachments, we would recommend using a simple relative path for all users (based on how different file attachments are named automatically when created by the software, there is also little chance of a file conflict between two different users sending e-mails at the same time; to date in fact we've never seen that happen).  Or depending on e-mail settings selected, a different relative path could be used for each user logon if you are retaining e-mails sent (but is normally not necessary).

A relative path is simply a path that uses your current directory path and that causes the operating system to navigate to that path based on that directory.  In comparison, an absolute path specifies the entire path to reach that folder starting with either a drive letter and then one or more subdirectory names (folders) to reach the ultimate path.

For example, assume the program sending e-mail is installed in an upper level folder called Somemainfolder.The path C:\Somemainfolder\TempFiles would be an example of an absolute path where temporary files might be stored.  A UNC path such as \\SomeServerName\SomemainFolder\TempFiles would be another example of an absolute path.  If the server name changes later, then the UNC path would no longer be available.  If the C: drive path is used, attachments will only be able to be created on PC's that have that exact same path on their local drive.  If a drive-mapped absolute path such as F:\Somemainfolder\TempFiles is used, then that has the chance of working as long as F: always remains available in the event of a server migration.   

But a relative path is even simpler.  In the example above it would be:


(It is important that there is only an ending backslash.)

So regardless of how the program is launched nor where the software is moved later, as long as it starts with the working folder Somemainfolder, the TempFiles\ subfolder will be available (and assuming end users have read-write access rights to subfolders under the main folder which typically they do).

We like to place the temporarily created files used for e-mail attachments in a folder under the company data folder within the Advanced Accounting subdirectory structure.  Since Advanced Accounting has a separate subfolder for each company's data set, and since the main company data is usually in a folder called MainData, then the relative path might instead be:


When the e-mail is generated, it will be able to then create the file in that path, and attach it to the e-mail form.

While you can use spaces in folder names, we would recommend using short, simple folder names without spaces.

In the case of Advanced Accounting, the path setting is created in either one or two places:

(1)  If you are using a global setting (same e-mail setting for all users which is required if logon codes are not being used) then via SY-N E-mail Setup and with Global checked, click on OK;

(2)  If in SY-N you have selected Per User Logon, then settings per user are established via SY-C-A where you would highlight the desired user logon, click on Edit and then click on the E-mail Settings button.  Settings established based on user logons is recommended.

In the event of either approach selected, in the middle of the e-mail options setup screen, the attachment setting can be established:

E-mail attachment setting using a relative path

If the desired path does not exist, when you click on the Save button you will be asked:

The attachment path entered does not exist. Would you like to create it?

Simply answer "Yes"  and the path will be created for that setting.   Once created, that same relative path can be used for other user settings as well.

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