How long is a typical email message?

Awhile back an OutLinker user ran into trouble transferring a large Microsoft OutLook message into MindManager via GyroQ. We determined the shear size of the transfer was the problem. We don’t know precisely how big is too big, but in order to minimize the risk of that happening, OutLinker now has an upper limit on the quantity of text transfered in that manner. Picking a reasonable value for that required some statistical analysis.

In order to come up with an answer, I found a large email archive and wrote a short macro that looped over its 15295 messages. The macro spit out the length of each message yielded the chart below:

Distribution of email message sizes

This may not be a representative distribution of “typical” email messages and threads, but it was roughly consistent with a second work-based archive I analyzed. The average length of an email message was 3150 characters and with a median of 1304 characters. There were six over 100,000 characters and one over 200,000.

In both data sets, 98-99% of tof the messages were less than 20,000 characters, so that seemed like a reasonable upper limit to implement for transfers from OutLook to MindManager via GyroQ for now. If you try to transfer the body of a message larger than that limit, OutLinker will warn you and trunicate it down to 20K. You can avoid this limit by doing a direct transfer using “Send to Active Map” or “MindRead”

With the younger generation moving to txt messages and 140 character twitters, some day our kids will marvel that we used to write short novels in our email exchanges.

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