As a technical writer, I deal with PDF documents a lot. Even though I enjoy creating PDFs (yes that includes XSL-FO, Apache FOP, and everything in between), I don't just create them for my own enjoyment. When I create a PDF, I want other people to see it. Similarly, in the world of email marketing, when you or someone in your company creates a quality PDF, you are going to want your customers to see it. Conventional wisdom would say "send it as an email attachment". However, in this case, conventional wisdom need not apply.


If you are thinking of attaching a PDF to an email in your email marketing campaign, DON'T. Here's why:

  • Attachments increase the size of your message. The larger the file size, the more susceptible your message becomes to a filter or an outright block. Also, ISPs (especially free ones like Hotmail, Yahoo etc) limit the size of emails it will accept and deliver to an inbox. A message with an attachment might not be delivered because it puts the recipient over their mailbox quota.
  • Attachments can’t be opened by all users. Not all people run the same operating system and/or use the same applications. Although they have the file, they might not be able to actually open it.
  • Attachments sometimes can raise red flags. Smart email users will sometimes question attachments because of a potential virus and damage to their computer.
  • Viruses spread through attachments. If we allowed this functionality in the application, we would make our customers unnecessarily susceptible to a virus attack. By choosing to not support attachments at all, we're able to completely remove the virus risk for our customers.

Not Only A Solution, A Better Solution

Instead of an attachment in the typical sense, I recommend that you host your PDF and link to it in the body of your message. Here's why:

  • Linking to the document mitigates all of the potential delivery problems you might encounter with attachments.
  • Linking to the document enables you to view the contacts that "open" the "attachment" via the application's click-through tracking. Links to a PDF or .doc work just like a link to a URL, and thus will appear in your link tracking and click-through reports.

To host your PDF and link to it in the body of your message:

  1. Go to Site->Hosting.
  2. Click the Upload button.
  3. Click the Choose File button.
  4. Once the file is listed in the text box, click the Upload button.
  5. Once the upload is complete, you will see the file name in the list on the Hosting page.
  6. Now that your file is hosted, you can direct your contacts to view it through a hyperlink in a message (Please note this is only possible through HTML and not plain text).
  7. Highlight the text in your message you want to use as the link (i.e. Please click HERE to view…).
  8. On the WYSIWYG editor toolbar, click the Insert/Edit link button.
  9. Click the browse button.
  10. Find the correct file and click on it.
  11. Click Insert
  12. Click Insert.
  13. The hosted file is now linked to in the body of your message content. Be sure to test that the link is working properly before you actually send out the message.

So now you have a solution that not only avoids all of the pitfalls of sending a PDF as an email attachment, but also allows you to track how many people read the PDF! If you have any questions or comments, please leave in them in the comments section below.

John Gunther
Technical Writer/eLearning Specialist at Bronto
Editor of Brontoversity