This means that you don't have to hand-write or print out a 'hard copy' of your message or letter on paper.
You don't have to write an address on a paper envelope.
You don't have to stick a stamp on, drive or walk to the nearest mailbox and post your letter.
And you don't (really - this is the best bit) have to wait days for your letter to get there, or pay more to send a letter overseas.
Whenever you tell your email program that you want to write a
New Message, or to
Replyto a message you have received, the program will open a message window on your screen.
This window will have separate 'boxes' for the essential information: who it's to, who it's from, what it's about (subject), and of course what you want to say (body of the message).
Like your address on envelopes, your email address tells people who you are and where you live, and it is unique one of a kind.
Nobody else in the world has the same email address as you.
Your email address is usually made up like this:
your user name for connecting to the Internet (AT) the name of your Internet Service Provider (DOT) based at this kind of organization (DOT) in this country
for example, my email address is:
clytie is my username,
@ stands for 'at',
I connect to riverland,
a computer at an Internet business,
Some email addresses look different to this example.
For more information on the structure and meaning of Internet addresses (including an alphabetical listing of country codes), please see Where are things on the 'Net? About addresses in a town with no road maps on this site.
Just as paper letters and parcels usefully have the 'sender's address' written on them, email letters need a sender's address.
Because of the enormous amount of SPAM (junk email) which abuses the email system (see What is Spam and how do I deal with it? on this site), mail servers will not send your message unless it includes your correct email address (your sender's address).
Also, how is anyone going to be able to get back to you, if they don't get your address with the message?
If your correct email address is sent with the message, all someone has to do is to choose
Replyafter opening your message, and his or her email program will set up a message window with your address already correctly typed in!
With your correct reply-to address entered in your email program setup, your message will be returned to you if it can't be delivered (explaining what went wrong), and other people's messages to you won't get lost.
The only time you need to be connected (and paying for online time!) for email is when you are sending and/or receiving mail.
Your modem (a telephone for your computer) connects you to other computers.
You only need to be connected to other computers when you are getting something from them or sending something to them.
Once you have got your mail from the mail server, all those messages are now sitting on your computer, so you can read them in your own time, like any other information that is stored on your computer.
When you are writing messages, you are writing them onto your own computer, just like writing something in word-processing or in any other program you use there.
Reading and writing messages takes time, and is easier to do if you are feeling relaxed, and not counting off 'online time' being added to your account!
After all, it only takes a few seconds to send or receive an email message.
You might write a very brief message while still online, then send it immediately, but otherwise, why rush yourself?
Your Internet Service Provider is like an airport for your journey onto the Internet.
You have to get to an airport before you can fly anywhere else in the world.
The airport people co-ordinate the travel, oversee security at the airport, offer you facilities you need there, and are available for contact within whatever hours they can afford.
Your ISP is permanently connected (aside from the dreaded electricity or telephone failures anywhere along the network) to all other ISPs in the world.
Just as in flying, some Internet trips are direct, and some go through other locations.
Some Internet trips take longer, and others are very quick.
Where you're heading, some airports (or ISPs) are busier and have long delays at times.
Some may not even be open, sometimes (the ISP is 'down' temporarily), and unlike airports, ISPs are being upgraded, changed and moved around all the time.
Confused? Don't worry.
- Your ISP is responsible for getting you off on your journey, any time you connect and ask to go somewhere else (asking for an address outside your ISP).
If you can connect (get to the airport), but can't get going anywhere else (get off the ground on your journey), then your ISP will offer 'travellers' aid' and help you sort out what is going on!
- You are responsible for your own actions.
Your responsibility includes considerate behaviour towards other people on the 'Net, following instructions on how to connect and how to use programs, and investing the time to learn , bit by bit, how the programs and the systems work.
After all, you want to be an Internet user, not a luser.
An ISP provides a variety of services by allowing you to connect to specific computers and programs (servers).
A mail server is a specialized mail program, with an amount of space on a computer, which stores incoming mail until you pick it up, processes and sends outgoing mail, and checks that people are using the right address.
It's a computerized post-office.
The human being behind the 'post-office' is only emergency back-up for this and many other servers and pieces of equipment.
So you would normally email
postmaster@ your ISP (in my case, firstname.lastname@example.org)
only if you had problems with that mailserver.
Learning to use your email program is your job:
- read your email program's Help
- check that your Internet settings (given to you on a printed sheet by your ISP when they first set you up) are correct
- read the Look Here First information on this site
- get good training if it's available
- and if you get stuck, you're welcome to email me using the address at the bottom of this page (I like questions :-)
The 'Internet' literally means 'network between networks', but I also think of it as the International network.
In computer terms, a network is a way of joining computers together so they can share information.
Many schools, businesses etc. have their own internal networks (LAN - Local Area Network) where they have several computers linked together, and also linked to the same printer(s), scanner, camera, main computer (for storing files) or modem gateway (for connecting outside the internal network).
The more different things : computers, other pieces of hardware (printers etc.) and especially programs (software) are involved in a network, the more complicated it is.
This means (in theory) that you can do more things with all that equipment ... but it also means more things can go wrong!
With an internal network (LAN), you can see and touch the whole system; it's all in one room or building.
However, the Internet is made up of millions of computers all over the world, linked together 'permanently' (by the local and international phone system and by satellites) to share information.
An incredible range of software (different types of instructions) is used on all these different machines.
Millions more individual computers, like yours and mine, dial in and connect for minutes or hours at a time, sending and receiving mail, and crawling over this 'world wide web' (www) of public files, looking for information.
You, with your computer and modem, are the traveller.
Your ISP is the airport ... and the rest of the Internet is the vast, varied world beyond that airport.
Don't do it!
Formatting is making individual choices about your program, or about your document, which change its appearance or behaviour.
In word-processing, formatting includes changing the font, size, style and colour of text (words), using tabs (measured spaces) and generally setting out the document so it looks the way you want it to.
This is fine, because you're going to print it out and use it as 'hard copy' (on paper).
Email, however, is simple and quick because it is just plain text.
Some email programs now have features that let you make your message look pretty (rich text, styled text), include hyperlinks you can click on (html) or even include pictures in the message.
The great majority of email programs worldwide can only read, or are set to plain text, so any other guff in a message comes up on the screen as a lot of garbage characters, takes up too much space and slows the message down.
People hate it!
It is important to make sure that your email program is always set to plain text (not 'rich text', 'styled text' or 'html'), out of consideration for the people who may receive your messages.
Check through your mail settings or preferences until you find this option some mail 'parts' of browsers have a default setting (they start out that way) of html, styled or rich text, which can make you very unpopular with the people receiving your mail!
Another common problem with email is attachments.
Although most email programs allow you to join (attach, enclose etc.) other files (documents, pictures, whole programs!) to your email message and send the bloated mass on its way, this clogs up the email system, and often the person at the other end doesn't have exactly the same software as you, and can't decode the 'attachment'.
If you want to send a document (anything with writing), just highlight the writing that you want to send, then
Copyit, then go into your email message and
Pasteit on the end or where you want it.
Yes, it will go as plain, ordinary text ... but everyone will be able to read it, and it will go quickly and with no problems !
If you want to share a 'great program' or an 'exciting file' with someone, it is much easier just to tell them where on the Net to find it for themselves.
Open your email program.
In one of the menus at the top of the screen, you will find
New Message or similar. Choose that.
A message window will open.
Who is this message from? You! Your own email address should already be in that box, put there by your email program.
Who is this message to? Type in the other person's email address (click in a box to start typing there).
What is this message about (the subject)? Type that in.
What do you want to say? Type that in the main box (the body).
Put the message away to be sent later when you connect (Queue or Send Later or similar); or if you are online now, Send Now.
Doing it Right
In your email program, go to Setup, Options, Preferences, Settings, Configuration (or whatever it calls the choices you make about how it does things).
Read the Help about your program.
Would you try to drive a vehicle without knowing what the important controls did?
Don't be a luser.
Now you understand what the different settings are about, fill in the information your program needs.
Your ISP will give you a printed sheet with the correct settings for connecting to their servers.
ISPs also have this information online (at the ISP's website), although that's not much use if you need the information in order to connect... :-)
While setting-up, your email program will ask for your own email address .
Make sure you fill it in, and make sure it is correct.
If you are not sure about your exact email address, check with your ISP.
A good email program will have an Address Book (or similar). Follow the instructions in the Help, entering in the Address Book the email addresses of people you know.
You will notice (in the Help) that when you receive a message from a person whose address is not yet in your Address Book, you can tell a good email program (using a menu command) to put the new email address in the Address Book for you!
Now you can tell your program to begin a
New Message .
A good email program will allow you to choose to create a new message to one of the addresses in the list from your Address Book.
For example, in Eudora you simply go to the
Message menu then slide down to
New Message to... and a list of people's names pops out.
Choose the one you want.
A message window will open.
Your email program already knows your address (because you entered it in the settings) and you have already chosen the other person's address, so the message window already has both addresses, and you don't have to type them in.
This saves time, and is additionally useful because it is very easy to make mistakes trying to type in email addresses.
(Result? The message won't send, arrive or allow people to reply to you.)
What is your message about?
When the other person first receives your message, before opening it s/he will see your name, the date it was sent, and its subject.
If you want people to read your messages, keep your subject line brief and make sure it tells the person what you are going to be talking about.
If you are sending this message to more than one person , email programs offer you a CC (Carbon Copies) box in which to put those other addresses.
However, good email programs also offer you a BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) box.
Putting any additional addresses in the BCC box prevents spam robots from harvesting lists of addresses from your email.
Unless you are sure that somebody really wants to receive this message, do not send it to him or her at all.
Copying messages to other people is easy, and spammers use it to send out huge quantities of junk mail through the email system.
Spammers are lusers by definition, because they lose the respect of other Internet users the minute they send them unwanted email.
Think before you copy, and be a welcome (not 'Trashed the message and complained about that idiot to his/her ISP') emailer.
In the main message box (the body of the message), write whatever you want to say.
In a good email program, you can
Save your message and come back to it later, even write it in stages if you like.
Save As your message, Saving it As a document somewhere on your computer, because you want to keep it.
At the end of your message, you can leave your signature or 'sig'.
This should not be more than four lines long, and can include information about yourself, the address of your homepage, quirky quotations, little pictures made out of keyboard characters ... it's up to you.
Your email program will let you make a signature file, then save it so it appears at the end of each message.
Read the Help: good email programs give you options for different signatures, giving you a choice when you start a message.
Finished writing your message?
Then just tell your program to
Send (Later) the message, to be sent next time you connect (to your ISP with your modem).
If for some reason you are online (connected) right now, you can
Send (Now) .
Send and Receive(or similar) it will also send any messages you have in your Out box which are queued and waiting to go.
However, sometimes you just want to send one or two messages, and not pick up all your mail waiting on the server (maybe there is a lot, maybe you want to pick it up from another computer, maybe you are in a hurry).
Anyway, if you just want to Send one or more messages, make sure you are connected to your ISP, then choose from the commands in your email program's menus
Send Queued Messages or similar.
Straight away, your email program should tell you that it is:
For more information on modem problems, see Why does my connection 'drop out' (disconnect) on me? on the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page on this site.
Your ISP will have given you a printed list of any connection settings (including server names, so you can access a service such as mail) which need to be entered into your Internet programs.
When you send mail from your computer to the mailserver, it travels using a process called the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, so some ISPs have mailserver names starting with smtp.
Others simply call themselves mail, e.g.
Check that you are telling your email program the right place (SMTP server) to try and send your mail!
If you have not filled in the From, To and Subject boxes in a message, a good email program will usually warn you when you try to
Send the message, and will give you another chance (we all forget sometimes!).
However, you can type in an email address that looks all right to the email program (has the right structure: user@ISPcomputer.organization.country) but is actually not a valid address currently belonging to anybody .
This email will 'bounce' back to you, with details about why it didn't work.
Read these carefully, and if you are confused about anything, email postmaster@yourISP or ring your ISP.
Reply by email to that 'bounce' notice.
It is being sent automatically by the email program on the server, not by a person (however chatty it might sound, if the 'master copy' for the notices was originally written by a friendly postmaster).
Your reply to a 'bounce' will just have to be forwarded somewhere else by the mailserver, or will be ignored.
Another common problem with sending email ("I can send OK, I think, but nobody replies to me and says they got my email") is that you may not have entered your own reply-to email address correctly in your email program's settings.
If your reply-to address is incorrect, people will be trying to email you, and their emails will be 'bounced' straight back to them.
Worse still, they might be going to a total stranger!
Your email address is your Internet identity.
Make sure it is correct.
Your email program then asks the mailserver at your ISP if any mail has come in for you since last time you checked, and if so, to send it straight to your computer via the modem.
There are two settings that can cause you trouble here:
If you want to know how to do this, send me an email explaining what you want to be able to do, and for each computer involved: which email program you are using, what operating system (e.g. Windows, Macintosh, Unix) the computer uses, if it is connected to a network and if so, what kind, and what organization is providing the Internet Service.It is a common, and pretty awful error to have your email program set to "leave mail on server", and thus have your email piling up on the ISP's mailserver months after you've read it ... a really good way NOT to get popular with the people who are there to help you!
Without that information, I'd be trying to make a cake without the ingredients!
These two odd settings notwithstanding, checking mail is a breeze:
while online (connected by modem to your ISP), open your email program if it's not already open, and from its menus choose
Check Mail (or similar).
Immediately your email program will tell you it is:
When mail travels from the mailserver to your computer, it is following a process called the Post Office Protocol.
For that reason, some ISPs have mailservers with names that start with pop.
However, others simply call their mailserver mail, e.g.
Check that you're telling your email program the right place (POP server) to find your mail!
If your email program can't complete step 3, you may have encountered another annoyingly common problem in downloading your mail from the server: email constipation.
This occurs when some well (or less well) meaning person sends you a very large file attached to an email message.
The average email message, as we have said, is only a few k (kilobytes: for more information on what these storage terms really mean, see glossary (part 2): information storage on this site) while a large document, program, picture or sound file may take up Mb (megabytes, thousands of times bigger ).
So the poor person being sent this unwieldy junk through the email system, sees some messages come through quickly and normally, perhaps, and then the system appears to 'get stuck' on the message towing the giant attachment.
Good email programs show you a progress bar (moving from empty to full) while a message is arriving, and you can see that bar moving fairly quickly.
When a message is towing something thousands of times its size, the progress bar may have to sit there for an hour or more (barely moving or not appearing to move at all), while the giant attachment trickles its way through the email system.
If you have an external modem (with Receive Data and Transmit Data lights), or a PPP (Point to Point Protocol) display program which shows you (with little wiggly bars like a stereo sound-measure) whether your connection is sending/receiving data or not, you can see whether that message is in fact still coming through (i.e. that data is still being received by your modem).
Often people don't check this fact, but panic, decide that something must be broken at the other end (e.g. the poor mailserver which is dutifully chugging this file through), give up and ring the ISP, saying "I can't download my mail".
If this blockage in your email is slowly coming through, you can simply wait for it to get there (all remaining messages will come through normally after that), then email a reply to the person who sent it, asking him or her not to do that again, explaining why, cutting and pasting in the information under formatting, further up this page, if you like.
Well-meaning people will not do it again.
If you do not have any way to check if data is moving through the modem, and if after a reasonable wait, the message does not appear to be coming through, you can ring your ISP and ask them to check your mailbox on the mailserver.
If in fact a large 'message' is blocking your mail-flow, you can ask them to delete it from your box.
Additionally (if you really want it, and they have the time), you can ask your ISP postmaster to compress that file and put it on a floppy disk (if it will fit) for you to come and pick up (you would need to pay a small fee for this).
The option to get help from your ISP to delete anything blocking your mail flow is particularly useful if the person sending the large message, or a very large number of unwanted messages (known as a 'mail bomb') is not well-meaning (in the case of a mail bomber, apparently barely sentient).
Your postmaster can help you with blockages in your email, but will do it with much more respect for you as a user, if you have checked out all the possibilities at your end, first.
This includes learning about your email program, and reading information like this and the spam page mentioned earlier (there is a lot of free self-help information on the Internet).
Replyfrom the program menus, and start writing your answer (see also replying to email further on).
Pasteinformation out of it (into a
Newor other document), while it is open, but you can't usually change anything in it.
Asa document while it is open (emails may contain information which you want to keep).
Move/Transferit into a different mailbox or
Well, you've got your first mail!
Congratulations on doing the work to get your program set up properly
(and on remembering to have the modem plugged in when you try to connect! You haven't forgotten that one yet? We all have, at some time or another :-)
It's fun to get occasional email at first, but like your snailmail (that paper stuff people send you), it means you are connected to a worldwide system, and may end up with a crowded In box!
Your email program starts you off with an In box, an Out box, and a Trash (otherwise known as 'the circular file': not just a round-shaped bin, but a way of recycling the space on your computer).
Email boxes are easiest to manage if you deal with email messages as they come in .
Remember, your best friend in the paperless jungle ... is the Trash!
As email messages come in, you can decide what basic category they fit in, and deal with them (so they don't clutter up your In box and get in your way).
Here are some examples of how messages can fit into these categories:
Address Booknow, before trashing the message)
Bookmarks/Favoritesthere so I can check it out later; then trash the message)
Asa document, call it "NewLinks", saving it onto my desktop (so I can check these links out as I get the time online), then trash the message
Asa document on my desktop, call it MEETINGS so I can't miss it, and put the info in my organizer RSN [real soon now!]), then trash the message
Save Asa document, naming it so I can find it easily, and putting it in a folder that makes sense (e.g. not putting DOGS in the CATS folder, but creating a new ANIMALS folder for both of them) -- you will want to save a lot of information from email or off webpages, and then be able to find it again, so it's important to name files sensibly and keep the folders on your hard drive well-organized, just as you would the files and folders in a filing cabinet.
The main reasons for dealing with email as it comes in (not leaving it in the In box) are:
See these TidBits articles if you need to set up an everyday, reliable backup systemSAVE as you go, when you are working.
A good email program also helps you keep your mail organized, by allowing you to create additional mailboxes and filters.
If you join a mailing list, you may have a lot of messages coming in regularly on a particular topic.
Joining a mailing list means that you subscribe to a specialized mailserver which sends you and everyone else on the subscriber list all the messages on that topic of interest -- you can participate by posting your own messages, or just 'lurk', only read others' messages.A good email program will allow you to create a filter, which is an instruction to take a particular action with a message that is 'from this address', 'has this subject' etc.
Move/Transferit into another box or into the Trash, you can select more than one message at a time (check the Help for this, as it varies between programs).
Empty Trashwhenever you're ready
Sortthe messages by date (oldest at the top) or in alphabetical order of the sender or subject.
Findcommand in the menus, which will help you search for particular messages (by words in the subject, by the sender and even by words in the body of the message)
Forward(Fwd) a message to someone else who is interested, or perhaps to your other email address if you have more than one (and want to look at that message later in another place).
Forwardfrom the menu (in good email programs, you can
Forward Tothe person you choose from the list provided by the Address Book), a new message window will open, with the message already quoted (not between "talking marks", but with > before each line, like this:)
Copybits of information out of an email message which you are reading, and then
Pastethem into a new or existing email or word-processing document.
Replyfrom the menus.
A new message window, already set up with your email address and the reply-to address of the person who sent you the message you were reading, will open.
There are three things you can do, to be more efficient and considerate in replying:
When you have finished writing your reply, you then
Queue it or tell the program to
Send Later , and your reply will sit in your Out box until you get online (connect to your ISP with your modem) and send it, along with any others waiting there.
You can still go back to that message (whether it's a reply or a new message) and reopen it, if you want to change it, as long as you haven't sent it yet!
However, your email program will have symbols like these that show if a message:
|o||is waiting to be read (unread)|
|has been read (usually no symbol)|
|R||has been Replied to|
|Q||is waiting to be sent (Queued)|
|S||has been Sent|
|F||has been Forwarded as a copy to somebody else|
The Help will explain what any other symbols in the message window mean.
They are meant to be useful, so it's worth finding out!
Generally, I recommend Eudora (at www.eudora.com) for both Windows and Macintosh platforms.
It is very reliable and easy to use, with all the features you need, and it is free.
It comes with an excellent Help menu that shows you how to do the various steps of emailing, and also with a complete Manual which you can read and use on your computer.
www.eudora.com has a lot of useful information and links to excellent Eudora-help sites.
I include links to two helpful online tutorial sites for Eudora, below.
Also, since so many people use Eudora, it's not difficult to swap mailboxes around from one computer to another, or to ask questions of other users.
A Guide to the Eudora Mail Package (from the Uni of SA, Adelaide)
Internet 101: Eudora Tutorial (from the USA)