All About E-Mail

Electronic mail (E-Mail) gives you a fast, cheap way to send information all over the world and to receive information through your very own E-Mail mailbox, or "inbox." It can take the place of telephone calls, faxes, courier shipments, and traditional letter mail. Use it to keep in touch with friends, family, and business contacts. More than 80 million people worldwide already do. Here's how.

Basics of sending and receiving
What about attachments?
The scoop on newsgroups

 Hughes Glantzberg

Last Revised: 11/17/1998

Created by
The PC Help Desk
(Hughes Glantzberg)

Basics of sending and receiving

To send and receive electronic-mail messages, or E-Mail, over the Internet, and to organize your messages, you need an E-Mail account. You can get this through an Internet Service Provider or online service provider. You also need an E-Mail client - E-Mail software for your computer. Your E-Mail client creates an Inbox on your computer. When you check your E-Mail, new messages are downloaded into your Inbox.

Pick an E-Mail Client
Here are some examples of E-Mail clients:

Microsoft® Outlook™ 98- a messaging and collaboration client; provides advanced E-Mail, calendar, and contact management and a platform for workgroup information sharing when used with Microsoft Exchange Server. You can download Outlook 98 for free from the Microsoft Office Web.

Hotmail- the world's leading provider of free E-Mail (it's supported by advertising). Because it is Web-based, everything you need to use Hotmail resides on the Internet, rather than your computer. So you can use Hotmail on any computer that has access to the Internet. If you travel, move, or change your Internet service provider, your Hotmail E-Mail address and service stay the same.

Microsoft Outlook Express- designed for users who need fast, reliable E-Mail and newsgroup functionality without the full capabilities of Outlook. Outlook Express is included in the Microsoft Windows® 98 operating system and is especially easy to use if you're using Microsoft Internet Explorer v4.0 Web browser.

Microsoft Exchange- automatically included in the Microsoft Windows 95 operating system.

A little terminology
There are many acronyms associated with E-Mail. Here are some that you may come across:

SMTP- Simple Mail Transport Protocol, the standard rules that many E-Mail clients use to handle outgoing E-Mail messages.

POP3- Post Office Protocol version 3, the standard rules that many E-Mail clients use to handle incoming E-Mail messages.

E-Mail clients built on standards like SMTP and POP3 can share information with each other, so we don't all need to use the same E-Mail client. To set up your E-Mail client, you may need to know your SMTP server address and your POP3 server address. If so, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can give you this information. Some E-Mail clients use programs called wizards to help you get set up.

MIME- Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions, a format for turning an E-Mail attachment, such as a Microsoft Word file, into ASCII text so it can be sent from one E-Mail account to another.

Anatomy of an E-Mail Address
To send a message to someone, you must type his or her E-Mail address in the "To" section of your E-Mail message. Generally, there are two parts to an E-Mail address: Your logon identity and the identity of your ISP. These are separated by the symbol @. A typical E-Mail address for someone who uses Hotmail, for example, looks like this:

The extension - .com - indicates that Hotmail is a commercial establishment. Other common extensions are .gov (for government users) and .edu (for educational users). E-Mail addresses outside of the United States may also include letters that indicate the country of the user's ISP.

Sites to visit
To find out more about Hotmail and sign up for a free (Connect charges may apply.) your account, visit the Hotmail Web site.

What about attachments?

You can send more than simple text in your electronic-mail messages. You can also attach computer documents - including word-processor, spreadsheet, graphic, and video files - to an E-Mail message. So E-Mail is a useful way to share files that more than one person wants or needs.

With Microsoft® Outlook™ 98, E-Mail gets even more sophisticated. Outlook 98 allows you to send messages on HTML "stationery," which contains background graphics and special, preselected font designs and colors to match.

Special notes

The scoop on newsgroups

If your E-Mail client is also a newsreader, you can use it to subscribe to, read messages from, and post messages to newsgroups, online discussions on practically any topic. Microsoft® Internet Explorer v4.0 makes newsgroup access easy, too. On the Go menu, simply select News. Internet Explorer automatically launches Outlook Express and opens your newsgroups folder so you can get down to business.

Here are some newsgroup basics:

Before you join in:

Sites to visit
The Deja News Web site is a good place to learn more about newsgroups, and it provides a way for you to search newsgroups for those that interest you.

ZDNet's "Usenet 101" article covers newsgroup basics.