Basic E-mail Concepts

Basic E-mail Concepts

E-mail provides a wonderful means of communication. It’s nonintrusive your correspondents can read and answer your e-mail when they have the time to do it. But its also very quick, far quicker than the U.S postal service’s snail mail. For people who are logged on at work all day, e-mail can be an almost instantaneous way to communicate. E-mail has its drawbacks too: because e-mail is more casual than a letter or a memo, some people find they write things in an e-mail that they would never write in a regular letter. And because e-mail lacks the nuances of face-to-face or phone conversation, an e-mail message can be more easily misunderstood than verbal communication.To place an order for the Complete Project Material, pay N5,000 to
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If you’re not into e-mail already, you should be- e-mail is often the beginning of a foray into the internet. The technical stuff can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.

How do you get your E-mail?

How does e-mail work, anyway? In this book discussions about e-mail refer to internet e-mail. You may also get mail on an internal network such as within your office or online service, but that isn’t internet e-mail. However, the majority of what you learn about e-mail in this section of the book also applies to local mail within your office or online service.

You receive internet e-mail when its sent to your unique e-mail address. E-mail messages are passed through the internet by using a protocol called simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP). SMTP is understood by all e-mail applications that package your internet e-mail message for sending, and by all the computers (servers) that pass the message along its route.

Receiving incoming messages

How you collect and read your e-mail depends on how you’re attached to the internet. Most people don’t have a computer that it permanently attached to the internet – instead, they dial in when they want to do internet stuff (including picking up and sending e-mail), and then disconnect when they’re done. But since e-mail can arrive at any time, you need an e-mail mailbox that resides on a mial server, a computer that is permanently attached to the internet (barring unforeseen problems) and is set up to handle your incoming e-mail. Like your postal service mailbox, the mail server is able to accept e-mail at any time and store it until you delete it. Depending on the type of connection that you have, you may download e-mail from the mail server to your computer, or you may read your e-mail while it sits on the mail server.

Mail servers receive and store e-mail messages in mailboxes by using a protocol called post office protocol (POP) or POP3 (since the current version of POP is version 3). Mail servers are sometimes also called POP servers.

To read your e-mail, you need an e-mail application (also called a mail client or POP client) such as outlook or Eudora. A client application works in concert with a server – in the case of e-mail, a mail server collects your e-mail, and your mail client enables you to read it.

Sending outgoing messages

Sending e-mail requires a similar process. You write messages on your own computer by using your e-mail application. Then, you (or the e-mail application) transfer the messages to an SMTP server – a mail server that accepts outgoing e-mail. Your internet service provider (ISP) probably runs both an SMTP server and a POP server for its customers: the SMTP server that takes care of sending your e-mail messages may be a different server than the POP server that collects your e-mail.
ways of accessing E-mail

There are a variety of ways to access your e-mail

·        You may use a mail client, such as Eudora, Outlook, or any one of the other popular packages that downloads your incoming messages from the POP server to your computer and uploads your outgoing messages to the SMTP server. This may occur through a local area network (LAN) or through a dial-up connection.

·        You may use a Web-based- e-mail service.

·        You may use a commercial provider, such as CompuServer or America Online, which have their own e-mail programs.

·        You may get your e-mail through a LAN, a common system at large organizations. If your organization has some sort of internet connection, e-mail arrives in the company’s POP server. You then read your e-mail either on the server, using an e-mail application, or on your own computer, by downloading your e-mail application, or on your own computer, by downloading your e-mail from the server through the LAN by using an e-mail application. Your company may use a POP server or some kind of proprietary protocol (for instance, Lotus’s cc:Mail, which is not a POP mail client).

·        You may have a UNIX shell account and use a UNIX e-mail program (such as Pine, Elm or Mutt) that reads your POP mailbox directly.

E-mail addressing

To send e-mail to someone, you must know his or her internet e-mail address. Unlike the postal service, which can often deliver imprecisely addressed letters, the mechanics of the internet require an exact e-mail address.

Internet e-mail addresses look like this:

the e-mail address has two main parts, joined by @ (the at sign):

·        Username: in the preceding example, the username is sneezy. Usernames are usually pretty straightforward; often, companies give employees usernames that use one initial and one full name, like jsmith. However, usernames can also contain characters often than letters – they can contain numbers, underscores, periods and some other special characters. They can’t contain commas, spaces, or parentheses.

·        Host or domain name: in the prior example, is the host name. the host name provides the internet location of the mailbox, usually the name of a computer owned by a company or internet service.

When people pronounce an e-mail address they call the @ symbol “at” and the period “dot” for example “sneey at grimm dot com”.

Tip: the e-mail address to write to with comments about this book is

Here are some other points about addresses:

·        Capitalization usually isn’t important in email addresses (sometimes referred to as case insensitive). For example, NetTCR@Gurus.Com works just the same as nettcr@gurus.comm. Of course, if you’re sure that you have the right address, but you’re getting error messages, you may want to try different capitalization.

·        E-mail addresses do not have punctuation marks (such as square brackets or quotes) around them. You may see e-mail addresses displayed with extra punctuation, but when you send a message to the e-mail address, make sure to remove the extra characters. In addition, e-mail addresses never end with punctuation – so if you see one that does, it’s almost definitely incorrect. Don’t be confused when an e-mail address appears at the end of a sentence – the period is not part of the address.

·        Most e-mail programs allow you to type angle brackets (<>) around e-mail addresses. You can also precede an e-mail address with the person’s name in quotes. For example, the address for this book might appear like this;

“Internet complete reference book”

Local vs. internet addresses

The standard e-mail addresses just explained may not apply when you send e-mail within an organization. Your ‘in house’ (and that may mean within your company or within your internet service provider) addresses may not look at all like the ones explained here – you may be able to send mail to Jane Smith – with no @ sign and no periods. This all depends on the e-mail system that you are using  – but if you are sending e-mail through the internet, you do need to use an address that follows the naming conventions outlined here.

AOL addresses

AOL addresses consist of the AOL screen name ( the account name, or an additional name that the user has set up) followed by screen names can contain spaces, and when one AOL user writes to another, spaces can be included in the address. But when sending mail over the internet to an AOL account, omit the spaces in the screen name.

More about host names

All host names consist of at least two parts: the second-level domain (grimm in the preceding example given in the section, “E-mail addressing”) and the top-level domain or zone (com in the preceding example).

Host names can consist of more than two parts: computer names can appear at the beginning. For instance, in the host name., tigger is a computer in the domain

You may see e-mail addresses with computer names. You usually do not need to include the computer name when you send e-mail: the main domain name usually gets the message to its recipient. For instance, if you receive e-mail from, you can try replying to – in most cases, the shortened e-mail address works fine.

Special addresses.

Many domains have special e-mail addresses that you can use to get information, if you’re looking for a particular person and you know the domain name but not the username, you might try writing a very nice e-mail to postmaster@domainname. Come (replacing with the actual domain name). other frequently used usernames include info, webmaster, and sysadmin.

Remember that the recipients of e-mail sent to these special addresses are just regular, probably overworked, folks so be considerate when you make requests.

Message headers

Every e-mail message sent starts with headers – lines of text that tell you about the message. The headers are like the envelope for the message, and include the addresses of the recipient and the sender. If you want to know more about where an e-mail came from, looking at headers can be useful.

Your e-mail package may not automatically show you all message headers – headers make the message look messy. If you check the help system for your e-mial application, under “headers” you should be able to find out how to display them.

Each header consists of the type of header, a colon, and the content of the header. For example, the header that shows who the message is addressed to consists of To: followed by one or more e-mail addresses. Headers that start with X are always optional headers and many e-mail applications ignore them.

Table 5-1 lists the standard headers that almost every e-mail message includes, along with some common additional headers. Here is a sample of the complete headers for a message.

Header type
The date and time the message was sent, according to the sender’s computer.
The e-mail address(es) of the primary recipient(s) of the message. The To line may also contain names.
Who the message is from
What the message is about –according to the sender
Additional recipient(s) of the message. (Cc is an abbreviation for “carbon copy”, a term that is outdated but still in use).
When the message was sent
Reply-To or Return-Path
Your e-mail application automatically uses this address when you reply to the message
Contains information from each host service that relayed the message.
The unique ID that identifies this message (generally not useful)
Adds a layer of authentication to the message by identifying the sender.
The application used to compose the message (not all e-mail applications add this header to messages).
The version of MME used (the multipurpose internet mail extension is used for attachments and for HTML-formatted messages).
The MIME data format used. Frequently, the data format is text/plain with some further information to identify the text type.
Number of lines of text in the message
A unique identifier added by some POP e-mail applications to identify messages that have bee downloaded.

Table 5-1 E-mail message headers


Downloading E-mail

Several technical issues surround reading e-mail, and you may or may not ever have to know about them. However, the topics discussed in this section are not particularly technical, and may even save you money.

This section assumes that you have a dial-up connection to the internet. These types of connections are now very common for home users, but less so for people who access their e-mail through a corporate system. If you have a dial-up connection, your e-mail is collected on a POP server and your e-mail application downloads the messages to your computer, so that you can read them.

When you use a dial-up connection and e-mail software that downloads your messages, you have the following options:

·        You can usually work either offline or online

·        You can choose to either leave downloaded messages on the server or delete them from the server.

Working offline

Most POP e-mail clients allow you to work offline, which can be a real money saver if your internet provider charges by the minute or is a long-distance call. Working offline means that you read your e-mail by doing the following:

1.     Connect to the internet

2.     Download your e-mail

3.     Disconnect from the internet.

4.     Read your e-mail and write new messages. This is considered working offline – you’re doing internet related tasks while you’re not actually connected to the internet.

5.     Connect to the internet.

6.     Send your new messages and download any new messages that may have arrived.

7.     Disconnect from the internet.

Most of the time that you spend “doing” e-mail consists of reading and writing messages – you don’t actually need to be connected to the internet to do those tasks. Working offline may be as simple as following the preceding steps, or you may have to give your e-mail application a command to let it know when you’re online and offline. Try disconnecting from the internet and working in your e-mail application.

Deleting messages from the server

If a POP server stores your messages until you download them, your e-mail program usually deletes them from the POP server after downloading. Your e-mail application may have a setting that enables you to choose whether to delete the e-mail from the server and if so when to delete it. The people who maintain your POP server would greatly appreciate it if you delete your e-mail – infact, they have every right to insist on it. Otherwise, your mailbox will balloon to an enormous size after a while.

However, if your e-mail application supports it, you may want to leave your e-mail on the server for a day or two after you pick it up, so that if anything goes wrong, you can get the message again.

E-mail netiquette

e-mail provides a medium to send casual messages quickly. This makes e-mail tremendously useful – but it can also make it annoying, or even worse. For instance, while sending off a short request is easy, it is also easy for that request to sound brusque or even rude. It is usually worthwhile to spend an extra minute or so to write your message in a way that softens the request and doesn’t raise the bristles of the recipient.

Netiquette is the term used for etiquette on the internet – it is a set of suggestions intended to make the internet community a more pleasant place to e. this section includes some netiquette guidelines for e-mail – you may see other guidelines that agree or disagree with these. Use your own judgement in deciding how to comport yourself online. Although it’s a cliché, you should consider how you would feel being on the receiving end of any e-mail that you send, and remember that you are usually writing to a human being, not a machine.

If you have some e-mail habits that don’t gel with the followingg suggestions, you should reconsider your e-mial habits. While these rules are not enforceable, hanging out on the internet is much more pleasant for everyone if re-mail doesn’t make anyone angry or annoyed for one reason or another.

Netizens (internet users) should follow these guidelines, to practice good netiquette:

·        Think twice before sending an emotional message: the speed and ease of e-mail enable you to jot off a quick emotional reply to a message. Once you click send, it’s gone – not like a letter that sits in the mailbox for a while and you may regret it. So, consider letting emotional messages sit for a while before you seen them at least overnight and sometimes longer.

·        Use the subject line well: it’s a help to both you and your recipient if the subject line tells you both what the message is about. If you store messages, you’ll appreciate them having a useful subject line when you go looking for them again.

·        Don’t flame: flaming is the internet term for sending messages that contain little information and much vitriol and abuse. Flaming is all too rampant on the internet, especially in some newsgroups. Messages that are abusive or defamatory are not fun to read or receive.

·        Check spelling and punctuation: these don’t need to be perfect, but don’t annoy your friends and colleagues with funny punctuation (one particularly well educated friend sends e-mail messages that are only punctuated with hyphens and ellipses – yuck!). And certainly make sure that no word is spelled so badly that the recipient has to guess what you mean. E-mail is certainly a casual form of communication, but is shouldn’t be a sloppy one.

·        Watch the sarcasm: sarcasm isn’t always easy to identify without seeing the facial expressions. Using smileys (described in the next section) may help to let people know that you’re only kidding, but when in doubt, leave it not.

·        Don’t send e-mail to people who don’t want it: lots of people break this rule including the people that send messages that advertise software that can be used to send e-mail to millions of people. But doing so is rude, and it costs money to the people who provide internet resources at minimal costs. Even if you regularly forward jokes or information to a small list of friends, you should check in with your list recipients every now and then to offer them the chance to be removed from your list.

·        Don’t overquote, especially on mailing lists: most e-mail applications include the text of the message you’re replying to. You should edit that original message to contain only the necessary information. This is especially important if you are sending a message to a newsgroup or mailing list, so that people don’t have to see the same text over and over again in every response to a post. Deleting unrelated text is vital if you receive mailing lists in digest (daily collections of many messages), so that you don’t send the entire digest in your response.

·        Don’t use all capitals or any other weird formatting. A message in all caps looks like shouting and is much difficult to read than using mixed case (upper- and lowercase) text. You can use caps to highlight certain words, but you can also enclose words with asterisks or underscores to emphasize them.

·        Sent e-mail that everyone can read. If you’re not sure whether your recipients can read formatted text, just send plain text. It’s annoying not to be able to read a message, or to have to ignore all the HTML codes to read the text of the message. Don’t send attached files unless you have asked the recipient whether they want and can deal with the file. Don’t send attached files to mailing lists at all (unless the list has a policy that welcomes attachments).

·        Don’t plagiarize. Most people don’t quote text without attribution to the author in a regular letter. Don’t do it with e-mail either. The author of an e-mail message retains the copyright to the e-mail message. Just because something is posted on the internet does not mean that the text is in the public domain.

·        Don’t pretend you’re someone else. Using a pen name is okay if you don’t want people to know who you are, but don’t misrepresent yourself and pretend to be someone you aren’t. Misleading people is at best impolite, and at worst illegal.

·        Don’t send frivolous messages. If you don’t have anything to say, don’t say it! This rule applies threshold on mailing lists.

·        Remember the law. Laws about defamation, copyright, obscenity, fraudulent misrepresentation, freedom of information, and wrongful discrimination in written communication apply to e-mail messages also. If you have a concern about an unsolicited commercial e-mail message, forward it to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission at

·        Don’t forward chain letters and other junk e-mail. These schemes are almost always illegal, and they annoy people, because they fill up e-mail mailboxes, included in this category are bogus virus warnings – if you see a virus warning that looks authentic, check it out before you sent it on to all of your friends! Most virus warnings are hoaxes. See the following sidebar entitled “Message Never to Forward”, for more information.

Messages never to forward

Many e-mail messages that are forwarded around thee internet in good faith are actually hoaxes. Sending these messages is unnecessary and fills people e-mail boxes. Often, well-connected internauts (internet users) receive these messages over and over, necessitating many clicks of the delet button. Many computer hoaxes tell you not to open an e-mail with a certain name. in general, you cannot infect your computer with a virus just by opening an e-mail – in any case, if you use the internet much, you should install a good virus protection program and update it regularly with the latest virus definitions. You should also check the web site of the manufacturer of your e-mail client and browser, to see whether any security issues have been found and whether an update of the software has been released to fix them. E-mail clients that handle java are at special risk.

You can check out a virus warning at, a U.S. government site that has a good list of virus and other e-mail hoaxes. Another good place to check to see whether a forwarded message is real is, the urban legends reference pages. For information on real viruses, check out

The following are some examples of e-mail hoaxes. Please don’t forward any of these, and verify any others before forwarding them:

·        Chain letters that ask you to send money to make money: these are always pyramid schemes, and almost always illegal.

·        Good times virus: this is an old hoax – there is not good time virus.

·        Disney giveaway: Disney is not tracking e-mail and giving away vacations or money. Ditto for bill gates.

·        Modem tax: the modem tax plan was squelched back in 87.

Using smileys, emoticons, and abbreviation

For better or worse, some users of e-mail tend to enjoy shortcuts, including what have become known as emoticons (including smileys) and abbreviations of frequently used terms.

Smileys and emoticons

Smileys are punctuation used to portray faces or other pictures. For instance, 🙂 is the standard smiley face  – tip your head to the left to see the face. The standard use of a smiley is to indicate a joke when the text might not be clear that the author is kidding. People use a whole range of smileys and other emoticons (icons used to indicate emotion, which is usually lacking in written communication). Some of the most common emotions are listed here:

:- )               standard smiley face

🙂                           alternate smiley face

🙁                         sad face

😉                         winking face

😮                         surprised face

&:-)                      smiley with curly hair

<g> or <grin>       grin or smile

<sigh>                  sigh

Abbreviations used in e-mail

Like any group of people, e-mail users have made up abbreviations to save themselves time and to confuse newbies. Frequently used abbreviations in e-mail, as well as in newsgroups, mailing lists, and online chat sessions, include the following:

AKA           also known as

BFN           bye for now

BTW                     by the way


FAQ                     Frequently asked questions (many lists and topics have a list of

frequently asked questions—and answers—that they refer you to)

FWIW                 For what it’s worth

FYI                       For your information

IMHO                   In my humble opinion

IMNSHO              In my not so humble opinion

IMO                    In my opinion

NRN                     No response necessary

LOL                      Laughing out loud

OTOH                  On the other hand

ROTFL                Rolling on the floor, laughing

ROTFLOL           Rolling on the floor, laughing out loud

RTFM                 Read the (fine) manual

SNAFU               Situation normal all fouled up

TIA                      Thanks in advance

TLA                    Three-letter acronym

TTFN                  Ta ta for now

You can find a far-too-complete list of abbreviations at BABEL: A Glossary of Computer Oriented Abbreviations and Acronyms, located at You might also like the list of acronyms at


A Note About Confidentiality

You may think e-mail is by far the best way to communicate—and you won’t find much disagreement from the authors of this book (although other methods sometimes are better). However, as good as e-mail is, you should never consider it to be confidential. Although e-mail is rarely hijacked through technical means, it is extremely easy and often tempting to forward a message—even (and maybe especially) one that the sender has asked you to keep confidential. So, never assume that only the people you send a message to will read it.


Formatted E-mail

E-mail that supports formatting (such as boldface and underlining) is a recent development. In the past, e-mail consisted only of text characters, and the only way to send someone a formatted document was to send it as an attachment. Now, if both you and your recipient’s e-mail support it, you can send formatted e-mail. However, that’s a pretty big if. Older e-mail packages don’t support formatted e-mail. At best, your recipient will see the text of the message without the fancy formatting. At worst, they’ll see all the codes that your e-mail package inserts to format the text, and they’ll have to struggle to read the actual text. Many readers just press the DELETE key when they receive e-mail with formatting tags.

Formatted e-mail is likely to become more and more common, so you might as well know something about it. Currently, formatted e-mail comes in the following flavors:

·        HTML   Formatted with HTML tags, just like Web pages. HTML formatting can include text formatting, numbering, bullets, alignment, horizontal lines, backgrounds, hyperlinks, and HTML styles. HTML-formatted e-mail is actually sent using the MIME protocol.

·        Rich text   This is an older format that can be read by most word processing applications. Rich text formatting can include text formatting, bullets, and alignment.

·        MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension)   Formatting created just for e-mail. MIME is also used for attachments. Formatting can include text formatting, pictures, video, sound, and probably more. MIME looks (to a computer) like plain text—to you, it looks like a lot of funny characters. A single MIME message can contain plain text as well as all the fancy formatting and extra stuff.

·        Microsoft Word format   Outlook enables you to use Microsoft Word and all of its features as your e-mail editor. Formatting can include any formatting that Word is capable of performing.

All of these formats require that the recipient’s e-mail application be capable of handling them.

Signatures and Stationery

Many e-mail programs include two features that save typing when you compose e-mail messages: signatures and stationery.



Your name, e-mail address, and other identifying information should appear at the end of each e-mail message you send. To save having to type this information at the end of each message, many e-mail programs allow you to create a signature, that is, a file containing the list to be appended to each outgoing message.

Signatures generally should be limited to about four lines, so that your regular correspondents don’t have to see a long signature each time they receive a message from you. Do include your name, e-mail address, and the organization (if any) you represent. You don’t have to include your postal mailing address or phone number, since people who see your signature are more likely to contact you by e-mail. You can include a cute or informative tag line, but keep it short. Long poems, pictures created using lines of punctuation, and other fancy signatures wear thin after multiple viewings.



If you send certain messages over and over with minor variations, check to see if your e-mail program lets you define stationery—e-mail form letters. Some e-mail programs let you save stationery files with the headers and text you want to include in your frequently-sent messages. To compose a message using stationery, you choose the name of the stationery file. You can then edit the message to insert information tailored to the recipient.

Eudora and Pegasus support text-based stationery. Outlook and Outlook Express use formatted stationery, so that the recipients can see the formatting only if their e-mail programs can handle formatted messages.

E-mail Attachments

The ability to send attachments was a great stride forward in the development of e-mail—it made collaboration on work over the Internet possible. By attaching files to e-mail, you can exchange documents for revision, pass on spreadsheets for data entry, or send a presentation for review. Of course, you can also attach electronic pictures, sounds, movies—whatever can be put in file form.

Because e-mail was originally designed to convey only text, your e-mail program must convert other types of files to a text-like format that can pass through the Internet mail system. The receiving e-mail program converts the message back to its original format. The following are the three most-common formats for e-mail attachments:

·        MIME    MIME is the newest and best standard method for sending attachments.

·        Uuencoding   Uuencoding is the old standard and is the only method supported by some older e-mail applications, especially UNIX e-mail programs.

·        BinHex   BinHex, the least common format, is used primarily by Mac e-mail programs.


Web-Based E-mail

Web-based e-mail is a relatively new entry to the e-mail race, and provides some advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage is that if you can access the Web, you can read your e-mail—you don’t have to be at your own computer to access your e-mail application. Also, most Web-based e-mail is free. On the downside, because it’s free, you have to look at a lot of ads (someone has to pay for the service), and when you sign up, you are usually asked for personal information, so that specific ads can be selected for you. Also, security is not as good as with regular e-mail. However, for many people, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Even if you don’t use Web-based e-mail all the time, you may find it useful when you’re out of the office. Some people who have a business e-mail address at work use Web-based e-mail for their personal e-mail.

You can read two kinds of messages on the Web:

·        Messages sent to a Web-only account   For example, the Hotmail Web site at lets you sign up for a free e-mail mailbox, with a username that you pick. Your address is You can read messages sent to your Hotmail address only at the Hotmail Web site,

·        Messages stored in your POP mailbox   Some Web sites allow you to enter the name of your POP server (the Internet host computer on which your mailbox is stored), your username, and your password. The site then retrieves the messages from your POP mailbox and displays them on a Web page, enabling you to read and respond to them. This service means that you can check your e-mail anytime that you have access to the Web—you don’t need access to your regular e-mail application.

If you’re choosing a Web-based e-mail service, look at the possibilities (use your favorite search engine to search for “Web-based e-mail” or “free e-mail”). Consider the following when looking for a package that meets your needs:

·        Does it handle attachments? If it doesn’t handle both MIME and uuencoded attachments, find out which format you need by asking the people that you exchange attachments with which format their e-mail application supports.

·        Is it free? If so, can you handle the ads? If not, is the cost reasonable?

·        Has it been in business long? E-mail services do go out of business, so select one in the same way that you select any other service. If your e-mail service disappears, it takes your e-mail address (and possibly any messages waiting for you) with it.

·        Does it provide the features you need? For instance, do you want to be able to forward your e-mail to another e-mail address, or check the spelling in your messages? Can you file messages in folders to keep them organized? Can you filter messages as they arrive?

·        How much space does it give you? Most Web-based e-mail accounts limit the size of your folders.

·        Does it support formatted messages? Some Web-based e-mail sites support HTML or other types of formatted messages.

·        Is it easy to use? For instance, can you easily find your address book and figure out how to do all the common e-mail tasks?

·        How fast is it? How long does it take the page to load on your system? How long does it take for a message to be delivered or received?

You can find a list of free e-mail services at email.html. You may want to look at the following:

·        RocketMail ( Provides both free e-mail accounts and access to your POP mailbox.

·        Microsoft’s HotMail (   Ditto.

·        Yahoo! Mail (  Comes from a well-respected Web portal company, provides free e-mail accounts, and also lets you read your POP mailbox.

·        Lycosmail ( Offers both free e-mail and forwarding. It also owns 300 domain names, so you may be able to get an e-mail address such as T/


Caution: Web e-mail is less secure than using a POP e-mail client, mainly because someone can click the Back button on your browser to read your e-mail. Someone even more clever can read any e-mail that the browser has stored in its cache. To prevent this, you should, at the very least, log out of the e-mail page and close your browser. For a greater degree of security, also empty the browser cache.

Truly Free E-mail

Juno ( provides free e-mail even if you don’t have an Internet connection—all you need is a modem, hi the U.S., you can call 1-800-654-JUNO for free software.

Mail Away from Home

When you’re away from your computer, you may still be able to read your e-mail, even if you don’t regularly use a Web-based e-mail service (described in the preceding section). You may be able to dial in to your e-mail provider, or use a Web-based service.

If you use e-mail as part of your job and you travel on business, your e-mail administrator may have a created a way for you to get your e-mail when you’re out of the office. You should check with him or her before you try to figure out the methods described here. One method that isn’t explained here is to use a product such as Reach Out Remote to dial in to your office LAN, to access its resources — including e-mail.

Dialing In

Even if you usually download e-mail to your own computer, you may also be able to dial in or telnet in to the mail server to read your e-mail when you’re not at your computer, but do have access to someone else’s computer.

If you use a UNIX shell to access the Internet, you probably use Pine or Elm to read your e-mail. Not too many people use this kind of connection all the time (anymore), although quite a few people can access their e-mail by using Pine or Elm through telnet or a dial-up connection when they are traveling.

Reading Your E-mail on the Web

You may be able to use Web-based e-mail on occasion even if you don’t use it regularly. RocktMail (http://www.rocketmail.corn), Yahoo! Mail (, MailStart (http://www, and HotMail ( all allow you to pick up e-mail that is on a POP mail server.

If your office uses Microsoft’s Exchange server for e-mail, you may be able to access your e-mail on the company server through the Web. This service, which converts e-mail into Web pages, is built into Microsoft Exchange Server 5.5, but some additional installation is necessary (the server must be running Microsoft’s Web server). Check with your e-mail administrator to see if this service is available.

Common E-mail Error Messages

If you send a message that cannot be delivered, you usually receive an error message, called a bounce. Common bounce messages contain a lot of technical verbiage at the top, but if you scroll down, you eventually come to an explanation of the problem. Following the error messages is usually a complete copy of the e-mail that you sent. Here are the most common reasons for e-mail to bounce:

·        Bad address    If you misspell the address, or if the person has closed the account, your message is likely to bounce. Alternatively, your message may be delivered to the wrong person. (Jokes abound about this kind of thing.) The only remedy is to check the address and try again. If you are sure that you have the right e-mail address, you can write to postmaster@rfom«iw (where domain is the person’s mail server) to ask what’s wrong.

·        Recipient’s mailbox is full   Some Internet accounts (America Online in particular) have a limit on the number of message that can be stored in your mailbox. If you don’t check your mail for a long time, the mailbox may fill up. Messages to a full mailbox bounce back to the sender. The only remedy is to wait and send the message later, or to call the recipient and tell the person to check his or her e-mail.

·        ISP trouble    If the recipient’s ISP is temporarily offline, you may get a variety of error messages. Some messages may report that there is a temporary “non-fatal” delay and that you don’t need to resend the message. Instead, your ISP’s mail server keeps retrying your recipient’s mail server. Eventually, your ISP’s mail server gives up, and you receive a “fatal error” message. You may want to wait a day or two and try sending the message again.

Mail Forwarding

If you have found that your e-mail address changes frequently, you may benefit from an e-mail forwarding service. These services enable you to give out one e-mail address, and then forward your e-mail from that address to whatever e-mail address is most convenient for you to access. To find an e-mail forwarding service, use your favorite search engine to search for “e-mail forwarding.” Some of the best known are Pobox (, Bigfoot (, and iFORWARD ( Some free Web-based e-mail providers also provide this service.

You may want to pay a fee for this service if you really want it to be permanent—of course, there are no guarantees, but a paid provider is probably less likely to go out of business than a free one.

To forward your e-mail temporarily, you may be able to create a .forward file for your account. If you can log in to your account by using a UNIX shell, you can create a special file named .forward that redirects your e-mail to another e-mail address. When you want to stop forwarding your e-mail, delete the .forward file.

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