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Beginner's Guide to Email

by Nick Anis

Electronic mail, a.k.a. e-mail or email, functions exactly as the postal service does - only the message doesn't cost anything to send or receive and it takes seconds or minutes to arrive instead of days. 

Using email you can send short messages (and frequently long ones) to others.  Some email systems have limits on message size while others are less restrictive.  Some services accept message attachments (little packages or files attached to a message), while others do not accept them.  Many email services handle a long email message by converting the entire text message into a file attachment.

On the Internet, the Post Office is what is referred to as mail servers, and street addresses are what is referred to as email addresses.  Rather than airplanes and trucks moving the mail, it's done by communications networks with wires and computers transmitting and receiving the information.

Instead of going to your mailbox in the front of your house, you fire up your PC and log-in and check your mail with your email client program.

The Anatomy of  An Email Address

The @ symbol tells the world that a string of characters proceeding the "dot" is an email address.  The text to the right of the dot is the machine name and domain name or just the domain name.  For example, in the address Nick@travel-watch.com "Nick" is the address, and "travel-watch.com" is the domain.  In the address, patty@clubs.home.com "Patty" is the address, "clubs" is the machine name (or section), and "home.com" is the domain name.  The most common domain name is ".com" but .org (organization), .gov (government), and .net (network) are also popular.  According to the original Internet policies all domains from countries other than the USA are supposed to have a country code as part of their domain.  For example, travel-watch.com is a USA domain while travel-watch.com.ca would be a Canadian one.  Most offshore persons and organizations prefer to use a USA domain or use both types.

Many websites or domains have the following addresses:  info (for information), sales (for sales inquiries), webmaster (for contacting the person in charge of the website), support (for contacting technical support), and admin or marketing (for contacting the organizations marketing contact).

When using a postal address (which email users call snail mail) if you put address the envelope with only a person's name, stamp it, and mail it, the letter will NOT be delivered.  The same situation applies to email.  You must PROPERLY ADDRESS email in order for it to be transmitted and received successfully.  If an email message isn't transmitted successfully you will probably receive a notice via email that the message you send "bounced" meaning it was not delivered.

If you put a person's name on a envelope, affix postage, and mail it, without street or post office box address it won't arrive.  The same situation applies to electronic mail.  You must use a valid name, followed by the @ sign and a valid domain.

Here are some examples of valid email addresses:

user@deltanet.net

Nick_Anis@gm.com

Patty.Anis@cbs.com

rhodges@usc.edu

www-admin@www.ntt.co.au

Addresses like Editor@Travel-Watch.com can changed to: Editor@Travel-Watch.com (Nick Anis)  - text enclosed in parentheses can be used to better identify the addressee.

Email Client Software

Netscape and Microsoft offer FREE email client programs.  Netscape's is part of their browser, while Microsoft's is a separate component called, "Exchange."  Eudora is a popular email client software package and arguably the most powerful and comprehensive email client software available.  You can download a free copy at http://www.eudora.com.  These email programs a.k.a. clients work with POP3 type email accounts.  AOL uses a proprietary type of email that is NOT compatible with POP3 there fore you have to use the AOL client software or you can use a web browser and log onto the special AOL mail website.

POP3 email service is the most popular, but there is growing interest in web-based email because you can check it from any computer with a net connection and a browser without the need for a separate email program.  The problem with web-based email is you have to be online to do any processing of your mail, the options typically are more limited, and things tend to be much slower.

FREE Internet and POP3 Email

The going rate for Internet access, a POP3 account, and some personal web space is about $20 per month.  There are about 20 firms that provide this service for FREE in exchange for you disclosing a bunch of demographic information and viewing advertisements.  These services have various limitations such as the number of messages, size of messages, mail box size, and so on.  Many push your "upgrading" to their premium service. 

Choosing between a free or pay service is a matter of what your needs are and how much convenience and capability you are willing to pay for.  In general if you rely on email and web access for your livelihood you should use a good pay service that has as few restrictions and as many capabilities as possible.

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Nick Anis is a food, wine, and travel and technology writer with over 24 books in print published by McGraw-Hill, Random House, Bantam, Ziff-Davis, Tab, and others. Nick's articles have appeared in The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, West Coast Media, The Family Publications Group, The Weekly News, and Travel-Watch.  His beats include food, travel, snow and waters sports, entertainment, family recreation, consumer electronics, home improvement, and automotive.  He is responsible for the Restaurant Row Ethnic Dining Guide, co-published by the Long Beach Press Telegram.  Nick is an accomplished downhill skier, PADI certified SCUBA diver, and when he's not sitting on his butt goofing off, enjoys a variety of active recreation including tennis, riding motorcycles, ATVs, wave runners, snow machines, horses, skeet and trap shooting he's also taken a stab at riding camels, donkeys, elephants, ostriches, lamas, dolphins, Reindeer, bulls, mechanical bulls, and buffalo.  Nick is a member (A Secretary/Treasurer) of the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA), a member of the North American Snow Sports Journalist Association (NASJA), Computer Press Association, The Writer's Guild, and listed in Books in Print, Media Map, and Press Access.  You can reach Nick at Editor@Travel-Watch.com.

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