Here’s another popular Internet activity: you can send electronic mail (e-mail). An e-mail message imitates a regular letter or postcard but is transmitted electronically so you don’t have to lick a stamp, don’t have to walk to the mailbox to send it, and don’t have to wait for the letter to be processed by the postal system.
E-mail zips through the Internet at lightning speed, so a letter sent from Japan to the United States takes just minutes (sometimes even seconds) to reach its destination. Unlike regular mail, which the Post Office usually delivers just once a day, e-mail can arrive anytime, day or night. If your friends try to send you e-mail messages while your computer is turned off, your Internet service provider will hold their messages for you until you turn your computer back on and reconnect to the Internet.
Since sending e-mail is so much faster than using the Post Office (which is about as slow as a snail), the Post Office’s mail is nicknamed snail mail. Yes, e-mail travels fast, typically takes just a few minutes to reach its destination, and is usually free; snail mail travels slowly, typically takes several days to reach its destination, and usually costs 37¢ (for a stamp) plus money for paper and an envelope. So if your friend promises to send you a letter “soon”, ask “Are you going to send it by e-mail or snail mail?”
An “e-mail message” is sometimes called just “an e-mail”. Instead of saying “I sent three e-mail messages”, an expert says “I sent three e-mails”.
To use e-mail, you need a program called an e-mail client. These e-mail clients have been popular:
Now the most popular e-mail client is Outlook Express. This chapter explains how to use Outlook Express for Internet Explorer 5&5.5&6.
Older editions of this book (available by phoning 603-666-6644) explain older e-mail clients, such as Netscape Mail, Netscape Messenger, Internet Mail, and Outlook Express 4.
To start using Outlook Express, choose one of these methods.…
If versions 5.5 or 6 say “Internet Connection Wizard”, do this:
You’ll see the Outlook Express window. If it doesn’t consume the whole screen yet, maximize it (by clicking its maximize button, which is next to the X button).
Here’s how to handle incoming mail.
At the screen’s left edge, below the word “Folders”, you see “Inbox”. Click that “Inbox”.
Now the screen is divided into 3 big white windowpanes, which I’ll call “left”, “top”, and “bottom”. (You might also see a tiny “Contacts” pane in the screen’s bottom left corner.)
The top pane shows a list of all e-mail messages that other people have sent you. For each message, the list shows whom the message is from (the sender’s name), the message’s subject (what the message is about), and when the message was received (the date and time).
The first time Microsoft’s Outlook Express is used on your computer, the top pane shows you’ve received a message from Microsoft. After you’ve used Outlook Express awhile, you’ll probably receive additional messages, from your friends!
Here’s how to deal with a long list of messages:
Look in the top pane, at the list of messages you received. Decide which message you want to read, and click the sender’s name. Then the bottom pane starts showing you the complete message. Read it.
The complete message is probably too long to fit in the bottom pane. To see the rest of the message, press that pane’s scroll-down arrow (the symbol 6 or Ú at the pane’s bottom right corner).
How to send mail
To write an e-mail message, perform 5 steps.
Step 1: get the window Click the Create Mail button. (Versions 5&5.5 call it the New Mail button.) You’ll see the New Message window.
Step 2: choose a recipient To whom do you want to send the message? To send an e-mail message to a person, you must find out that person’s e-mail address. For example, if you want to send an e-mail message to me, you need to know that my e-mail address is “email@example.com”.
For the Internet, each e-mail address contains the symbol “@”, which is pronounced “at”. For example, my Internet address, “firstname.lastname@example.org”, is pronounced “russ at secret fun dot com”.
(To send me e-mail, you can use either my new address, “email@example.com”, or my old address, “firstname.lastname@example.org”. Either way will reach me.)
To find out the e-mail addresses of your friends and other people, ask them (by chatting with them in person or by phoning them or by sending them snail-mail postcards).
If you send e-mail to the following celebrities and nuts, they’ll probably read what you wrote, though they might not have enough time to write back:
More celebrity e-mail addresses are at www.mailhollywood.com and www.addresses.site2go.com/email.html.
When you type an e-mail address, you don’t have to capitalize. The computer ignores capitalization.
Never put a blank space in the middle of an e-mail address.
Warning: people often change their e-mail addresses, so don’t be surprised if your message comes back, marked undeliverable.
Type the e-mail address of the person to whom you want to send your message. If you’re a shy beginner who’s nervous about bothering people, try sending an e-mail message to a close friend or me or yourself. Sending an e-mail message to yourself is called “doing a Fats Waller”, since he was the first singer to popularize this song:
If you send an e-mail message to me, I’ll read it (unless my e-mail address has changed) and try to send you a reply, but be patient (since I check my e-mail just a few times per week) and avoid asking for computer advice (since I give advice just by regular phone calls at 603-666-6644, not by e-mail).
At the end of the e-mail address, press the TAB twice, so you’re at the line marked “Subject”.
Step 3: choose a subject Type a phrase summarizing the subject (such as “let’s lunch” or “I’m testing”). At the end of that typing, press the TAB key again.
Step 4: type the message Go ahead: type the message, such as “Let’s have lunch together in Antarctica tomorrow!” or “I’m testing my e-mail system, so please tell me whether you received this test message.” Your message can be as long as you wish — many paragraphs! Type the message as if you were using a word processor. For example, press the ENTER key just when you reach the end of a paragraph. If you wish, maximize the window you’re typing in (by clicking the window’s maximize button, which is next to the X button).
Step 5: send the message When you finish typing the message, click the Send button (which looks like a flying envelope).
If the computer says “Display name” (because your computer uses Internet Explorer 6 and hasn’t sent e-mails before), do this:
The window you typed in will close automatically. (If you’re using Navigator, you might have to wait one or two minutes for the window to close. Be patient.)
When do messages transmit?
When you try to send or receive a message, when does the transmission actually occur?
Receiving a message from a friend When a friend tries to send you a message, the message goes from your friend’s computer to your friend’s Internet Service Provider (ISP), which passes the message on to your ISP. The message is stored on your ISP’s hard disk.
Since your ISP’s computer is always turned on (day and night, 24 hours), it’s always ready to receive messages your friends try to send you, even while your own computer is turned off.
When you try to examine your Inbox, your computer ought to contact your ISP and tell the ISP to transmit any new messages to your computer; but if your computer is lazy, it might not contact your ISP immediately to get the newest messages. Instead, your computer might decide to wait awhile before bothering your ISP. For example, your computer might contact your ISP just once every 30 minutes to check whether there are any new messages for you; or your computer might not contact your ISP until the next time you start running the e-mail program — which might be the next day.
To make your computer communicate with your ISP now, so all the messages you’re trying to receive get transmitted to your Inbox now, click the Send/Recv button.
Sending a message to a friend When you tell the computer to send a message to a friend, the computer typically transmits the message immediately to your ISP (which passes it on to your friend’s ISP).
Automatic transmission If you wish, you can make your computer and your ISP send messages to each other more frequently, automatically, without their waiting for you to click the “Send and Receive” button. I’ll explain how.
But beware! If you make your computer and your ISP automatically transmit messages more frequently, you’ll consume more of your ISP’s time, which will cost you more money if your ISP is charging you by the minute. Also, you’ll consume more of your own computer’s time, so your computer will be interrupted from performing other tasks and seem sluggish. Also, you’ll consume more of your own time, because you’ll more frequently have to help keep the connection going by retyping your password.
If you’re sharing your computer with colleagues, get their permission before making the following changes.
Here’s a picture of a smiling face:
It’s called a smiley. If you rotate that face 90°, it looks like this:
People writing e-mail messages often type that symbol to mean “I’m smiling; I’m just kidding”.
For example, suppose you want to tell President Bush that you disagree with his speech. If you communicate the old-fashioned way, with pencil and paper, you’ll probably begin like this:
But people who communicate by e-mail tend to be more blunt:
The symbol “:-)” means “I’m just kidding”. That symbol’s important. Forgot to include it? Then poor George, worried about getting boiled in oil, might have the Secret Service arrest you for plotting an assassination.
The smiley, “:-)”, has many variations:
Since those symbolic pictures (icons) help you emote, they’re called emoticons (pronounced “ee MOTE ee cons”).
People writing e-mail messages often use these expressions and abbreviations:
Those abbreviations are called acronyms.
What did you send?
To check which messages you sent, click “Sent Items” (which is in the left pane).
You’ll see a list of messages you sent. For each message, the list shows the address you sent it to, the message’s subject, and when you sent it.
When you finish admiring that list, make the screen become normal again by clicking “Inbox” (which is in the left pane).
While you’re reading a message that somebody’s sent you, here’s how to reply.
Click the Reply button. Then type your reply.
While you type, the computer shows a copy of the message you’re replying to. The copy has a vertical bar (“|”) in front of each line. If you want to abridge that copy (so it doesn’t clutter your screen), use your mouse: drag across the part you want to delete, then press the DELETE key.
When you finish typing your reply, click the Send button (which looks like a flying envelope). The computer will send your reply, along with your abridged copy of the message you’re replying to.
Delete old messages
The list of received messages — and the list of sent messages — can become long and hard to manage. To reduce the clutter, delete any messages that no longer interest you.
Here’s how to delete a message you received (or a copy of a message you sent): make the message’s name appear in the top pane, then click the name (so it turns blue), then press the DELETE key.
That tells the computer you want to delete the message. The computer moves the message into the Deleted Items folder (which resembles the Windows Recycle Bin).
To find out what’s in the Deleted Items folder, click “Deleted Items” (which is in the left pane). You’ll see what’s in the Deleted Items folder: a list of the messages you said to delete.
Are you sure you want to delete all those messages?
If you change your mind and want to keep one of those messages, do this:
When you’re sure you want to eliminate all messages in the Deleted Items folder, do this:
That makes all messages in the Deleted Items folder vanish.
At the bottom of your e-mail message, you can include a few lines that identify who you are. Those lines are called your signature (or sig).
For example, your sig can include your full name, address, and phone number. You can mention your office’s address & phone number, but be cautious about revealing your home address & phone number, since e-mail messages are often peeked at by strangers.
If you’re employed, you might also wish to give your company’s name, your title, and a disclaimer, such as “The opinions I expressed aren’t necessarily my employer’s.” You might also wish to reveal your personality, by including your favorite saying (such as “Keep on truckin’” or “Power to the people” or “May the Lord bless you” or “Turned on by Twinkies”. But keep your sig short: any sig containing more than 4 lines of text is considered an impolite waste of your reader’s time.
Don’t bother putting your e-mail address in your sig, since your e-mail address appears automatically at the top of your message.
Here’s how to put the same sig on all your e-mail messages easily.
Then the computer will automatically put that sig at the bottom of each new message you write.
While you edit a message, edit its sig! Customize its sig to match the rest of the message.
An e-mail message can have a file attached to it.
Send a file attachment
While you’re writing a message, here’s how to insert a file (such as a picture you drew in Paint, or a document composed in WordPad or Microsoft Word).
Click the Attach button, which looks like a paper clip. (If you can’t see that button, widen the New Message window by dragging the window’s bottom right corner farther toward the right.)
Which file do you want to insert? Make its icon appear on the screen. (If its icon is not on the screen because the computer is showing a different folder, do this: click the 6 or Ú next to the folder’s name, then click the hard disk’s “C:” icon, then double-click the folders that the file is in.)
When the file’s icon is finally on the screen, double-click that icon.
Above the message you were writing, you should see your file’s name (in the Attach box). Make sure the message and the file’s name are correct.
Then click the Send button (which looks like a flying envelope). That makes the computer send the message and attached file.
Receive a file attachment
Here’s what to do if a friend sends you a message that includes an attached file:
An e-mail message can be sent to many people. Here’s how.…
If you want to send a message to several people, put semicolons between their addresses. For example, if you want to send a message to the President of the United States (whose address is email@example.com) and also to me (firstname.lastname@example.org), address the mail to:
That little list of addresses is called the mailing list.
The space after the semicolon is optional. If you accidentally type a comma instead of a semicolon, the computer will eventually turn the comma into a semicolon for you.
Here’s how to send a message mainly to the President of the United States but also send me a copy:
Here’s how to send a message mainly to the President of the United States but also send me a copy, and make the copy be secret, so the President of the United States doesn’t know the copy was sent to me:
If somebody sends you a message, you can reply to the message by clicking either the Reply button or the Reply All button.
If you click the Reply button, your reply will be sent to just the person who sent you the message. If you click the Reply All button instead, your reply will be sent to the person who sent you the message and also to everybody else on that person’s mailing list.
For example, if Bob sends a message addressed to a list of three people (you and Sue and Jill) and you want to reply, you can either click the Reply button (which sends your reply just to Bob) or click the Reply All button (which sends your reply to Bob and also to the other people on Bob’s mailing list: Sue and Jill).
While you’re reading a message you received, here’s how to send a copy of it to a friend.
Click the Forward button. Type your friend’s e-mail address.
Press the TAB key several times, until you’re in the big white box where you can type a message. Type a comment to your friend, such as “Here’s a joke Mary sent me.” Below your typing, the computer automatically shows a copy of the message you’re forwarding.
Click the Send button (which looks like a flying envelope).
Remember this poem:
For example, suppose you send an e-mail message to Bob. Your message might be read by people other than Bob, for one of these reasons:
According to U.S. law, if you’re an employee who writes an e-mail message by using the company’s computer, the message becomes the company’s property, and your boss is allowed to look at it. Your message has no privacy. Moreover, if your company is sued (by a competitor or customer), United States law can require your company to reveal all e-mail messages about the lawsuit’s topic and about all the people involved in it: the cute joke you wrote can embarrass you when the judge makes you read it to the courtroom.
You should therefore be especially careful about writing any e-mails that contain sexual references (such as “I love your body, so let’s go out on a date and have sex!”) or anger (such as “The boss is a jerk, a prick, I wish he were dead, I hope somebody kills him!”), since your e-mail might accidentally fall into the hands of the one person to whom you don’t want to show that message. Here’s the most important rule about e-mail messages:
When you tell the computer to send an e-mail message (by clicking the Send button, Reply button, or Reply To All button), the computer immediately tries to transmit the message to your ISP (which in turn will try to pass the message to the recipient’s ISP). You cannot cancel the transmission easily, since there’s no “Undo button”.
If you try to wreck the transmission (by unplugging your modem or by turning off your computer’s power), your computer will detect sabotage and overcome it: the next time you run your e-mail program, the computer will try again to transmit the wrecked message (by using a copy of the message that the computer keeps in your computer’s Outbox folder).
Since e-mail transmissions can’t be easily canceled, remember:
You’ll receive several kinds of e-mail messages. Some of those messages will help you (because they’re written to you by your friends or business acquaintances, or because they’re weekly or daily news bulletins that you requested from companies whose Web sites you visited).
But most of the e-mail messages you receive will be bad
e-mail that’s “a waste of your time to read” or “dangerous”.
10% of all e-mail contains viruses. A virus is a malicious program that tries to wreck your computer and automatically spread itself to other computers. Even if the e-mail claims to come from a friend you know, the e-mail can contain a virus (because your friend doesn’t know it contains a virus, or because the virus lied when it said it was from your friend — the virus could have just stolen your friend’s name and e-mail address).
Many viruses come in e-mail attachments.
The easiest way to avoid viruses is to buy an antivirus program. I explain viruses and antivirus programs on pages 246-256.
Even if you buy an antivirus program, you can’t completely relax, since new viruses keep getting invented. You must keep your antivirus program up-to-date, to make sure it can detect the newest viruses.
Some viruses are so powerful that they destroy antivirus programs. Some viruses even print their own fake messages saying “no virus found”.
You’ll get e-mails promising you’ll get rich quick — if you pay the sender first. If you’re stupid, you’ll pay the sender — then realize you’ve become poorer, not richer, since the sender gives you nothing worthwhile in return.
For example, in what’s called a multilevel marketing (MLM), you’ll be told you can get rich by selling products (such as pills or e-mailed reports) if you buy them first from the seller.
Another false road to riches is the Nigerian scam:
For a different scam, you’ll be told you won $3,000,000 in the Netherlands lottery (though common sense should tell you that you can’t win a lottery you didn’t enter and never even heard of), and you just need to pay a “transfer fee” to get your winnings transferred to you.
The Nigerian scam and the Netherlands-lottery scam are both examples of advance-fee scams, where you’re told you’ll get rich if you pay a fee first.
For more details about scams, go to www.crimes-of-persuasion.com, then click on “Nigerian Scam” (or others).
You’ll receive e-mail offering you something for free (such as a free digital camera, or a free screensaver, or a free pornographic look at nude women, or free access to not-quite-legally downloaded music). You say to yourself, “What can it lose? It’s free!” so you click yes.
That launches a barrage of ads upon you — through Web sites and through e-mails — trying to convince you to buy more. Many of the ads come in the form of adware and spyware. Page 247 explains how to cure them.
Oh yeah, about that “free” digital camera: you discover it’s terrible, and it will be “free” just after you buy lots of other stuff first. Misleading, huh?
Some of the e-mails pretend to be surveys, such as “Who should the next President be?” The survey doesn’t really care about your political opinion: it’s just collecting (harvesting) your e-mail address and other personal data about you, to sell to advertisers.
Most e-mails hawking pornography try to make you to visit a sexy Web site, full of nude women who try to get you to reveal your credit-card number and become a paying member. Other pornographic e-mails try to make you phone a sexy girl whose area code just happens to be in the Caribbean or Asia or Hong Kong or some other island that will give you a huge phone bill, whose profits go to a foreign phone company that secretly gives the scheme’s manager a cut.
You might receive an e-mail saying that the security department (of your bank, credit-card company, or employer) wants you to reenter your personal information (credit-card number, PIN number, social-security number, mother’s maiden name, etc.) to protect against fraud. At the bottom of the e-mail is a button to click to go to the Web site, where you enter the info.
But that Web site’s a fake: it’s really run by a crook who’s waiting for you to enter your personal info so he can steal your identity and credit-card info and buy things billed to you, then disappear before you realize you’ve been robbed and your credit history has been ruined.
Banks NEVER send e-mails asking you to reenter your account info. Such e-mails are always frauds.
Unsolicited and unwanted e-mail is called junk e-mail. It’s mass-produced and sent to millions of folks all over the world, using a technique called bulk e-mail. Junk e-mail is also called spam (because it spreads all over the Internet, just like Spam luncheon meat spread all over Europe during World War II). The person who sends it is called a spammer and said to be spamming.
In the USA, 90% of all e-mail is spam.
Internet service providers (such as Earthlink and AOL) complain that most of their equipment is now just handling spam. They’ve sued spammers for “trespassing”, and they’ve gotten some laws passed against spam. Remember:
If you’re trying to advertise a business, you’ll be tempted to send bulk e-mail (spam). It costs you nearly nothing, since Internet e-mail is free (unlike traditional mail, which costs 37¢ each, plus the cost of paper, plus the cost of putting labels onto all the envelopes). But since spam is associated with dishonest hucksters, sending spam can do your business’s reputation more harm than good.
To avoid wasting time reading spam, some people (and their employers and Internet providers) use spam filters, which automatically erase spam (or dump it into a “Spam” folder or put the word “SPAM” in the subject line). To decide which e-mails are spam, spam filters use 3 techniques: blacklists (lists of known spammers), whitelists (lists of friends who are not spammers), and Bayesian filters (lists of characteristics of spam).
But spammers evade the filters and get their spam to you anyway, by using these tricks:
Alas, spam filters reject valid mail that just looks like spam.