Email Tips and Tricks
Why is email different? back to top
People in this day and age are used to communicating in person or by telephone, able to see the expression on someone's face or hear the tone of their voice. That kind of immediate feedback has caused us to lose the art of written communication. It is my contention that people from the 1800s (once they learned to use the technology) would be more comfortable and effective using email than we are today, because the written word was the primary means of communication for them. We in the Twentieth Century have lost the art of letter-writing, and with it the turns of phrase and verbal expression that convey the same eloquence as facial or tonal expressions.
Now, it is likely that this will be remedied soon, with the advent of desktop video cameras and better conferencing software, not to mention video phones for personal use. But these things won't be available for public consumption for one or two years at least. I'd say five years, but I, like everyone else, keep underestimating the speed with which technology moves.
Creating a signature file back to top
In order to create a signature file (the ending information for email messages), you need to open a new document in your word processor and enter some form of the following information:
Address and/or telephone number (if appropriate)
Email address (even though your email program will insert it into a message, it's polite to list it again)
(I myself also insert my family motto, which is "Often wrong, but never in doubt!")
Then save the file AS A TEXT FILE in a location where you can find it again (you should have had file management in learning Windows 95/98). You'll need to know where this file is located in order to cause your email program to append it to your messages.
Replying to an email back to top
When someone sends you an email, it contains their return address. Therefore, in order to answer them, you can simply click on the "Reply" button. Every email management program has one. Both Netscape Mail Manager and Internet Explorer's Outlook Express (which I recommend over Outlook) have buttons that say Reply. Simple enough!
Using this button will cause a message box to open, showing the address of the person who sent you email and quoting the message they sent you (default option in most mail managers, but can get overly long in complex correspondence. You'll see). Please read your browser's Help to find out how to turn off the auto quote function, if you don't like having all those extra words.
Storing email messages back to top
After you've been sending and receiving email for a while, you'll have more messages that you want to keep than can be stored in the inbox. Both Netscape and Internet Explorer's Outlook Express provide a storage system for email messages using the folder metaphor. Please read your email program's help to find out more about creating folders. The folder hierarchy looks just like the display in Windows Explorer, or the directory tree on a Macintosh. If you are familiar with file management, you'll appreciate this feature.
Attaching files to email messages back to top
As mentioned before, you can attach music, text files, photographs, or anything else (anything that can be stored on a computer) to email. Both Internet Explorer and Netscape use a paper clip graphic to indicate the button you have to click to attach documents. So, you click on the paper clip, then select the file you want to attach, be it music or a picture or a word processing document. Click "Open," and the desired file is attached.
You can attach more than one file to a message, but be aware that the larger the files attached, the longer it will take to send and for your recipient to download the message. Some email services have a limit of three megabytes (or less) that they will accept, so you have to stay under that limit too. You can always compress a file using a compression program such as WinZip for Windows, but discussion of compression utilities are beyond the scope of this course.
What to do with email attachments back to top
OK, so someone's sent you an attachment in email. Now what? Well, you have two primary choices, to view it in the email message, or to save it for future reference.
First, you can look at it in the email message. In Netscape, you do that by clicking "View" "Attachments" and then select "As Links" or "Inline" which means you want to see them in the message. Second, if you choose "As Links," you can then click on the file and either open it or save it, but REMEMBER WHERE YOU PUT IT!! This is the most common mistake, saving it and losing it. Most files are automatically saved to "My Documents," so if you can't find it elsewhere, try there! Good luck!
The Address Book and Mailing Lists back to top
Both Netscape Communicator and Internet Explorer offer address books. These are just what you think--collections of the email addresses of the people to whom you write often. In Netscape, click on Communicator in the menu bar and then Address Book on the resulting menu to make a new card or a new list, then click the appropriate button for the action you want to take.
To make a new card in Netscape:
To make a new list in Netscape:
If the addresses of the people you're adding to your list aren't yet in your address book, the mail manager will add them. An example of a list: I have friends who share the same sense of humor I do, so when I get a funny I like I forward it to my like-minded friends all at once, because I took a minute to make up a list.
To make a new card in Explorer:
To make a new list (group) in Explorer's Outlook Express:
After you make an entry in the address book or make a list, when you type the first unique letters for the name of the person or list, the mail manager will fill in the rest, saving you oodles of typing. It's worth doing!
Additional tip--In Internet Explorer's Outlook Express (my favorite mail manager), you can click on an option in Tools, then the Send tab, and click the box next to the option to put people you reply to in your address book. that adds the name of anyone that you reply to into your address book. Very handy!
Viruses in email back to top
First of all, let's talk about the fact that there aren't really as many viruses out there as the media would have you think! NEVER forward a virus warning message to anyone, because it is certainly a hoax---no matter how sincere it seems, or how reputable the sender (professor, MIS professional, etc.). People who know enough to know when a virus warning is real also know enough not to send virus warnings through email. If you forward the warning, you're doing exactly what the sick individual who thought up the threat wants you to do!
If there is a real virus floating around, you will find it at http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/index.html in the virus hoax section, and it will also be published in reputable newspapers, as the "Trojan Horse" email virus (transmitted by spam, unwanted ads in email, which you should always throw away anyway for just this reason) was on the CNN site recently. The page referenced in the link is hosted by Symantec's Norton Antivirus, the largest and arguably the most reputable purveyor of antivirus software in the industry. If they don't know about it, it doesn't exist!
Again, please DO NOT FORWARD any email warning you about a virus!!! You'll only encourage the people who invent them!
Here's another source for information about viruses: ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet-by-group/alt.newbie/Computer_Virus_FAQ_for_New_Users
Listservs/Mailing Lists back to top
(Excerpted from the introduction at http://www.liszt.com, which has compiled an index of over 90,000 mailing lists!)
Note: Listservs and newsgroups have nothing to do with chat rooms. Chat is live, newsgroups and listservs operate over email or an email-like delivery method.
Internet mailing lists, or listservs, aren't for ads, as some people mistakenly believe. Send any ads to the mailing lists in Liszt, and demons will come and pull out your toenails. No, Internet mailing lists are (usually) just communities of people sitting around discussing one of their favorite topics by e-mail. For example, fans of bluegrass music can join BGRASS-L, and meet other bluegrass fans, and talk about bluegrass via e-mail.
Internet mailing lists have been around since about 1975. It was the first and original type of online community, pre-dating Usenet, IRC, and the rest of the gang. The mailing list format lends itself to calm, thoughtful, literate, mature discussion, where relationships between the list members actually grow and deepen over an extended period of time. Most Internet experts feel that the mailing list format is the most civilized type of online community.
So those are discussion groups. Another common type of Internet mailing list is the newsletter or announcement format, where a single writer (the listowner or moderator) broadcasts a periodical e-mail to a willing audience (and the audience doesn't participate directly.)
You join a listserv by sending some type of SUBSCRIBE message (they'll tell you what to do), and you unsubscribe the same way. All messages are sent to a central point, where they are redistributed to the subscribers of the listserv in the form of email, as compared to a newsgroup, where people go to a specific site to read a group of messages. There are many more ramifications to listservs, but this will get you started!
Newsgroups/Bulletins Boards back to top
(Excerpted from the introduction at http://www.hobsonsquare.com/ngintro.htm)
WARNING! Newsgroups often have sexual or obscene content, and almost certainly profanity. Do not go to any unmoderated newsgroup unless you are prepared to encounter these things. Now... what are they?
Newsgroups or Discussion Groups, as they are sometimes called, are part of Usenet. A newsgroup is really nothing but a collection of messages dealing with a particular subject. Groups designed for the exchange of pictures usually, but not always have binaries in the group's name like: alt.binaries.autographs. There are newsgroups where they discuss sports, zebras, quilting, writing, various television shows---you name it, there's a newsgroup for it!
There are two major classes of Newsgroups: Moderated and Unmoderated.
Almost exclusively, are plain text and are more formal than the far more numerous unmoderated newsgroups. In Moderated Newsgroups, one or more persons act as the moderator and control which articles become available to the public. This tends to make the group more orderly since posters know they need to get past the moderator before anyone else sees their article, so people tend to be more careful to stay within the group's guidelines.
Are much more open. Anyone can post pretty much whatever they want and anyone who has access to the group can read the articles or see the pictures if they know how to decode them. This openness can cause flames or attacks from others in the group if they think someone posted inappropriate material, which is not always apparent from the Newsgroup's name or made clear in the group's FAQ, assuming new posters bother to read it...which most don't.
You also need to absorb the "culture" of a newsgroup if you intend to post to it, so that you don't get flamed. It's amazing how much getting a nasty message from a group of strangers hurts. I know, I stepped into a newgroup with both feet in my mouth and if email could kill, I'd be dead! Please visit http://www.hobsonsquare.com/ngintro.htm to read more about beginner mistakes and newsgroup netiquette.
. Links to other email guides back to top
There are many more links which will be helpful to the email beginner, including but not limited to:
A dictionary of computer terms at http://www.currents.net/resources/dictionary/dictionary.phtml
Ziff-Davis' help page at http://www.zdnet.com/zdhelp/welcome.html. ZDNet is very helpful in general about Internet issues. They even have an online university for learning software.
And the many other WWW FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) listed at http://dir.yahoo.com/Computers_and_Internet/Internet/World_Wide_Web/FAQs/
Acknowledgements back to top
I gratefully acknowledge gleaning parts of this treatise on email from various sources on the Web. In particular, I visited http://jade.wabash.edu/wabnet/info/netiquet.htm, http://email.tqn.com/msub10.htm, and got some graphics from http://www.barrysclipart.com, http://www.bellsnwhistles.com/ and http://www.clipart.com/, among other graphics sources too numerous to list ( and quite repetitive---they all post each other's graphics, so I don't feel too guilty about not acknowledging them)
Another mystery solved... back to top
Sometimes when you're typing an email message and you select and delete one word, then start to type the new word, your new word just types over what you're replacing instead of pushing it to the right. When that happens, push the INSERT key on your keyboard to change modes from "Overstrike" to "Insert." This also works in your word processor and any other software!