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Get Connected Through E-mail in Windows XP

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For the novice, this chapter by Shelley O'Hara offers a guide to setting up and using e-mail in Windows XP. For the experienced user, there are still tips and tricks to customizing your e-mail experience for greater efficiency and usability.

The most common activity for using the Internet is sending email. Email enables you to stay connected to others; it is fast, convenient, and inexpensive. You can send email to anyone in the world who has an email address. You can keep in contact with friends in Sweden or submit expense reports to your main office or stay in contact with your child at college. Sending and receiving mail, like browsing the Internet, is relatively straightforward. Still, you'll find ways to improve the efficiency of email and also ensure your computer is safe in this part.

This part covers how to

  • Receive messages without hassles, including blocking spam

  • Send messages efficiently

  • Attach documents, pictures, websites, or other items to a message, as well as ensure your computer is safe from email viruses

  • Keep your messages organized so that you can find the message you need

  • Set up an address book to make addressing messages simpler and error free

You can use any number of programs to send and receive mail, including the email program, Outlook Express, included with Windows XP. This part uses Outlook Express, but the process for other programs should be similar.

Receive Email

Receiving email should happen automatically when you start your mail program. You do have to go through the process of setting up your email account first; you have to do this only one time. If you don't have a mail account set up, the first time you start Outlook Express you are prompted to set up a mail account. You can follow the steps, as prompted, to enter your appropriate email information. The specific information you enter should be provided to you by your ISP and includes things such as your username, password, and mail servers (the incoming mail server called the POP3, IMAP, or HTTP server, and the outgoing mail server called the SMTP server). If you have problems or questions about this information, contact your Internet Service Provider.

Mail works like this: When someone sends you an email, it is sent to your ISP server and waits there. When you log on to your mail account, new messages are downloaded from the ISP server to your computer. New messages appear in bold in your Inbox so that you can then open and review the message content.

When you are finished reviewing your mail, you can keep the program open. You might do this so that you are alerted when new messages arrive. Or you can exit your mail program. If you use a dial-up account and are finished working online, be sure to exit the mail program and log off. Usually you are prompted to log off the connection. In this case, select Yes or Disconnect. If you are not prompted, right-click the connection icon in the taskbar and select Disconnect.

Web Mail

You can also sign up for Web mail accounts and access and check mail from this site.

Checking Your Email

To check your email, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start and then click E-mail (Outlook Express). You can also add a desktop shortcut icon, as covered in Part 6, "Save Time," and double-click this icon to open the mail program.

  2. If prompted, connect to your Internet service provider.

  3. Outlook Express starts and checks your email server for any messages. Messages are then downloaded to Outlook Express. The number of new messages appears in parentheses next to the Inbox in the Folders list. The message header pane lists all messages. Messages in bold have not yet been read. You can open and read any message in the message list.

  4. If necessary, in the Folders list of the Outlook Express window, select Inbox.

  5. Double-click the message you want to read. The message you selected is displayed in its own window.

  6. When you are finished reading the message, click its Close button to close it. Or use the toolbar buttons to display the next or previous messages in your Inbox. If you don't need the message, click the Delete button to delete it.

Figure 3.1Figure 3.1 Your Inbox contains any new messages.

Preview Message

You can click a message in the message list and preview its contents in the preview pane. You can then use the toolbar to reply, forward, display next message, and so on.

Figure 3.2Figure 3.2 Open and review any messages you receive.

When reading email messages, keep these tips in mind:

  • Many times people forward a message to you (jokes or chain email, for instance) and the message is sent as an attachment. You can double-click the attachment to open it. See "Share Files via Email" later in this part for more on attachments.

  • You should use a virus program to scan your messages for viruses. Many computer viruses are spread via email. (This part covers some precautions; Part 9, "Be Safe," covers viruses and virus protection software in more detail.)

  • In addition to using a virus program, follow some general guidelines for safe mail. Don't open messages from people you don't know. If a message contains an executable file (.exe file), don't run it without checking it for viruses. You can use one of Windows XP's security features to remind you about security when you open attachments.

  • Keep your virus protection software up to date. There's a type of common email virus that can, without your knowing, send out messages to everyone in your address book with the virus attached. The recipients may open the email and execute any programs because the message is from someone they know; thus, their system becomes infected. Windows XP includes a feature for stopping this. See "Avoid Viruses" later in this part for more information.

  • Junk email is called spam, and you can use some Outlook Express features to block spam, but you'll probably need a security program to more effectively deal with spam. (Many of the Internet and virus programs include spam blockers; see Part 9 for more information.)

  • You can cut down on the amount of spam, yourself, by not signing up for free newsletters, product announcements, or contests online. Also, some people get jokes or stories and forward them to everyone in their address books. As a courtesy, forward messages selectively.

Block Spam

Outlook Express provides minimal features for blocking spam. You can block senders, but often spam senders use a different name for every message, making it hard to block mail this way. You may also block a sender if someone is harassing you via email.

To block a particular sender, select a message from the person. Then open the Message menu and click Block Sender. To remove any old messages from this person, click Yes. To keep the messages, click No.

If you later want to unblock someone, you can do so. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the Tools menu and click Message Rules and then Blocked Senders List.

  2. Select the person to unblock. (You cannot uncheck the check box to clear it. You have to follow the next step.)

  3. Click the Remove button.

  4. Confirm the removal by clicking Yes.

  5. Click the OK button to close the dialog box.

Figure 3.3Figure 3.3 If you change your mind, you can unblock someone on your blocked list.

Message Rules

You can also set up message rules to deal with spam. For instance, you can set up a rule to check for messages with FREE or some other "spam"-indicator word. These messages can then be deleted or moved to another folder. Consult Outlook Express's online help for more information on building message rules.

Type Phrase

You can get the same results without using the Advanced Search. To do so, type the phrase within quotation marks.

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