Email for Greenhorns: A Beginner’s Guide to Electronic Mail – Rhoonet
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Email for Greenhorns: A Beginner’s Guide to Electronic Mail

From smoke to drums to birds, ancient messengers in all their forms accomplished (or attempted to accomplish) the same thing; they sent information from one person or group to another. Modern communication hasn’t strayed from this basic accomplishment. Today’s communication does the same thing as ancient messengers, just better. In general, the reach of the messenger defines the value of any communication pathway – reach and, depending on the message, confidentiality. Because email provides virtually instantaneous communication with any connected device anywhere in the world, and because that communication can be encrypted to ensure confidentiality, email and online messaging are today’s most valuable communication pathways. Email programs are popular messengers not only because they effectively send information from one person to another, but because they are also feature rich. Email features make it easier than ever before to send, receive, store, and organize correspondence.

Top Email Clients of 2015

Today’s best email platforms are intuitive, user friendly, and integrated with other apps. It makes sense, then, that Apple, Google, and Microsoft would lead the pack. Here are the six top email clients, according to their November 2015 market shares.

Apple Mail

(52.5%): Combined, the iPhone, iPad and Apple computer’s native mail apps hold over half of all email market shares. Because the applications come installed on all Apple devices and are integrated with other iOS/OS apps, they are the easiest email programs to use on Apple devices. A streamlined interface and features like imbedded attachments make the programs enjoyable, as well as easy, to use.

Google Gmail

(15.2%): Google’s email hosting service, Gmail, is a popular domain provider. Its application, however, is less popular. Although is completely integrated with Chrome, Google Drive, and Google+, it lacks the cross-platform integration on iOS and Android devices. Despite being a wildly popular domain provider, users are still not satisfied with the Gmail app for mobile devices [1].

Google Android

(9.0%): The newest Android operating systems boast increasingly viable native mail apps. This year, Google’s other project, Android, solidly moved into the vacuum created by dissatisfied Gmail app users. While Gmail’s email market share fell, use of the native Android app grew by 31% in 2015 [1]. If you have a mobile device with an Android operating system, the most effective email client for your device comes with it.

Microsoft Outlook

(6.8%): Outlook is a feature rich, professional email client from software king Microsoft. While, with free email apps available from Apple and Google, Outlook is overkill for the average email user, the application’s integration with Microsoft Exchange Server and Microsoft SharePoint make it an indispensible tool for businesses. Now that you’ve located your email client, let’s get basic. Real basic.


How to Send an Email

To generate a new email use the “Compose” or “New” button in your email program. If you are using Apple Mail for iOS, the compose button is a letter and pen icon in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. Clicking the compose button, whatever it looks like, will open a blank message. First, the sender (you) must specify a recipient by entering an email address in the “To” field. If you have an address book connected to your email account, simply typing in the name of the recipient should pull up their email address. Many programs, including Gmail, automatically add a new contact to the user’s virtual address book. The sender can address an email to more than one recipient by entering more than one address in the “To” field or by using the CC or BCC fields:

  • Carbon copy (CC)sends a duplicate copy of an email to one or more secondary recipients. Use “CC” to let additional recipients in on your correspondence or to confirm that an email has been sent. You can enter a virtually limitless number of addresses in the main “To” field. “CC,” then, denotes that the recipient is not of primary concern in whatever matter the email discusses.
  • Blind carbon copy (BCC) sends a duplicate copy of an email to one or more secondary recipients without revealing the identities of the recipients to each other. The BCC option maintains the confidentiality of recipients and, therefore, is often used for mass business or school emails. Use “BCC” to protect personal email addresses on large mailing lists.
  • Second, the sender may specify a subject by filling out the subject line When the recipient receives your email, the subject will appear in the inbox alongside your name. Subjects aren’t necessary, but they are a useful custom. If the recipient asks you to use a specific phrase in the subject line, do it. The recipient may be using an automated sorting feature that separates mail by subject. Today’s email programs use rich text format (RTF) by default. This means that the sender can alter the font, style, and size of text in the body of the email. The sender can also add a signature or attachments to the email as needed.
  • A signature consists of several lines of text that the email program automatically adds to the bottom of all outgoing mail. Signatures are particularly useful for business correspondence where associates need to establish a second or third channel of communication. The sender specifies the content of the signature, which, typically, consists of the name, title, and contact info of the sender. Set a signature in the email settings panel (look for the gear icon).
  • Attachments include any files – text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, images, videos, sound files, etc. – that the sender includes in an email. The recipient can view the attachment in their email application or browser or, if they want, download the files to their hard drive. Add an attachment by clicking the paperclip icon. After you finish composing an email, click “Send” to deliver it.
  • How to Receive and Respond to an Email

    New emails go to the “Inbox” folder automatically. The inbox is the default folder for every email program and, therefore, will open when you open the program. Users no longer need to “Check Mail” to receive messages since today’s email programs automatically refresh. There are several things you can do with an email once you’ve received and read it:

  • Forward sends a copy of the email on to new recipients. This function is ideal for redirecting information to the relevant person or bringing someone left off the recipients fields into the loop.
  • Reply creates a reply message addressed to the email’s sender. This function is ideal when your response is relevant to the sender, but not the other recipients.
  • Reply to all creates a reply message addressed both to the sender of the email and to all other recipients of the email. This function is ideal for group threads.
  • How to Organize Email

    All email programs already have a simple organization system in place with their Inbox, Sent, Drafts, and Trash folders:

  • Inbox contains mail the user has received.
  • Sent contains mail the user has sent.
  • Drafts (or Outbox) contains mail the user has composed and/or addressed but hasn’t yet sent. If you accidently close an email or email crashes mid-composition, check this folder to recover your draft.
  • Trash or Junk contains mail the user has deleted. In most email programs, messages aren’t removed from this folder until the user empties it.
  • A user can better organize email by creating custom folders to complement the Inbox, Sent, Drafts, and Trash folders. He or she can then manually sort mail into these storage bins for future reference. Most email programs can also automate organization. Adjust email settings to automatically sort mail into different folders based on the sender or the subject line. If you’re using Gmail, access this tool through Settings > Filters and Blocked Addresses > Create new filter. If you’re using Microsoft Outlook, AutoArchive includes a number of functions that automate sorting and deleting.

    How to Store Email

    All sent and received mail is stored in the Sent or Inbox folders until the user moves it to another folder or deletes it. On a more technical level, email in all folders is stored in the email domain’s servers (be that Gmail, Apple, Outlook, or another domain). The acronyms AMTP, POP3, and IMAP refer to the protocols that define how emails are transmitted and stored on servers.

    Email Security

    Online security is incredibly important for both business and personal email accounts. Email greenhorns are particularly vulnerable to email scams, so be sure to keep an eye out for the following:

  • Phishing: Beware of emails sent to you from a fraudulent source that impersonate reputable companies in order to solicit personal information like credit card numbers, social security numbers, or online banking usernames and passwords. Always authenticate the sender’s email address and, even if the source is authentic, do not reveal passwords over email.
  • Malware: Also beware of malicious links sent to you through email. Never click on a suspicious link in an email, as it could be a link to a malware download that will crawl your device looking for sensitive information. Note that infected email accounts may send malware links to address book contacts, so even if you can authenticate the source of an email, do not click a suspicious link.
  • Don’t assume that something sent over email is confidential, as persistent hackers can gain access to emails en route. If confidentiality is required, use encryption. Encryption, the practice of scrambling data sent over the internet to avoid interception en route, is an online security tool that can be applied to any online activity including email. Encryption protects sensitive data from hackers, government surveillance, and corporate espionage. Turn on encryption in Outlook by going through Trust Center > E-mail Security > Encrypted e-mail.

Hannah Fillmore-Patrick

Hannah Fillmore-Patrick is a 2012 graduate of Colby College's English department who, back then, didn’t know she was reading Moby Dick just to go into the one industry that’s more complicated than Melville: tech.

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