Getting the Most Out of Email
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 What is Email?

 Managing Your Messaging
Managing Your Messaging

You will discover that e-mail is a powerful communication tool, but, if you are not careful, you can drown in the messages you receive! Fortunately, there are ways to manage your messaging and wade through the in-box more effectively.

 Address Books
The most basic e-mail management tool is the address book -- a list of e-mail addresses of your closest friends and colleagues -- the people you send e-mail messages to most often. Every e-mail program features an address book.

Most e-mail programs will let you subdivide your stored messages into folders that you can organize by date, subject, or recipient. Folders are an easy way to keep track of important e-mail you receive.

 Off-line Storage
Most e-mail software packages let you store the messages you receive on your hard drive instead of on your ISP's system. This method lets you keep as many messages as you want for as long as you want -- ISPs tend to delete old e-mail messages or impose quotas on storage space. However, storing messages on your hard drive can be problematic if you use more than one computer for the bulk of your e-mail messaging.

-  Signatures
Many e-mail programs let you append a text signature. This is usually a few lines stating your name, e-mail address, and institution that you can insert at the bottom of every message you send. Netiquette decrees a limit of four lines of text in an e-mail signature.

 Sending Attachments
Email is not just for sending text; you can also send audio, video, software programs, still picture files, or large text files as attachments. These files have to be encoded and often compressed to be sent to other addresses. Audio, video, and print files can be compressed with several third-party programs. One of the most widely used software programs for compression and decompression on the Macintosh is Aladdin Systems' StuffIt. On the PC, PKZip, WinZip, and Zip Magic are the most common standards. These applications are available from the Web as freeware or shareware and can be downloaded at such sites as The Jumbo Download Network ( Some online providers, such as America Online, will automatically compress the files you attach.

Free Email
The following Web sites offer free e-mail accounts that anyone can sign up for:

Link  Hotmail

Link  Yahoo! Mail

Link  Excite

A national ISP, Geocities hosts free Web space and e-mail accounts for hundreds of non-commercial Web users. You are limited to 2MB file storage space and must keep your page updated to maintain your free Geocities account. Many local ISPs also offer free accounts to K-12 schools -- especially in conjunction with NetDay.
- Keep in mind that if you are sending files as attachments, the receivers of these files must have the same software program with which your files were created in order to open them. Or, they must be able to convert the files into files readable by a software program they have, using file conversion software such as MacLinkPlus on the Mac or Conversions Plus, Mac Opener, or Mac-in-Dos on the PC. If you know what application program the receiver has, you can convert your files before you attach them.

Some application programs can even read files from other programs of the same type. For example, Microsoft Word can read files from a variety of other word processing programs. If you are sending a word processed document, another option is to save it in your word processing program as "text only," or what's known as an ASCII (pronounced "ask-key") file, before attaching it. The downside of sending a document this way is that the recipient will lose all the text formatting when he or she opens it.

Filters are built into many e-mail programs, and are designed to help you keep undesirable messages out of your mailbox. You can set a filter to block all messages from a particular e-mail address, or with a particular subject heading. These are often called "bozo filters." Filters can also be used to help prioritize incoming messages -- putting messages from family members at the top of your list of things to read, for example.

 Management Tips
The novelty of getting e-mail often wears off when you start to get more than you can comfortably read and/or respond to. This happens fast when you subscribe to a listserv or two. You may also be getting various classes of e-mail -- personal and professional -- from people you know and from people you don't. A few good habits that will help you manage the deluge are:
--   Check your mail regularly.
--   Archive your "read" mail to your hard drive or a floppy disk; don't leave it on the server of your e-mail host where it may be deleted.
--   Keep mail short and to-the-point.
Also, protect yourself from unsolicited commercial e-mail, or "spam," by being careful about how easily you volunteer your address on online questionnaires, subscriptions, and even product registration forms.

Internet Primer
Thirteen Ed Online