Back To Basics 2

In our first Article, we discussed the Desktop, and getting online.

Now we shall move on to Emails. I looked at what email is earlier, and now we look at the practicalities of using it!

Who @ Where Dot Com?

Firstly, you need to a choose an Email Provider. many people choose to use the email service included with their Internet Access (such as by BT, Sky, Virgin, etc), but I would advise against that as a main Email address, as if you choose to switch Internet Provider, you will have to change your email address, and inform all of your contacts (friends, work colleagues, banks, Utility Companies etc) of your new address.  Have a look at which Third-Party Email Suppliers are available.

Note: You may have as many email addresses as you like!

Some of the more popular Suppliers are:

Each of these has their own Sign-Up procedure, but they are very similar. Click the “Sign Up” button, fill in the forms, and choose your email name.

Here is where we run into the first hurdle!

A lot of people would like their own name as their email address, e.g. Now, there are a lot of John Smiths in the world, and each email must be unique! This means you may have to take, or But! These are probably gone, too!

The provider will suggest some available addresses, based upon the details you have given them, or you can keep trying to guess an un-taken one. Maybe use a nickname, or a reference to your hobby.

Example email addresses:

  • (Homer Simpson – The Simpsons)
  • (Benedict Cumberbatch)

Email addresses are not Case Sensitive. “” is the same as “”, and the same as “JohNsMIth@gMAil.coM”.

You can use a dot in your address, to try to distinguish it.
“” and “” are different addresses.

Now that you have an address, you can move on to the next stage!

Webmail or Client?


There are two main ways to do email on a PC.

  • Webmail, where you open your
    Edge, Chrome and Firefox
    Edge, Chrome and Firefox

    web browser (e.g. Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox), and visit the Supplier’s webpage.

  • Email Client Program – a separate program on your PC dedicated to
    Email Client Programs

    email. Popular examples are “Windows 10 Mail App”, Mozilla Thunderbird, and the outdated Outlook Express and Windows Live Mail. If you choose this option, you will also need to decide whether to use POP3 or IMAP. We don’t need to know the ins-and-outs of what these mean: I strongly recommend IMAP, as you are synchronising with the Mail Server directly, and do not have to worry about losing the mail stored on your PC.

Whichever you choose, they tend to look quite similar. A list of folders (Inbox, Trash, Sent Items, etc) on the left, and a list of emails to the right. Sometimes there will be a Preview Pane to the right, or underneath the list of emails. Across the top will be your Tools.


To write a new email, you will need to find the button marked “New Email“, or “Compose” or “Write” (or some variant of this). This will present you with a box to write your new email in.

Writing a New Email
Writing a New Email

You will notice that there are several sections to this. You can move between the sections by Clicking them, or by pressing the TAB key on the left of your keyboard.

  • To” – This is where you type the email address of the person(s) you wish to send an email to. You may add several addresses here, separated by commas.
  • Subject” – Not only is it good ‘Netiquette’ to include a Subject line, some email providers will filter emails without a Subject, thinking they are Spam, or Junk Mail. A word or two is sufficient.
  • The Message Area – Here is where you write your email. While there is an upper limit for how much you can write, it is far larger than most people will want to write. (But if you attach other Files, you may quickly hit this limit – more on attachments later).

Once you have typed who to Send to, entered a Subject, and written the text of the email (including an opening line such as “Dear Sir”, or “Hi Mum”, and a close; “Yours Sincerely, PC Wizard”, “Cheers! Phil”), you are ready to press “Send”.  Some programs/pages have this at the top of the email, others at the bottom.

Once you have Sent the email, it will wing its way across the Internet to the recipient’s Mail Sever, and wait there for them to collect it.


Mostly, you do not have to do anything to Receive email. It is delivered to your Mail Server. If you are using Web Mail (viewing the email Web Page in your Browser), you will see any new emails as soon as you log in. If you use a Client (Windows Live Mail, Thunderbird, etc), they will check for new mail when you open them ,and automatically check again on a schedule (usually about every 10-15 minutes). There is usually a button to “Send/Receive”, which will make sure any of your emails have been sent, and check the Server for new arrivals, but this is not normally needed.

Advanced (Attachments)

Email can only cope with Text. Some clients/pages allow you to use Formatted text (i.e. using Bold, Italics and Colours).

If you wish to send anything else (e.g. Photographs, Word Documents, Spreadsheets, etc), you must use a Feature called “Attachments”. This is often represented by a Paperclip, and adds the File to the Email as an “extra”.

To use this, click the Paperclip icon (or “Attachment” button), and you will be presented with a mini-File-Explorer, to find your File. Navigate to the Folder that it is on, select it and click “Attach” (sometimes “Open”). You should now see a line in the email informing you of the attachment.

An email, with an attachment
An email, with an attachment

There is a limit to how much you can attach to each email, but this changes by Provider. A good rule of thumb is to only include 3-4 Attached Files. If you wish to send more than this, you can either send multiple emails, or use a Cloud-Sharing Service such as Dropbox, Google Drive or One Drive.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

If all this seems a little daunting, the best way to become more confident is to practice sending emails. It will soon become familiar!

Feel free to send me some emails, with or without attachments!

My email address is:

I look forward to hearing from you!

You’ve Got Mail!

We have all heard of email. Most of us use it frequently.

But how many of us understand how it works?

Email – The Basics

Email Symbol

Email (or E-mail, short for Electronic Mail) is a particular way of sending messages across the internet, and has changed quite a lot since Ray Tomlinson sent his first message in 1971.

As a User, you don’t really need to know the ins and outs of SMTP, POP3, IMAP, but we will touch on how they affect your email experience.

Firstly, though, a quick explanation of an email address:

  • “admin” is the user-name. You can use your name, nickname, or anything, really, to identify you. Here, I have used “admin”, as it is collected by the Domain Administrator (me!)
  • “@”. This symbol (called “the ‘at’ symbol”, to rhyme with “hat”) denotes to the computer that the text is an email address.
  • “” – this is the Domain that my email is run from.

All email to a particular Domain is sent to the appropriate Host (the people who run the Domain), who sort it by User-Name, and store it in that user’s Mail Box.

You must have set up an Email Account with that Domain, and secured it with a Password, so that no-one else can collect mail sent to you!

e.g. Bob has the email address. Any email sent with this address is first sent to Google (who run gmail), and they will store it in the Mail Box for the User “bob”.

(Due to the immense number of people who use email, it is unlikely you will be able to register “bob” at any Domain. You must find a more Unique Identifier, which is why a lot of email addresses have seemingly random numbers on the end! “” is a different user than “”.)

When you “check your email”, you send a request (including your User Name and Password) to the Domain (including your User Name, and password), asking if there is anything in your Mail Box. The Domain will then send you anything they have stored there.

If you were to think of it as similar to Physical Mail (colloquially called “Snail Mail”, due to it’s delay in delivery compared to Email!), you would send a letter to “bob@Leicester, UK”. This will be sent to the Leicester, UK, Post Office, who store it until Bob comes along to collect it. Luckily, your computer can check with the “Post Office”(Domain) rapidly, without you ever having to leave your house!

Registering an Email Account

To use email, you must register an Account with a Domain.

For most people, there are two main ways to do this:

  1. Use the Account that your ISP (Internet Service Provider) provides for you (e.g. BT Internet, AoL, PlusNet etc)
  2. Sign up with a 3rd Party Email Provider such as Hotmail (now Outlook) or Gmail (by Google).
Hotmail Logo
The Original Hotmail!

Personally, I recommend the second option, as it avoids any problems if you choose to change ISP. If you move from, say, BT to PlusNet, BT will shut down your “<name>” email account, and you will have to open a new account elsewhere. You will then have to inform all of your Contacts (friends, utility companies, Websites that you registered with e.g. Facebook) etc that you have changed email address (similar to having to tell everyone of your new address and phone number when you move house!).

With a 3rd Party (Hotmail/Gmail/etc) account, you can keep your address, as it is not linked to your ISP!

One other way is to set up your own Domain, and register email addresses through it, but that is more advanced.

How Do I Get My Email?

Now that you have registered an Account, you will need a way of Sending and Receiving email via that account. There are two main ways to do this:

  • Outlook Express
    Outlook Express

    Webmail – Most email providers (ISP and 3rd party) provide a web page that you can visit with your Web Browser. Once you have signed in, you can access your Mail Box. (Go to the Post Office, and look through your deposit box).

  • Email Client Program – This phrase is probably new to you, but you might have heard of “Windows Live Mail”, “Outlook/Outlook Express” and “Thunderbird”. These are programs on your computer dedicated to Email. They will need to be set up with the details of your email address, password, and Domain Settings (although these are a lot more automated these days).

Email Clients tend to offer more functions than Webmail, and being on your computer, you get more control over how things work.

A Bit Of Technical Jargon

Email Clients can use two different ways to collect and send emails.

  1. A Post Box
    A Post Box

    POP3 – “Post Office Protocol, version 3”. If you collect email using this, your Email Client requests email from the Domain, which sends you it. The email is then stored on your PC, and usually deleted from the Domain Mail Box (you have picked up your letter from the Post Office. They no longer have it).

  2. IMAP – “Internet Message Access Protocol”. When you request your email, the Domain sends you a copy. Your Email Client stays in touch with the Domain, and informs them of any changes you make (deleting, making a new folder to store it in, etc). In this way, the email is kept centralised on the Domain. This is useful for when the email is checked from multiple devices (e.g. your PC and Phone both checking the same account), or when you replace your PC, as the Emails are all still on the Domain Server ready to be connected to!

IMAP is becoming a lot more prevalent these days, as internet connection speeds are faster and it is easier for the Email Client to constantly keep in touch with the Domain, updating and checking regularly.

So, now you know how email works, why not send some!

You can contact me here: