Email, short for “electronic mail,” is one of the most widely used features of the Internet, along with the web. It allows you to send and receive messages from any person with an email address anywhere in the world.
Multiple protocols are used in email. SMTP, for example, is used to send emails, while POP and IMAP protocols are used to retrieve mail from a mail server. When you configure an email account, you must define your email address, password, and the mail servers used to send and receive messages. Fortunately, most webmail services configure your account automatically, so you only need to enter your email address and password. If you use an email client such as Apple Mail or Microsoft Outlook, however, each account may need to be manually configured. Besides the email address and password, you may also have to enter the incoming and outgoing mail servers and enter the correct port numbers for each one.
The original email standard only supported plain text messages. Eventually, email evolved to support rich text with custom formatting. Email supports HTML today, which allows email to be formatted in the same manner as websites. HTML emails can contain images, links, and CSS layouts. Email attachments, or files, can be sent along with messages. Although you can send multiple attachments to each message with most mail servers, they limit their total size. In the early days of email, attachments were typically limited to one megabyte, but now many mail servers support email attachments that are 20 megabytes in size or more.
When composing an email message, it is important to use good netiquette. You should include a subject to summarize the topic of your email. It’s also a good idea to start each message with the recipient’s name, and then end it with your name or “signature”. A typical signature includes your name, email address, and/or website URL. Professional signatures may also include your company name, title, and URL. Email programs often allow multiple signatures to be saved, which can then be added at the bottom or side of an email.
If you want to send an email to multiple recipients, you can simply add each email address to the “To” field. However, if the email is primarily intended for one person, you should place the additional addresses in the “CC” (carbon copy) field. If you are sending an email to multiple people that don’t know each other, it is best to use the “Bcc” (blind carbon copy) field. This hides the email addresses of each recipient, which helps prevent spam.
NOTE: Email was initially called “e-mail”, but it is now commonly written “email” with no dash.
Last updated: October 31, 2014.
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