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FreeUK's Basic Email Tutorial

Now that you have downloaded or brought all the software you need to send and
recieve email - what is it all about? Sending and receiving email should be one of
the easiest things to do on the internet, but can be a cause of problems when things
go wrong. This tutorial is designed to give you some pointers on what to do, how
to get you started and to solve basic problems.

  • What is Email?
  • Composing a Message
  • Attachments
  • Signature Files
  • Delivery Failures
  • Delays in Delivery
  • Troubleshooting

    What is Email?

    Email (or Electronic Mail) is a way of passing messages back and forth between you and your friends and colleagues. It is much more convenient than conventional mail, you do not have to worry about writer's cramp, finding an envelope, finding a stamp and then trying to remember where the post box is. You simply type out your message, ask the server to send it and off it goes!

    A word of warning however. You may find that, once you have started to use email,
    it becomes so necessary that you will not be able to remember how you ever managed without it!

    Composing a Message

    In order to send email, you need to have a program (or email client) on your computer to handle this. The first thing you need to do is to compose a message. All outgoing messages need to have an address so that the server will know where to send your message, much the same as you would need for a conventional letter. This usually takes the form of @, such as support@freeuk.com.

    You have the option to enter a subject line, although this is not strictly necessary,
    it helps the person receiving the message to know what the message is about. You can send a message to more than one person at the same time. In order to do this, you can separate the email address by commas, (e.g., fredbloggs@freeuk.com, johnsmith@freeuk.com) and the message will go to both people at
    the same time.

    There is often an option to copy the message to a second recipient, which means
    you can send two copies of the message to two different people at the same time. For instance, you may send an email message to one of your friends arranging a meeting and you may want another friend to come along too. You can mail your
    friend and copy (or cc) the message to other friend to see if they can make it too.


    You can send files with email. For instance, if you wanted to send your latest poem to your best friend for them to read, you can attach it to the email without having to type the whole thing out again. Your friend can then read the poem when they receive it. Attachments are handled in different ways from one email program to the next and most programs will have a help file to show you how to do this.

    Signature Files

    A signature file is a standard piece of text which is appended to the bottom of each email you send out. You may want all of your email to go out with your full name on the bottom or you may wish to have a witty comment put there. Whatever you wish
    to use as your signature file, most email programs have the facility to do this.

    A signature file should be created as a text file (a file with a .txt extension - it can
    be created in Notepad). In order to comply with Internet Etiquette (or "netiquette" as some people like to call it) it should commence with two dashes and a space
    before any text and should be no longer than four lines - like this:

    -- Fred Bloggs

    "If brains were dynamite, I wouldn't have enough to blow my nose"

    Delivery Failures

    There is little that is more frustrating than having a message sent back to you to say
    it could not be delivered. Something as small as a comma instead of a full stop in a username can prevent a message from being delivered, but whatever the reason, it will be contained within the message that was sent back to you. Some of the typical error messages are shown below:

    Your message could not be delivered to 'abuse@access.com my (host axcess.com.my)(queue: smpts)' for the following reason: 'No such user here.'

    This error message has come from the remote server (the server at the other end
    of the delivery chain) to say that the user to whom the mail was sent does not exist.

    A message that you sent could not be delivered to all of its recipients. The following address(es) failed: abuse@man.ac.uk: unknown local-part "abuse" in domain "man.ac.uk"

    Again, this error message has come from the remote server to say that the person
    to whom the mail was addressed does not exist. This message was originally sent
    to more than one person.

    The following addresses had permanent fatal errors abuse@curtin.edu.au
    transcript of session follows
    while talking to alpha3.curtin.edu.au:
    >>>RCTP To: <abuse@curtin.edu.au>
    <<<553.5.1.1 unknown or illegal user: abuse@curtin.edu.au
    550 <abuse@curtin.edu.au>....User Unknown

    This message is similar to the above two messages, but looks slightly different.
    You will notice that all these messages start the same way - they tell you that the message could not be delivered and the reason why.

    your message cannot be delivered to the following recipients:
    Recipient address:109nl1m82sis@internetmci.com
    Reason: Not found in directory

    This message tells you the same thing again.
    The user does not exist at the remote directory.

    Delays in Sending Mail

    The following message is slightly different. It simply warns that there are delays
    in trying to deliver your message and advises at the top that you do not need
    to resend your message.


    The original message was recieved at Sat, 14 Feb 1998 10:47:46 GMT
    The following addresses had transient non-fatal errors
    transcript of session follows:
    <abuse@netcom.com>, <postmaster@netcom.com>..Deferred: Connection reset by netcom20.netcom.com
    Message undelivered after 4 hours
    Will keep trying until message is 5 days old


    As you can see from the Delivery and Delays sections, there are a few things that
    can go wrong when sending mail. Some of them are avoidable, some are not.
    Here are some pointers:

    If sending to a Compuserve address, Compuserve addresses are often given out as 104234,1234@compuserve.com and the comma should be changed for a full stop before sending the message

    Although some mail programs allow shortcuts for addresses, ensure that the full address is quoted (complete with the @domain) when sending mail. If you have your best friend Fred in your address book, typing "Fred" in the To field is not a guarantee that the program will pick the address up. If in doubt, consult the help file for your mail program. Atlantis does not utilise shortcuts for the address book.

    If you feel the need to have everything in your address book in alphabetical order, be careful when using those addresses. If there is a comma between the surname and forename of the recipient, you may find that you have a returned email. If the To field is: "Bloggs, Fred (fredbloggs@freeuk.com)" your mail program will assume that there are two recipients - Bloggs and Fred (fredbloggs@freeuk.com), because the address has a comma in the middle.

    If you are sending an attachment and it is large, ensure that the person at the other end will be able to retrieve it. Some Internet Service Providers impose a limit on the size of their customers' mailboxes and will not allow them to go over a certain size. This is not the case with FreeUK customers.

    Always ensure that you have typed in the correct address when sending mail.