Email, the basics Part 1

Email (Electronic Mail) has come a long way over the years and is used by private individuals and businesses alike, it has become the defacto method of communication for most businesses and a lot of private individuals. In it’s infancy, you could only send simple “plain text” messages but these days, you can get all sortsย  of fancy formatting, use emoticons and smilies and even send quite large attachments like photos etc.

Unfortunately, email is a double edged sword! It’s very convenient but it’s too easy to get snowed under with unwanted messages, known as UCE or SPAM. Coupled with that, a lot of people seem afraid to delete unwanted emails and these can build up to 1000’s of messages. Consequently your email “system” groans under the weight and the job of de-cluttering becomes something you really can’t face ๐Ÿ™ I’ll come back to de-cluttering in part 2!

Email comes in 2 basic flavours! the first is known as “WebMail” because you access your messages using a “Web Browser”. So if you open a browser like Microsoft Internet Explorer or Firefox or Chrome etc and then log in to Google mail (GMail), Hotmail (, Yahoo, etc; you are using Web mail! The brilliant thing about Web Mail is that you can go to any computer in the world that has an Internet connection and log in to your email account to get and/or send emails. You need to keep the Internet connection open to read your messages and in these days of high speed broadband, it isn’t a problem. With Web Mail, all of your messages stay on the mail server and are not (normally) downloaded to your computer. For a lot of people, this is the preferred option, as the messages are available from any computer or smartphone.

The other way is to use an “Email Client” such as Thunderbird, Windows Live mail, Opera etc. The main advantage being that you can download all your messages and work off-line. You are then in control of doing backups and other maintenance jobs. If you use several devices, inc Smartphones, Tablets and Laptops and they travel with you; an email client is a good option. At the risk of going all geeky, there are 2 ways to access your mail using an email client. One is to use POP (it’s an old standard but still works and this usually used if you do not want to leave messages on the server and only use one device) The more modern and more flexible option in to use IMAP, you can choose to leave your mail on the server if you want and when you connect using various devices, it’s easier to keep things in sync e.g. all of your devices have access to the same messages. It’s a great way of keeping in control of your email.

Email alternatives

I suppose it has to be said that email is seen, mainly by the younger generation, as an outdated method of communicating. Messaging on Social Media is becoming very popular but sending text messages from your phone is also high on the list. These 2 methods leave a lot to be desired! There doesn’t seem to be anyway to organise your messages and you just have a cludge of messages that mostly contain “Txt speak” and cryptic symbols ๐Ÿ™‚ much on the same lines as tweeting! Maybe thinks will evolve and email will become emessaging and have the organisational advantage of email.

The one method of communicating that seems to be very effective is actually talking to people but that’s old fashioned isn’t it:-) Part 2, will deal with de-cluttering your email and making it work in your favour!