UNIT 5 : Introduction to Email

Do you ever feel like the only person who doesn't use email? You don't have to feel left out. More than ever, email is easy to understand and use.
In this lesson, you will learn what email is, how it compares to traditional mail, and how email addresses are written. We'll also discuss various types of email providers and the features and tools they include with an email account.

Getting to know email
You may know that email (electronic mail) is a way to send and receive messages across the Internet, but do you know how individual emails are sent, or what they cost, or how email compares to traditional "snail" mail? To get a better idea of what email is all about, review the infographic below and consider how you might benefit from its use.

Understanding email addresses
To receive emails, you will need an email account and an email address. Also, if you want to send emails to other people, you will need to obtain their email addresses. It's important to learn how to write email addresses correctly, because if you do not enter them exactly right your emails will not be delivered or might be delivered to the wrong person. 
Email addresses are always written in a standard format that includes a username, the (at) symbol, and the email provider's domain. The username is the name you choose to identify yourself, and the email provider is the website that hosts your email account.
Review the graphic for examples of how email addresses are written. 

About email providers
In the past, people usually received an email account from the same companies that provided their Internet access. For example, if AOL provided your Internet connection, you'd have an AOL email address. While this is still true for some people, today it's increasingly common to use a free web-based email service, also known as webmail. Anyone can use these services, no matter who provides their Internet access.
Webmail providers
Today, the top three webmail providers are Yahoo!, Microsoft's Outlook.com(previously Hotmail), and Google's Gmail. These providers are popular because they allow you to access your email account from anywhere with an Internet connection. You can also access webmail on your mobile device.
Visit the links below to compare the features of the three top webmail providers:
Other email providers
Many people also have an email address hosted by their company, school, or organization. These email addresses are usually for professional purposes. For example, the people who work for this website have email addresses that end with@gcflearnfree.org. If you are part of an organization that hosts your email, they'll show you how to access it.
Many hosted web domains end with a suffix other than .com. Depending on the organization, your provider's domain might end with a suffix like .gov (for government websites), .edu (for schools), .mil (for military branches), or .org (for nonprofit organizations).

Information management software
Many companies and organizations use an information management application, like Microsoft Outlook, for communicating and managing their email. This software can be used with any email provider, but is most commonly used by organizations that host their own email.
Visit our Outlook 2010 tutorial to learn more about using this application.

Email productivity features
In addition to email access, webmail providers also offer various tools and features. These features are part of a productivity suite—a set of applications that help you work, communicate, and stay organized. The tools offered will vary by provider, but all major webmail services offer the following features:
  • Instant messaging, or chat, which lets you have text-based conversations with other users; check out our Beyond Emaillesson to learn more about the basics of instant messaging
  • An online address book, where you can store contact information for the people you contact frequently
  • An online calendar to help organize your schedule and share that schedule with others
  • public profile that contains your name and basic contact information
In addition, each provider offers some unique features. For instance, when you sign up for Gmail you gain access to a full range of Google services, including Google DriveGoogle Docs, and more. Hotmail, on the other hand, offers connectivity with SkyDrive and Microsoft Office Web Apps. You can visit our tutorials on Google Drive and Docs andSkyDrive to learn more.

Getting started with email
You should now have a good understanding of what email is all about. Over the next few lessons, we will continue to cover essential email basics, etiquette, and safety tips.
When you're ready, you can try one or both of the following:

Get your own email account:
If you want to sign up for your own email account, we suggest choosing from one of the three major webmail providers.
Follow the links below to sign up for an email account:
Learn how to use an email program:
Keep in mind that Email 101 will not show you how to use a specific email account. For that, you will need to visit our Gmailtutorial. It's a useful course for learning the basics, even if you ultimately end up choosing an email provider other than Gmail, such as Yahoo! or Outlook.com. There, you will learn how to:
  • Sign up for an email account
  • Navigate and get to know the email interface
  • Compose, manage, and respond to email
  • Set up email on a mobile device
Beyond email: More ways to talk online
Once you've completed the lessons in this topic, you may wish to explore other popular ways of communicating and sharing online. Check out our Beyond Email topic to learn more about online chattext messagingvideo chatsocial networking, and more.

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