Reading E-mail

Reading your email is typically quite simple. Once your mail software is setup correctly all you usually need to do is open the mail program. While most mail programs automatically check for email when you start them, sometimes you will have to tell it to check. Locate the option to check for new messages under one of the headings on your menu bar.

If you have any messages you should see them listed on the screen or in your "In" box after the program is done downloading the messages. To read the first message, all you usually need to do is hit return. At the top of each message is a header with information about the origin, date, and routing of each message. Below is a sample message header:

From: (John Doe)
Subject: we`re here!!
Date: Mon, 16 Oct 95 20:31:48 MDT

Note who messages are "To." If it is to your system ID, then you know it is a private Internet message to you only. If it is to some group name, as in the above example, then it was a message to a mailing list of some kind and everyone in that group has received a copy. Listservs are electronic mailing lists used for group interaction. Listservs are discussed in lesson four.

Note the time and date of the message and whom it is "From." If you use the Reply function of your software package, your reply message will automatically be sent to this person. Some listservs add a From line with the list's address in it so that replies will come back to the listserv instead of going back to the individual who originally sent the message. Be aware that when you reply to a message your response may be seen by a large number of people if it goes back to a listserv.

The subject is chosen by the sender. It usually tells what the message is about.

Other headers may also be seen but usually are not important for basic message handling. For instance, "Received:" headers indicate the systems through which the message was routed and can be helpful if your reply is returned to you as undeliverable but otherwise aren't of particular interest.

Unless you wish to keep an email message for a specific purpose, it is good practice to delete it once it has been read. Find out how to delete a message using your mailreader. In Eudora click on the button with the icon of a trash can on it or highlight the message and choose "Message Delete". In Netscape 4.0, click on the Delete button. In both cases, the message disappears from your list of messages but is not truly deleted yet, so if you make a mistake you can get the message back. Just look in the Trash folder or mailbox in your mailreader software. However, once you exit the program, the messages are usually deleted for good.