An email program controls sending, composing and receiving email.

Email is the electronic equivalent of sending a letter through the mail. There are many different mail reading programs or clients that control email but the basic functions are all the same. An email address directs a message to the recipient.

Email addresses are made up of someone@somecompany.tdl

  • the first part is the account name
  • the second part is the @ symbol
  • the third part is the name of your domain or the name of the company name that is providing your email services
  • the last section are the characters which describes the type of service for the top level domain (TLD) name. For example .com stands for commercial domain, .gov - U.S. government, .net - network, .plumbing a plumbing service, etc...
  • when an address has 2 characters it is a geographical top level domain (gTLD). For example .ca - is a domain registered in Canada, .au - is a domain registered in Australia, .tv - is a domain registered in Tuvla
  • new TLDs are being added constantly. There are over 650 TLDs as of the date this page was updated. Some examples are: .africa, .berlin, .bid, .bike, .blog, .book, .buy, .buzz, .camera, .capetown, .career, .careers, .clothing, .club, .coffee, .construction, .contractors, .diamonds, .directory, .domains, .durban, .email, .enterprises, .equipment, .estate, .foo, .futbol, .gallery, .gift, .graphics , .guide, .guru, .holdings, .inc, .jetzt, .joburg, .kitchen, .kiwi, .land, .lighting, .llc, .london, .luxury, .menu, .music, .nyc, .onl, .online, .photography, .photos, .pink, .plumbing, .recipes, .reviews, .ruhr, .sexy, .shoes, .shop, .singles, .site, .tattoo, .technology, .tips, .today, .uno, .ventures, .viajes, .voyage, .wien, and .wiki, and many more

As well as sending and receiving mail the recipient can;

  • save the address for future reference in an address book
  • reply to the original message
  • forward the message to a third party
  • edit a message
  • Cc a message by sending a copy to another address so others can see that a copy has been sent
  • Bcc a message by sending a copy so that other can't see that a copy has been sent
  • check the spelling and a wide range of other options.

One of the services provided by your ISP is to provide a storage area or mailbox to collect email in. Email software programs control the transfer of this stored email by downloading or synchronizing the messages from your mailbox on your ISP's computer to your own computer. You must be connected to the Internet to do this.

Email was originally designed to handle only plain text (no formatting, ie. bold, centering, etc.) which was transferred from one computer to another in a format called ASCII. ASCII is a standard across all computer types which makes e-mail universal. Today many modern email programs allow HTML (hypertext markup language) to be included in email messages which allow you to format your email messages with font sizes, bold, centre and such. The recipient must have an HTML capable email reader to see the formatting otherwise they may get a document marked up with HTML tags.

An email message is made up of two parts; the header information and the body. The recipient's address (to), the subject, the sender's email address as well as other transmission information is contained in the header. The content of the message is in the body. You can find out information about an email message by viewing the header content. Most email programs have a 'view header' option in the menu.

Email can be composed and sent as plain text or HTML. Plain text messages can be read by any email client but most modern email clients can compose and display email documents containing formatting such as bold, different font size and colour, images, etc.

New messages can be written or composed off-line (not connected to the Internet). If the ISP charges by the hour, connect to the Internet only to send and receive your email and then disconnect to read and compose your mail.

Many ISP's also offer web mail programs so that you can logon to check and send email using any internet accessible computer. You will need the web address of the web mail program, your username (usually your email address) and email password.

Some companies offer free email service that you can sign up for. These free services rely on a combination of advertising and market research for revenue so your recipient may receive an advertisement with the email. Most free email accounts are accessed through a web browser where the user composes and reads their mail online. The benefit is that you can easily access your mail from any internet terminal and the address is easily disposable (if it gets added to a junk mail list for instance).

Most companies that offer free email services also extract information from the messages traveling through their system. People should always read the end user agreement to understand how their information is being used. Be sure to read the sections on privacy and how your information is being used. People are often surprised to discover that many free services track every key press and every mouse click.

Many companies and large organizations also offer email services to their employees, clients and members. These email accounts are setup on a company network and messages are send and received through this private network. When setting up an account of this type always read the end user agreement as most companies track activity on their networks. The end user agreement should let you know what is being tracked and give you an idea of how private your messages are.

You can also attach files to email messages to send picture, sound, documents, videos and other types of file with your email. Some email programs automatically open attachments such as photos and html code. Change the program's properties or options to turn this feature on or off. Viruses can also be included in attachments.

Unrequested or spam email has become a problem on the internet. A large percentage of the email sent is this unrequested email which takes up bandwidth and causes prices to rise. Businesses must take time to sort through spam to find the legitimate email which also takes time and money. Most ISPs provide software that will filter out the worst of this email. If you find that you are receiving a lot of unrequested email contact your ISP to see if they can provide you with or adjust your spam filters.

Paper clipAn attachment is a computer file or files placed inside an email message.

To attach a document to an email message drag the file attachment to the body of the message and drop it. An attachment can also be added by choosing File Attachment from the menu. Most modern email programs place a button on the Toolbar that can be clicked. A dialog box will open that allows you to browse and select the file that you want to attach. More than one file can be attached to a single email message. Once it is attached, don't move or delete the original document until the message has been sent.

Most documents created on computers, such as word processing documents, spreadsheet documents, or graphic files are stored in their own unique binary code format. This binary format is determined by the program that the file is created with. Email documents are created as text files so in order to send a binary file or document via email, it must first be encoded into a text format and then attached to the email text message.

Such an 'encoded' document may end up looking something like this:


These lines are all printable ASCII characters and can be sent via email. When it gets to your computer and you want to view the document, it first must be decoded or converted back to it's binary format before it can be opened. Today this is typically handled automatically by your Email program.

There are several common encoding standards, the most popular being uuencoding, mime, and binhex. Not all email packages support even these three, let alone all the non-standard ones. If someone sends you a document encoded in a format that your email program doesn't support the email program will not decode the attachment.

The attached file must be loaded into a program to be viewed. For example, if the attached document was originally created in Microsoft-Word you need Word compatible word processor on your computer to work with the document. Most modern software suites can import documents from other suites.

Most modern email programs work hand-in-hand with your operating system to try and open the correct program required to view the document sent as an attachment. This is done by matching the file extension such as .jpg, .gif, .doc, etc... with a registered file type.

Viruses can also be transferred via email attachments. Because your email software handles the decoding of programs sent as attachments it is easy to infect your computer simply by opening an infected attachment. Always check email attachment with an anti-virus program before opening them and never open an attachment from an unknown source..

There are several reasons why an attachment will not display properly or at all:

  1. the encoded file is corrupted and cannot be decoded. This is usually due to damage in transit and happens very seldom these days
  2. the encoding type is not supported by your e-mail program and so the file cannot be decoded back to it's original type
  3. the attached document was created in a program that you don't have on your computer or is not a registered file type
  4. the email program has a security option set which automatically locks attached files

When sending an attachment you should think about whether the intended recipient has the same program on their computer. When you are sending an attachment to someone you should always use a standard encoding process (the one that comes with your email program is usually best) and send the document in a format that the recipient can view. If in doubt, ask them first by email.

Attachments can also be used to send private and confidential documents by encrypting files. An encrypted file will require a password or an decryption key to unlock it before it can be viewed.

If your email software automatically locks attachments and you want to view the attachment you can change the program's settings by modifying the Preferences or Options.

Last updated: March 3, 2021