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Computing With Bifocals
by Nancy Carroll Gravley

A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....




E-mail Basics, Part III: A Printable Guide For New Mac Users
January 24th

This week's column is the last of a three part series concerning e-mail. (Check out part 1 and Part 2 for more information). All of the examples used in each of the three relate to Microsoft Outlook Express because that is what I use, but most any good e-mail program will have similar options if you know to look for them.

To really enjoy the e-mail experience one should be able to maximize their e-mail set up to most closely meet their needs. This might mean a large type font, blocking junk mail, or simply setting up preferences to do what you would like. To experienced computer users this probably seems like a no-brainer. However, for those of us who grew up using typewriters, having only 3 stations available on the TV, and having never heard of a remote control, the extras are neither obvious nor expected.

Setting Preferences

Setting up your e-mail to meet your own personal needs is accomplished by setting the preferences. To get to the preferences select the Edit pull-down menu and drag the mouse down to the word Preferences and release. A window will open.


Preferences Window - Open to Compose Tab

Across the top of the Preferences window are the seven tabs that you access to set the different Preferences.

Compose Tab

Under "General" I have clicked on "Save a copy of sent messages in the "Sent Items" folder. By choosing that I have assured I can keep a copy of anything I send out as long as I want. This is important when I am making internet purchases, sending a column to The Mac Observer editors, or answering reader mail. I can't tell you how many times I have referred back to my sent items for follow up information, dates, or even (as much as I hate to admit it) to see if I even sent something that I think I sent. If you choose this option it is important to periodically go into the sent folder and delete really old messages that you no longer need. Everything that is kept in the Sent folder takes up space.

Under the Messages section you can choose "Click here for attachment options" to choose how you want any attachments handled. When you click on that bar the following window will open.


Attachment Options Window

This is all about things you are sending out. I suggest you choose "any computer" under "Encode for" so that your less enlightened friends and family who don't use a Mac can still view your attachments. "Compatibility and Efficiency" allow you to choose whether people you send copies of the e-mail also automatically receive your attachments. This section also allows you to append Windows' extensions to any file name. If you have ever used a PC running Microsoft Windows, you will know that the machine won't read documents that don't have the extension file names preceded by a dot, such as .doc, .jpg, .pdf.

The final section of the Compose Tab window offers several options. Many people prefer to receive their original message included in your reply. This is particularly true if the recipient receives a lot of e-mail. The option of where to place insertion points allows you to designate if you want your reply to begin at the top of the page (above the senders message), or at the bottom of the page (below the senders message.) Since I prefer to receive messages with the last comments at the beginning, I choose to place the insertion point before the quoted text. Although it occurs more frequently in a business setting than at home, it is not unusual for me to get messages that have gone back and forth between several people. Having the most recent comments at the beginning helps me determine what the current ideas, problems, or solutions may be without reading through the whole thing again.

General Tab


Preferences Tab - Open to General Tab

The only thing on this window that should be of concern for new users is setting up the fonts. Any font (type style) that is available on your computer can automatically be used for your e-mail. To choose your preferred font(s) just click once on the pull-down menu, continue holding the mouse button down and move the cursor to the desired font and release. You can change these as often as you wish. The pull-down menu to the right of all the font options designates the size of the font that you want to always have open. They vary from size 7 to size 24, giving almost anyone an optimum size.

Display Tab

This tab offers some options that can really help you maximize your efficiency concerning your e-mail.


Preferences Window - Open to Display Tab

It won't take long for you to suddenly find that you have 15 or 20 e-mail messages sitting in the inbox. Usually, new messages are automatically listed on top, but that doesn't always happen so it is important to code messages in some fashion that lets you know if you have read them (or for that matter want to read them). Under the Messages section you may choose to have unread messages listed as bold, or you can choose colors. To change colors just click on the colored box and all the color options available to you will be listed. Move the cursor to the one you want and release. Whether or not to have attached pictures automatically open when the e-mail is opened will probably depend on how fast your server is. The more pictures included in one message, the longer it will take. If you choose not to have them automatically open you can simple drag them individually onto your desk top and open them. As a personal preference, I never send more than three image attachments in any one e-mail unless I know for an absolute fact that the recipient is operating on cable or some other very fast server.

The rest of the Preferences are fairly self explanatory once you understand the whole concept. Don't worry about the Proxy Tab. There is nothing a new user needs to be concerned with under that Tab.

There is never anything you can do to the Preferences on your Mac that you can't change so don't be timid about playing around them until you have your system just as you want it.

What Was That About Attachments?

Slid past that pretty fast didn't I? Sending and receiving attachments has been covered in previous columns. You can readily find them for review if you go to the Computing With Bifocals Index.

View Window

One last set up issue that you may want to address. I you choose the View Pull-down menu at the top of your screen (while your e-mail program is the active program), you will see several options including Toolbars, Folder List and Preview Pane. By clicking on each of these options you assure that they will be available each time you use your e-mail system. You will have to have the Toolbar active to be able to answer messages, create new messages, print, etc. The Folder list allows you to move back and forth between folders if needed. It also allows you to add specialized folders to which you can move individual messages for safe keeping, thus freeing up your main view window. The Preview Pane will automatically show you the content of any message you click on. You can quickly review and discard any you aren't interested in without having to open them. Try it out if you haven't already.

In these three columns I have tried to cover the most important basics of any e-mail program. If you have questions that have not been answered please let me know and I will try and get answers for you.


Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.


Post your comments below.
Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.


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