Email Basics For Complete Beginners
Last Updated: January 14, 2017
This tutorial is designed for complete beginners, and guides you through the basic email usage.
- Understanding Email Account and Addresses
- Getting an Email Account
- Composing and sending an email
- Reading and replying to email
- Using Email Contacts
The tutorial is divided into sections and at the end of each section you will find a short quiz designed to test your understanding of that section.
The Quizzes are optional but strongly recommended. At the end of this tutorial you will find extensive links for further reading.
If you prefer you can download this tutorial as a pdf.- Email Basics pdf
Getting Started- Getting an Email Account
To use Email you will first need an email account. Most people will use an email account and email address from a free email provider like Yahoo, Gmail or outlook.com.
Email Account and Email Address Basics
An email account consists of several parts
- A User name and password
- An Email Address
- A Mailbox
An email account is a username/password combination that gives you access to a mailbox.
The mailbox is the location where email is stored and is usually spit into folders. You can liken a mailbox to a filing cabinet.
The mailbox will always be located on an email server belonging to your email provider e.g. Yahoo.
The email address is a label attached to the mailbox and is used for delivering mail to the mailbox.
The email address serves the same purpose as your house address or your phone number.
Usually there is one email address per email account and one email address for each mailbox.
However you can associate a mailbox with multiple email addresses. These extra addresses are usually known as aliases.
Additionally you can link email addresses together using a technique called email forwarding.
Email Address Structure
Here is a example email address.
An email address consists of two distinct parts separated by a @.
The first part is the mailbox name which you will normally choose when creating an email account with Yahoo Mail ,Gmail, Hotmail.
The second part is the domain name which is fixed when using Yahoo Mail ,Gmail and Hotmail.
Technically the mailbox name is case sensitive which means that testuser and TestUser are different mailboxes, but this is seldom enforced and so in practise they are considered to be the same.
Domain names are not case sensitive.
Businesses usually register and use their own business domain name.
Mailboxes and Folders
A Mailbox is divided into several folders to better organise your email.
Email messages are placed into folders and can be moved between folders.
There are a number of default folders that are created by default for most email accounts. They are:
inbox -The main location for incoming email
sent items – Contains a copy of emails that you have sent.
bin deleted items or trash -Goes by several names and stores email that has been deleted. You will normally need to manually empty this folder to completely delete the emails, however some email services will do it automatically after so many days. You can recover emails from this folder if you have deleted them by mistake.
Drafts- Stores a copy of emails that you have created but haven’t been sent.
Accessing Your Email
To access your email you will need to use an email client.
There are three popular types of email client they are:
- Desktop client
- Smart phone based clients (Apps)
- Web Based clients
These are dedicated email clients.Examples are:
- Windows Live Mail
- Outlook Express
- Outlook (98,2000,2003,2007)
- and many others
These types of client need to be installed on the computer that you are using, and they need to be correctly configured before you can send, and receive email with them.
If you predominately access email from a fixed location and/or access multiple email accounts then a desktop based email client is probably the best choice.
[outline style=”yellow”]Using a desktop based client doesn’t mean that you can’t use webmail or a smart phone to access your email.[/outline]
Smart Phone Based Email Clients -Apps
Smart phones and tablets use an email App.
There are many different Apps you can use from general email Apps to Service specific Apps e.g.the Gmail App
Apps need to be installed on the device that you are using,, and they need to be correctly configured before you can send, and receive email with them.
[outline style=”yellow”]Using a smart phone based client doesn’t mean that you can’t use webmail or a desktop based client to access your email.[/outline]
Web Based Email Clients (Webmail)
These clients are simply web browsers e.g. Google Chrome, Internet Explorer etc .
Hotmail (now outlook.com) was the first well known example, and was purchased by Microsoft January 1998.
The advantage of this type of client is that no software other than a web browser needs to be installed on the user’s computer or smart phone/tablet.
Because almost all computers and smart phone/tablet have a web browser installed, it means that access to email can be accomplished on any device and from any location.
[outline]Almost all email providers now provide access to email via a web based client.[/outline]
The main disadvantage of this type of access is you need to be connected to the Internet in order to read/write emails.
Webmail is probably the most used method of accessing free email providers like Gmail,Yahoo Mail and Hotmail.
Sending and Receiving Emails
To send an email you will first need to create or compose an email message.
If you click on the compose message link ( new message link) a new message form opens.
The form has a number of fields which you need to understand – image below:
Although the new email message form will be different depending on the email client you are using the common fields are the same.
Email Address fields
These appear normally right at the top of the message form
FROM– Not normally visible unless you have multiple email accounts and addresses configured. Defaults to your default email address.
TO -You need to enter the email address of the recipient in the to field. You can enter multiple email addresses usually using a comma to separate them.
You can also use the contacts list or address book to add addresses and most email clients will automatically suggest email addresses and names as you type.
Note: Names only appear if they are in your address book(contacts list).
CC- CC stands for carbon copy : Anyone listed here will get a copy of the message and anyone who receives the message will know who else the message was sent to. Not normally visible
BCC- Blind carbon copy: Anyone listed here will get a copy of the message but anyone who receives the message will not know that the person(s) on the Bcc line were sent the message.-Not normally visible
It is recommended that you always use the bcc field when sending messages to confidential mailing lists.
Subject Field –This should contain a brief summary of the content and should always be used, but is not mandatory.
If you leave this field blank then some email systems may reject the message as spam.
Content Field- This contains the main email message and if you are using HTML email (default) it can contain text and images.
You can leave this field blank.
Attachments are files like documents and pictures that you can include with your email.
To add an attachment look for the paper clip icon.
All email providers limit the size of attachments with the standard being around 25MBytes.
Sending The Email
When you click send the email is normally sent immediately and cannot be cancelled or retrieved.
A copy of the email is placed in the sent items folder.
Receiving and Reading Emails
Your mailbox is divided into a number of folders and incoming email is normally placed in your inbox.
Most email clients display a list of emails showing the sender and subject with unread emails shown in bold.
They will also often show a preview of the email that you have selected.
Clicking on an email subject will open up a new window with the email displayed.
Replying To and Forwarding Email
To reply or forward an email you will first need to open it.
Most email clients display three icon:
- Reply to – Send Reply to sender only
- Reply to all– Send Reply to sender and all other recipients of the original email
- Forward – send a copy of the email to new recipient(s)
When you click on either link a new message form will appear with the original email inserted as part of the message.
You can then add new recipients as required using the to, cc and bcc fields.
Contacts Lists and Address Books
If you send email to someone on a regular basis then rather than typing in the email address manually each time you can store their address details is a contact list or address book.
You can add contacts to the list manually, but most email clients will also do this automatically when you send and receive email.
They also provide import and export features so that you can move the contacts between email systems.
Email is considered an insecure communications mechanism and so don’t send confidential information by email unless you take steps to secure it. See Email Security Basics.
Please use the comments section to let me know how I could improve this guide.
Email Accounts and Mailboxes
- Creating a new email account
- Automatic email Forwarding
- Email Spam, Blacklists and Whitelists Explained
- Using the to, CC and BCC fields by example
- Send an Email Using Yahoo Mail
- Read and Reply to Emails Using Yahoo Mail
- Understanding Email forwarding
Download Email Basics PDF