Computer Related Tutorials
~ Internet Basics ~

September 2009

Part II. - Email

What's email?

The term "email" is short for Electronic Mail. Email consists of messages, often just text, sent from one person to another over the Internet or any other computer network (such as an office LAN). It's a lot like regular postal mail, except your email message gets where it's going a lot faster and doesn't require a postage stamp! An email can travel around the world through the Internet in a matter of seconds. In its simplest form, email is an electronic message sent from one computer to another. Anyone who is online and has an account on a mail server and an email program such as Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express on their PC, or who uses an ISP that provides both Internet access and email (most do), can send and receive email messages. Some ISP's, like AOL, come with email built in as part of the package.

Fun Fact:  Statistics from 2008 estimate the number of email's sent per day to be around 210 billion! That means more than 2 million email's are sent every second. Unfortunately, more than 70% are spam or viruses.

Files, such as pictures and Word documents, etc., can be "attached" to an email. These are called attachments, and once you've attached them to your message, they get sent right along with your email. You can even send music and computer programs. With most email programs, you can send multiple attachments (e.g., several MS Word documents) within a single email. Be aware, however, that some ISP's automatically "zip" multiple attachments into one compressed file to make them upload and download faster. So your email recipient may have to "unzip" them using special software before he or she can read your message. AOL automatically zips email messages containing multiple attachments. Current versions of AOL also automatically unzip compressed files. This is great provided your recipient also uses AOL. If not, he or she will need the special unzipping software.

Many ISP's limit the total size of an email. That's the total of your message plus any attachments. Some may limit them to 2MB, for example. That's 2 megabytes, or 2 million characters. Other ISP's may allow for larger messages. Somewhere in your ISP's Help section, they will tell you their maximum allowable size for an email. Most email messages in and of themselves are pretty small -- they're just simple text files. However, the size limitation can impact your attachments. For example, you may not be able to send the entire family photo album in one message, since photos can be large files. Also, computer programs can be large files. Attaching MS Word documents is usually no problem. Another thing to be aware of -- the larger the email, the longer it will take your recipient to download your message.

In addition to being able to attach things to your email messages, email has some other neat capabilities. When you receive an email from someone, it's real easy to reply back to them. Also, you can easily forward a message you receive to someone else.

More neat features:


An email address

An email address always has this format: username@domain.

But what does all that mean, especially that "@" symbol? Here's a description of the three "pieces" of an email address:

Here are some email address examples:

Like web addresses, email addresses are case insensitive. Both an email sent to and one sent to will go to the same person.


How email works

How email works can become a bit technical, and will covered in a more advanced class. If you can't wait, there's a very good email tutorial on the website (opens in a new browser window).


Some email etiquette

Computer Related Tutorials: Internet Basics

Arrows pointing rightPart I, The Internet

Arrows pointing rightPart II, Email

Arrows pointing rightPart III, "Non-Techie" Technical Term Definitions

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