Basic Computing Using Windows/Email, Chat-rooms, and IM

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Email was already partially explained when we talked about networks. The Internet is often called a ‘network of networks’ but it still has many of the things a network has. One of those things is the ability to do email. The problem with email over the Internet is that it would be impossible to list every person on the Internet in one place, have it current with their names, have those names be unique, and still have it be useful. Since this is the way email on LANs works there needed to be a better addressing system. Email addresses on the Internet work with domain names, but not with URLs. All email addresses go by the format ‘username@domain.name’. Thus ‘julia@yahoo.ca’ is the email address for the person who signed up with Yahoo! Canada for an email address under the username of ‘julia’. ‘julia62@yahoo.ca’ is what happens when a name was already taken and someone else wants it.

Email typically operates on two sub-protocols of TCP/IP, SMTP and POP3. SMTP is used for sending email, and POP3 is used for downloading (taking off the Internet and putting on your computer) email. Many different email programs exist. Three of the most popular are Qualcomm Eudora, Microsoft Outlook, and Windows Mail. Another popular way to access email is through a web page interface. There are many differences between all the major programs, however there are some things that are standard.

You can create and email, usually by clicking on a button or link labeled ‘new message’. The universal icon for an email message (or just for email) is an envelope and the universal icon for ‘new’ is a star. So there may be an icon of an envelope with a star or something like that. Remember to use tool-tips to find out what buttons with no labels are called. You type one (or more than one separated by a comma) email address in the box labeled ‘To:’. The ‘From:’ box is filled in automatically, and then there are ‘Cc:’ and ‘Bcc:’. You can put email addresses in them and the email will be copied to them so that they can see it was copied or so that they cannot, respectively. You then type the text for your message into the big text box at the bottom.

If you are connected to the Internet when you click the ‘Send’ button (or other similar button) on the email it will go immediately. If you are not (or if the button is called ‘Queue’) then the messages go into you Outbox until you check your mail. To check your email (that is, to download new messages and send the ones in the outbox) click the ‘Check Mail’, ‘Send and Receive’ or other similar button. A progress bar will appear in the status bar or a window will come up with one so that you can know when it is finished. All new messages go into your Inbox, unless you have filters set up (we will not be discussing filters in this book). You can then move them into other mailboxes that you have created by drag-and-drop. (To create a new mailbox there should be a ‘Create new mailbox’ on the menu or on a popup-menu for the Inbox.)

Some emails have attachments, these are files that are in the email that you can open and/or save. The universal icon for attachments is a paper clip. You can attach file to you emails by clicking the ‘Attach’ or similar button. You can open files in email that you receive by either clicking on their icon at the end of an email, or double clicking on it in the ‘Attachments:’ spot at the top, depending on your program.

Email is very useful, but what if you want to talk to someone directly? So chat-rooms were invented. Chat-rooms are found on web pages all over the place, some are public, and some you need a membership for. Once you are in, to use it is simple. There is (usually) as list of the nicknames (or handles, fake names people use on the Internet) somewhere on the page, and when you sign in you give it the one you use. You type something in a text box at the bottom and press either the ‘Enter’ key or the ‘Send’ or ‘Say’ button and your messages is visible to everyone in the chat-room in the text box above, including yourself. IRC chat was designed to go a step further. You need a program for it and it has a few more features (like the ability to ‘whisper’ to only one person in the room).

IM (Instant Messaging) was designed for one-on-one or conferencing, much like telephones. Everyone has a unique nickname or number that you must know in order to contact them with a message, send them a file, or do a real-time chat, depending on what your program supports. You add people to your contact list or buddy list and then if you are online, the program notifies you when they are too. Then you can send them messages, chat with messages, or do other things.

Some IM programs also let you send them messages when they are offline that they will get when they come online. Something like email, but it works faster. You can also usually invite other people on your list into an existing chat (or messaging) session so that you can have a little chat room with only people you want. There are new features coming out for computers all the time. Many IM programs now let you talk with the people while chatting or even see them! The biggest advantage over telephones? You can talk to anyone in the world for any length of time without paying more than your monthly Internet bill. No long-distance charges!