What's My E-Mail Client?

Since you already have an Internet connection, you probably has an e-mail (electronic mail) account too. If so, then you have an e-mail address, the address people use when they want to send you an e-mail message. All e-mail addresses look something like someone@somewhere.xxx (unlike a Web site's URL, which looks something like www.somplace.xxx) Before you can use e-mail, you need to know your own e-mail address, and the password required to retrieve e-mail messages that other people have sent you. Only your Internet Service Provider can give you that information.

To send and receive e-mail, you use a program known as an e-mail client. There are lots of different ISPs in the world, and lots of different e-mail clients. If you ever need to ask someone a question about using your e-mail, you won't be able to get an answer until the person you're asking knows what program you're using as your e-mail client. In some cases, they'll be able to guess just by knowing the domain name of your e-mail service. The domain name is the part that comes after the @ in your e-mail address. For example, if you e-mail address is wanda@aol.com, then the domain name is aol.com. If your e-mail address is harry@yahoo.com, then the domain name is yahoo.com.

But knowing the domain name isn't always enough, because many ISPs let you choose what program you use for e-mail. For example, you might have an e-mail address like wilma@comcast.net. If so, you might be using a program named Outlook Express as your e-mail client, or you might be using Microsoft Outlook 2003 as your e-mail client. In short, getting a simple answer to a simple e-mail question isn't always so easy.
Here we'll take a look at some different types of e-mail, and hopefully you'll be able to learn a bit about the e-mail system you're using.

America Online

If you have an Internet account with America Online (AOL), and your e-mail address ends in @aol.com. then you probably use America Online (Figure 1) for e-mail.

Figure 1


MSN and Hotmail

If you have an Internet account with the Microsoft Network (MSN), or if your e-mail address ends in @msn.com or @hotmail.com, then you probably use MSN Explorer (Figure 2) as your e-mail client.

Figure 2

Some of you might use Netscape Navigator as your e-mail client. This is almost certain true if your e-mail address end in @netscape.com. Though Netscape Navigator works with other e-mail domains as well. Figure 3 shows the e-mail client portion of Netscape Navigator.

Figure 3

Many people use Microsoft Outlook Express as their e-mail client. That's because Outlook Express comes free with every copy of Microsoft Windows, and it works with many (though not all) e-mail domains. Figure 4 shows what Outlook Express looks like on the screen when its open.

Figure 4

Microsoft Outlook

Microsoft Office comes with yet another e-mail client called Microsoft Outlook. Outlook is Outlook Express's "big brother". It has all the same e-mail capabilities as Outlook Express, but includes lots of other things like a calendar, and a fancy address book. Figure 5 shows how Microsoft Outlook appears on the screen when open.

Figure 5


Yahoo is yet another popular e-mail service. Yahoo doesn't require any special e-mail client. Instead, you just use your Web browser to do e-mail with Yahoo. Figure 6 shows how Yahoo e-mail looks on the screen.

Figure 6

If you're really lost with e-mail, or just have a question on one specific aspect of your e-mail, such as using attachments, your best resource will be your ISP. If you can at least get to the place where you send and receive e-mail messages, look around that page for a Help link, and click on that. Then look around for a specific word or phrase that's relevant to your problem, such as attach or attachments. Hopefully you'll be able to get specific instructions for your e-mail client. Those specific instructions will be more useful to you than general instructions that apply to all e-mail clients and all domains.

Alan Simpson