Learn how to get started with email so you can communicate with others online.
Email is a fast and free way of sending messages to other people using the internet. You can write a message on your computer in an email program and send it another person’s computer anywhere in the world. Your email message should reach their computer in just seconds.
Get started with email
To send and receive email you need an email account and an email address.
Much like your postal address, your email address is personal and unique to you. It means that you alone receive the emails that are sent to you and in return others can identify messages that are sent from you.
An email address such as email@example.com is made up of the following parts:
- joebloggs is the person’s name
- the @ means the word ‘at’ and shows that the person is connected to the next part of the address
- following the @ is the name of the company that provides the email address such as gmail, yahoo, btinternet, talktalk or tesco. Many people have an email address for the company or organisation that they work for, which is for professional use.
- the co.uk is known as the domain extension or suffix. This typically shows the type of company and/or country an email comes from such as, in this case, a company in the UK. Other common domain extensions include .com (for commercial companies) .gov (for government websites) and .org (for nonprofit organisations).
Types of email programs
Most email programs are free and you may find one already installed on your computer. There are two types of email programs.
You can choose to use an email client such as Microsoft Outlook and Apple Mail. This is a software program that’s installed on your computer. Your internet service provider (ISP) will provide you with an email address to use with this type of email program when you first sign up for an internet connection.
Alternatively, you can use webmail – a free web-based email account. The only software you need for this is a web browser. You first need to register on a webmail provider’s website. Then each time you want to send and receive email, you visit the webmail provider’s website and enter your username and password to open your account and use your email.
The key benefit of using webmail is convenience. As your emails are stored on the webmail provider’s servers, you can read and send email from any computer so long as it’s connected to the internet. This means you can use email on a public computer, while on holiday or at a friend’s house. You can also access your email on any device that’s connected to the internet such as your tablet or mobile phone.
Popular webmail providers include:
- Google Gmail
- Yahoo! mail
- Microsoft Outlook.com
- AOL Mail
View your emails
All email programs work the same way to send and receive emails, and most share common features. When you open your email program or webmail account, you’ll typically see the following folders listed on the left side of the open window. These help you view, manage and organise your emails.
- Inbox – stores the emails that have been sent to your email address.
- Sent – stores the emails that you’ve sent to others.
- Drafts – stores email messages you’ve written but have yet to send.
- Spam or Junk – your computer diverts spam emails, the electronic equivalent of junk mail, that have been sent to your address to this folder
- Trash – stores emails that you’ve deleted. Emails in trash are usually permanently deleted after a set period, such as 30 days.
You’ll also see other folders including Contacts or Address Book, where you can store the email addresses and contact details of people you email frequently, and Outbox or Outgoing, where emails that are in the process of being sent are held briefly. You can also create your own folders for storing and organising your email.
Reading an email
Emails you receive appear in your Inbox. The Inbox Reading or Preview pane may be open by default showing a list of all the emails stored within. If not, click on the Inbox folder to open it. You can see who has sent the email and what the email is about. Unread emails usually appear in bold. To read the email, click on the bold text and it will appear in the Reading pane – either to the right or below the Inbox.
Send an email
Step 1 Click the New or Compose button (or similar, depending on the email program you use).
Step 2 A new window will appear.
Step 3 In the To box, type the email address of the person you’re writing to.
Step 4 In the Subject box, type a title for your message. Write something clearly related to your email message so the person you’re sending the email to knows what it is about.
Step 5 In the main box below, type your message.
Step 6 When you’re finished click Send.
Reply to an email
Step 1 Open the email you wish to reply to.
Step 2 Click Reply.
Step 3 A new email window will open with the recipient’s email address already entered. The subject line will be completed and start with RE:
Step 4 Write your message in the main body of the window.
Step 5 Click Send.
Forward an email
If you want to share an email that you’ve been sent you can forward it to another person.
Step 1 Open the email you wish to forward
Step 2 Click Forward
Step 3 A new email window opens with FW: in the subject line and the text from the original email appears in the main body of the window.
Step 4 Type in the person’s email address in the address bar.
Step 5 If you choose, write a message above the original email.
Step 6 Click Send.
Attach a file to an email
You can share computer files with others by sending them as attachments to an email. You can share all types of files from photos and video to documents and spreadsheets.
Step 1 Once you’ve written your email, click the Attach button – this is typically shown as a paperclip icon.
Step 2 A new window opens showing the files and folders on your computer.
Step 3 Find and then click the file you want to send and press Open
Step 4 The files will appear in the Attach box
Step 5 Click Send.
Open an email attachment
If the attachment is a photo or video clip it may automatically display in the email. If not, and for other types of attachments:
Step 1 Double click on the email with the attachment.
Step 2 Double click the attachment file icon at the top of the email message window.
Step 3 The attachment will open in a new window.
Delete an email
Step 1 In your Inbox click on the email you wish to delete.
Step 2 Click the Delete button.
Alternatively, right click an email in your Inbox and from the pop-up menu that appears, click Delete.