An Introduction to Common Internet Communications --  

Introduction to Email Theory

I. Using Email

What is email?

Email is the electronic equivalent of sending a letter. Email consists of two parts, 1) the header, which contains information about where the message will be sent, and 2) the body, or message. First, the author goes to the head of the email message and types in: Email should be spell checked, if it is not done so automatically, and proof read for grammar and content before sending, unless: Once it is finished to the author's satisfaction, the message may sent. In some email systems, the author can track the email to see when it was received and when or if it was read by all recipients. This feature is becoming more common as businesses increasingly use it to document and track employee work habits.

Some systems allow for a priority to be set to insure that the reader gives it the author's desired level of attention. Note: in business and in hierarchical organizations good manners and common sense dictate that the designation "priority" not be used  unless the message is truly important.

Email can be an extremely cheap way to keep in touch with old chums, or coordinate business groups and social organizations.  Like other communication tools, it can also be overused and become intrusive. Do not Cc: or Bcc: people simply because it is easy to do. Always write crisply and succinctly. If your grammar and spelling are weak, have someone review it before sending it to a professional group. Sloppy grammar and slang will mark the writer as careless, or worse yet, uneducated and unprofessional.

How does email work?


Email Client Applications:

The email client application is any program on the user's computer that is capable of writing email and of retrieving email from the user's email server. Thus the email client has two basic personalities or functions.

The email sender or creation functions:

The email creation functions are:

The email Receiver Client functions:

The email functions on the receiving end are:

Email Servers:

We see from the above diagram, Email Via the Internet, that the email server has to communicate between: The email server is an electronic version of a normal post office. We shall describe the email server functions in two parts, the functions that are used to process the sender and those of the recipient. There two types of the email servers,
  1. the POP3 server that transfers the email to the client and,
  2. the IMAP that saves the email on the server.
The email post office is responsible for providing its clients with individual postal boxes (directories) that hold the incoming email for the user and a postal drop box to pick up the client's outgoing missives. The email server makes the transmission of the email transparent to the user, i.e. the user sees only the initial send and the final receipt. This again is similar the regular mail service. We do not want to know how it happens just that it does so in a cost efficient and timely manner. The server allows the user to set up directories to organize the email in a file system. The email server mail may automatically save the various emails in a Sent_Mail directory if not the writer may want to use the Bcc: to send a copy for a file copy.

In the process we also want to feel that the postal person is not reading our post cards. Unlike the postal serve the email server can have functions that monitor our email. The postal worker can with, court order only, record who is sending and receiving your letters, i.e. the information on the outside of the envelop -- a cover check. Opening letters is another more serious matter and is almost always requires a court order based on a risk to national security.  In general we can safely assume that mail is not read by our government or our employers. The email server and the Internet are not similarly prohibited at this time from any of these procedures. More and more companies are screening email.

The Email Server Sender functions:

The Email Server Recipient functions:

The Internet Cloud:

We use the term Internet cloud to describe the networks and local area networks that transmit the email. Email is transmitted via (SMPT). The Internet Cloud is the term that carries the vision of how vaguely the network is viewed by most users. How the email is sent over this complex network is normally of little importance. That email is delivered reliably and in a timely fashion is sufficient for most users.

Email Threads

The concept of a thread is based on a simple idea. If one person writes an email and sends it to a group, and then individuals within the group reply, and then respond to the replies, then we say that these messages are threaded (all based on the starting message with the thread keeping track of the messages' sequence). Hence, if after reading the original message you are not interested in the topic, you might delete all further messages that are related to the original, i.e. delete the thread from your Inbox. What is my email address?
An email address is made up of two parts:  the user ID, i.e. your account name, and the domain name, i.e. the Internet name of the computer where your mail is sent. The two parts are separated by a @. For example, the instructor's email address is:

What can I do with email?

In short, almost anything you can do with regular mail delivered by the Post Office (called snail mail by email addicts).  Email has some shortcomings. For instance, Mom's care packages of cookies and Dad's check or cash cannot, as yet, can be sent by email. However, as you will learn in this lab, you can do some very exciting things. You can send a video clip, a recording of your latest musical creation, or an enhanced picture or graphic to your friends and family. With the newer email systems you can also send attachments such as complete documents (MS Word or Acrobat), spreadsheets in Excel, and presentations for class or work (such as Power Point files) that allow you to work collaboratively with students and colleagues all over the world.

Thoughts on managing email that is saved:

In the modern office environment it is possible to gets dozens of emails a day. Besides developing the discipline to delete as much as possible and to respond to the rest in a timely manner, there is still one more onerous task -- What to save and file? The decision is sometimes made for us by corporate policy or government edict. The what and the how maybe spelled out in detail and all that is left is to carry it out. Assuming that there is no formal policy, good practice would be to set up a filing system that is well organized and the email is accurately labeled. This discipline becomes necessary to avoid overwhelming the computer with clutter. Material that is seldom referred to may be stored on removable disk.

Finally, any material of any value should always be backed up, i.e. copied to a removable disk or tape and stored in a separate area to protect it from accident, fire, or vandalism.

Spam (electronic junk mail) and how to avoid it!

Spam is unwanted electronic junk mail and it is getting to be a major headache. Many of the larger Internet Service Providers  (ISP), AOL, MSN, etc. seem to attract Spam. These ISP have attempted to limit or control it, but it is still a major problem Avoid giving out personal information such as social security number, address, phone number, and email address when it is asked for on the Web. Do not allow cookies to be set in your browser (discussed later in term). Always ask to be removed from email lists unless you really want the latest and greatest advertisements! Spam can use up precious storage, bandwidth, and take up everyone's time.

Spam is a breach of good netiquette. It can sometimes cause rational users to do some very ugly things  There are those who hunt down Spammers and destroy their Web sites and do other nasty things. These Anti-Spammers are also violating good netiquette.

Filters -- Setting up automated rules for processing your email

The real work in maintaining any mailbox, the real one and the email one, is the sorting everything out: Modern email systems have automated devices called filters that can be used to read the header information and to make such decisions. For instance, suppose you have found yourself on the mailing list from hell. It sends you volumes of unwanted product information. The subject field of every new email starts with: Jerks_R_Us Proudly Offers ... For such a keyword, Jerks_R_Us, a filter can be created to take any email with that keyword in the subject field and move it to the trash. Similarly, threads of long winded messages entitled: " how marketing carried the day" can also can be similarly assigned to the bit bucket (computer slang for deleted). Bcc: memos (sent to yourself for filing of subject trip report) can be assigned to folders. Important letters from family, and/or certain managers could be sent to an Open_First_Email Folder. All  the above filters can be set up with a few keystrokes. Some professor's email systems use the Subject: field to route the emailed online exams to a grading program that then sends it on to be recorded in course database.

Signature Files

Signature files let the email author expand his or her personal information within the email message. Items like business, mobile, and fax phone numbers, business address and billing address, etc. are frequently added. A witty remark or a wise saying are also sometimes added, but these may get old after receiving them the second or third time.

Personal Cards

Netscape has popularized "Personal Cards" or "vcards" that act like a business card. Users fill in their personal business data, i.e. business, mobile, and fax phone, etc. in the preferences section and then send it with email messages. When a recipient wants to add the sender's information to his or her address book he or she just clicks on it and it is added to the address book. No muss, no fuss.

Netiquette -- Good manners that your mother taught you work in email

Typing as a means of communication can lead to misunderstandings, so email, newsgroups, chat and other forms of 'Net-based' social discourse have developed:

A Guide to Writing and Using Email Effectively

Treating email simply as a faster form of the ubiquitous postal letter is a dangerous mistake. Email is rapidly being adopted by society and business, but the user should be careful to understand this phenomena as a new and different form of communication. While this lesson includes a tutorial on an email program to illustrate the features of a typical software product, it is important to examine the issues of how, when, and why to use email.

The student should read and understand the material found at:

before going on to the next section.

©P. D. Krolak & M. S. Krolak 2000-3