Friday, June 20, 2008

Notes on Email

From time to time I receive questions about using email or how to set up an email account.

Many historical societies now have email addresses. A major advantage of email is that an email can be sent at any time and the recipient reads and answers the email at their convenience. The original sender reads when they next log on to the computer. This is a great improvement on the telephone system where a message can be left on an answering machine and the recipient leaves a message on another answering machine to acknowledge receiving the original phone call.

Email can also use as a communication tool in real time. On more than one occasion I have replied to an email only to receive a follow up question a few minutes later. This can be a convenient (and inexpensive) way to communicate, especially if distance between the parties is a problem.

There are many different types of email accounts. Some can only be accessed only on the computer home computer.
However a number of html email accounts that can be accessed from any computer are now available including Hotmail (, Yahoo Mail ( or ( and Gmail ( Although you provide details of an individual when you sign up, accounts can be established using the name or initials of the society as the user name, rather than the name of an individual. It is important to keep a copy of the user name and password in a safe place.

With email, remember there is email etiquette. It is always advisable to read through an email before using the Send button to dispatch the email. Because it is so easy to ‘dash off an email’ emails can convey a ‘tone’ which may not have been the intention of the sender. Most email programs have a facility for saving a draft of an email so it is possible to read it through again later and make changes if needed before sending.

Emails are correspondence. Copies of emails relating to the historical society should be included in the correspondence at society meetings.

Emails can also be used to send one email to a number of people as a batch email. Some email programs restrict the number of names in a batch so it may be necessary to read the Help section of the specific program for information on how to do this. This facility can be useful for sending a message to a group members or circulating a newsletter by email or for alerting members that the latest copy of the email is online.

Attachments – documents, images, spreadsheets – can also be sent by email. It is advisable to restrict the size of a file sent by email. Some email programs restrict the size of attachments. Large files take a long time to send and the person receiving the email may not have enough space in their In Box to receive the incoming email with the attachment.

Only send attachments that can be opened by the receiver. Some word processing programs use file extensions that are not recognized or cannot be opened on all computers. Documents ending in .doc are usually OK though some early versions of Microsoft Word cannot open Word documents saved in later versions. Microsoft Office 2007 saves Word documents with an extension that will not open in earlier version of Word unless a special program has been downloaded and installed from the Microsoft website. Files created in Word 2007 can be saved using the .doc extension so if sending email documents as attachments it may be advisable to save the file using the .doc extension. Files saved with .rtf extension should be able to be opened in any word processing program. Pdf documents can also be sent by email. The receiver, however, will need a program such as Adobe Acrobat Reader to read the document.

Two warnings: Never send an attachment that has not been scanned by virus protection software and never open an email, especially if there is an attachment, when you do not know the sender or are suspicious of the content.

Email is a powerful and useful communication tool. Use it wisely.

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