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There are two basic ways to access your email. Either through your email provider's web site, for example, you could go to gmail.com in your web browser to access your Gmail email, or you can use one of several available email applications to download, read, write and manage your email. These email applications are referred to as email clients. If you chose to go to the web-based email route, there is very little you need to set up. Just go to your email service's web site and login with your username and password. And this doesn't just apply to free email services like Gmail or Yahoo! Mail. Many businesses and schools offer their employees and students web access to their email.
The advantage is that it's very easy to get their email from any computer with an Internet connection. The down side is that you have to be online to read and compose your emails. So many people prefer to use email clients because it offers the ability to view your older emails and compose new messages without having to be online. So if you are on a plane with no Internet access, for example, you could still review the emails you've previously received and write new emails to be sent once you land and get back online. If you only use the web-based mail, you wouldn't have access to any of your received emails and you'd have to use a word processor to compose new emails and then copy and paste them into your web mail once you got back online.
So if email is a big part of your day- to-day activities, it makes sense to set up an email client. Now there are several choices of clients out there for both Macs and PCs. Mac OS X comes with its mail application built in but you'll also find clients like Microsoft Entourage or Mozilla Thunderbird for Macs as well. Windows has Windows Mail but many people use Outlook or Outlook Express or Thunderbird. Regardless of which email client you end up using, you still need to understand new specific information in order to set up your email through your choice of client. Let's take a look at the basics. First there are two main types of email systems, POP and IMAP.
POP is the most common type of email service used by Internet hosting service providers and it basically works like this. Email that's sent to your account is stored on your email service's server until your email client notices the new message and downloads it off the server. Once the message has been downloaded from the server, it's usually deleted from the server anywhere from immediately to within one or two weeks. At that point the only copy of the email is found on your computer. The problem with POP email is if you use more than one computer or device to check your email, you may end up with some messages on one computer and other message is on another computer.
And if you're like, most people these days, you'll probably have more than one device that you receive email on like your phone. For this reason, most email service providers also offer and recommend using IMAP email service. Unlike POP email, IMAP email is all kept and managed online. So if you read a new incoming message on your computer, for example, your phone will still download a copy of the message as well. With IMAP email both received and sent messages will remain synced across your devices and you'll have access to all of your messages regardless of which device you're using. So like I said, many email providers have both POP and IMAP services available these days.
So if you have a choice, I definitely recommend going with IMAP. So the first step of setting up an email client is to decide if you want POP or IMAP. Next you'll need your username and password. Your email service, your work or your school will provide these to you. In many cases, you'll be able to create your own username and password. You'll also need to know your incoming and outgoing mail servers. This is the unique address that lets your email client know where to find your email server so it can download and send messages. Incoming servers often take the form of addresses like imap.gmail.com or mail.lynda.com, while outgoing mail servers usually begin with the prefix of SMTP as in smtp.gmail.com.
SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, not that you need to know that, but it's the most common outgoing server address. Now where you enter this information is going to vary form email client to email client. Most modern email clients have a setup assistant that walks you through setting up your email with a series of questions. If you have email service through a fairly common provider you may find that your email client is able to fill out all the server information for you and that you will only need to provide your username and password. If you have a less common provider, you may have to enter the information manually. Just know that all the necessary information to setup your email will be provided to you by your email service.
So that's the basics of what you need to know to set up an email client. Again if you are using web-based mail, you don't need to know any thing about incoming or outgoing servers. Just login with your username and password. But if you spend a lot of time with email, you should definitely start using an email client.
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