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You've Got Mail!

E-mail is the most popular feature available via the Internet. Anybody with a phone and an e-mail account can communicate with a person or groups of people anywhere in the world for the price of a web connection. While traveling, you can check your mail via your laptop, local library Internet access, or in one of the growing number of Internet booths appearing in convenience stores. The good news? You're never out of touch. The bad news? You're never out of touch.

So how do you use this revolutionary communication tool? It's easy. Just follow me.

Types of E-mail Accounts: POP3 and Web-based

Think about what type of e-mail account or accounts you want. Most likely, if you have an ISP (Internet Service Provider), you have one e-mail account (perhaps more) provided free as part of your service. This account is called a POP3 account. E-mails addressed to you are stored on your ISPs computer and retrieved when you want them. You use e-mail software (Eudora, Netscape Mail, or Outlook Express) to read your e-mail.

A web-based account, normally free, is accessed via a website. Currently more than 1,000 websites offer free e-mail accounts. Most of these allow you to read mail sent specifically to that account and read mail sent to your POP3 accounts. Like e-mail software programs, web-based accounts allow you to set up folders, store e-mail (up to a limited amount), and print or download messages. These accounts can be easily accessed from any computer, anytime. For a very thorough discussion of web-based accounts, user reviews, tips, hints and discussions of privacy, visit
emailaddresses.com.

More than One?

Most of us use e-mail for a variety of purposes. We communicate with family and friends, send for and receive market guidelines, communicate with editors/publishers, receive newsletters via e-mail, etc. While a cozy e-mail address (dadandmom@home.com) might be fine for family, choose a more professional address for your writing- or business-related e-mail. A separate account for newsletters helps you avoid downloading reading material when all you really want are editor or writing-related letters. You get the idea. If your ISP allows only one free e-mail address, consider using it for one purpose, then establishing other e-mail addresses on free sites. Set your accounts up so that the messages are forwarded to your primary e-mail address.

Spam (The Inedible Variety--or Is it All Inedible?)

Spam is the e-mail form of junk mail, and like junk mail, it is unavoidable, so don't spend hours racking your brains trying to get rid of it or bemoaning its existence. Life is too short.

It is possible to cut down on the amount of spam you receive. For starters, when you register at a website that requests an e-mail address, use a fake unless you want the site to communicate with you. The website looks only for the correct format of an e-mail address, xxxxx@xxxxx.com, for example. In fact, you can use example.com itself as the second part of your fake addresses. Forgetit@example.com is a great fake address.

Second, use the blocking feature of your e-mail program to end repeat messages from spammers. In Outlook Express, use the Message menu and choose Block Sender. Most e-mail packages also provide filtering, but I have found it tedious to use and, since most spammers change their addresses with every message, setting up filters in advance can be a waste of time. Blocking accomplishes the same thing.

Never use your real e-mail address if you post or send messages to newsgroups. These are sites that spammers mine for their mailing lists. Use the xxxxx@example.com if you are required to provide a return address.   
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