Email Basics

There are a few things I find that many people don’t understand about email, so I’d like to explain them. Your email is accessed through an email hosting service via an internet company such as Yahoo, Google, Comcast, or a local server, etc. When email is sent to you it goes to these servers. To get your email you have to log in to the email server. There are, however, predominately two different ways of doing this. One way is to open the browser application on your computer, Safari or Firefox or Chrome, and going to the email servers address. You log into your account, and your browser opens the web page where you read your email that is on the servers computers. 

The other way to get your mail is by using an email application such as Apple’s Mail app. When your Mail app gets your mail, or when you click “Get Mail” then it logs into the mail server for you using your password and downloads the mail to your computer.   (see the diagram below)

So you see the difference, you are either reading the mail off the web hosts server or you are downloading it and reading it on your computer, and using different applications to do it. With Apple’s Mail app you have all the tools and flexibility of that application. When using a browser to access your mail you are using the tools that the server provides via the browser.

If you loose internet service for some reason, you can’t get new mail either way, but with the Mail app you can read and manage all the email that’s already been downloaded. You can access all your mail folders and can create new messages. The new messages will be saved in the Outbox and be sent the next time you have internet service.

Even if you use Apple’s Mail app you can also log in to your mail hosting service via a browser. And you have to log in via a browser to access some settings such as spam filters. Most email hosting services have adjustable spam filters that you can set higher or lower to filter more or less suspected spam. They are not infallible but they work well. You can usually also create filters to block specific senders. You should also set a rule on how long to keep email or how often to delete trash and junk folders so you don’t have thousands of email in your account. Nobody wants to have to sort through thousands of email! 

There are additional tools with the Mail app that allows you to create “rules” for whatever purpose you may have. The Rules feature is in the Mail Preferences. You can set it to change the background color or text color of messages from particular senders. Or you can set it to send mail from a particular sender right to the trash or to a folder of your choice.