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First-Class E-mail
E-mail can reduce the litter of letters on your desk, but your electronic inbox needs attention, too. Try these helpful hints and timely tips to find better ways to save, sort and sift through electronic missives.

-- by Richard Castagna, Dave Raffo and Marc Spiwak

The postman doesn't ring twice anymore. He's making fewer trips to your company's mailroom, too, and when he does show up, his bag is much lighter. Digital connections are quickly replacing the trucks, trains and planes-and good old shoe leather-that used to move the mail around.

Increasingly, when mail arrives on your desktop, it's likely to be in electronic form. According to a Forrester Research report, only 2 percent of the population used e-mail in 1992; today, nearly 15 percent opt for electronic delivery. The report predicts that the number of e-mail users will rise to an astounding 50 percent of the country's population in only five years, stimulated by the Internet's continued growth and more PCs popping up in dens and home offices.

E-mail's steady expansion isn't surprising. It simply offers too many advantages to be ignored. You can send an e-mail message at any time of the day from just about anywhere, and delivery is almost instantaneous. E-mail's versatility also tips the scales in its favor. For example, you can attach virtually any type of file to a message, even a program.

More users mean more e-mail, of course, but e-mail client vendors seem up to the task. The latest client programs are better equipped to filter and sort incoming mail, and offer address books that can double as PIMs.

The following tips will help you use e-mail more efficiently. Proprietary clients like Lotus cc:Mail and Microsoft Mail link to the outside world via gateways, while Qualcomm's popular Eudora and Netscape Navigator Mail let you directly use the Internet for your digital correspondence.


Select Company -- You can do a spell check on text and reformat it without having to reselect the text. Save time by highlighting the text, then spell checking it. When the spell checker is finished, the text will remain highlighted, so you can easily apply format modifications, such as changing text color or margins.

Add an Address -- The cc:Mail program automatically keeps Internet and other addresses that aren't in your company's directory. When you open a message, a dialog box lets you keep the sender's address. If you don't want to retain the address, press the N key immediately after opening the message; the message will open without displaying the dialog box.

Reminder in RAM -- A utility called cc:Notify helps conserve RAM by alerting you when you receive messages-telling you the subject, author and date-so you don't have to run the full program. If you want to read a new message, you can quickly launch cc:Mail from cc:Notify by double-clicking on your name, which will be displayed in cc:Notify's upper window.

Message Screening -- You can quickly skim through your messages using cc:Mail's Preview Pane. Select View/Show Preview Pane. When you click on a message, it will appear in the preview window on the bottom of the screen.

A Few Good Folders -- cc:Mail's Workspace allows access to several message folders simultaneously. For instance, you can access your inbox and outbox at the same time. Select Window/Workspace and choose the folders that you want to appear in the Workspace area.

Mail Order -- If you subscribe to an Internet list server, you know that these servers tend to combine individual e-mail messages into a longer message-and the messages often arrive out of order. To read these-or any other-messages in the order they were sent, select the first message by clicking on it. Hold down the Ctrl key, then select the remaining messages in the order you want to read them. Press Enter and the messages will open in the order selected.

Space Saver -- You can save space and speed up transmission by compressing file attachments from within cc:Mail. After attaching a file, press the Compress button that pops up in the dialog box.

cc:Mail Rules -- You can use cc:Mail Rules to separate mail exclusively addressed to you from the mail addressed to groups that include you. The messages addressed to you alone will be placed in a special folder and won't get lost among all your group messages.

Archive Your Mail -- Store messages in archives on your hard drive or a diskette so they don't take up mail-volume space. You can read and copy archived messages, but you can't delete them individually. To archive a message, press Ctrl+N while in the Mailbox window and choose Archive from the Add New dialog. A file dialog lets you indicate the desired destination for the archive.

Message Screening -- You can quickly skim through your messages using cc:Mail's Preview Pane. Select View/Show Preview Pane. When you click on a message, it will appear in the preview window on the bottom of the screen.


Up Close and Personal -- You can quickly add addresses to your Personal Address Book in Exchange. When you get a message, right-click on the address in the From: field and select "Add to personal address book."

Keep It Thin -- It's easy to resize columns in Exchange, but here's a twist: If you double-click on the border between column headings, Windows will automatically resize the column to the narrowest width that will still show all the data in the column.

Folder Feats -- Normally you can view only the messages that are stored in a single folder. However, if you want to look at the contents of two folders simultaneously-for example, your inbox and outbox folders-select View/New Window. You can click on the inbox folder in one window and the outbox in the other, and then move and resize the windows so that both are visible.

The Message Is a Message -- You can include another message as an attachment to a new message. Create a new message, and select Insert/Message. In the dialog box, you can browse all the messages in your folders until you find the one you want to attach; once you've found it, double-click on it to attach. You can also attach files to messages (Insert/File) or other objects (Insert/Object)

Spellbinding Messages -- Make sure every "i" is dotted and each "t" is crossed by spell-checking your messages before you send them. In a message, select Tools/Spelling. To customize the way your messages are checked, select Tools/Options, click on the Spelling tab and select or deselect the options.

Letter Opener -- If you'd like to take a sneak peek at your messages before they're opened, select View/Columns, choose Item Text from the list on the left, click on Add and then OK. Part of the message text will appear in a column in your inbox display. You can adjust the width and placement of the text column in the Columns dialog box to display as much of the message text as desired.

Finders Keepers -- Use the Find command to locate a message in an overstuffed mailbox. Select Tools/Find to open the Find dialog box, then enter your search criteria in one or more of the fields and pick the folder to search. Among the criteria you can use for a search are From, Sent To, Subject and text in the message body.


Message Melodies -- If you don't want to hear a beep each time you get e-mail, or if you'd rather hear a different sound, select Tools/Options and click on Getting Attention. Use the check boxes to set the event that signals mail arrival, or click on the bar below the Play a Sound check box to associate a custom sound.

By Any Other Name -- Tired of being yourself? Send e-mail under another identity by entering a new name and return address; select Tools/Options and click on Personal Information to make the changes.

Dragster -- To quickly send a file, drag and drop the file onto a Eudora shortcut; a new message window will open with the file already attached.

Making Folders -- Create mailboxes to help sort your incoming messages. Select Mailbox, click on New and type a name for the mailbox. To set up new mailboxes within that mailbox, repeat the procedure but check the "Make it a folder" box.

Malcontents -- If Eudora displays a message that indicates a mailbox has a damaged table of contents, you must let the program rebuild it in order to open the damaged mailbox. After the rebuilding process, you'll lose status information for the messages that are in the mailbox. All of the mail should still be intact, however.

In Search of ... -- Eudora lets you search all messages within a given mailbox. Select Edit/Find and type in the word or phrase you're looking for. Check whether you want to match case or summaries only, then click on Find.

Good Connections -- A dial-up connection will automatically disconnect if there's a long period of inactivity. To keep the connection alive, select Tools/Options and click on Checking Mail; set the program to check for mail every 5 minutes or so.

Sorting the Mail -- You can sort mail by sender, date, subject and so forth. In an open mailbox, click on a particular column heading to sort the mail by that field. To sort in reverse order, press Shift when you click on a column head.

Small Screen -- Run Eudora as a tiny icon. First, create a desktop shortcut to EUDORA.EXE. Right click on the shortcut and select Properties from the Context menu. Click on the Shortcut tab and select Minimized from the drop-down menu in the Run field. You can then check your mail status from the Windows 95 taskbar on the bottom of the screen.

Wrap Up Your Messages -- Use Word Wrap to ensure that the lines in your messages break correctly when your recipients read them. Select Tools/Options, click on Sending Mail and make sure the Word Wrap box is checked.

Wise Replies -- If you have Eudora's Reply All option turned on, you can still selectively choose reply recipients. Hold down the Shift key when you select Reply to respond only to the sender of the message.

Folders for Files -- Eudora automatically stores attachments that are received with messages. To tell Eudora where to put those attachments, select Tools/Options and click on Attachments. Click on the bar below Attachment Directory to indicate the filing locations.

Queue Ball -- You can set Eudora to either send new messages immediately or to queue them up for later delivery. Select Tools/Options and click on Sending Mail; check (or uncheck) the Immediate Send box. You can reverse this choice from within any new message by holding down the shift when you click on the Send/Queue button.


Deliver Da Letter-Da Later, Da Better -- You can save online time and charges by composing e-mail messages offline. Start up Netscape Navigator, switch to mail (Window/Netscape Mail) and create a message, but don't send it. Select Options/Deferred Delivery to change the Send Now button to Send Later. After creating your messages, you can toggle off Deferred Delivery.

Automatic Outbox -- To keep track of all the mail you send, create a mailbox for sent mail. Select Options/Mail and News Preferences, and click on the Composition tab. In the Mail File: field (under the "By default, copy outgoing messages to the file:" section), type a path to a directory to store sent mail (for example, C:\Program Files\Netscape\Navigator\Mail\Sent). Sent messages will be saved to the directory and displayed in a Sent Mail folder in the Mail Folder view.

Unread Army -- When a lot of messages clutter your inbox, it can be difficult to see which ones still haven't been read. To quickly see the unread messages, select Options/Show Only Unread Messages.

Easy Address Additions -- When you get a message from someone not listed in your e-mail address book, you can add that person as a new entry without typing anything. With the message displayed, select Message/Add To Address Book. You can add a nickname, or just click on OK to add the entry.

Cancelled Mail -- If you want to delete a message from a mailbox, highlight the message and press the Delete key.

A Sorted Affair -- Netscape mail is automatically sorted by date, but you can resort the list of messages by subject, sender or message number. Select View/Sort and select a sort criterion. The current selection is indicated by an inverted arrowhead in the column heading. You can also re-sort mail by clicking on the column heading.

Folder Feats -- Organize your mail by creating separate folders to store messages. Select File/New Folder, type a name for the folder, then click on OK. You can drag and drop messages from your inbox into new folders.

Variable View -- You can easily adjust your mailbox viewing areas by moving the lines that divide the areas. For example, if you want a larger area for message display, click on the divider line at the top of the message, then drag and drop it upward. You can adjust the Subject, Date and Address columns in the folder contents area in the same manner.

Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope -- Keep track of your outgoing mail by sending a letter to yourself. Select Options/Mail and News Preferences, then type your e-mail address in the Mail Messages field under the "By default, e-mail a copy of outgoing message to:" section.

E-Mail Environment -- Change the way your Netscape Mail looks by selecting Options/Mail and News Preferences, and clicking on the Appearance tab. You can change characteristics such as the screen layout (vertically or horizontally split), font size, and proportional- or fixed-width text.

Windows Magazine, June 1997, page 239.

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