Understand Email Part One

Understand Email Part One
Mac Tip #295/27-June-2007

Email is a very popular activity for most computer users. When you buy a new Mac it arrives with email software already installed: Mail.app. Look in the Applications folder or click the ‘stamp’ icon in the Dock.

Mail.app is not the only email software — you can use any email ‘client’ you like. If you use different software these Tips will still be informative and useful.

Of course, if you’re a subscriber to the MacTips you probably already use email, but some explanation of what’s going on will allow you to take more control.

How email works.

How email works.

Email has been around a long while: many decades in fact. But how we use it has changed considerably in that time.

A common pattern is that Person A (Ann, for example) writes a message on her own computer, addressed to Person B (Brian).

When Ann sends the message it travels from her computer to her Internet Service Provider’s computer where a special piece of software called SMTP receives it. The SMTP software works out where to send the message so it will reach Brian. It then sends the message on its way.

After some travelling about, the message reaches Brian’s Internet Service Provider (ISP), where a piece of software receives the email and stores it in Brian’s mailbox on the ISP’s computer.

At some time or other Brian tells his email application to check for new email. His email software connects to software called POP on the ISP’s computer. The two of them exchange a name and password. Then Brian’s email client removes the message from the server, stores it on Brian’s computer and lets Brain know it’s there.

This is definitely not the only way to do email, and there can be many variations on this pattern, but it is very common. If you understand this sequence of events then it makes it easier to understand email settings and what can go wrong, along with how to use email software more effectively.

Annoying Acronyms

Internet Service Provider
Simple Mail Transport Protocol
Post Office Protocol
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