Email (electronic mail) is one of the most popular reasons people use the internet. It’s a free or inexpensive way to send messages to other people who have email. In order to send email, you must have your own email account. You can sign up for a free web email account using the library's Internet computers. You will then be able to send and receive email from any computer with Internet access.
When selecting a free email provider, a good site to checkout is the Free Email Address Directory - a classified list of free email services, including comments on different providers. It also has articles on topics such as beating spam, email etiquette, and how to choose the best service for your particular needs.
Some well-known providers of free email are:
Most of these services provide email for free because they are supported by advertisers. Advertisements are usually a bar of flashing text or images on the margins of the pages; clicking on them will lead to a web page about that advertiser.
Email addresses are different from web page addresses because they always have the @ sign in them: firstname.lastname@example.org. The @ (at) sign is typed by holding the Shift key and pressing the number 2.
When signing up for web email, the email service will ask you to create a user name and a password. The user name will be the first part of your email address; you cannot have any spaces in your user name. If the user name you want is taken by someone else, the email service will sometimes suggest another one. Many people use some variation of their name, but if your name is common, you might want to add some numbers or use a nickname.
Your password is a secret word or numbers that you type in when you sign in to your email account; it prevents someone else from using your account. Be sure to remember or record your user name and password.
Other sign up questions may include password hints and personal information. If you decide to include personal information, such as your name or address, carefully read the User Agreement to determine what will be done with that information.
You can check your email in most places with Internet access. Just type in the web address for your email service - such as www.hotmail.com. Then you will enter your user name and password to get into your account. The Inbox is where new messages appear. Click on Subject or Sender to read the message. It is easy to reply back to the person who sent you the message by clicking the Reply button. Forward will allow you to send it to someone else.
To type and send a message, click on Compose or New message. The To: line is where you type in someone else's email address. You need to have their exact address or you will get a returned mail message. Cc: (courtesy copy) means you can send a copy of this message to another person. Bcc: (blind courtesy copy) means copies are sent to others, but without their email addresses appearing in the message. The Subject: line will tell others what the email is about. You can usually save a draft of your message if you do not have time to finish it.
Attachments are files such as word processing documents or pictures that are opened with a separate program from your email service. Make sure when you receive an attachment that the person who sent the email really meant to send an attachment; viruses can be spread automatically using a person’s email address list. If you send an attachment, be sure to let the receiver know in the message text that you mean to do this.
Most web email services let you create folders in which to store your mail. You can organize your mail by topics such as Family or Jobs. You can even have messages sent automatically to these folders. Read the Help screens for your email service to discover how to do this.
Many email services allow you to create a list of favorite email addresses, like an Address Book. You can even create a group of email addresses that lets you send a message to several people at once.
Since free web email services have limited storage space, you should delete unwanted email and occasionally empty your Trash (where deleted messages go). When you are finished, be sure to Sign Out or Log Off so that no one else can view your email.
Spam is unwanted, junk email. You can end up on a spammer’s email list by submitting your email to web site or by having your email listed on a web site. Spammers can also guess your email address if you use a common name for your user name. For example, spammers have programs that send spam to all the jsmiths they can find – email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,email@example.com. Try adding numbers to your name or using something unusual when signing up for a popular email service.
When you do get spam, it is best to use your service's block sender list or junk mail filter. If a real company is sending you spam, it will usually work to click the "remove me from your list” link at the bottom of the email. However, since there are plenty of free email addresses available, set up a junk mail address; you can then give this to questionable websites that require you to give an email address. Give out your “real” email address only to people you trust.
Be considerate of other people's email addresses. When you send a message to several people, put the email addresses in the Bcc:(blind courtesy copy) box. This means everyone you send a message to won’t get a list of other recipients' email addresses. You can also check out the Washington State Attorney General’s Office on spam, which includes more information on how to protect your email address and file complaints against spammers.
Spokane Public Library has full-service, hour long Internet terminals available to valid library card holders. See the Internet Computer Station FAQ and the Internet Use Policy for more information. One hour per day reservations can be made up to a week ahead of time using our self-reservation system. Most internet computers also offer a suite of LibreOffice products, including a text editor, slide presentation software, and spreadsheet. The smaller branches have a 15-minute, first-come, first-served Internet terminal for those without valid cards. All Spokane Public Libraries have wireless Internet access for those with wireless adapters on their own equipment.
For those who want to store a list of their favorite web addresses online, there is a large list of web bookmark managers. Most of these are free to use, but you will need to sign up to get a user name and password.