Email has long been considered the Internet's first killer app (killer application)—a software program so desirable and useful that people will go out and buy a computer just to run it. People were emailing each other even before the Web became world wide. Today, it's become a vital tool for business, education, and haranguing elected officials.
And no wonder. Like telephone calls, you can initiate a transaction anytime you like—but unlike phone calls, the recipient doesn't have to interrupt dinner to get the message. Like postal mail, email offers a handy printed record of the "conversation" so far; but unlike postal mail, email is essentially free.
There are some choices to be made along the way, though, including what kind of email program to use and how to set it up. This chapter explains what your options are.
As wonderful as email can be for keeping up with faraway friends, you're probably familiar with its dark side—the spam, viruses, and identity-theft scams that come along with it. That stuff's covered here, too, and you'll learn how to protect yourself so that your killer app doesn't kill your computer.
There are two basic ways to check your email: using a special, separate email program or on a Web page. Both have their pros and cons, and both have gotten much more flexible over the years about how and where you can pick up your mail.
Many people use a dedicated mail program to download messages— ...