This article is a short guide on using Windows Mail email program which comes free with the Windows Vista operating system. The aim is to provide an introduction to beginners so that they can quickly understand the concept of email and learn how to use Windows Mail to download, store and organize email messages on their computer.
There are several different types of email accounts in the world and most likely you already have one. For instance, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) generally provide an free email address with the internet connection – call them up if in doubt. By the way, you can get an email address from popular webmail services such as Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo for free (yes, 100% gratis).
An email account is located on a web server (an email server to be more precise) which is a computer connected to the internet 24/7. Thus, whether you have an email account from webmail services or an ISP, it resides on a remote computer. To check email, you need to connect to the email server using a program on your computer – a live internet connection is, thus, a requirement. Generally, the web browser is all that’s needed to connect to the online email account and manage messages. But this is possible only if an interface is provided the service. For instance, the email accounts from Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail are administered via the web browser interface developed by the respective company.
In lieu of such an interface, you can use specialized software called email clients (more on these below).
Windows Mail is an email program also known as an email client. It connects to your account on the online server and downloads email to your computer. Please note that when you use Windows Mail, the email account is not transferred from the remote computer to yours. The account still exists on the server; only email messages are copied (you can also choose to delete email messages from the server once they have been downloaded).
Unfortunately, not all email accounts can be used with Windows Mail program. Why? Because of the way these accounts are set up. As you have learnt from above, Windows Mail needs to connect to the email server. It does so using email protocols of which POP and IMAP are the most popular.
I understand there was a rush of technical jargon in the last sentence so let me explain in layman’s words. You can consider an email protocol as a special technology that lets an email program (such as Windows Mail or Outlook Express) to “talk” to the email server. I’m sure you’ve heard of HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) which is used for transferring web pages from web servers to the browser on your computer. Email protocols have quite the same function but work on email accounts instead web sites – POP (Post Office Protocol) and IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) are two well-known email protocols.
To use Windows Mail, you need to make sure that the email account can be accessed using POP or IMAP. If these are disabled, it wouldn’t work out. For example, since POP and IMAP access is not available on free email account from Yahoo, Windows Live Mail cannot connect and download email. By upgrading to Yahoo! Mail Plus version (costing about $20 per year) you can have these features enabled. Free Hotmail POP is gradually being rolled out and will be available for all email accounts by the end of 2009. POP and IMAP access is free (without any catches!) on all Gmail accounts.
Once you know the email account is either POP or IMAP enabled, you have to configure it in the email program. Thus, having an account does not mean the Windows Mail will “automatically connect to it and download messages” – you need to set it up in the program. This is a fairly simple process and for step by step instructions please refer to the links below.
Below is a screenshot of Windows Mail program. The folders section is the vertical one on the left. The list of emails is right above the panel that displays the email message. If you have earlier been using Outlook Express, you shall feel pretty much at home with this interface.