Composing Communications with E-Mail and Your Mac

Keep a few things in mind before pounding out a message. Although optional, it's good email etiquette to type a title, or Subject, for your email. In fact, some people get right to the point and blurt out everything they have to say in the Subject line (for example, Lunch is on at noon).

To write your message, just start typing in the large area provided below the address, subject, and account lines. You can also paste passages (or pictures) cut or copied from another program.

The standard formatting tools found with your word processor are on hand. You can make words bold or italic and add spice to the letters through fancy fonts. Click the Fonts button to display different typefaces. Click the Colors button to alter the hues of your individual characters.

But what if you decide to let off a bit of steam before submitting your resignation (via the cold, harsh world of email)? Click the Save as Draft button and do whatever it is you do to calm down. When you're ready to resume working on the message, demanding a raise instead, choose Mailbox --> Go To and click Drafts (or press Command+3).

Attaching files

You can attach a payload to your email. Attachments are typically word processing documents, but they can be any type of file: pictures, music, spreadsheets, videos, and more.

To send a file with your email, click the Attach button. In the window that appears, select the file you have in mind from the appropriate folder on your hard drive.

Given the market dominance of that other operating system, it's a fair bet that you're sending attachments to a Windows user. Windows is particular about the files it can read. It wants to see the file extension, such as .doc. Because Apple apparently wants to play nice with the rest of the computing public, just select the Send Windows Friendly Attachments check boxbefore sending an attachment to a Windows pal.

You'll make everyone happy if you clue recipients in ahead of time if you're planning on sending them large files, particularly high-resolution images and video. And by all means, refer to the attachment in the message you send. You should do so for the following reasons:

  • Many Windows viruses are spread through email attachments. Although you know the files are harmless, your Windows pals may be understandably skittish about opening a file without a clear explanation of what you're sending.
  • Sending oversized attachments can slow or even clog your recipient's email inbox. It can take him or her forever to download these files. Moreover, ISPs may impose restrictions on the amount of email storage users can have in their inboxes or in the size of a file that can transported. The company you work for may also enforce its own limits.

Spell-checking

There's a certain informality to email. Rather than type a sentence that says, "How are you?" you might instead type "How r u?" But not always.

Spelling counts (or ought to) when you are corresponding with potential employers or, for that matter, the person currently responsible for your paycheck. Fortunately, Apple provides assistance to the spelling-challenged among us. A spell checker is a basic feature.

To access the email spell checker, choose Mail --> Preferences and then click Composing. On the Check Spelling pop-up menu, choose As I Type, When I Click Send, or Never.

Assuming that you ignored that last option, the Mail program will underline in red what it thinks are misspelled words, just as TextEdit and other word processors do, provided that you selected As I Type in the Composing section of Mail Preferences (which you can access from the Mail menu). Right-click the suspect word and click the properly spelled word from the list of suggested replacements.

If your spell checker keeps tripping over a word that is in fact typed correctly (your company name, for instance), you can add it to the spell-checker dictionary. Control-click the word and select Learn Spelling from the pop-up list. Your Mac should never make the same mistake again.

Signing off with a signature

You can personalize Mail with a signature plastered at the bottom of every outgoing message. Along with your name, a signature might include your snail-mail address, phone number, iChat account name, and a pithy slogan.

To add your email "John Hancock," choose Mail --> Preferences. Click the Signatures tab, and then click the Add (+) button. You can accept or type over the default signature Apple suggests and choose whether to match the font already used in the message.

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