Technology - Property provides information on current technology and microcomputer software of interest in the real property area. The editors of Probate & Property welcome information and suggestions from readers.
An Introduction to E-Mail
Today, everyone is talking about the explosion of the World Wide Web, one aspect of the Internet. Another significant part of the Internet seems to be receiving less popular attention, however_e-mail, or electronic mail. E-mail has been a part of the Internet since its inception, and it remains one of the major methods of communication on the Net today.
This column discusses how to find e-mail software, configure it, get "on line" to be able to send Internet e-mail and actually send a message on line. This is, of necessity, a basic column, aimed at those who have not yet ventured into the world of Internet communications. Hopefully it also will offer some tidbits of interest to those already using e-mail.
Many software packages are available to get someone started with e-mail. How do you choose which program to use? First, talk to others who have used the various programs. If you are in a firm that has a communications and data management program in place, make sure the software you select is compatible with your system.
Cost should also be a consideration. There are many "freeware" programs available via the Internet that will allow the user to send and receive e-mail. Two of the more popular free software programs are Pegasus Mail and Eudora Lite. Sites where you can find such free software include TuCows, http:// www.tucows.com and ZDNet, http://www.hotfiles.com. In addition to free e-mail programs, these sites contain "shareware" e-mail programs that a user can download on a trial basis. These downloadable files are often fully functional copies of the programs, but some developers limit the functions until the user registers and pays for his or her copy. If you download and continue to use a shareware program past the trial period, you are required by federal copyright law to register and pay for it in accordance with the license that accompanies the program. Finally, in addition to using standalone e-mail software, users may be able to configure their World Wide Web browser (such as NetScape Com-municator) to send and receive e-mail messages.
Connecting: Your E-mail Account
Just as there are a number of software options available for sending and receiving e-mail messages, there are also a number of options available that will enable the user to connect to the Internet and actually send the messages. Some may also provide other on-line content and access to the World Wide Web; others will not.
Commercial online services, such as AOL and Prodigy, provide many options for a monthly fee. These options generally include e-mail. In addition, a local Internet service provider, or ISP, is likely just a local phone call away and probably offers World Wide Web access along with an e-mail account. Some national service providers, such as Netcom and PSINet, provide World Wide Web access and e-mail accounts but do not provide content of their own. Finally, there are various free e-mail services, such as Juno, YahooMail and Hotmail, that allow a user to have an e-mail account and access it from all over the United States, without cost (even the setup software is free).
Determining which of these choices is the right one involves assessing the cost of the service, if any. In addition, consider accessibility from many locations. If you travel frequently and want to have access to your e-mail account while on the road, the best choice may be a service that is accessible in many locations. National commercial on-line services and national providers meet this requirement, as do the free e-mail services. If your practice does not take you on the road, you may be able to use a local ISP, which may provide you with all the functions and service you need. In any event, make certain you understand the services you are getting, e.g., World Wide Web access, space for a Web page or an e-mail account.
Installing and Setting Up _ the Account
After you have obtained your e-mail software, follow the software developer's directions for installation. If it was downloaded from the Internet, make certain to write down the name of the file and the location on the hard drive it was downloaded to, so that you can locate it for installation later. Once downloaded, the user must install the software. Simply putting the downloaded file on your hard drive does not work. You may need to "unzip" the file or run it to put the individual files on your hard drive. Look for directions at the site from which you downloaded the software or in a "readme file" for more specific instructions.
After the software is properly installed, or perhaps during instal-lation, the user must configure the software so that it will work with the user's e-mail account. To do this, you will need to have several pieces of information from your e-mail account provider. These include the user ID, the user's password and the location of the incoming and outgoing mail server, often known as the SMTP (simple mail transfer protocol) server. For a local ISP, these often look like this: mail.providername. net. If the installation does not prompt you for this information as you are installing, you will need to start the software and then look for a place to enter this information. Usually under one of the drop down menus across the top of the screen will be a "configure" or "preferences" option; this is most likely where you will have to enter the information about you and your account. There may also be a spot to put in your real name, which will precede your e-mail address when you send an e-mail message.
After the software is chosen, downloaded or purchased, installed and configured, it is time to send an e-mail message. Start the software and look for an option to write a new message. The message should have a "to" field, where the user enters the Internet e-mail address of the intended recipient. For starters, why not send a message to me at: rheve@ mail.als.edu. Type the mail address exactly as it appears or else the message will not reach its destination. Next is the subject field, where you will type the subject of your message. There may also be fields for "cc," which sends a copy of the message to whatever e-mail address you choose, and "bc," which will do the same but will not alert the main recipient of the message (known as a blind copy).
When the top fields are filled in, type your message. After that is done, look for a "send" button; click this button, and your message is off. The software may need to connect to your e-mail account provider, so make certain that your phone line is connected and available.
To receive mail, look for an option to "check mail" or "get mail" in your software. This should prompt the program to connect to the provider and check for new mail. If you have mail, the program should download your e-mail messages so you can read them. You will need to save e-mail attachments to your hard drive before they can be viewed. (Again, pay attention to the name and location of the file when you save it.) The e-mail software should allow the user to create folders or files for e-mail and may even allow users to automate many tasks (such as automatically putting all the messages from your child or a particular client in a specific directory).
I've Moved: Avoiding Bounced Mail
A major problem with e-mail is changing addresses. Someone tries to send you a message using an address that has worked in the past; but you have "moved" and the old e-mail address is no longer good. The American Bar Association has implemented a free program to help avoid these situations. Users are allowed to have only one e-mail address that they give out to others. When a user's "real" address changes, he or she simply tells the ABA, and it forwards mail to the new address instead of the old one. To register for this service, simply go to the ABA home page on the Web ( http:// www.abanet.org), click through to the Members page, and follow the links to register for a free e-mail alias. On the Members page under "Keep in Touch," click on you@ abanet.org.
E-mail can be a cost efficient, productive addition to other methods of communications in a law office. Be cautious of using e-mail to send client confidences; it is not entirely clear that information transmitted over the Internet is entitled to the attorney-client privilege, even though interception of such messages by unauthorized persons violates federal law.
Finally, e-mail is not a like a telephone call; it is not sent or received simply because you pressed "send" and the message disappeared from the screen. Think of e-mail as a written memo that can be reproduced innumerable times and sent around the world in a matter of seconds. Be cautious of what you send and give e-mail messages as much thought as you would if you were sending them by regular mail.
With these caveats, e-mail is a fast, convenient and popular way to communicate across time zones and geographic boundaries. Why not sign up for this increasingly popular form of communication and send an e-mail today? Technology_Property Editor: Robert A. Heverly, Albany Law School, 80 New Scotland Ave., Albany, NY 12208, e-mail: rheve@ mail.als.edu.
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