Email can be as complicated as basic as you want it to be. There are a wide variety of different email programs ”some that you have to buy as part of a huge suite of applications, some you get automatically with a browser, and some you can use right over the Web, without installing anything.
Making matters more confusing is the fact that both Microsoft and Netscape, the two companies who hold all the cards when it comes to using the Web, offer a wide variety of choices. Both offer a free program as part of their browser suite, but both also offer free Web-based email (Microsoft has Hotmail, Netscape has Netscape Webmail). Web-based email allows you to read messages right off a Web page, just like you are browsing. It is covered later in this chapter.
This chapter can't possibly cover all the options for email; it's designed to cover the most commonly used features. After you're comfortable with those, we figure, you'll be ready to pick up your program's little nuances on your own.