12.4. Reading and Processing Email
Perhaps the only joy greater than sending a message is receiving one. Every time Outlook Express picks up a new piece of email, the program adds it to the growing list of messages waiting in the program's inbox (Section 12.4.4). To see these messages, click your inbox, as shown in Figure 12-7.
Outlook offers two ways to view a message: inside the preview pane, and inside its own window.
To preview a message, click any part of its name in the message list. That message's contents spill into the preview pane directly below. To make names and messages easier to read, feel free to drag the border between the message list and the preview pane. Drag the border upward to devote more space to the preview pane when reading a message; to see more message names , drag the border downward.
Figure 12-7. Outlook Express displays your messages in three sections. To see what's inside any folder listed in the left-hand pane, click the folder's name; the names of the messages in that folder appear in the top half of the two adjacent panes. Click the message you want to view, and its contents appear in the bottom pane. Once you read a message, its envelope icon indicates that it's been "opened." Unread mail is marked with an icon of an unopened envelope. Double-click any message, and it leaps to the screen in its own window.
To see a message in its own windowthe best way to view long messagesdouble-click the message's name. The message pops open into its own resizable window. To make it fill the screen, double-click its title bar along the top of the message. (To return it back to its former size , double-click the title bar again.)
You can quickly plow through many messages in either viewing mode. In the preview mode, press your keyboard's up or down arrows to view adjacent messages on the list. When viewing a message in its own window, click the Previous or Next buttons (in the message window's toolbar) to cycle through other messages.
Note: Outlook Express normally lets you view images embedded inside messages. Occasionally, you'll see a blank frame instead of the imagesusually when the message comes from a spammer. Outlook Express explains its actions with a banner across the message's top saying, "Some pictures have been blocked to help prevent the sender from identifying your computer." If the message came from a friend, click that banner to see the images. But if it's from a spammer, delete the message, as described in the next section.
12.4.1. Deleting Email
Not all of your email will come from friends inviting you to join them in wild adventures , luxurious trips, and fabulous dinner parties. In reality, you'll want to send a large portion of your mail straight to the trash. Outlook Express offers several ways to delete emails you no longer want (or never wanted in the first place).
Right-click a message's name and, from the shortcut menu, choose Delete.
Click a message's name and then click the Delete button on the toolbar.
Click a message's name and press Ctrl+D or Edit Delete.
However, once you perform any of these steps, the message isn't really deleted. Just as Windows offers a safety net with its Recycle Bin (Section 16.1), Outlook Express's Deleted Items folder serves the same purpose. All deleted messages aren't swept from your PC; instead, they're swept into the Deleted Items folder. That lets you salvage accidentally deleted items by dragging them back into your Inbox or any other folder, either in Outlook Express or Windows.
The Deleted Items folder's safety net makes true deletion a two-step process: delete the message, then delete it from your Deleted Items folder. You can do that in either of two ways:
To delete a single message from the Deleted Items folder, click the message's name and then press Del or choose Delete from the toolbar.
To delete everything from the Deleted Items folder, right-click the folder and, from the shortcut menu, choose "Empty 'Deleted Items' Folder."
Once you purge anything that's in your Deleted Items folder, Windows finally understands that you don't want it around anymore. Outlook Express really deletes the message, bypassing the Recycle Bin.
To empty your Deleted Items folder each time you close Outlook Expresshandy when dealing with sensitive itemschoose Tools Options Maintenance tab and turn on the "Empty messages from the 'Deleted Items folder on exit" checkbox.
12.4.2. Replying to Email
One of the best advantages email holds over letters comes when replying, as Outlook Express automates the entire process. When you're reading a message that needs a reply, click the Reply button in the toolbar.
Outlook Express opens a new message window, automatically addressing the new message's To: field with the sender's name and email address. Outlook Express recycles the original mail's subject line by placing a "Re:" (short for "Regarding") before the subject's name, letting the receiver know exactly what message you're replying to.
Outlook Express then dumps the original email's contents into your reply, prefacing each line with the ">" bracket , which sets apart your reply from the original. That lets the receiver see at a glance what she's sent you, sparing her a search in her Sent folder.
Finally, Outlook leaves you with a blinking cursor at the preaddressed message's top, ready for you to type in your response.
The Outlook Express toolbar offers two reply buttons, each with slightly different effects:
Reply . Used most often, this button simply addresses your response to the message's sender.
Reply All . This sends your response to the sender, as well as everybody listed on the message's CC: field (Section 12.3). It's a great way to keep everybody informed about a work in progress, sparing you from typing in everybody's email address by hand. However, it's disastrous when you meant to send a private response to the sender.
12.4.3. Forwarding Email
Forward lets you kick a received email into somebody else's inbox, a handy thing on two occasions:
You want to share a letter with some of your friends. Forward spares you the hassle of cutting and pasting your son's college letter into a new message when you want to share it with the relatives.
You want to designate a task. When a piece of mail refers to something best handled by somebody else, the Forward button lets you send the mail his way, sparing you the bother of answering it.
To forward a piece of mail, click the toolbar's Forward icon instead of the Reply button. (Or right-click the email and then choose Forward.) A new piece of mail appears, with the initial message's contents pasted inside. Fill out the address just as if you're sending your own piece of mail, and type a short note explaining why you're forwarding the email: "I thought you'd get a kick out of this, Geraldine," or "You're much better equipped to handle this than I, George."
You can forward a piece of mail to as many people as you want by placing the recipient's names in the To: or CC: fields (see Section 12.3). But if you're forwarding something funny to oodles of friends, be sure to place their names in the BCC: field, not the To: field.
Note: When sending spam or suspicious email (Section 15.5) to a company's security department, don't use Forward. Instead, right-click the suspicious email's name and then choose "Forward as an Attachment. " That forwards the email as an attached file rather than just quoting the text. This important difference preserves the message's header significant technical information for tracing the file back to its nefarious sender.
12.4.4. Sorting and Filing Email
From the day you first open it, Outlook Express automatically sorts your incoming and outgoing email into five folders along its left edge. Click any folder to spill its contents onto the adjacent pane, letting you see what's inside:
Inbox . Messages you've received but not deleted.
Outbox . Messages you've written and sent, but that haven't yet been delivered. Click the Send/Recv button, and Outlook Express connects to the Internet to deliver them, and then it places a copy of the message in your Sent Items folder, described next.
Sent Items . Copies of messages that you've sent and Outlook Express has delivered.
Deleted Items . Messages you've deleted. As handy as your PC's main Recycle Bin, the Deleted Items folder (Section 12.4.4) lets you retrieve accidentally deleted items. Unlike the Recycle Bin, however, the Deleted Items folder never empties itself. Right-click it and choose "Empty 'Deleted Items' Folder" to delete the messages for good.
Tip: Don't like your deleted emails hanging around? Tell Outlook Express to purge them whenever you exit the program (or turn off your computer): choose Tools Options Maintenance tab and then turn on the "Empty messages from the 'Deleted Items folder on exit" checkbox.
Drafts . Emails you've started writing, but plan to finish later.
Outlook Express' five folders work fine for getting started. But once you begin to receive emails, you won't want every received message to clog your Inbox. To reduce Inbox clutter, tell Outlook Express to create new folders, organized the way you want. You can create new folders in two ways.
Folders inside existing folders . You can place folders inside your Inbox, for instance, devoting one folder to each of your ongoing projects. To do that, right-click your Inbox and, from the shortcut menu, choose New Folder, as shown in Figure 12-8, top, to open the Create Folder window, shown in Figure 12-8, bottom. Type a name for your new folder, and then click OK to create the folder.
Folders on the same level as existing folders . To create a folder that's not hidden inside existing folders, right-click Local Folders and then choose New Folder to open the same Create Folder window, where you type a name for your new folder, and then click OK to create it.
Figure 12-8. You can organize your email in Outlook Express by creating new folders inside your Inbox, or in any other folder.
Top: Right-click your Inbox (or any other folder) and, from the shortcut menu, choose New Folder.
Bottom: Name the folder whatever you like, and then click OK. This Create Folder window also works great if you change your mind midstream; once you're here, you can click any listed folder to create a subfolder; you're not stuck with the folder you right-clicked to open this window.
The folder system in Outlook Express works much like any other folders you encounter in Windowsyou can drag files and folders to new locations, for instance, letting you move a project folder out of the Inbox and into, say, your Completed Projects folder when you're done with it. You can also drag messages from one folder to anotherhandy for dragging mail out of the Outbox and putting it into the Drafts folder until you have time to add that last-minute thought.
After you create a folder inside another folder, a plus sign appears next to the newly organized folder indicating it contains other folders. Click the plus sign and, presto, you'll see the folders lurking inside.
12.4.5. Printing Email
When you need to print an emaildirections to a friend's house, for instance, or that recipe for pistachio salsaclick the Print icon along the message's top, press Ctrl+P, or choose File Print. In any case, the familiar Print dialog box appears to let you select a printer, paper type, number of pages, and so on (see Section 4.4 for Print dialog box details). Choose your options, and Outlook Express whisks it off to your printer.
Things become a bit trickier when printing an email that was composed using the HTML format (Section 12.3). HTML messages can contain extra formatting like images, unusual margin widths, tables, and other items difficult to fit onto paper. So, Windows XP treats the mail as if it were a Web page, offering the same options as Internet Explorer for squeezing the mail onto a single sheet of paper (see Section 4.9).
Outlook Express offers a nice finishing touch to your printed email. At the page's top, it prints your name, the sender's name and email address, the message's subject, and the time and date the message was sent.
12.4.6. Opening and Saving Attachments
When somebody sends you mail with an attached file, you'll know even before you open the messageyou'll spot a paper clip icon next to the message's name. Double-click the email, and you'll spot the attached file either in the message's Attach: field or along the message's bottom.
Although you can see the file's icon inside the message, the file's not really saved on your hard drive. That attached file is actually embedded inside the email message. So, you need to free the file from its email wrapper by saving it to a folder on your hard drive. You can do this in either of two ways:
Drag and drop . Drag and drop the attached file's icon from the message to your Desktop or any other folder. If somebody sent you lots of files, click one and press Ctrl+A to select them all; that lets you drag them all to a folder with one quick drag.
Click and save . Right-click the attached file, and, from the shortcut menu, choose Save As. When the Save Attachment As window appears, navigate to a folder to store the newcomer, and then click Save to save the file in that folder. To save a group of attachments all in one fell swoop, select them all, as described above, right-click the selected attachments, and then choose Save All.
Sometimes Windows XP thwarts your attempt at saving the attachment. Microsoft's first so-called Service Pack (major upgrade) for Windows XP added a restriction to Outlook Express that keeps everybody from openingor even seeingmore than 70 types of files, including emailed links to Web sites. Instead of letting you see your attached files, Outlook Express displays a warning banner or "grays out" the file's names so you can't save them (see Figure 12-9).
This doesn't mean Outlook Express found some virus-infected files. It means somebody sent you a program, a link to a Web site, or any other type of file that's capable of carrying a virus.
If your PC already has an antivirus program (Section 15.6.3), put a halt to Outlook Express' protection goons: choose Tools Options Security Tab and then turn off the option called, "Do not allow attachments to be saved or opened that could potentially be a virus (Figure 12-9, bottom). Click OK, and if it still balks at letting you open an attachment, restart Outlook Express.