Computer Science Department
College of Arts and Sciences

Introduction to Computers
CS-101(B1) / Fall 1997

The following is an excerpt from the Netscape Handbook available in its entirety from

Setting up email and news

This section gives you some background about Internet protocols and the preference items you use to set up your email and news services. Upcoming sections describe mail and news services in more detail.

Before you can exchange email or access any newsgroup news, you need to tell the Netscape application how to make the appropriate connection to the server computer handling various protocol. Where your World Wide Web server uses uses the HTTP protocol to transport page information, your outgoing and incoming Internet mail servers use mail protocols (SMTP and POP3) and your Usenet news server uses a news protocol (NNTP).

Do you know the name of your email servers and news server? If not, you will have to find out from your service provider, systems administrator, or resident know-it-all. After specifying the names of these servers as preference items in the Servers panel, Netscape software lets you send and receive email and newsgroup postings.

Here are some of the preferences you can set in the Options|Mail and News panels.

Receiving and sending email

To display the Mail window and access email features, choose Window|Netscape Mail. Or, as a shortcut, you can click on the mail icon (the small envelope in the bottom-right of the Netscape and News windows).

When you open the Mail window, Netscape checks the server and retrieves any new mail. To receive mail, you'll have to enter your email password each session (or specify in the Mail and News|Organization panel that your password be remembered across sessions).

After Netscape has initially checked the mail server for messages, Netscape can periodically recheck the server and inform you if any new messages have arrived. However, Netscape does not automatically retrieve these additional messages from the mail server. To retrieve new messages, press the Get Mail toolbar button or click the mail icon.

A setting in the Mail and News|Servers panel determines how often Netscape automatically checks the mail server for new messages. You can also click on the mail icon from the Mail window to manually check the server and retrieve new messages.

Netscape informs you of the availability of new messages using the mail icon.

The Mail window contains three panes: a mailbox pane, a message header pane, and a message pane. Click on an item in the mailbox pane (such as the Inbox) to display the mailbox contents in the message header pane. Click on an item in the message header field to display the message contents in the message pane.

Occasionally, you'll want to select multiple message headings, for example, to move messages to the trash. To select multiple, contiguous message headings, hold down the Shift key as you click on an item. To select multiple, noncontiguous message headings, hold down the Ctrl key as you click on an item. (On Macintosh, use the Shift key to select noncontiguous items). When two or more message headings are selected, the message pane is empty.

The Mail window and the Message Composition window, described in subsequent sections, contain menu items, toolbar buttons, and clickable icons to let you compose, view, organize, store, and deliver your mail in varied ways. Menu items offer the full set of features. Toolbar buttons provide basic mail features such as getting mail, deleting mail, composing mail, replying to mail, and displaying your messages. Small, clickable icons in the message header pane let you highlight individual messages as read or unread, and flagged or unflagged.

Using the Mail window

The mailbox pane and message header pane are organized in columns. Columns in the mailbox pane state a mail folder name, the number of unread messages it contains, and the total number of messages it contains. Columns in the message header pane state the sender name, its flagged status, its read status, the subject line, and date.

You can resize panes by positioning your mouse between two panes (the cursor changes shape) and dragging.

You can click on column titles in the message heading pane to temporarily rearrange items according to Sender, Subject, or Date. You can also use the View|Sort hierarchical menu to sort or thread messages so that replies are positioned adjacent to original messages. To arrange messages to your preferred criteria by default (that is, every time you open up the Mail window), you must set the preference items in the Mail and News|Organization panel.

You can resize columns by positioning your mouse between two column headings (the cursor changes shape) and dragging. It's best to adjust the leftmost column first, because resizing a column repositions all the columns to the right. On UNIX, choose Options|Save Options to retain changes.

Choose File|New Folder to display a dialog for creating a folder in the mailbox pane. You can drag messages from the message heading pane into a folder in the mailbox pane. Alternatively, you can select a message, then use the Message|Move hierarchical menu item to put a message into a folder. The Message|Copy item lets you put a copy of a message into a folder without moving the original.

The Edit menu contains items for deleting selected messages and folders. Deleted items are put into a Trash folder. Choose Empty Trash Folder to permanently delete the contents of the trash.

Here are other basic features you'll find in the Mail window:

Using the Message Composition window

You create and send both email and newsgroup messages in the Message Composition window. Many different actions produce the Message Composition window and, when appropriate, the Netscape application fills in certain fields automatically.

Sometimes you'll see highlighted links in the email and news messages you read. That's because the Netscape software automatically detects the text of a URL and converts the text to an HTML link. Any URL text you enter in the Message Composition window is automatically seen as a highlighted link by the recipient of your message.

Typically, you'll use the Send To field for the address of the primary recipient, the Cc field for additional recipients, the Subject field for briefly describing the message, and the Attachment field for including a page or disk file with the message. If you've specified a text file containing your signature in the Mail and News|Identity panel, your signature is appended to the message field in all of your mailings.

You need to know the Internet mail address of where to send your email. Internet addresses typically contain a user name followed by the @ symbol (pronounced "at"), followed by mail server location name. For example, to send email to this company, enter

You can create, edit, and store addresses, singly or in a folder list, in the Address Book window. Addresses are maintained in the Address Book window similarly to how bookmarks are maintained in the Bookmark window.

Commonly, you'll send mail by replying to other mail. By default, the original text appears as quoted text (each line preceded by the > symbol), though you can turn this feature off in the Composition panel. You can also quote a message's text by choosing the Message Composition window's File|Include Original Text menu item or paste in a clipboard selection as quoted text by selecting Edit|Paste as Quotation.

Pressing the Attach button produces a dialog box that lets you send email with a file attachment. An attachment is a separate document sent along with the email message. The dialog box buttons let you select a page URL or a file. You can choose to send a page as is (embedded with the HTML instructions that format Internet pages) or converted to plain text. After completing the dialog box (you can list multiple attachments), the attachment is ready to be sent along with your message.

The Mail window offers options that let you send mail immediately or defer delivery. Typically, you'll want to send messages immediately if you're connected to the network. However, to reduce connection time, you can compose messages offline and defer sending mail until the next time you're connected.

When the Mail window's Options|Immediate Delivery menu item is checked, the Message Composition window offers a Send Now toolbar button and menu item (Send button on Windows and UNIX). This allows messages you've written to be sent over the network immediately. Press the Send Now button or choose File|Send Now to transmit the message and any attachments to the recipient.

When the Mail window's Options|Deferred Delivery menu item is checked, the Message Composition window offers a Send Later toolbar button and menu item (Send button on Windows; Later button on UNIX). This allows messages you've written to be stored in your Outbox folder (deferred) until you explicitly specify that the contents of the Outbox be sent. Press the Send Later button or choose File|Send Later to store the current message in the Outbox folder on your disk for transmission at a later time. Choose File|Send Mail in Outbox to distribute deferred messages.

Receiving and sending news

To display the News window, choose Window|Netscape News. The News window operates similarly to the Mail window. If you skipped the previous pages on exchanging and composing mail, you might want to go back and read these now. Like mail, you create your news messages in the Message Composition window.

People post messages (send their news) to newsgroups. Throughout the Internet, you'll find the newsgroup terms "message", "posting", and "article" used interchangeably.

Newsgroups are organized by subject; each newsgroup has a name intended to reflect the topic of discussion for its messages. The Usenet is the collection of all newsgroups; it is the Internet's multifaceted bulletin board especially designed for people to communicate news with one another on special interest topics.

The News window contains three panes: a newsgroup pane, a message header pane, and a message pane. Click on an item in the newsgroup pane to display a listing of messages in the message header pane. Click on an item in the message header field to display each message in the message pane.

When you open the News window, the set of newsgroups you have specified in the Options menu is displayed in the newsgroup pane. You can choose the Show All Newsgroups menu item to see the broadest selection of available groups. However, the number of newsgroups is so large that you might prefer to limit your newsgroup pane to subscribed newsgroups.

You can quickly access your favorite newsgroups without searching through the thousands of available groups by subscribing to newsgroups. The easiest way to subscribe to a newsgroup is to, first, display all newsgroups (choose Options|Show All Newsgroups) in the newsgroup pane, then locate each newsgroup you want ready access to and check the Subscribe check box beside the newsgroup name.

After you subscribe to your favorite newsgroups, you can choose the Options|Show Subscribed Newsgroups or Options|Show Active Newsgroups menu item so that, each time you open the News window, the newsgroup pane displays only your chosen newsgroups. Active newsgroups are subscribed newsgroups that contain new messages.

There are alternative ways to subscribe if you know a newsgroup's URL. Each of the following displays the newsgroup name in the newsgroup pane.

You still must check the Subscribe box if you want the newsgroup to be displayed in the pane in subsequent news sessions.

Using the News window

The menu items, toolbar buttons, and clickable icons in the News window let you view and compose news messages in much the same way as you do mail messages. Here are the primary difference:

Exploring Usenet news

The URLs of Usenet news are formatted similarly, but not identically, to other pages. For example, the URL specifies the server protocol news: and the newsgroup Unlike other Internet connections, the URL does not specify a server name and pathname with preceding slashes.

Each newsgroup has a unique name, described with words separated by periods. Some words (like alt, short for alternative, or comp, short for computers) specify categories rather than a particular newsgroup. Note that not all news servers provide access to all newsgroups.

Reading Usenet news can be as easy as reading any other Internet page: Click on a link and bring a Usenet news message to your screen. But newsgroup pages offer advantages (notably the ability to easily publish your own writing to other newsgroup readers) and disadvantages (no images, weak formatting, and limited links).

Typically, each newsgroup presents its messages along threads. A thread bundles a message with a response to the message. The grouping of a new topic with one or more responses to the topic (in indented outline form) presents messages in a topical context. A strictly chronological organization of every newsgroup contribution would create a discombobulated trail of messages less pleasant than reading Joyce in his later years.

When you subscribe to a newsgroup, the name of the newsgroup is added to a list (a News file; also called a News RC or newsrc file), maintained by the Netscape software. On Windows and UNIX, you can specify the location of your News file in the Servers panel. On Macintosh, the News file is stored in the Netscape folder within your system's Preferences folder.

The process for retrieving information from news servers has a significant difference than the process for retrieving information from World Wide Web servers. News messages are collected and automatically distributed at periodic intervals, en masse, among news servers throughout the Usenet. When you supply a URL to request newsgroup messages, your request is routed to the news server provided by your service provider, which has accumulated messages throughout the Usenet system. In contrast, when you supply a URL to request a particular Web page, your request is routed to the single Web site whose server distributes the page.

Likewise, a news message that you send goes to your service provider's news server, whereupon the message is automatically distributed at periodic intervals to other participating Usenet news servers. Other Usenet readers can then access your news message from their local news server.

This batch processing of Usenet news permits distribution efficiencies. For example, a popular Web site can get inundated with requests for pages. However, a popular newsgroup is broadly distributed by the entire network of participating news servers.

Your request for either Web pages or news messages contains some identifying information about the requesting computer. With Web pages, request information is conveyed to Web site that serves a page. With news, request information is conveyed to your provider's news server.