Composing Email

Composing a new email message (Back to Top)

The first step to composing a new message is to click on the toolbar to open a blank compose page. You can also right-click in the From section of an email and select New Email, to open a blank compose page. Depending on your Mail preferences, the blank compose page opens in the mail content pane or opens as a separate compose window.

In the mail Compose window, you enter the email address of the person or persons to whom you are sending the message in the To: field. You can look up a person's email address by clicking To in order to search through your contacts or the global address list. To add BCC addresses, click Options on the compose toolbar.

  • If you have more than one mail identity configured, you will need to select the identity to use before you start to compose your message.

You can either compose your message in HTML or in plain text. The default format is configured in your Preferences, General tab. To quickly change the format for this message only, click Optionson the compose toolbar and select either HTML or Plain Text.

  • Format As HTMLlets you format your message with different font styles, create tables, add color.
  • Format As Plain Text produces text with no style or formatting. Any computer can read this type of message.
To compose a new mail message:
  1. Click from the toolbar. The compose page is displayed.
  2. If you are not using the default identity, in the From drop-down list, select the identity (also known as persona) to use.
  3. Complete the address, subject line, and body text as needed.

    If you supply a first and last name that is not in the form of a valid Internet address (, a confirmation dialog appears advising you that the address does not appear to be valid. You can choose to send the mail anyway, even though it may not be deliverable.

    Enter the body of the message in the text box below Subject.

    To check the spelling in the message click Spell Check.

    To add an attachment click .

    • If you have a signature defined in your Preferences, Signatures, but not enabled, click Add Signature on the Compose toolbar to add that signature.

  4. Click Send to send the message.

If you don't want to send the message immediately, click Save Draft. The message is saved in the Drafts folder.

Parts of an email message (Back to Top)

An email message consists of the following general components:


The message headers contain information concerning the sender and recipients. The exact content of mail headers can vary depending on the email system that generated the message. Generally, headers contain the following information:

  • Subject. Subject is a description of the topic of the message and displays in most email systems that list email messages individually. A subject line could be something like "2007 company mission statement" or, if your spam filtering application is too lenient, "Lose weight fast!!! Ask me how."
  • Sender (From). This is the senders Internet email address. It is usually presumed to be the same as the Reply-to address, unless a different one is provided.
  • Date and time received (On). The time the message was received.
  • Reply-to. This is the Internet email address that will become the recipient of your reply if you click the Reply button.
  • Recipient (To:). First/last name of email recipient, as configured by the sender.
  • Recipient email address. The Internet mail address of the recipient, or where the message was actually sent.


The body of a message contains text that is the actual content, such as "Employees who are eligible for the new health care program should contact their supervisors by next Friday if they want to switch. The message body also may include signatures or automatically generated text that is inserted by the sender's email system.


Attachments are optional and include any separate files that may be part of the message.

Automatically add your signature (Back to Top)

You can create signatures for your email messages. Your signature can include your name and additional closing text to the maximum number of characters that your account allows.

For example, your signature could read:

John Smith
Vice President of Engineering
Widgets Division
Acme Corporation, Inc.
303-555-1212 x111

If you create multiple identities, you can create different signatures and assign them to specific addresses. See Mail Identities.

To create a signature:
  1. Open Preferences and select the Signatures tab.
  2. Because you can have more than one signature, in the Signature Name field give your signature and identifiable name.
  3. In the Signature text box, type the signature information exactly as you want it to appear in your messages.
  4. In the Using Signatures section, select where the signature should be placed in your messages. Select Above included messages to add your signature at the end of the your composed, replied to, or forwarded text. Select Below included messages to add the signature at the end of the message.
  5. Click Save.
  6. To apply this signature to your account name, go to the Accounts tab and in the Signature field, select the Signature Name from the drop down.

Automatic address completion (Back to Top)

The autocomplete feature suggests names as you type directly into the To, CC, and BCC boxes for a new message. A list of possible addresses from your contacts list that start with the text you typed is displayed.

As you continue to type into the To: field, the list of matching addresses will become smaller, as fewer matches are available. The list disappears if there are no more matches.


For example, suppose you wanted to send an email message to David Brinks, whose email address happens to be As soon as you typed the first "d" into the address field, a list appears showing all possible matches, with the matching portions highlighted. In this case, it might display:

Dale Edwards <>

David Brinks <>

Erica Dodd <>

As you type more characters into the To: field, the corresponding list of matches grows smaller.


The autocomplete feature matches the text you type against the following parts of a contact:

  • First name
  • Last name
  • Email address

Matching is always done against the beginning of the field. The text "bob" will match "bob smith" but not "billybob smith".

Using autocomplete

Once your text matches one or more of your contacts, the matches will be displayed in a list below the field you are currently editing. By default, the first match will be highlighted.

Several keys you can type trigger special behavior. The mouse may also be used to select a match.

  • The comma, semicolon, Return/Enter, and Tab keys all trigger completion. The text you have typed will be replaced by the currently selected match.
  • Pressing the ESC key hides the list.
  • The up and down arrow keys change the selection in the list. Moving the mouse cursor over the list also changes the selection.
  • Clicking the mouse on a match selects it for completion.

The fact that a single key (such as semicolon) causes completion can be used to quickly enter addresses. If you know a few characters that will cause a certain contact to be the first match, you can type those and then a semicolon, and that contact's address will appear. For example, if I know that "db" results in a first match of David Brinks, I can type "db;" and the full address "David Brinks <>" will appear in the address box.

Autocomplete is available in other applications (for example, in adding attendees to a calendar appointment), and behaves in the same manner.

Attaching files to your message (Back to Top)

Email messages can include attachments. You can attach documents, spreadsheets, pictures, slide shows and other types of files.

To attach a file to a message:
  1. Compose the message as described in Composing a new mail message.
  2. Click . The Attach File(s) dialog appears.
  3. Click Browse... to locate the file.
  4. Select the file and click Open. The file name appears in the first Attach field.
  5. To attach a another file, click Browse... again.
  6. When all attachments are selected, click Attach. The files are added to the email message and listed under the subject.
  7. When the message is ready to be sent, click Send to send the message and the attachments.
  • Note: Recipients of your mail message must have the appropriate software to open and read the file. For files created in commonly used packages such as Microsoft Office, other users on a typical desktop system will be able to open them. Common file formats such as text files, HTML files, and images such as .GIF or .JPG files can be opened in a variety of programs. However, it depends on what type of system the user is on.

Attachment file types supported (Back to Top)

You can attach any file on your file system that you can find using the browse button.

You can open any file attachment directly from the Mail Client, provided that your workstation has the right application and the extension is not blocked by your system administrator. For example, to open a document created using Microsoft Word, you need to be able to run Microsoft Word on your computer.

On most computers, the file type is indicated by the extension, which is usually a period followed by a three-letter code. Examples could include files such as expenses.xls or New-Items.doc. If the file type is one that is supported by the installed software on your computer, you can typically double-click the file and your computer will automatically launch the right application for reading that file.

Many types of files can be opened directly from your browser using various plug-ins. Usually, if you click a file link on a page, your browser automatically detects whether or not you have the right plug-in, and prompts you to download it. Note that your system administration policies may not permit end users to download and install any sort of software.

  • Notes:
    On Windows computers, the computer assumes that the file type in the filename matches the actual format. Even if the file is correctly formatted internally, if it does not have the right file type extension in the filename, your computer may not be able to recognize it and open the right application for you.

    An increasing number of computer viruses have been designed to spread via file attachments. Do not open any file attachments that are unexpected, even if it comes from a trusted source.

    If you send an email message to someone whose email system has been configured to block certain types of attachments, you may or may not receive any notification that was blocked.

For your reference, here are some widely used file extensions.

  • .TXT - indicates a text file, which is a file containing only text information. Text files can be opened and read using a wide variety of text editors, including Notepad, WordPad, Word, command-line editors, browsers, and even spreadsheet programs.
  • .HTM - Indicates an HTML file, a special type of text file that is usually opened using a Web browser.
  • .ZIP - Indicates a file that has been compressed using ZIP compression. You will need WinZip or another compression program that can read and expand the ZIP file.
  • .EXE - Indicates an executable or program file. Double-clicking such a file usually launches the application.
  • .DOC - Indicates a Microsoft Word document file.
  • .JPG - Indicates a graphical image in the JPEG format. You can open JPEGs in a browser or by using one of a variety of graphics programs such as Paint or Adobe Photoshop.
  • .GIF - Indicates a graphical image in the GIF format. You can open GIFs in a browser or with a graphics program.
  • .MPG - Indicates a movie clip or animation in the MPEG format. Often playable with a browser plug-in or a player such as Windows media Player.
  • .WMV - Indicates a movie clip in the WMV format, which is a Windows-only format.
  • .PDF - Indicates a document in Acrobat Reader format. You can typically open it from within your browser using a plug-in.

Adding CC: and BCC: addresses (Back to Top)

The abbreviations Cc: and Bcc: stand for carbon copy and blind carbon copy, respectively.

  • Cc: lets you send a copy of a message to someone who's interested, but is not the primary recipient. All CC'ed recipients see the entire list of addressees when they read the message.
  • Bcc: lets you send a copy of a mail message to someone without their address appearing in the copies of the message sent to other recipients
To enter Bcc: addresses for a new mail message:
  1. In the compose window, click Options on the compose toolbar. Select Show the BCC Field.
  2. Click the To:, Cc: or Bcc: button that appears next to the address fields to bring up the address selection dialog if desired. Otherwise, enter your addresses directly in to the desired fields.

You can send a mail message without any addresses in the To: field, as long as there is at least one address in either the CC: or BCC: fields.

Using HTML Editor (Back to Top)

You can compose your messages using HTML as the rich-text editor. Messages created using HTML can have text formatting, numbering, bullets, colored background, tables, and links which can make messages easier to read.

  • Some email clients may not accept messages formatted in HTML.

You set the HTML editor as your default editor and set the default font settings, including style, size and color from the Web Client the Preferences, Composing tab.

Using Spell Check (Back to Top)

  1. To check the spelling of your message click Spell Check on the toolbar.
  2. Words that are unknown to the spell checker are highlighted.
  3. Click on a highlighted word. A pop-up displays suggested corrections.
  4. Select the correct word. The word is highlighted in another color.
  5. To accept your changes and close the spell checker, click on Resume editing.
  • Before you close the spell checker you can change a corrected word back to the original spelling. Click on the highlighted word and select the initial spelling from the top of the pop-up.

Saving messages as drafts (Back to Top)

You can save your message as a draft to be completed and sent at a later time. Messages are saved in your Draft folder until you send them or delete them from the folder.

To create a draft to be edited later:
  • Compose your message as described in Creating a new mail message.

  • Click Save Draft.
  • The draft message is saved to your Drafts folder.
To retrieve a draft message
  • Open the Drafts folder, click on the message.
  • You can compose and send the completed message as normal. When sent, the message is removed from the Drafts folder.