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19.3. Writing Messages

To send an email, click the New toolbar button. The New Message form, shown in Figure 19-4, opens. Here's how you go about writing a message:

  1. Type the email address of the recipient in the "To:" field.

    If somebody is in your address book ( Section 19.6), just type the first couple letters of the name; Mail automatically completes the address. (If the first guess is wrong, just type another letter or two until Mail revises its guess.)

    As in most dialog boxes, you can jump from blank to blank (from the "To:" field to the CC field, for example) by pressing the Tab key.

    If you want to send this message to more than one person, separate their addresses with commas:bob@earthlink.net, billg@microsoft.com, steve@apple.com.

    The Mighty Morphing Interface

    You don't have to be content with the factory-installed design of the Mail screen; you can control almost every aspect of its look and layout.

    For example, you can control the main window's information columns exactly as you would in a Finder list view window—make a column narrower or wider by dragging the right edge of its column heading, rearrange the columns by dragging their titles, and so on. You can also control which columns appear using the commands in the View→Columns menu. Similarly, you can sort your email by clicking these column headings, exactly as in the Finder (click a second time to reverse the sorting).

    The various panels of the main window are also under your control. For example, you can drag the divider bar—between the list of messages and the Preview pane—up or down to adjust the relative proportions, as shown here. In fact, you can get rid of the Preview pane altogether just by doubleclicking the divider line, double-clicking just above the vertical scroll bar, or dragging the divider line's handle all the way to the bottom of the screen. (Bring it back by dragging the divider line up from the bottom.)

    You can also control the mailbox's drawer. Drag its outer edge inward or outward to make the drawer wider or narrower, for example. You can even make the drawer disappear or reappear by clicking the Mailboxes icon on the toolbar or by choosing View→Hide Mailboxes (or→Show Mailboxes) command.

    If you'd like to swap the drawer to the other side of the main window, drag a message in the main message list horizontally toward the side where you want the drawer to appear.

    Finally, you have full control over the toolbar, which works much like the Finder toolbar. You can rearrange or remove icon buttons (by -dragging them); add interesting new buttons to the toolbar (by choosing View→Customize Toolbar); change its display to show just text labels or just icons—either large or small (by repeatedly -clicking the white, oval, upper-right toolbar button); or hide the toolbar entirely (by clicking that white button or using the View→ Hide Toolbar command).


    If you send most of your email to addresses within the same organization (like reddelicious@apple.com, grannysmith@apple.com, and winesap@apple.com), Mail can automatically turn all other email addresses red. It's a new Panther feature designed to avoid sending confidential messages to outside addresses.

    To turn on this feature, choose Mail→Preferences, click Composing, turn on "Mark addresses not in this domain," and type the "safe" domain (like apple.com) into the blank.

  2. To send a copy of the message to other recipients, enter the email address(es) in the CC field.

    CC stands for carbon copy. Getting an email message where your name is in the CC line implies: "I sent you a copy because I thought you'd want to know about this correspondence, but I'm not expecting you to reply."


    Here's a new Panther feature for you. If Mail recognizes the address you type into the "To:" or CC box (because it's someone in your Address Book), the name turns into a shaded, round-ended box button. Besides looking cool, these buttons have a small triangle on their right; when you click it, you get a list of useful commands (including Open in Address Book).

    These buttons are also drag-and-droppable. For example, you can drag one from the "To:" box to the CC field, or from the Address Book to Mail.

    Figure 19-4. A message has two sections: the header, which holds information about the message; and the body, the big empty white area that contains the message itself. In addition, the Mail window has a toolbar, which you can use to access other features for composing and sending messages. The Signature pop-up menu doesn't exist until you create a signature (Section 19.3.3).

  3. Type the topic of the message in the Subject field.

    It's courteous to put some thought into the Subject line (use "Change in plans for next week" instead of "Yo"). Don't leave it blank; you'll just annoy your recipient.

  4. Specify an email format.

    There are two kinds of email: plain text and formatted (what Apple calls Rich Text). Plain text messages are faster to send and open, are universally compatible with the world's email programs, and are greatly preferred by many veteran computer fans. And even though the message is plain, you can still attach pictures and other files.

    (Resourceful geeks have even learned how to fake some formatting in plain messages: They use capitals instead of italics [GO HOME] "smileys" instead of pictures [ :-) ], and pseudo-underlines for emphasis [I _love_ Swiss cheese!].)

    By contrast, formatted messages sometimes open slowly, and in some email programs the formatting doesn't come through at all.

    To control which kind of mail you send on a message-by-message basis, choose, from the Format menu, either Make Plain Text or Make Rich Text. To change the factory setting for new outgoing messages, choose Mail→Preferences; click the Composing icon; and choose from the Format pop-up menu.

    Figure 19-5. If you really want to use formatting, click the Fonts icon on the toolbar to open the Font panel described in Section , or the Colors icon to open the Color Picker described in Section 4.10.4. The Format menu (in the menu bar) contains even more controls—paragraph alignment (left, right, or justify), and even Copy and Paste Style commands that let you transfer formatting from one block of text to another.


    If you plan to send formatted mail, remember that your recipients won't see the fonts you use unless their machines have the same ones installed. Bottom line: For email to Mac and Windows fans alike, stick to universal choices like Arial, Times, and Courier.

  5. Type your message in the message box.

    You can use all standard editing techniques, including copy and paste, drag-anddrop, and so on. If you selected the Rich Text style of email, you can even use word processor-like formatting (Figure 19-5).

    As you type, Mail checks your spelling, using a dotted underline to mark questionable words (also shown in Figure 19-5). To check for alternative spellings for a suspect word, Control-click it. From the list of suggestions in the contextual menu, click the word you really intended, or choose Learn Spelling to add the word to the Mac OS X dictionary.


    Adding a word to the dictionary in Mail also adds it to the dictionaries of all other OS X programs that use the global Mac OS X spelling checker, and vice versa. In other words, you won't have to teach "speciation" to Mail, Safari, and TextEdit—only to one of them.

    (To turn off automatic spell check, choose Edit→Spelling→Check Spelling As You Type so that the checkmark disappears. If you want to spell-check a message all at once, choose Edit→Spelling→Check Spelling [-;] after composing it.)

    If you're composing a long email message, or if it's one you don't want to send until later, click the Save as Draft button, press -S, or choose File→Save As Draft. You've just saved the message in your Drafts folder. (It will still be there the next time you open Mail.) To reopen a saved draft later, click the Drafts icon in the mailbox drawer, and then double-click the message that you want to work on.

    Blind Carbon Copies—and Reply-To

    A blind carbon copy is a secret copy. This feature lets you send a copy of a message to somebody secretly, without any of the other recipients knowing that you did so. To view this field when composing a message, choose View→ Bcc Header.

    You can use the BCC field to quietly signal a third party that a message has been sent. For example, if you send your co-worker a message that says, "Chris, it bothers me that you've been cheating the customers," you could BCC your supervisor to clue her in without getting into trouble with Chris.

    The BCC box is useful in other ways, too. Many people send email messages (containing corny jokes, for example) to a long list of recipients. You, the recipient, have to scroll through a very long list of names the sender placed in the To or CC field.

    But if the sender used the BCC field to hold all the recipients' email addresses, you, the recipient, won't see any names but your own at the top of the email. (Unfortunately, spammers have also learned this trick.)

  6. Click Send (or press Shift--D).

    If you're not already online, your modem dials, squeals, connects to the Internet, and sends the message.



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