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10.2. Writing Messages

To send email to a recipient, click the New icon on the toolbar. The New Message form, shown in Figure 10-2, opens. If you've ever sent email from a Windows PC, this should all feel familiar. Here are a few notes:

  • To send this message to more than one person, separate their addresses in the "To:" box with commas: bob@earthlink.net, billg@microsoft.com, steve@apple.com.

  • Mail offers Auto-complete. If somebody is in your Address Book (Section 10.5), just type the first couple letters of his name or email address; Mail automatically completes the address. (If the first guess is wrong, type another letter or two until Mail revises its proposal.)

  • 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.

    Figure 10-2. 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 10.2.2), and the Account pop-up menu lets you pick which email address you'd like to send the message from (if you do, in fact, have more than one email address).

  • A blind carbon copy ("Bcc") lets you send a message to someone on the sly (none of the "To" and "Cc" recipients will know that you sent the message to the "Bcc" recipients). If you're sending a message from a different email address than usual, "Reply-to" lets you specify an email address that your recipient should, well, reply to. And a message's Priority lets you tell your recipients how urgent the message is.

    If you would find these fields helpful while composing a message, click the three-lined pop-up menu on the left side of the New Message window. Click Customize.

    Now just turn on the checkboxes next to whichever fields you want visible, and click OK.

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

    By contrast, formatted messages (see Figure 10-3) 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 Message Format pop-up menu.

    Figure 10-3. If you really want to use formatting, click the Fonts icon on the toolbar to open the Font panel described on Section 4.9, or the Colors icon to open the Color Picker dialog box. 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.

  • As you type your message, Mail checks your spelling, using a dotted red underline to mark questionable words (also shown in Figure 10-3). To check for alternative spellings for a suspect word, Control-click or right-click it. From the list of suggestions in the shortcut menu, click the word you really intended, or choose Learn Spelling to add the word to the Mac OS X dictionary shared by all Cocoa programs (Section 4.8).


    To turn off automatic spell check, choose Edit → Spelling → Check Spelling → Never. Or, if you'd rather Mail wait until you're done composing your messages before spell checking, choose Edit → Spelling → Check Spelling → When You Click Send.

  • When you click Send (or press Shift--D), your Mac connects to the Internet and sends the message.

    If you'd rather have Mail place each message you write in the Outbox folder, quietly collecting them instead of connecting to the Net the moment you click Send, choose Mailbox → Go Offline. While you're offline, Mail will refrain from trying to connect, which is a great feature when you're working on a laptop at 39,000 feet. (Choose Mailbox → Go Online to reverse the procedure.)



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