Getting the Best from Outlook Express

Any business, regardless of its size, should have and Internet email facility. An Internet address looks good on your business card and, more importantly, it ensures that you are accessible 24 hours a day anywhere in the world.


When it comes to email software, we are spoilt for choice. In fact, there’s so much of it around that it’s often hard to know where to start. Most web browsers include an email client and there’s a wide choice of third party clients. As the choice of email software is so overwhelming, you could easily end up buying a mail solution that far exceeds your needs and your technical skills.


Over the past few years, Windows has been enhanced with a variety of mail clients with varying degrees of Internet support. At the same time, the old directory based Microsoft Mail clients have been phased out in favor of more Internet-oriented clients. Windows 2000/XP installs Outlook Express by default.


Sure, it isn’t the finest email client around, but it is very capable and, more importantly, it is a good starting point for exploring Internet email. Outlook Express offers a good combination of email features and is a fairly good tutor in matters relating to Internet mail, which means that when the time comes to move up you’ll be able to make a more informed choice.


Outlook Express is an add-on for Internet Explorer. In other words, Internet Explorer must be installed before Outlook Express can be used. The good news though, is that you don’t have to use Internet Explorer for browsing if you are already using another web browser.


Getting Started


Let’s assume you are part of a small company that, in the interests of reaching new customers and providing better services to its clients, has decided to setup Internet mail. The idea is to be able to setup several generic email addresses – and then to publicize these in the company’s marketing material.


A simple system like this can be setup at minimal expense with a single dial-up account with an ISP, a single PC with a modem or permanent Internet connection, and a simple Internet email client such as Outlook Express. All that’s really required of the email client software is the ability to filter incoming email according to the recipient address. In this way, as email arrives for the respective ‘info’, ‘sales’ or ‘support’ addresses, it is filtered into separate inboxes according to the address.


One person may deal with all of the mail, or each category might be assigned to an individual. Filter rules can also be applied to forward email to another email address or to consign spam to the trash can.


Outlook Express supports multiple users, so two or more people can use the same PC, with each logging in separately to read their email. One person might login as ‘info’ to read email sent to, while another person could logon as ‘sales’ for email addressed to. If several people in the company decide to use the same copy of Outlook Express, messages can be kept separate provided they each have their own Windows login name and password.


Once you have established a regular communications network with a customer, you might decide that you want to keep your email confidential. Outlook Express supports secure MIME which is designed to send and receive digitally signed and encrypted email. Digitally signed mail verifies the sender, which is a very important precaution to take when, for example, orders are placed over the Internet.


Encryption codes the message so that it is unreadable to all but the authorized recipient. In order to use s/Mime, both parties need a digital certificate. Outlook Express includes a facility that simplifies the process of applying for a digital certificate.


Outlook Express offers a number of features and benefits that make it an attractive first email client for novice Internet mail users. Most notable of these is its support for IMAP4, which enables incoming mail to be stored and managed on the ISP’s mail server (provided that the ISP also supports IMAP4). IMAP4 allows you to read your email from any computer with any email client which supports IMAP4. This is particularly useful if you tend to move about a lot.


Another useful feature is its ability to allow you to review your email before downloading it. In this way if someone sends you a large file and you’re checking your email from a frustratingly slow connection away from the office, you can leave the file on the mail server until you get back to the office.


Setting up Outlook Express is a simple process, enhanced by the fact that it works with most ISPs that provide POP3 incoming mail and SMTP. Most ISPs starter kits include Internet Explorer and Outlook Express, and will setup the basic email system automatically. If they don’t, it’s easy enough to do yourself.

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