Electronic mail or 'email' is a quick way of sending messages to people anywhere in the world using IT devices. You send an email to another person's email address. You can also send an attachment, for example, a file or photos with your message.
An email address such as email@example.com is made up of the following parts:
- username - james is the person's name or username
- the '@' stands for the word 'at' and means that they are connected to the email.co.uk part of the address
- after the '@' is the name of the place where the person works or the provider of the person's email address
- 'host name' comes after the @ sign, similar to a postal address
- '.uk' shows that the email address is for someone in the United Kingdom
Sending and receiving email
An email has the following features:
- 'To' - an 'address bar' where you put the email address
- 'Cc' - if you want to copy other people into the message
- 'Subject' - a 'subject bar' is the title of your message, where you write what your email is about
- the 'main body' of your email where you write your message
You can tell that an email is new or unopened as it will appear in bold. You can see who the email is from and the subject of it. You open an email by clicking twice on it, for example, in the subject line. Once an email is open you can reply to it by clicking on the 'reply' button.
- this will open a new email
- the address will already be completed as you are replying to the email
- the subject line will be completed and will start with 'Re':
- you type your message in the main body of the page
- you send by clicking the 'send' button
- to create a new email you click the 'new' button
- you type the email address in the address bar and a subject in the subject bar
- type your message and then press 'send'
Setting up an email account
There are various free email providers such as 'Google', 'Hotmail' and 'Yahoo!' Mail'. Setting up an internet email account means you can use it anywhere in the world.
Creating a Yahoo mail account
- log onto the internet ( 'start' – 'all programs' - internet explorer')
- enter www.yahoo.co.uk into the address bar
- the Yahoo page should be open
- click on 'mail' and 'create a new account'
- follow the onscreen instructions to create an account
- you will need to enter some information about yourself
- create a password between eight and 32 characters - passwords should contain upper and lower case letters and numbers - this is known as a strong password which is harder for someone else to guess
- if you forget your password, the account provider can send information to a mobile phone help you
- click 'create account'
The internet is a giant library where you can find information, keep in touch with people, read the news, follow your hobbies, watch TV programmes, shop, compare prices, pay bills and contact customer service offices with queries or complaints. Information on the internet is contained in websites and on webpages.
Getting connected to the internet
The internet is a worldwide network of computers all connected to each other by telephone lines, cables and satellites. You can access the web from many mobile devices.
To connect, you need an 'Internet Service Provider' or 'ISP'. Your mobile company, home phone, cable television provider or a supermarket chain can offer you an internet connection. A broadband internet connection also allows you to access the internet.
Using a web browser
A web browser is simply a way to view web pages. You can normally open your web browser from a shortcut on your desktop or home screen. Two of the most popular browsers are Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox.
Finding information - the address bar
At the top of the web browser you will find the address bar. To go to a website, type in its name. If there is already an address in the address bar, click to highlight it and start to type. The new address will start to appear.
Every website has its own unique address which does not contain any spaces. Most website addresses have 'www' at the beginning. This stands for World Wide Web. Different parts of the addresses are usually separated by dots (full stops) and forward slashes (/).
For example, the address for the nidirect website is www.nidirect.gov.uk
Searching the internet
To search the internet effectively you need a search engine. A search engine scans thousands of websites and webpages on the internet and collects and organises the information it thinks is most relevant to you.
Some popular search engines are:
Opening a search engine
To use a search engine such as Google or Bing, you need to open your web browser. Type the address of the search engine in the address bar. Click the arrow key on the address bar or press the enter key on the keyboard. This will take you to the search engine. The search engine has a search box, usually in the middle of the screen.
Using a search engine
Type the key words in the search box and press the search button. Key words are words that best describe what you are looking for in the most simple and direct way, for example ‘growing tomatoes’.
The results for your search will be listed as websites and links. The most popular or relevant will appear at the top of the list. To visit a site, click a link.
What you can do on the internet
Things you can do online include:
- look up information
- grocery shopping
- book holidays
- keep in touch
- follow your hobbies
- search for a job
- research your family history
- save money
- find ways to get healthy
- buy and listen to music
- watch videos and the news
- banking and pay bills
You can listen to the radio through the Internet or watch TV on your computer. A common media player is BBC iPlayer, which allows you to watch or listen to a programme after it has been broadcast.
Skype is an application that allows you to make voice calls over the Internet. Calls to other users within the Skype service are currently free and if your computer has a web-cam, you will be able to see the person at the other end. More information on Skype is available below.
You can browse this website to find useful information and complete some transactions. The following pages are just some of the things you will find on nidirect:
- Benefits Adviser
- Get your State Pension
- Applying for pension credit
- Book an MOT/vehicle test appointment
- Renew your driving licence
- Where to find a job
- Family history, heritage and museums
- Pay your rates online
Using online social media
You can use online social media to stay connected with friends, share information, photos and videos and keep up-to-date with your interests. Facebook and Twitter are two of the most popular online social media websites.
Facebook is probably the best known social networking site, with over 800 million active users worldwide. It’s likely that some of your friends and family members already have a Facebook profile.
Anyone over the age of 13 can join Facebook. Many parents and grandparents use Facebook to keep in touch with grandchildren and family around the world.
How to join Facebook
To join Facebook, you have to create a free account which will be your profile page. This can contain as little or as much information as you want.
You can create your account at the Facebook website.
Go to the Facebook website and click ‘Sign Up’. You will see several boxes that require information such as your name and email address. Follow the step-by-step instructions to join.
Profiles can be created using a real name, an alias or nickname, and are often accompanied by a photograph.
Once you’ve created your profile, you can adjust the privacy settings to specify which details you want to be made public.
- a device with an internet connection
- an email account
Key benefits and features of Facebook are:
- it's free
- your friends and family may have already joined - find them by searching their name or email address
- it can be used by anyone, anywhere, as long as there is internet access
- it is available 24 hours a day so you can contact your relatives in Australia without time zones causing a problem
- its users can share messages, video links, photographs and websites
- it can be used to advertise, plan and manage events
- you can use various privacy settings to decide who can view your page and what they can see
'Blog’ is short for ‘web log’. It’s basically an online diary created by someone to record in writing their thoughts, feelings or views on a specific subject or on life in general.
A popular form of blogging is micro-blogging and the most common website used for this is Twitter.
Twitter is a social networking site that allows users to comment on news, events and their day to day lives. Known as ‘microblogging’, these comments – ‘tweets’ – have to be very short. Each entry can be no more than 140 characters long.
A tweet can consist of almost anything – your thoughts, a link to a website, a picture, a video, other people’s comments, replies to others' comments – as long as it stays within the 140-character limit.
To be able to tweet, you must have a user account.
- a device that’s connected to the internet
- an email account
Go to the Twitter website and you will see a sign-up form on the homepage
Follow the step by step instructions to set up a Twitter account.
Key benefits and features
- Twitter is free to use and anyone, anywhere in the world can join
- users can choose to follow tweets shared by experts, politicians, authors and celebrities
- users can share comments from other people by ‘retweeting’ them to their own followers
You can stay private on Twitter, by using an alias or nickname, or by adjusting your privacy settings so that anyone wishing to follow you must request the right to do so.
Skype is an application that allows you to make voice calls over the internet. It is the most popular voice communication service in the world.
Calls to other users with the Skype service are currently free and if your IT device has a built in camera or webcam, you will be able to see the person at the other end (video call), providing they also have a camera or webcam.
If you use Skype, you pay nothing more than the monthly internet service.
Skype mixes voice and instant messaging into one application - talk when you want and type when you want, and seamlessly switch between the two as you wish.
Skype also provides presence information in a very practical way. Presence is the availability and willingness of a person to communicate. For instance, if you find someone online ready to communicate, then there is presence. Skype allows you to know if a person is offline or when they are willing to communicate so you can log back in at that time.
People use Skype mainly for the high quality of voice it offers and because it is free. Skype is extremely useful for communicating with family, friends and loved ones around the world.
What you need to use Skype
To use Skype, you need:
- an IT device with a good internet connection, preferably broadband
- a built in camera or a webcam (although you can still make voice calls without one) – this is a small camera that connects to your computer through a USB port - many computers, especially laptops, have a webcam already built in.
- sound - make sure your sound card is working properly
- speakers and a microphone – many computers will have these built in and webcams often come equipped with microphones. - alternatively, headphones and microphone headsets can be bought at a reasonable price
- the Skype software, which is freely downloadable from www.skype.com
- one or more people to communicate with - they need to be Skype users as well if you want to use the free service
Calls on Skype are free only if the two (or more) communicating parties are using a Skype-compatible device and are using the Skype service over the internet.
For a step-by-step guide to downloading Skype, visit:
More useful links