Although replying to an email and composing one are very similar, the few small differences can be tricky, and they all involve your Contacts. If the email address of your Contact is already known to Gmail – i.e. you have already saved it [as detailed in Part 3], composing an email will be easy. However, if you want to send an email to someone brand new, you will have to type their email address in from scratch, and that could cause problems if you do not do it properly.
Taking care with email addresses
One thing you have to remember at all times is that computers take things very literally. With a computer, close enough is not good enough, and this is especially true of email addresses. When you type in an email address from scratch, it has to be exactly right. For example, let’s look at the email address of Kenneth’s friend Single Pixel. It looks like this:
Typing in Singlepixel.firstname.lastname@example.org will not work [the capital letter instead of a lowercase letter counts as a mistake]
Typing in single email@example.com will not work [the blank space counts as a mistake]
Typing in firstname.lastname@example.org will not work [the lack of a ‘.’ also counts as a mistake]
The three examples shown are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of typos, but they do demonstrate how precise an email address must be. This is one very important reason for saving Contact details when you reply to emails.
[Note: you can also enter Contact details manually, but the process is more involved and will not be covered in this Beginners series. If you do want to know how to do it, you can find the Advanced how-to here.]
How to compose an email
Click on the big, red ‘Compose’ button located in your navigation pane [circled in blue below]:
You should now be looking at the ‘New Message’ pop-up. Notice how the blinking cursor is in the ‘To’ field? This means it is ready for you to type the email address.
After you have finished typing in the email address, click in the ‘Subject’ field and type in a short description of what the email is about. Leaving the Subject field blank could make some spam filters think your email is junk, or malware, so it is always a good idea to type something that makes sense.
Finally, click inside the big, blank text area and type the actual message. When you have finished, your message form should look something like this:
Click the big blue ‘Send’ button down the bottom of the message form as shown above [circled in red]. You will get a bright yellow confirmation message from Gmail to let you know your message has been sent.
How to compose an email using saved Contact details
As always, Gmail provides more than one way of doing something, and entering the addressee of your email is no exception.
Click the ‘Compose’ button. Once the ‘New Message’ form pops up, start typing the first few letters of the email address you wish to use.
As you type, Gmail checks all the email addresses you have saved, and it presents you with what it thinks you might want. For example, let’s say Kenneth wants to send an email to David Prosser. He starts typing and this is what happens:
The first match shows the email for David Prosser [because the letter ‘b’ is the first letter of the actual email address]. The second came up with Honie Briggs [because the letter ‘b’ appears in Honie’s surname].
To select one of the options provided by Gmail, you can either click on the correct addressee or, your can simply hit the Enter key on your keyboard. Either way, your chosen addressee will appear in the ‘To’ box like so:
Notice how Gmail inserts the name of the addressee rather than the actual email address? This is an easy way to check that you are, in fact, sending the email to the right person because ‘Barsetman@mail.com’ could be anyone.
This method is particularly useful if you know someone is in your Contact list but you can’t remember anything about their email address – i.e. you can’t just start typing something and expect Gmail to come up with a reasonable match.
In the following example, Kenneth wants to send an interesting quote to one of the three new contacts he has made. He remembers that she liked quotes, but he can’t remember her name or email address.
After clicking on the ‘Compose’ button, Kenneth points the mouse at the word ‘To’ in the ‘New Message’ form. A small, context sensitive tooltip [help message] pops up. It says ‘Select Contacts’:
What that rather cryptic message means is that you should click on the word ‘To’ in order to select a contact[s] from the list of available contacts.
Kenneth clicks the word ‘To’ and the following list pops up:
When Kenneth looks at the list of Contacts, he sees the small graphic [picture] next to the name of Dale Newling and remembers that she is the one who sent him all those interesting quotes.
To select Dale Newling as his addressee, Kenneth clicks her entry [anywhere on the line will do]. The line is highlighted in pale yellow and a tick appears in the checkbox next to Dale Newling’s name:
Before Gmail will accept this Contact as the addressee, however, Kenneth must click the blue ‘Select’ button at the bottom of the pop-up. [This is because Gmail does not know whether you want to ‘Select’ the Contact or save it to a Group.]
Once Kenneth clicks on ‘Select’, the email address for Dale Newling is inserted into the ‘To’ area of his email and he is ready to type a message.
Before Kenneth hits the blue ‘Send’ button, however, he wants to insert something into the email, something fun, like a smiley face.
How to insert a smiley face [emoticon]
With the cursor positioned at the spot where he wants the smiley face to appear, he points the mouse at the emoticon button displayed at the bottom of the ‘New Message’ form:
To insert an emoticon into your email, simply click on the image you want and it will immediately appear at the spot where you left your cursor [or as close to it as possible, space permitting]. As the following screenshot shows, you can insert as many emoticons as you wish.
When you are finished with the emoticons, simply click on the ‘X’ button as shown above. Last, but not least, click the blue ‘Send’ button to actually send your new email to its recipient. Then sit back and wait for them to reply. 🙂
In Gmail for Beginners, Part 5, we will be looking at how to insert something more serious than a smiley face into an email. We will be attaching files and pictures located on your own PC, so you will need to have some knowledge of how to find your way around the files and folders of a PC. If you need some help, my post about basic folders in Windows 7 can be found here.
You can find Part 5 – opening an attachment & attaching a picture [Windows 7], here.