Introduction to Email

In this email overview, you will get an email introduction and will learn what is needed to set up an account.

About email providers

In the past, people usually received an email account from the same companies that provided their Internet access. For example, if AOL provided your Internet connection, you'd have an AOL email address. While this is still true for some people, today it's increasingly common to use a free web-based email service, also known as webmail. Anyone can use these services, no matter who provides their Internet access.

Webmail providers

Today, the top three webmail providers are Yahoo!, Microsoft's Outlook.com (previously Hotmail), and Google's Gmail. These providers are popular because they allow you to access your email account from anywhere with an Internet connection. You can also access webmail on your mobile device.

Top webmail service providers

Visit the links below to compare the features of the three top webmail providers:

Other email providers

Many people also have an email address hosted by their company, school, or organization. These email addresses are usually for professional purposes. For example, the people who work for this website have email addresses that end with @gcflearnfree.org. If you are part of an organization that hosts your email, they'll show you how to access it.

Many hosted web domains end with a suffix other than .com. Depending on the organization, your provider's domain might end with a suffix like .gov (for government websites), .edu (for schools), .mil (for military branches), or .org (for nonprofit organizations).

Email applications

Many companies and organizations use an email application, like Microsoft Outlook, for communicating and managing their email. This software can be used with any email provider but is most commonly used by organizations that host their own email.

Visit our Outlook 2010 tutorial to learn more about using this application.

Email productivity features

In addition to email access, webmail providers offer various tools and features. These features are part of a productivity suite—a set of applications that help you work, communicate, and stay organized. The tools offered will vary by provider, but all major webmail services offer the following features:

In addition, each provider offers some unique features. For instance, when you sign up for Gmail you gain access to a full range of Google services, including Google Drive, Google Docs, and more. Outlook, on the other hand, offers connectivity with OneDrive and Microsoft Office Web Apps. You can visit our tutorials on Google Drive, Google Docs and OneDrive and Office Online to learn more.