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How to Use Mail and Calendar on the iPhone

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Gadget guru Chris Breen offers his best tips for using Apple's Mail and Calendar apps with your iPhone.
This chapter is from the book

Seeking a less-immediate way to communicate than the phone or SMS? Can't figure out how to copy your notes and photos from your iPhone to a computer not synced with your iPhone, or how to receive documents that you can view on your iPhone? Or is your life so tied to email that you can't stand to be away from your computer for more than a couple of hours? If so, you and the iPhone's Mail application are about to become best friends.

Portable email is a real boon, and so is knowing where you're supposed to be from one minute to the next. To help with the latter, the iPhone includes a Calendar application that lets you sync your schedule with your Mac or Windows PC, as well as create calendar events on the go. In this chapter, I explain the ins and outs of both applications.

Using Mail

Mail is a real email client, much like the one you use with your computer. With it, you can send and receive email messages, as well as send and receive a limited variety of email attachments. You can send photos, for example, and receive JPEG graphics files, text, HTML, Microsoft Word and Excel documents, and Adobe PDF documents. Regrettably, you can't edit any of the files you receive; they're read-only.

Mail is limited in some other ways:

  • It has no option for sending a bcc (blind carbon copy) to anyone but yourself. (You'd use a bcc to send someone a copy of a message without letting the recipients in the To field know you've done so.)
  • Unlike all modern computer-based email clients, the iPhone has no spam filter and no feature for managing mailing lists.
  • You can't flag messages or apply rules that allow Mail to sort or copy certain messages (those from a particular sender, for example) into specific mailboxes.
  • Speaking of mailboxes, you can't create new mailboxes on the iPhone, either. Instead, you must create them on your computer or the Web, and you can do so only with IMAP accounts; they'll appear in Mail after you sync the mail accounts on your computer with the iPhone.

The iPhone is capable of sending and receiving email over a Wi-Fi connection and AT&T's EDGE network. Other than the speed of sending and receiving messages, there's no significant difference between running Mail over either network. Note, however, that there's a big difference if you're using your phone overseas. Wi-Fi costs nothing extra, but AT&T imposes punitive roaming charges for using EDGE (for email or anything else) outside the United States.

Now that you know what Mail can and can't do, you're ready to look at how to use it.

Account creation

When you first synced your iPhone to your computer, you were asked whether you wanted to synchronize your email accounts to the phone. If you chose to do so, your iPhone is nearly ready to send and receive messages. All you may have to do now is enter a password for your email account.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Rather than start in the middle, with a nearly configured account, I'll start at the beginning so that you can follow the iPhone's account-setup procedure from start to finish. Here are the steps you take:

  1. Tap the Settings icon in the iPhone's Home screen.
  2. Tap Mail.
  3. Tap Add Account.

    You'll see a page that offers Yahoo Mail, Gmail, .Mac, AOL, and Other. The first four options are Web-based email services; see the sidebar "Configuring Yahoo Mail, Gmail, .Mac, and AOL" in this section for details.

  4. Tap Other.

    I ask you to tap Other because this option lets you set up email accounts that aren't among the four listed in step 3. In the resulting screen, you can configure IMAP, POP, and Exchange accounts. The configuration options for each kind of account are the same.

  5. Tap Name, and enter your real name (as opposed to your user name).
  6. Tap Address, and enter your email address (such as example@examplemail.com).
  7. Tap Description, and enter a description of your account.

    I often use the name of my account for this entry—Macworld, for example.

  8. Below Incoming Mail Server, tap Host Name, and enter the name of the server for incoming mail.

    This information, provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP), is in the format mail.examplemail.com.

  9. Tap User Name, and enter the name that precedes the at (@) symbol in your email address.

    If the address is bruno@examplemail.com, for example, type bruno.

  10. Tap Password, and enter the password for your email account.
  11. Below Outgoing Mail Server (SMTP), tap Host Name, then enter the appropriate text, which, once again, will be provided by your ISP, typically in the form of smtp.exampleemail.com. Tap the User Name and Password fields and enter text as you did in steps 9 and 10 above.
  12. When you've double-checked that everything is correct, tap Save in the top-right corner of the screen.

    The account appears in the list of accounts in the Mail Settings screen (Figure 4.1).

    Figure 4.1

    Figure 4.1 Configured email POP account.

Further configuration

Most people can stop right here and get on with mucking with Mail, but your email account may require a little extra tweaking for it to work. Here's how to do just that:

  1. Tap your account name in the Mail Settings screen.
  2. If you'd like that account to appear in Mail's Accounts list, be sure that the Account slider is set to On.

    Why turn it off? Perhaps you've got a load of messages sitting on the server that you'd rather not download with your iPhone. Download those messages with your computer, delete them from the server, and then enable the account on your iPhone.

  3. Verify that the information in the account's settings fields is correct; if not, tap in the field you want to edit and start typing.
  4. Tap the red Advanced button at the bottom of the screen, and choose the options you want in the resulting Advanced screen for POP accounts (Figure 4.2 on the next page). Use these settings to specify:
    • When you want deleted messages to be removed from the iPhone
    • Whether your account will use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protection to transmit and receive email
    • The kind of authentication your account requires (MD5 Challenge-Response, NTLM, or Password)
    • When you want email to be deleted from the server (options include Never, Seven Days, and When Removed from Inbox).
    Figure 4.2

    Figure 4.2 A POP account's Advanced settings.

This information is individual enough that I'll leave it to your IT or ISP representative to tell you how to configure these options. Worth noting, however, is that you may be able to suss out these settings by looking at how the email client on your computer is configured.

For IMAP accounts, you have some different options. You can choose which mailboxes will hold drafts, sent email, and deleted messages. You can choose when to remove deleted messages (Never, After One Day, After One Week, After One Month). You can also turn on or off Incoming and Outgoing SSL (note that Yahoo Mail doesn't offer an SSL option). You can choose the same authentication schemes as your POP-using sisters and brothers. And you can enter an IMAP path prefix—a pathname required by some IMAP servers so that they can show folders properly.

Mail behavior

Before I leave the Mail Settings screen, I should examine the options that tell Mail how to behave (Figure 4.3 on the next page).

Figure 4.3

Figure 4.3 Additional Mail settings.

View the bottom part of the screen, and you find these options:

  • Auto-Check. How often would you like Mail to check for new messages? Options include manual (Mail checks when you launch the Mail application and then only after you tap the Retrieve icon) and every 15, 30, or 60 minutes.
  • Show. How many messages would you like Mail to display? Options include 25, 50, 75, 100, or 200 recent messages.
  • Preview. When you view message subjects within a mailbox in one of your Mail accounts, you see the first bit of text in each message. The Preview entry determines how many lines of this text you'll see: none, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 lines.
  • Minimum Font Size. This setting determines how large the text will be in your email messages: Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, or Giant. Medium is good for most eyes, and it saves a lot of scrolling.
  • Show To/Cc Label. When this option is set to on, Mail plasters a To next to messages that were sent directly to you and a Cc next to messages on which you were copied.
  • Ask Before Deleting. When you set this option to on, if you tap the Trash icon to delete the message you're reading, you'll be asked to confirm your decision. If you swipe a message and then tap the red Delete icon that appears, however, you won't be asked for confirmation.
  • Always Bcc Myself. If you're the kind of person who wants a copy of every message you send (but don't want the recipients of those messages to know), switch on this option. You'll receive a copy of each message you send.
  • Signature. Ever wonder where that proud Sent from My iPhone message comes from—the one that appears at the bottom of every message you send from your iPhone? Right here. As a new iPhone owner, you'll want to stick with this default message for a while, simply for the bragging rights. Feel free to tap this option later and enter some pithy sign off of your own.
  • Default Account. Although this option is the last to appear in the Mail Settings screen (it's so far down the screen that Figure 4.3 doesn't show it), it's one of the most important settings. If you have more than one email account set up, it determines which account will send photos, notes, and YouTube links. When you send one of these items, you can't choose which account sends it, so give this option some thought. You may discover that Wi-Fi hotspots are reluctant to send mail through your regular ISP's SMTP server, whereas Gmail accounts rarely have this problem. For this reason, you may want to make your Gmail account the default.
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