Setting up email on your Mac

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Adding other accounts

For those of you who have screamed “But I have an account with! What am I supposed to do!?” as the drama of this lesson unfolded, calm yourself. Apple has done its level best to make configuring an email account simple, but it can’t know the settings for each and every email service provider across the globe.

And because it can’t, it provides the Add Other Account... entry, which gives you the opportunity to configure an account the old-fashioned way.

Specifically, when you click Add Other Account..., a sheet appears with options for adding accounts related to mail, messages, calendars, and contacts. (You'll also see an option to add an OS X server account—a topic we’ll assiduously avoid for the time being.)

Adding accounts not preconfigured for Mountain Lion

If you have an email account that you’d like to add, select Add a Mail account and click the Create button. Just as with a preconfigured service, a sheet then asks for your name, email address, and password. Fill these in and click Create.

If you’re lucky, OS X will be aware of this service and will configure the service’s settings for you. If fortune isn’t in your favor, you’ll see yet another dialog box informing you that Mail couldn’t discover the account settings. In that case, click the Continue button.

Mail will launch and produce an Add Account window. Within this window you must choose the account type (POP, IMAP, Exchange, or Exchange IMAP) and enter the incoming mail server address (I’ll discuss what these are shortly). Your username and password will be entered automatically. Click Continue, and Mail will make sure that the settings you’ve entered allow it to communicate with the service.

If you use a more obscure email provider, you may see this message.

Click Continue once more. You’ll be asked to choose the kind of incoming-mail security scheme the service employs (password authentication, for example). Click Continue again, and you’re asked for the service’s outgoing-mail server address. Enter it and click Continue, and Mail will make sure that it can communicate with the outgoing-mail server. Once you see the confirmation, click Continue to be prompted for outgoing-mail security settings. Yep, click Continue again when those settings are confirmed, and you’ll see an Account Summary where you can eyeball all the settings you entered. Finally, select the Take Account Online option and click Create to create the account in Mail.

I apologize if I sound like your grandfather relating stories of how he tramped through waist-deep tar to attend school the next county over, but this is the way we used to do things: If you wanted to set up an email account, you had to know an Internet service provider’s server addresses and security settings. And, in some cases, you still do.

Fortunately, such information isn’t a big secret. ISPs post the details on their websites, usually in a support area. Good ones will tell you how to set up their service with specific email clients. (You’ll probably be using Apple’s Mail.) If you can’t find this information, give the ISP a call (you like waiting on hold, right?), tell the representative you’re using a Mac, and ask for this information:

  • Do I have a POP or IMAP account?
  • What’s the incoming server address? (It will be something like
  • What’s the outgoing server address? (It could also be, but it’s more likely along the lines of
  • What security settings do I need? (Should SSL be turned on and what verification scheme should I use?)
  • Do you use unusual incoming and outgoing server ports? If so, what are they?

By the way, if you have the option to choose between a POP or IMAP account, go with IMAP. Without getting too technical about it, an IMAP account allows all your email to synchronize among the devices you use. For example, if you view your email on your iPhone and delete a message, when you next fire up Mail on your Mac, that message won’t appear because you’ve dealt with it elsewhere. With a POP account, the message you deleted on your iPhone will likely appear on your Mac, where you’ll have to delete it once again. The IMAP scheme is the default standard for all the major services—Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud, and AOL.

Once you have this information, see if the support person will hold the line while you configure the account. This will save you from having to call back and wait another hour on hold should the settings not take. Once everything is working, make a note of your settings so that you can reconfigure the account if something goes wrong in the future or if you want to set up another device with this service.

Of course, there’s more. As I mentioned, this Add sheet presents options for dealing with messages, dates, and contacts. But those features go well beyond the basics that we want to cover at the moment. We’ll dive into them when we eventually get to the Messages, Contacts, and Calendar applications.

Next week: Networking basics

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