1. Start Here

If you're new to using email (or electronic mail to give it its full name), or you've used email elsewhere and aren't sure how things work at Oxford, then this guide will take you through the basic steps to get going.

If you'd prefer some information on email that's more geared to being printed out and read through, then take a look at our other introductory email guides. There's one version for beginners and another for more experienced users of email who already know the basics.

Now, as you've already got this far, we'll assume that you can handle a web-browser and that you know how to click on things to move around.

When you're ready, click on the Using this Guide entry to get to the next section.

2. Using this Guide

OK, you made it! By now, you may have noticed that this guide is divided into sections as listed on the menu-bar at the left of this window. Although it's intended that you work through sections in order, you can use the menu-bar to skip forwards or go back if you get lost. You can also use the browsers scroll bars and the Previous/Next/Start buttons (below) to move around.

Some parts of the guide will open up a separate web window so that you can go and perform another task. When you've finished that task, you can close down the second window and come back to just seeing this one.

Let's give that a quick try. Open up a second window by clicking here and follow the instructions there.

After you've done that, and have returned here, move on to the next section on Email Concepts.

3. Email Concepts

When someone sends an email, then as well as the message itself, they include the recipient's email address. The mail transmission system uses the address to route the message to the recipient's mail server - this is just a computer system equipped for storing and providing access to email. The mail server holds the message until the recipient connects to it to check for new mail.

To use email, you need an account on a mail server system. This provides:
  • An email address so that your incoming messages end up in the right place
  • A private mail storage area that will hold incoming messages until they get read
  • Secure access to that area via a username and password
  • Many servers also provide an area for you to file messages once they've been read.

The main central email server at Oxford is called Nexus. Nexus is one of the systems run by OUCS (Oxford University Computing Services). The next section Central Email tells you about the central (as opposed to a Department or College) mail account.

4. Central Email

Any current University member can use the central mail service (Nexus). However, a few Colleges and Departments run their own mail servers, which they prefer their members to use. Your local IT staff will advise you about this.

All new members of the University are automatically pre-registered for a central Oxford (Nexus) account for when they arrive in Oxford (this is also called the Single Sign-On account or simply SSO). The details are sent via internal mail to your College, if you are a student, or to your Department, if you are staff. The issuing of your University Card triggers this process, so expect to get these details about the same time as you get your University Card. Your Department or College can request that a University Card (and hence your email account) be set up before you arrive in Oxford. Your email account and address are only valid whilst your University Card is current.

If you have not received your account details, and you have had your Card for at least two working days, your IT support officer can request new details be emailed or faxed to him/her. Alternatively, you can contact OUCS via our Problem Report web page and a replacement set of details will be put in the internal mail.

5. Email Addresses

Most Oxford users have an email address relating to their college, e.g. chris.jones@balliol.ox.ac.uk Graduate and staff users also get an email address relating to their department, e.g. chris.jones@chem.ox.ac.uk.

Incoming mail to any of these addresses is delivered to the same account. Outgoing messages are always "stamped" with one particular version. (Users with more than one Oxford email address can use the Nexus account settings to specify which one Nexus should use when sending mail.)

6. Web Access to Nexus

The letter sent to your College or Department will contain details of how to activate your Oxford account. Once this has been done, you can start to use the system. The simplest way to get started is via Nexus's web-based Outlook Web Access. All you need is Nexus's internet address which is https://nexus.ox.ac.uk/owa - you can type this into your web-browser's address box just like any other web address.

Click here to open up a Nexus connection in a separate window. You'll see entry boxes for your username and password. Try entering these (remembering to distinguish upper and lower case letters) then click on the Login button. All being well, you should get logged in to your Nexus account.

A full guide to Nexus Outlook Web Access interface is available elsewhere. The most important thing to remember about using Outlook Web Access, or any SSO service, is to close down your web browser completely at the end of your computer session. If you don't do this, someone else could access all your mail.

A big attraction of web-based email is that it is available from any web-browser (e.g. in an internet café).

7. Using an Email Client

Although Nexus Outlook Web Access interface is very simple to use, it is really geared to "online" working where you have an active connection to the mail server. For some people, particularly those on dial-up connections over a phone-line, this may be inconvenient or expensive.

As an alternative, you can access Nexus using a more specialised email client program such as Outlook, Entourage or Thunderbird. Such programs usually provide support for "offline" working so that you can review or reply to messages without currently being connected to the server.

Setting up an email client program involves a bit of work in entering configuration information about your email server and account details.

9. Installing Email Clients

Microsoft Outlook, which is included in Microsoft Office, is available from the Computing Services Shop (this excludes personal student purchases).

Microsoft Outlook Express is now commonly installed on new computers. If you have a copy, check that it's a reasonably current version (ideally version 6 or later) - the version number is usually shown when you start up the program. Apart from additional features, newer versions also offer more protection against viruses and so on; however, they will require more disk-space and memory on your machine.

You can obtain or update a copy of Internet Explorer and Outlook Express via Microsoft's web site.

10. Email Client Set-up

Detailed set-up instructions are available for a range of clients via the Nexus client pages.

After you've installed and configured your email client, or if you want to try out the Outlook Web Access interface, a good practice exercise is to try sending an email message to yourself.

11. What Next?

That's the end of this brief "getting going" guide.

OUCS also provides a great deal of online information about email-related topics - the best starting place is the email index page.