E-Mail Format

Electronic Mail (e-mail) is one of most widely used services of Internet. This service allows an Internet user to send message in formatted manner (mail) to other Internet user in any part of the world. Message in mail not only contain text, but it also contains images, audio and videos data. The person who is sending mail is called sender and person who receives mail is called recipient. It is just like postal mail service.

Format of E-mail :
An e-mail consists of three parts that are as follows :

1. Envelope
2. Header
3. Body 

These are explained as following below.

1. Envelope :
The envelope part encapsulates message. It contains all information that is required for sending any e-mail such as destination address, priority and security level. The envelope is used by MTAs for routing message.

2. Header :
The header consists of series of lines. Each header field consists of single line of ASCII text specifying field name, colon and value. The main header fields related to message transport are :

  1. To : It specifies DNS address of primary recipient(s).
  2. Cc : It refers to carbon copy. It specifies address of secondary recipient(s).
  3. Bcc : It refers to blind carbon copy. It is very similar to Cc. The only difference between Cc and Bcc is that it allow user to send copy to the third party without primary and secondary recipient knowing about this.
  4. From : It specifies name of person who wrote message.
  5. Sender : It specifies e-mail address of person who has sent message.
  6. Received : It refers to identity of sender’s, data and also time message was received. It also contains the information which is used to find bugs in routing system.
  7. Return-Path : It is added by message transfer agent. This part is used to specify how to get back to the sender.

The above discussed field is represented in tabular form as follows :

Header Meaning
To: E-mail address of primary receipt(s).
Cc: E-mail address of secondary receipt(s).
Bcc: E-mail address for blind carbon copies.
From: Person or people who has created message.
Sender: E-mail address of actual sender.
Received: It is used to specify how to get back to the sender.
Return-Path It can be used to identify path back to the sender.

In addition to above discussed fields, header may also contain variety of other fields which are as follows :

Header Meaning
Date: Date and time when message was sent.
Reply-To: It contains e-mail address to which replies should be sent.
Message-Id: It refers to unique number for referencing this message later.
In-Reply-To: Message-Id of message to which this is as reply.
References: It contains other relevant message-ids.
Keywords: User-chosen keywords.
Subject: It contains short summary of message for one line display.

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