By Mark Taylor
For those who are Internet savvy they will already know there are a myriad number of tools out there for keeping in touch with friends and family abroad. But for those who aren’t so savvy, and are interested in both saving money and expanding the methods they have for communicating with friends and family, read on…

Most people will be familiar with email, but for those who aren’t it is an equivalent of a letter that you send electronically. Although it can be argued it doesn’t have the same feel as a handwritten letter, the advantages are that an email is effectively sent and received within a matter of seconds. There are many ways to send and receive email, but webmail (email that you send via a web page) has become one of the popular methods to access it. Webmail has the advantage that you only need access to the web wherever you are to read and send. A site such as the very popular Hotmail is one place to start from

Since the start of the Internet some of the first tools available were for “Instant Messaging” (IM), where you could type a message to someone, and they could reply in realtime from somewhere else around the world. One of the earliest of these was ICQ, but there are many available now including MSN, Yahoo Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger. At their most basic they still have the ability to type messages to someone realtime, but they all now include the ability to have audio conversations as well as video conversations for those with webcams, as well as being able to send photos, other files etc. To get started with IM you have to create a username and password and download the program. Then once the program is installed you use your username and password to login to the program. You’ll then need the usernames of other friends and family which you add to the program (or you get your friends and family to add you) so you can start to talk to them. It’s also important to note that all the programs mentioned are free. All you need is an Internet connection to use them.

In Part 2 next week I’ll cover Internet Telephony and webcams.”

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