E-mail has become an essential tool in working and socialising, and being away from the inbox can be a nuisance. We still have a while to wait before technology makes it routine to receive messages effortlessly wherever you are, but in the meantime it is increasingly easy to pick them up.
In most cases, you do not need to dial in to your service provider - being logged in to any e-mail account or having internet access is all that is needed. This means you can borrow a computer for five minutes to check your messages when visiting someone; or read your home e-mails from work.
There are various access methods which work for all 'POP3' type accounts - the standard used by hundreds of internet service providers such as Demon, Tesco and NCE's own Construction Plus. However some, such as AOL, use their own systems and the techniques will not work. Similarly, anyone working for a larger company with its own system will probably have to dial in.
The tried and trusted way to stay in touch, long used by travellers, is to set up an internet based e-mail address such as Hotmail. This allows you to log in via the Hotmail web page on any computer, and read the mail.
But even if you do not want to use Hotmail as your main account, it is useful for checking mail to other addresses. All you have to do is click on the options button, then the POP3 button, and then type in the details for each of your accounts. For Construction Plus for instance, the POP server name is mail.constructionplus.net.
This is great if you have several accounts and need to check them regularly. But there are a couple of more convenient ways of making ad hoc checks from the internet.
At Twigger, all you have to do is select a service provider, such as Freeserve, Currant Bun or Demon, from a drop down list, type in the name your account uses and your password, and you will be given your messages - and can send from there.
But if your internet service provider is not on the list, Twigger cannot help (at least not immediately - it is happy to add to the list). This is where That Web comes in. You type in your full e-mail address and its password; up comes the inbox.
Twigger has a more attractive design, but That Web is more flexible.
Standard e-mail software, such as Microsoft Outlook, can also be configured to check for mail on accounts other than the one you are logged into. This is particularly useful at work,if there is a network and dialling in to a service provider is not possible.
Getting information early might give you a vital advantage; then again it could turn out to be another batch of bad jokes.