Getting Started with the Windows Mail App

According to MarketingSherpa, 72% of adults prefer businesses to communicate via email. This is true even though there has been a huge increase in texting and social media. Its clear that email is still a primary means of communication. With that in mind, I thought it was a good time to walk you through how to use the free Mail app.

Introducing the Windows Mail App

The Mail app is a standard feature of Windows. It is a simple and easy to use mail app. It doesn’t try to do everything including the dishes. This is one of the things I like about it. It also works with Jaws and NVDA. However, sometimes I find that links within emails open more reliably via NVDA than Jaws. I also find that, while deleting emails can be done by pressing the delete key on the keyboard, this can only reliably be done within the email using NVDA. Jaws, on the other hand, works more reliably by deleting the email from the list of messages.

One other thing I like about the Mail app is that the emails are previewed for you without you needing to open them first. This can save a lot of time because you can quickly decide if you’d like to leave it for later or delete it now.

Starting Mail

Open the Mail app by navigating to the Start window and typing in “mail”. As you type, you will eventually notice “Mail, App, Press right to switch preview” popup. At this point just press ENTER or click on it to open the app.

Setting up Your Email Account

When opening the Mail app for the first time, you will automatically be placed in the Add an Account screen. You have the following choices that you can arrow through:

  •,, Hotmail, MSN
  • Exchange, Office 365
  • Google
  • Yahoo!
  • iCloud
  • Other account
  • Advanced setup

After selecting one of the above options, you can usually just type in your name, email address, and password, and the Mail app will figure out all of the extra server settings that are needed. You may need to use one of the last two options in the list for anything that has unusual email requirements such as work or university emails.

If everything goes well, and assuming everything was typed in correctly, you should now be getting email! 📧 Before you start diving in, there are a few settings you might want to check out first.

Recommended Email Settings

First you can click on the gear icon to open Settings. Screen reader users, tab until you get to the Settings button.

The first thing I recommend is going to the Reading Pane options. I personally don’t like the Mail app moving to the next email message automatically, so I turn off Auto-Open Next Item.

The next thing I turn on is Use the Caret to Navigate within a Message. This allows screen readers such as Jaws, NVDA, or Narrator, to read the content of email messages.

Last in this screen is Apply to All Accounts. If you turn this on, these settings will be automatically applied to any other email accounts that you set up.

To get back to the rest of the settings, either hit BACKSPACE or the Back button on the screen.

Next, I recommend turning off Focused Inbox. This setting tries to triage emails to determine if one is more important than another. It will also try and sort them into various folders. I don’t want to miss anything or have to remember to go into other folders to check what I might have missed, so I turn this off.

Going into the Message List options allows you to turn off conversation view and to determine swipe gestures that are only usable if your computer has a touchscreen. It also allows you to turn off Email Previewing and Image Attachment Previewing.

The Personalization and Default Font options allow you to change visual settings for how emails are displayed.

Notification options allow you to determine if you get the banner stile notifications whenever new emails arrive. You can even turn on a sound if you’d like.

The last option of note in here is the Signature button, which just allows you to add text to the end of your email message. This can be anything you want here. Just don’t make it an entire paragraph. 📖

That is pretty much it for settings. You can just press Escape to close the Settings screen.


Sometimes after deleting, closing, replying/forwarding, or sending a new email, focus will not be placed back on the list of email messages. This is irritating for screen reader users. The quick way to jump back to the list of emails is to press CONTROL+M. This will tell the Mail app to check for new email, and usually also places focus back on the message list. You can sometimes simply SHIFT+TAB TO TRY AND MOVE BACK TO THE LIST OF EMAILS.

You can use the People app to add contacts manually if you’d like. You can tab to it if you’re using a screen reader. Clickers… Well, you know what to do. 🖱

Some like to link all of their accounts into one big inbox. You can use the Manage Accounts button for this.

One interesting thing about the Mail app, when your composing an email to someone, you don’t have to use the To box. Instead, you can just type an at sign followed by the sender’s email in the body of the message. Just press enter when the correct name pops up, and continue writing your email message.

Finally, when opening links within emails, after arrowing or tabbing to it, pressing ENTER doesn’t always open the link. Sometimes you need to use the APPLICATIONS key, also known as the Apps or CONTEXT key. If your keyboard doesn’t have this key, you can use SHIFT+F10 instead. At this point, use your LEFT/RIGHT ARROW keys to find the Open Link option.


Note that the keyboard commands for Reply, Reply All, and Forward can only be used from within an email message.

  • CONTROL+N: Create a new email.
  • ALT+S, or CONTROL+ENTER: Send an email.
  • CONTROL+M: Sync your email account and check for new email. Also usually sets focus back to the list of emails.
  • CONTROL+R: Reply to an email.
  • CONTROL+SHIFT+R: Reply to all recipients.
  • CONTROL+F: Forward an email to someone else.


Everyone’s preference in email clients is different. There are no one size fits all choices, just like with anything else. I think you should at least give it a try. Microsoft regularly updates the app and they are open to feedback. You can always go back into Settings and hit the What’s New button to check out any new updates to the app.


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