The return receipt option is a feature offered by some email service providers. Just as with physical “snail mail,” using this feature can be very useful. For one thing, it serves as confirmation of delivery. It may also provide additional information of value, such as the time and date the email was read, and the IP (Internet Protocol) address of the local computer or network that received it. With the large number of email service providers available, the best way to find out which ones have a return receipt option is to contact the service and ask.
Requesting a return receipt doesn’t necessarily mean one will actually be received. First, the recipient’s email application may not support this feature, and some privacy policies allow individual users to opt-out of email tracking. This means that the recipient may disable the feature and still read the email. In addition, if the sender’s email address is not pre-approved or is otherwise filtered, the email may be automatically directed to a “spam” folder and never be viewed at all.
While there are dozens of web-based email providers — and some that don’t require an internet connection at all — surprisingly few offer the return receipt feature. Some of the more mainstream email clients do, such as America Online (AOL), Netscape®, and Microsoft Outlook®. Still, users should be aware that even though these applications may have this option, it is usually disabled by default. In fact, it can sometimes take a few extra clicks for the sender to figure out how to send email with this feature enabled.
For example, the Outlook® application has a number of return receipt options that can be accessed by selecting “Options” from the pull-down menu under “Tools” from the main menu bar. From here, the user can elect to request a return receipt for all email sent, to be prompted before sending individual email, or to disable the feature entirely. The user can also choose to send a receipt for incoming email.
America Online is much more straightforward with its options. With this application, there is a tab that reads “Request Return Receipt” at the bottom of the window from which email is composed that can be checked. In addition, since AOL is a subscription-based service, members can track the status of all email sent to other AOL members. This feature is available without even requesting a receipt.
With Netscape®, these options are available in the “Mail and Newsgroups” area under “Preferences” from the “Edit” pull-down menu. As with Outlook®, Netscape® users can choose to request a return receipt for all outgoing email or only for some. As with AOL, users can simply select “Compose” to launch a new email window and check the box to request a receipt from there.