Department of Engineering

Personal Mail Aliases


The Department provides two forms of email address for permanent staff: and The login_id form is the one ultimately used by the email system to determine where to deliver the email and as such everyone with a login id for the Department's systems has an address of this form. The personal alias for staff is based on the individual's name, and provides an additional, more memorable option.

Whilst the personal_alias email address is functionally equivalent to the standard login_id form in most respects, there are some potential problems which limit its usability in some circumstances. Additionally we have advice on how to configure your email program to use your personal mail alias.

Getting a Personal Mail Alias

Those who are entitled to a personal mail alias, i.e. staff, will receive an email inviting them to select one via a web page as soon as all the necessary data and requirements are in place (e.g. full names, active Cambridge email account, Raven login). As well as offering various choices of mail alias, this page allows the user to defer their choice or to decide that they do not (and will not ever) want a personal mail alias. Those deferring their choice may receive occasional reminders.

Anyone who is not entitled to a personal mail alias, or whose data is incomplete, or who has had already made a choice will receive an appropriate error message if they access this page. Note that this means that once a choice has been made it is not normally possible to change it.

Forms of Personal Mail Alias

The standard forms of personal mail alias offered by the web form are:

  • preferred_forename.surname - where the preferred_forename is as entered at registration and displayed by e.g. the finger command on the Department's main computer systems.
  • initials.surname
  • initial.surname - where the single initial used is the first letter of the preferred name and, if this differs, the first initial.

Thus Joseph Albert Bloggs, commonly known as Bert Bloggs, would be offered:;;; and assuming that none of these had already been allocated to someone else, e.g. his brother Ben.

In some rare cases (see below), the standard forms may be inappropriate or unavailable, and another form may be requested.

Choice of Personal Mail Alias

The choice of personal mail alias is by implication a personal one but it is worth bearing certain factors in mind, e.g.:

  • memorability - for most people this probably implies the preferred_forename.surname style.
  • uniqueness - people may try to guess mail addresses, so if you choose an alias which is likely to fit someone else as well (e.g. b.bloggs as above) you may get mail intended for them rather than you. If you leave, the alias may be reallocated and someone else may get mail intended for you (a "fallow period" is left before aliases are reallocated to reduce this problem). The initial.surname style is particularly likely to suffer this problem when the surname is fairly common.
  • length - the longer your surname, the more sensible the single initial form may become (and long surnames tend to be less common).

Non-Standard Personal Mail Alias

It is expected that personal mail aliases will almost always conform to one of the forms listed above but there may be few cases where these are not appropriate. Decisions on these will be made by the Head of Department advised by a small committee. Requests should be made by email to explaining why a non-standard alias is needed. The next paragraph explains the factors which will influence this decision.

In general, the closer the requested alias is to one of the standard forms given above, the more likely it is to be approved. For example someone with a long multi-component surname might reasonably request a personal alias in essentially one of the forms above except that the surname part contains only the component they normally use. Cases where most of the standard forms have already been allocated to other people will also be favourably viewed. Conversely it is very unlikely that requests for an alias not containing a dot will be granted as the dot is included to avoid the risk of clashes with system mail addresses, e.g. amanda for the popular disk backup server: both current (which are all dot-less) and future.

Once a personal email alias choice has been made it is not normally possible to change it. However if a staff member has an official change of name, e.g. on marriage or divorce, and wishes to have their personal alias reflect that change, they should contact explaining the situation.