Department of Engineering

Personal Mail Aliases: Advice

How to configure your mailer to use a Personal Mail Alias

See here for how to configure your mail program.

Possible problems when using Personal Mail Aliases

This section warns of some potential problems with using personal email aliases, and suggests ways that you may be able to circumvent them.

In the following description the term CRSid (Common Registration Scheme identifier) is used to describe your University wide computer identifier. This is the identifier that you will use to login to hermes. It is also used as a login identifier on the main Engineering system, and various other University systems. All members of the department have an email address of the form CRSid@eng.cam.ac.uk. Members of staff may also have an additional personal email alias based on their name.

Setting vacation messages

To set a vacation message when you are using an alias is almost exactly the same as when you are using your hermes address. You need to visit Webmail at https://webmail.hermes.cam.ac.uk/ and log in with your username and password. Click the Manage icon and then the Vacation button.

The important difference is that you will have to remember to add your personal mail alias to the box labelled "Aliases:" on the Vacation configuration page. It's best to add all your email addresses to this box, separated by commas, so the vacation message will be sent to people regardless of which address they have contacted you on. eg "crsid@eng.cam.ac.uk, personal.alias@eng.cam.ac.uk".

Subscribing to mailing lists

Mailing list management is becoming more automated, and in order to unsubscribe from a list you will usually need to use the email address you used when you subscribed. If you use more than one email address, or have changed to using a personal alias, you will need to remember which address you used to subscribe with in order to change your subscription options. If the list is managed by sending messages to management addresses, you may need to temporarily reconfigure your mailer to use the original subscription address in order to make the mailing list system recognise you as the person who subscribed.

Using lists.cam.ac.uk

The University's lists.cam.ac.uk list management system understands that addresses of the form CRSid@cam.ac.uk and CRSid@hermes.cam.ac.uk belong to the person with identifier CRSid. This enables the person with that identifier to log onto lists.cam.ac.uk using Raven and adjust their mailing list subscriptions and preferences via the web.

If you normally use a personal mail alias for your email, you need to choose whether to use it or the CRSid@cam.ac.uk or CRSid@hermes.cam.ac.uk form of your address when subscribing to lists.cam.ac.uk mailing lists.

Subscribing via CRSid@cam.ac.uk or CRSid@hermes.cam.ac.uk

  • For: You can log on via Raven to change your mailing list subscriptions and preferences.
  • Against: If the mailing list is "closed" (i.e. posting is restricted to members only), then you will normally only be able to post to the list if you send from the same email address as you are subscribed with. However if your mail program is configured to send mail by authenticated SMTP to smtp.hermes.cam.ac.uk then it will recognise that you are a particular hermes user even when using your personal mail alias.

Subscribing using your personal alias

  • For: If the mailing list is "closed" (i.e. posting is restricted to members only), then you can post to it using your normal email settings.
  • Against: You will not be able to log on via Raven to change your mailing list subscrptions and preferences. Instead you can apply for a separate password which is associated with your personal email alias.

Interaction with Outlook

When you send a message through the hermes mail server it adds a Sender line to the outgoing message to indicate which hermes user sent the message. This allows us to use a preferred email address, such as our personal mail alias, but still allows the hermes adminstrators to trace the message back to the original hermes account in case of abuse. However there is a second use for the Sender: line, and that is for a sender to add their own address if they are sending a message on behalf of someone else: for example a secretary sending something out for a professor. Outlook tries to be helpful in displaying both bits of information at the same time, eg:

From: Secretary Smith [secretary's address]; on behalf of; Professor
Jones [professor's address]

In the case of personal mail aliases this will look something like

From: Your Name [crsid@hermes.cam.ac.uk]; on behalf of; Your Name [personal.alias@eng.cam.ac.uk]

This can be confusing to some recipients, but there is currently no way to avoid it other than using your hermes address for outgoing mail, or configuring your mail program to use a different server for outgoing mail (please contact postmaster for details on how to do this).

Junk email

If you have used and/or published multiple email addresses, they are all likely to get junk email. If you want to advertise your personal email address on web pages you should see E-mail addresses on web pages for details of some ways to do this that reduce the probability of attracting junk email.

General advice on handling junk mail is available here.

Interaction with web based applications

In addition to the lists.cam.ac.uk system mentioned above, some other University web based applications assume a link between the CRSid as authenticated via Raven, and that CRSid in an email address.

In many cases the application just wants to be able to send mail to the person concerned, and will construct an email address by adding an appropriate domain name to the CRSid. This will work as even those who normally use a personal email alias will still receive mail to the CRSid form of the address.

Some applications can operate by accepting incoming email as well as having a web interface. In such cases the application needs to be able to identify the incoming email as coming from a particular login identifier. This is normally easier if the incoming email is sent from the CRSid form of the address rather than from a personal alias based on name. Depending on the application it may be possible for it to be taught about additional personal aliases. At present this is not a major problem, and is more likely to affect systems used by support staff