Hour after hour, day after day, we constantly check our email. Given that we spend this amount of time with a single program, it’s important that it give us as little trouble as possible. Here are solutions to two common email problems.

Send email from public places

It’s a piece of cake to send email messages from home or work, but you may find it difficult to send email from such public locations as coffee shops and hotels. The reason for this is that such locations often block common SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol – the email transmission standard) ports.

One way around this is to add a free Gmail (mail.google.com) or Yahoo (mail.yahoo.com) account, as the SMTP ports used by these services are very rarely blocked. Then configure your Mail account to send from this webmail account if it can’t from your regular email account.

If you give Mail more than one choice of SMTP server, it will automatically try using the next in the list when your first choice isn’t available

Launch Mail, open Mail > Preferences, and select the Accounts tab. Select your usual email account, and in the Account Information tab be sure that your Gmail or Yahoo account appears in the Outgoing Mail Server (SMTP) pop-up menu. Now disable the Use Only This Server option. You can add or delete SMTP servers by choosing Edit SMTP Server List from this pop-up menu and clicking the plus sign (+) or minus sign (-) buttons. (See ‘Give Mail a choice’, right.) Next time you’re out and about and want to send email, Mail will attempt to send from the SMTP server configured in the Account Information window. If it fails, it will try any other SMTP servers in the list.

Password problems

There’s nothing more frustrating than launching Mail, only to have it ask for a password it had requested the day before. There are many reasons this can happen.

The first is that your internet service provider’s (ISP’s) mail server may be offline. If you try again, Mail might work just fine. This can also happen when a similar request was made seconds before when your iPhone accessed the account. Worst of all, a hacker may have changed your password.

You have a couple of ways to check if the problem is with your ISP rather than your Mac.

One solution is to attempt to retrieve mail using a different device – your iPad, for instance. If you meet the same resistance, it’s likely there’s a problem with your ISP. The other way to check is to retrieve your email via your ISP’s webmail service. If the password works there but not with your Mac, then it’s a Mac issue.

To troubleshoot a Mac problem, open Mail’s preferences (Mail > Preferences), select the Accounts tab, and re-enter your password in the Password field. Then launch Keychain Access (found in /Applications/Utilities) and use the search field to locate your email account (by typing mail.me.com, for example).

Next enable the Show Password option. When prompted, enter your administrator password and click Allow. Take a look at the password that appears in the Show Password field to see that it matches the password you believe is correct. If there’s no password, add it and click Save Changes.

Next, be sure that you’re using the correct port setting. You’ll find this setting by opening Mail’s preferences, selecting Accounts, selecting the account in question, and clicking the Advanced tab. The receiving port will appear in the middle of the window. Your ISP or IT person can tell you which port you should be using.

If all else fails, delete the account in Mail’s Accounts preference and recreate it. (If you have a POP account, back up your messages first.) When you do, be sure to have all the settings for configuring it to hand. Your ISP will or IT person be able to give you these.