Posted by: Staff | 02.20.2008

Oh FirstClass (with FirstClass tips & tricks)


I, like many students, have a love-hate relationship with FirstClass. During the final stretches of the Junior History paper last year, I think quite a few of us became painfully aware that it goes down from 2:00 AM to around 3:15 AM for backups. Web access is frequently unreliable, and has a nasty habit of logging you off after even the briefest spurt of inactivity—without notifying you or saving your message-in-progress. (I’ve heard it said that “FirstClass is down” is the new “My printer broke” is the new “My dog ate my homework.”)

Even when, technically speaking, it works fine, there are issues. Take, for instance, the trichotomy of Middle School News, Upper School News, and Student News. Theoretically, all-school announcements should go in Student News, Middle School-only announcements should go in Middle School News, and Upper School-only announcements should go in Upper School News. But in practice, there are very few announcements that are that specific. Usually, items just get posted everywhere they can, which results in a tremendous amount of redundancy.

A few different types of item get into these news conferences. There are, of course, the news items. There are the uploaded documents, like the Senior Yearbook Pages instruction document (which is really just for seniors) or the Support Our Troops document. But most items pertain to Lost and Found.

A few years ago, Vivek Pai ’08 designed a dedicated Lost and Found web site (akin to his Library web site) which introduced an organized and logical system for tracking those ubiquitous wayward personal possessions. Unfortunately, it was never really adopted. Other efforts have sprung up, too, ranging from fashion shows to placement in last year’s winter play. Yet the FirstClass news conferences and (to some extent) the daily meetings continue to bear the brunt of the burden.

Occasionally debates spring up. For instance, is it acceptable to campaign for class officer in Student News? A couple months ago, a lengthy discussion of the merits of various superheroes took over Student News for several days. It makes me wonder whether there should be a conference just for discussion—where better to debate school policy than on the email system that most people check regularly?

Part of the purpose of this newspaper is to provide a home for that kind of discussion. But thus far, there hasn’t been too much debate in the comments. Is it because our readership is too small? Or because our readers are hesitant to comment? Or both?

In any case, FirstClass is a huge part of our school, yet one that it not always well-understood. To help you make the most of it, we’ve compiled a list of useful tips and tricks.

Toph’s Terrific Tech Tips
dedicated to Alex Firer, who never forgave me for abandoning “Toph’s Terrific Tech Tips” after just one presentation in 6th grade…

  1. Want to download the FirstClass client at home? Good idea—it’s much better and works more often. Setting it up is simple:

    a. There are several versions each available for Windows, Mac, or Linux, and in 12 different languages. Their web site forces you to deal with a big messy table, but we’ll make it simple: Windows English or Mac OSX English. If you need something else, go here.

    b. Install the software and open it up. In the upper right corner of the login window, click “Setup.” Enter next to “Server:”, which is about halfway down the page. Click Save.

    c. Login in just like you would at school. You should be all set!

  2. Stuck using it in a browser? That’s fine. A few tips:

    a. The site is (in case you forget)

    b. It has a tendency to log you out while you’re writing a message without telling you. So when you try to send it, it’ll tell you you’ve been logged out, and your message will be lost. Just in case, get in the habit of copying the text of your message before sending it. (On Windows, with the cursor in the message box, Ctrl-A followed by Ctrl-C should do it. Ctrl-V pastes your message back in if you lose it.)

  3. Out of storage? At a certain point you’ll need to delete some messages to send new ones. If it still won’t let you send anything, try logging out and then back in.
  4. FirstClass only saves messages for one year. You can keep a message for longer by right-clicking it, clicking Properties, and setting the Expiry Period to “Never.” (Pretty soon, though, you’ll start bumping up against that storage limit.)
  5. FirstClass goes down for server maintenance every night between 2:00 and 3:15 AM. Keep that in mind when you’re putting the finishing touches on your History paper at 1:45 AM.
  6. Did you just accidentally send a message without attaching something? Did your message have an unfortunate misspelling? Click “Unsend” on the toolbar. It’ll only work when sending messages to other school accounts, but it can be a life-saver.
  7. FirstClass stalking: click the “History” button on the toolbar to see who has read your emails.
  8. FirstClass’ quirks, small storage limit, and downtime mean that your messages aren’t particularly safe. But you can set it up to automatically forward everything you get to another email address. You won’t be able to reply to the sender, and you won’t have access to some message info (e.g. time sent, time received, time read), but it’s a lot better than nothing. My FirstClass account forwards everything to my Gmail account, so I can delete big 10MB emails on FirstClass but still have them on Gmail, and I can read my emails even when FirstClass is down. To set this up…

    a. In the program: on the Desktop, go to Edit (at the top menu bar) and click Preferences. In the Messaging tab, under “Automatically forward,” type your email address in the “Forward to:” box. Select “Yes” in the drop-down boxes for Local Mail, Internet Mail, and Voice/Fax Mail. Where it says “Method,” make sure it says “Forward.” (Do NOT set it to redirect, or else it won’t show up in your FirstClass mailbox.) Click the OK button in the bottom-right.

    b. On the web site: on the Desktop, click Preferences on the left. Scroll down to messaging. Under “Automatically forward,” type your email address in the “Forward to:” box. Select “Yes” in the drop-down boxes for Local Mail, Internet Mail, and Voice/Fax Mail. Where it says “Method,” make sure it says “Forward.” (Do NOT set it to redirect, or else it won’t show up in your FirstClass mailbox.) Scroll all the way down and click the Save button.

  9. You can customize your FirstClass appearance, both the program and the web version. Play around with the different options—you’ll have to log out and back in to see the changes.

    a. To change the appearance of the program, go to Edit (on the menu at the top), Preferences, and then the Viewing tab. Look at the drop-down options next to “Client interface.” “FirstClass Explore,” for instance, lets you keep everything—desktop menu, mailbox, and the message you’re currently reading—in a single window. (You can change other aspects of the appearance under the General tab.)

    b. To change the appearance of the web version, again go to Edit, Preferences, and then the Web tab. There are a couple of interesting options in the dropdown menu next to “Web client interface.” For instance, “Mobile Device” gives a simplified interface optimized for viewing on, say, an iPhone or another cell phone.

Have any other good tips? Any questions? Any thoughts on FirstClass, on the purpose of the news conferences, or anything else? We welcome your comments.

UPDATE: An anonymous commenter pointed out another fantastic feature of FirstClass–chat. There are a few different ways to start one, but the simplest might be clicking “Who’s Online” on the desktop toolbar and clicking Instant Message on the toolbar. (There’s also a dedicated Chat button right in the main window, but I think it moves around depending on which version you have.) From there you can invite people with the button in the lower right.



  1. You forgot to mention first class chat. Being an avid first class supporter, I’d have to say it is my favorite thing in the whole system

  2. Avid FirstClass supporter, eh? Then you must not have voted in the poll, because 7/7 voters claim to have a love/hate relationship with it. 🙂

    Yes, FirstClass chat is pretty amazing. At first I’d be inclined to call it more of a feature, not a “tips & tricks” kind of thing. But I think you’re right, it deserves a mention. I just updated the article.

  3. It’d also be interesting to compile a comprehensive list of FirstClass glitches. For instance, I once convinced it that I was using 0 MB of the 50 MB of mailbox space, when in fact my mailbox was almost full. (Unfortunately, it couldn’t be put to good use, because it noticed its mistake as soon as you tried to actually send something.) Just now I took a look at the History of an email and saw that the recipient had read my email more than 2 hours before I sent it. Huh!??!

  4. How about using First Class for discussion forums with audio???Yeah, I know, is more like a “feature” than a tip/trick, but still very useful.You would know, since you used it several times when your class (Spanish IV-Honors) was my “piloting group” for First Class audio debates…

  5. Who is this “Alex Firer” that you mention, because that is me and I don’t know you.

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