I'm new to SharePoint, and this might be an obvious thing, but I haven't stumbled across how to do it yet. I'm wondering if there's a way to easily send email to a addresses from a list. I.E., you load a contacts list in either site in a browser or SharePoint designer, select the contacts to which you wish to send an email. What specifically I want to happen after that, I'm unsure of (I.E., whether the site/designer loads an interface that allows you to type up the body/subject or this action spawns a new Outlook email with the selected addresses in the To line.)
You should take a look into
SPUtility.SendEmail. This is basically what you'll need to send out emails from SharePoint if your SMTP settings are setup. As @DavidLozzi says there is no OOTB SharePoint functionality to do this.
There isn't anything out of the box, there are some 3rd party solutions available, or you could use SharePoint Designer for some basic functionality as well.
If you have the contacts in separate list. you can create a webpart which holds the contacts list emails/name in dropdown and subject and Body textboxes, then using SPUtility.SendMail method send the email to selected Users with your custom message.
Create a separate list and associate a workflow which has send email action to send whenever a new item is created. In that List have a fields for subject and body and lookup field for user in contact list, based on the item values, that workflow can send email to the selected contact.
I've done the later before with a calculate column that concatenates a mail to hyperlink with the users email address. Sharepoint interprets the mailto as a clickable hyperlink and will use the local mail client. Easy, works well and the users liked it.
There is a 3rd party SharePoint solution that fits your requirement - EnovaPoint's JungleMail. Here in sharepoint-community.net is the review of this product.
This one is designed to send group emails and has a history feature, if you enable it, all sent emails are logged. If you meant to use it to send news from certain SharePoint list, JungleMail can also do that, you can set up rules to resolve content from your SharePoint, directly into the email body.