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RocketLink!--> Man page versions: OpenBSD FreeBSD NetBSD RedHat Solaris Others

MAIL(1)                    OpenBSD Reference Manual                    MAIL(1)

     mail, mailx, Mail - send and receive mail

     mail [-iInv] [-s subject] [-c list] [-b list] to-addr [...] [-sendmail-
          options [...]]
     mail [-iInNv] -f [name]
     mail [-iInNv] [-u user]

     mail is an intelligent mail processing system which has a command syntax
     reminiscent of ed(1) with lines replaced by messages.

     -v    Verbose mode.  The details of delivery are displayed on the user's

     -i    Ignore tty interrupt signals.  This is particularly useful when us-
           ing mail on noisy phone lines.

     -I    Forces mail to run in interactive mode, even when input is not a
           terminal.  In particular, the special ~ command character, used
           when sending mail, is only available interactively.

     -n    Inhibits reading /etc/mail.rc upon startup.

     -N    Inhibits initial display of message headers when reading mail or
           editing a mail folder.

     -s subject
           Specify subject on command line (only the first argument after the
           -s flag is used as a subject; be careful to quote subjects contain-
           ing spaces).

     -c list
           Send carbon copies to list of users.  list should be a comma sepa-
           rated list of names.

     -b list
           Send blind carbon copies to list.

     -f name
           Read in the contents of your mailbox (or the specified file name)
           for processing; when you quit, mail writes undeleted messages back
           to this file.

     -u user
           Is equivalent to:

                 mail -f /var/mail/user

           except that locking is done.

   Startup actions
     At startup time, mail will execute commands in the system command files
     /usr/share/misc/mail.rc, /usr/local/etc/mail.rc and /etc/mail.rc in order
     unless explicitly told not to by using the -n option. Next, the commands
     in the user's personal command file ~/.mailrc are executed.  mail then
     examines its command line options to determine whether the user requested
     a new message to be sent or existing messages in a mailbox to be exam-

   Sending mail
     To send a message to one or more people, mail can be invoked with argu-
     ments which are the names of people to whom the mail will be sent.  You
     are then expected to type in your message, followed by a control-D (`^D')
     at the beginning of a line.  The section below, Replying to or
     originating mail, describes some features of mail available to help you
     compose your letter.

   Reading mail
     In normal usage, mail is given no arguments and checks your mail out of
     the post office, then prints out a one line header of each message found.
     The current message is initially set to the first message (numbered 1)
     and can be printed using the print command (which can be abbreviated p).
     Moving among the messages is much like moving between lines in ed(1);
     you may use + and - to shift forwards and backwards, or simply enter a
     message number to move directly.

   Disposing of mail
     After examining a message you can delete (d) or reply (r) to it.  Dele-
     tion causes the mail program to forget about the message.  This is not
     irreversible; the message can be undeleted (u) by giving its number, or
     the mail session can be aborted by giving the exit (x) command.  Deleted
     messages, however, will usually disappear, never to be seen again.

   Specifying messages
     Commands such as print and delete can be given a list of message numbers
     as arguments to apply to a number of messages at once.  Thus delete 1 2
     deletes messages 1 and 2, while delete 1-5 deletes messages 1 through 5.
     The special name `*' addresses all messages and `$' addresses the last
     message; thus the command top which prints the first few lines of a mes-
     sage could be used in top * to print the first few lines of all messages.

   Replying to or originating mail
     You can use the reply command to set up a response to a message, sending
     it back to the person who it was from.  Text you then type in, up to an
     end-of-file, defines the contents of the message.  While you are compos-
     ing a message, mail treats lines beginning with the tilde (`~') character
     specially.  For instance, typing ~m (alone on a line) will place a copy
     of the current message into the response, right shifting it by a single
     tab-stop (see indentprefix variable, below).  Other escapes will set up
     subject fields, add and delete recipients to the message and allow you to
     escape to an editor to revise the message or to a shell to run some com-
     mands.  (These options are given in the summary below.)

   Ending a mail processing session
     You can end a mail session with the quit (q) command.  Messages which
     have been examined go to your mbox file unless they have been deleted in
     which case they are discarded.  Unexamined messages go back to the post
     office (see the -f option above).

   Personal and system wide distribution lists
     It is also possible to create personal distribution lists so that, for
     instance, you can send mail to ``cohorts'' and have it go to a group of
     people.  Such lists can be defined by placing a line like

           alias cohorts bill ozalp jkf mark kridle@ucbcory

     in the file .mailrc in your home directory.  The current list of such
     aliases can be displayed with the alias command in mail. System wide dis-
     tribution lists can be created by editing /etc/aliases, (see aliases(5)
     and sendmail(8));  these are kept in a different syntax.  In mail you
     send, personal aliases will be expanded in mail sent to others so that
     they will be able to reply to the recipients.  System wide aliases are
     not expanded when the mail is sent, but any reply returned to the machine
     will have the system wide alias expanded as all mail goes through

   Network mail (ARPA, UUCP, Berknet)
     See mailaddr(7) for a description of network addresses.

     mail has a number of options which can be set in the .mailrc file to al-
     ter its behavior; thus set askcc enables the askcc feature.  (These op-
     tions are summarized below.)

     (Adapted from the ``Mail Reference Manual''.)

     Each command is typed on a line by itself, and may take arguments follow-
     ing the command word.  The command need not be typed in its entirety --
     the first command which matches the typed prefix is used.  For commands
     which take message lists as arguments, if no message list is given, then
     the next message forward which satisfies the command's requirements is
     used.  If there are no messages forward of the current message, the
     search proceeds backwards, and if there are no good messages at all, mail
     types ``No applicable messages'' and aborts the command.

     -       Print out the preceding message.  If given a numeric argument n,
             goes to the nth previous message and prints it.

     ?       Prints a brief summary of commands.

     !       Executes the shell (see sh(1) and csh(1))  command which follows.

     Print   (P) Like print but also prints out ignored header fields.  See
             also print, ignore and retain.

     Reply   (R) Reply to originator.  Does not reply to other recipients of
             the original message.

     Type    (T) Identical to the Print command.

     alias   (a) With no arguments, prints out all currently defined aliases.
             With one argument, prints out that alias.  With more than one ar-
             gument, creates a new alias or changes an old one.

             (alt) The alternates command is useful if you have accounts on
             several machines.  It can be used to inform mail that the listed
             addresses are really you.  When you reply to messages, mail will
             not send a copy of the message to any of the addresses listed on
             the alternates list.  If the alternates command is given with no
             argument, the current set of alternate names is displayed.

     chdir   (c) Changes the user's working directory to that specified, if
             given.  If no directory is given, then changes to the user's lo-
             gin directory.

     copy    (co) The copy command does the same thing that save does, except
             that it does not mark the messages it is used on for deletion
             when you quit.

     delete  (d) Takes a list of messages as argument and marks them all as
             deleted.  Deleted messages will not be saved in mbox, nor will
             they be available for most other commands.

     dp      (also dt) Deletes the current message and prints the next mes-
             sage.  If there is no next message, mail says ``at EOF''.

     edit    (e) Takes a list of messages and points the text editor at each
             one in turn.  On return from the editor, the message is read back

     exit    (ex or x) Effects an immediate return to the shell without modi-
             fying the user's system mailbox, his mbox file, or his edit file

             in -f.

     file    (fi) The same as folder.

             List the names of the folders in your folder directory.

     folder  (fo) The folder command switches to a new mail file or folder.
             With no arguments, it tells you which file you are currently
             reading.  If you give it an argument, it will write out changes
             (such as deletions) you have made in the current file and read in
             the new file.  Some special conventions are recognized for the
             name.  # means the previous file, % means your system mailbox,
             %user means user's system mailbox, & means your mbox file, and
             +folder means a file in your folder directory.

     from    (f) Takes a list of messages and prints their message headers.

             (h) Lists the current range of headers, which is an 18-message
             group.  If a `+' argument is given, the next 18-message group is
             printed; if a `-' argument is given, the previous 18-message
             group is printed.

     help    A synonym for ?.

     hold    (ho, also preserve) Takes a message list and marks each message
             therein to be saved in the user's system mailbox instead of in
             mbox. Does not override the delete command.

     ignore  Add the list of header fields named to the ignored list. Header
             fields in the ignore list are not printed on your terminal when
             you print a message.  This command is very handy for suppression
             of certain machine-generated header fields.  The Type and Print
             commands can be used to print a message in its entirety, includ-
             ing ignored fields.

     inc     Incorporate any new messages that have arrived while mail is be-
             ing read.  The new messages are added to the end of the message
             list, and the current message is reset to be the first new mail
             message.  This does not renumber the existing message list, nor
             does it cause any changes made so far to be saved.  If ignore is
             executed with no arguments, it lists the current set of ignored

     mail    (m) Takes as argument login names and distribution group names
             and sends mail to those people.

     mbox    Indicate that a list of messages be sent to mbox in your home di-
             rectory when you quit.  This is the default action for messages
             if you do not have the hold option set.

     more    (mo) Takes a message list and invokes the pager on that list.

     next    (n) (like + or CR) Goes to the next message in sequence and types
             it.  With an argument list, types the next matching message.

             (pre) A synonym for hold.

     print   (p) Takes a message list and types out each message on the user's

     quit    (q) Terminates the session, saving all undeleted, unsaved mes-
             sages in the user's mbox file in his login directory, preserving
             all messages marked with hold or preserve or never referenced in
             his system mailbox, and removing all other messages from his sys-
             tem mailbox.  If new mail has arrived during the session, the
             message ``You have new mail'' is given.  If given while editing a
             mailbox file with the -f flag, then the edit file is rewritten.
             A return to the shell is effected, unless the rewrite of edit
             file fails, in which case the user can escape with the exit com-

     reply   (r) Takes a message list and sends mail to the sender and all re-
             cipients of the specified message.  The default message must not
             be deleted.

             A synonym for reply.

     retain  Add the list of header fields named to the retained list. Only
             the header fields in the retain list are shown on your terminal
             when you print a message.  All other header fields are sup-
             pressed.  The Type and Print commands can be used to print a mes-
             sage in its entirety.  If retain is executed with no arguments,
             it lists the current set of retained fields.

     save    (s) Takes a message list and a filename and appends each message
             in turn to the end of the file.  The filename in quotes, followed
             by the line count and character count is echoed on the user's

     set     (se) With no arguments, prints all variable values.  Otherwise,
             sets option.  Arguments are of the form option=value (no space
             before or after =) or option. Quotation marks may be placed
             around any part of the assignment statement to quote blanks or
             tabs, i.e., set indentprefix="->".

             saveignore is to save what ignore is to print and type. Header
             fields thus marked are filtered out when saving a message by save
             or when automatically saving to mbox.

             saveretain is to save what retain is to print and type. Header
             fields thus marked are the only ones saved with a message when
             saving by save or when automatically saving to mbox. saveretain
             overrides saveignore.

     shell   (sh) Invokes an interactive version of the shell.

     size    Takes a message list and prints out the size in characters of
             each message.

     source  The source command reads commands from a file.

     top     Takes a message list and prints the top few lines of each.  The
             number of lines printed is controlled by the variable toplines
             and defaults to five.

     type    (t) A synonym for print.

             Takes a list of names defined by alias commands and discards the
             remembered groups of users.  The group names no longer have any

             (u) Takes a message list and marks each message as not being


     unread  (U) Takes a message list and marks each message as not having
             been read.

     unset   Takes a list of option names and discards their remembered val-
             ues; the inverse of set.

     visual  (v) Takes a message list and invokes the display editor on each

     write   (w) Similar to save, except that only the message body
             (without the header) is saved.  Extremely useful for such tasks
             as sending and receiving source program text over the message

     xit     (x) A synonym for exit.

     z       mail presents message headers in windowfuls as described under
             the headers command.  You can move mail's attention forward to
             the next window with the z command.  Also, you can move to the
             previous window by using z-.

     Here is a summary of the tilde escapes, which are used when composing
     messages to perform special functions.  Tilde escapes are only recognized
     at the beginning of lines.  The name ``tilde escape'' is somewhat of a
     misnomer since the actual escape character can be set by the option

             Execute the indicated shell command, then return to the message.

     ~bname ...
             Add the given names to the list of carbon copy recipients but do
             not make the names visible in the Cc: line ("blind" carbon copy).

     ~cname ...
             Add the given names to the list of carbon copy recipients.

     ~d      Read the file dead.letter from your home directory into the mes-

     ~e      Invoke the text editor on the message collected so far.  After
             the editing session is finished, you may continue appending text
             to the message.

             Read the named messages into the message being sent.  If no mes-
             sages are specified, read in the current message.  Message head-
             ers currently being ignored (by the ignore or retain command) are
             not included.

             Identical to ~f, except all message headers are included.

     ~h      Edit the message header fields by typing each one in turn and al-
             lowing the user to append text to the end or modify the field by
             using the current terminal erase and kill characters.

             Read the named messages into the message being sent, indented by
             a tab or by the value of indentprefix. If no messages are speci-
             fied, read the current message.  Message headers currently being
             ignored (by the ignore or retain command) are not included.


             Identical to ~m, except all message headers are included.

     ~p      Print out the message collected so far, prefaced by the message
             header fields.

     ~q      Abort the message being sent, copying the message to dead.letter
             in your home directory if save is set.

             Read the named file into the message.

             Cause the named string to become the current subject field.

     ~tname ...
             Add the given names to the direct recipient list.

     ~v      Invoke an alternate editor (defined by the VISUAL option) on the
             message collected so far.  Usually, the alternate editor will be
             a screen editor.  After you quit the editor, you may resume ap-
             pending text to the end of your message.

             Write the message onto the named file.

             Pipe the message through the command as a filter.  If the command
             gives no output or terminates abnormally, retain the original
             text of the message.  The command fmt(1) is often used as command
             to rejustify the message.

             Execute the given mail command.  Not all commands, however, are

             Insert the string of text in the message prefaced by a single ~.
             If you have changed the escape character, then you should double
             that character in order to send it.

   Mail options
     Options are controlled via set and unset commands.  Options may be either
     binary, in which case it is only significant to see whether they are set
     or not; or string, in which case the actual value is of interest.  The
     binary options include the following:

     append  Causes messages saved in mbox to be appended to the end rather
             than prepended.  This should always be set (perhaps in

     ask, asksub
             Causes mail to prompt you for the subject of each message you
             send.  If you respond with simply a newline, no subject field
             will be sent.

     askcc   Causes you to be prompted for additional carbon copy recipients
             at the end of each message.  Responding with a newline indicates
             your satisfaction with the current list.

             Causes new mail to be automatically incorporated when it arrives.
             Setting this is similar to issuing the inc command at each
             prompt, except that the current message is not reset when new
             mail arrives.

     askbcc  Causes you to be prompted for additional blind carbon copy recip-
             ients at the end of each message.  Responding with a newline in-
             dicates your satisfaction with the current list.

             Causes the delete command to behave like dp; thus, after deleting
             a message, the next one will be typed automatically.

     debug   Setting the binary option debug is the same as specifying -d on
             the command line and causes mail to output all sorts of informa-
             tion useful for debugging mail.

     dot     The binary option dot causes mail to interpret a period alone on
             a line as the terminator of a message you are sending.

     hold    This option is used to hold messages in the system mailbox by de-

     ignore  Causes interrupt signals from your terminal to be ignored and
             echoed as @'s.

             An option related to dot is ignoreeof which makes mail refuse to
             accept a control-d as the end of a message.  ignoreeof also ap-
             plies to mail command mode.

     metoo   Usually, when a group is expanded that contains the sender, the
             sender is removed from the expansion.  Setting this option causes
             the sender to be included in the group.

             Setting the option noheader is the same as giving the -N flag on
             the command line.

     nosave  Normally, when you abort a message with two RUBOUT (erase or
             delete) mail copies the partial letter to the file dead.letter in
             your home directory.  Setting the binary option nosave prevents

             Reverses the sense of reply and Reply commands.

     quiet   Suppresses the printing of the version when first invoked.

             If this option is set, then a message-list specifier in the form
             ``/x:y'' will expand to all messages containing the substring
             ``y'' in the header field ``x''. The string search is case insen-
             sitive. If ``x'' is omitted, it will default to the ``Subject''
             header field.  The form ``/to:y'' is a special case, and will ex-
             pand to all messages containing the substring ``y'' in the
             ``To'', ``Cc'' or ``Bcc'' header fields.  The check for ``to'' is
             case sensitive, so that ``/To:y'' can be used to limit the search
             for ``y'' to just the ``To:'' field.

             Setting the option verbose is the same as using the -v flag on
             the command line.  When mail runs in verbose mode, the actual de-
             livery of messages is displayed on the user's terminal.

   Option string values

     EDITOR        Pathname of the text editor to use in the edit command and
                   ~e escape.  If not defined, then a default editor is used.

     LISTER        Pathname of the directory lister to use in the folders com-

                   mand.  Default is /bin/ls.

     PAGER         Pathname of the program to use in the more command or when
                   crt variable is set.  The default paginator more(1) is used
                   if this option is not defined.

     SHELL         Pathname of the shell to use in the ! command and the ~!
                   escape.  A default shell is used if this option is not de-

     VISUAL        Pathname of the text editor to use in the visual command
                   and ~v escape.

     crt           The valued option crt is used as a threshold to determine
                   how long a message must be before PAGER is used to read it.
                   If crt is set without a value, then the height of the ter-
                   minal screen stored in the system is used to compute the
                   threshold (see stty(1)).

     escape        If defined, the first character of this option gives the
                   character to use in the place of ~ to denote escapes.

     folder        The name of the directory to use for storing folders of
                   messages.  If this name begins with a `/', mail considers
                   it to be an absolute pathname; otherwise, the folder direc-
                   tory is found relative to your home directory.

     MBOX          The name of the mbox file.  It can be the name of a folder.
                   The default is ``mbox'' in the user's home directory.

     record        If defined, gives the pathname of the file used to record
                   all outgoing mail.  If not defined, then outgoing mail is
                   not so saved.

     indentprefix  String used by the ~m tilde escape for indenting messages,
                   in place of the normal tab character (`^I') Be sure to
                   quote the value if it contains spaces or tabs.

     toplines      If defined, gives the number of lines of a message to be
                   printed out with the top command; normally, the first five
                   lines are printed.

     mail utilizes the HOME, LOGNAME, and USER environment variables.

     If the MAIL environment variable is set, its value is used as the path to
     the user's mail spool.

     /var/mail/*                 post office (unless overridden by the MAIL
                                 environment variable)
     ~/mbox                      user's old mail
     ~/.mailrc                   file giving initial mail commands; can be
                                 overridden by setting the MAILRC environment
     /tmp/R*                     temporary files
     /usr/share/misc/mail.*help  help files
     /etc/mail.rc                system initialization file

     fmt(1),  lockspool(1),  newaliases(1),  vacation(1),  aliases(5),
     mailaddr(7),  mail.local(8),  sendmail(8)

     The Mail Reference Manual.

     A mail command appeared in Version 6 AT&T UNIX.  This man page is derived
     from The Mail Reference Manual originally written by Kurt Shoens.

     There are some flags that are not documented here.  Most are not useful
     to the general user.

     Usually, mail and mailx are just links to Mail, which can be confusing.

OpenBSD 2.6                     April 28, 1995                              10

Source: OpenBSD 2.6 man pages. Copyright: Portions are copyrighted by BERKELEY
SOFTWARE DESIGN, INC., The Regents of the University of California, Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, Free Software Foundation, FreeBSD Inc., and others.

(Corrections, notes, and links courtesy of RocketAware.com)

[Detailed Topics]
FreeBSD Sources for mail(1)
OpenBSD sources for mail(1)

[Overview Topics]

Up to: Email Server and Transport Agents - Electronic mail servers including delivery, routing, and transfer agents (MTAs), protocols (SMTP, POP, IMAP, -
Up to: Email User Agents - User interface for reading and composing email

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