mail - send and receive mail
mail [-iInv] [-s subject] [-c cc-addr] [-b bcc-addr] to-addr...
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.
mail -f /var/spool/mail/user
To send a message to one or more people, mail can be invoked with arguments which are the names of people to whom the mail will be sent. You are then expected to type in your message, followed by an ‘control-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.
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 the first message (numbered 1) and can be printed using the print command (which can be abbreviated ‘p’). You can move among the messages much as you move between lines in ed(1) , with the commands ‘+’ and ‘-’ moving backwards and forwards, and simple numbers.
Disposing of mail.
After examining a message you can delete ‘d’) the message or reply ‘r’) to it. Deletion 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 will, however, usually disappear never to be seen again.
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 message 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 composing a message, mail treats lines beginning with the 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 tabstop (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 commands. (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 systemwide distribution lists. It is also possible to create a 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 distribution 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 sendmail.
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 alter its behavior; thus “set askcc” enables the askcc feature. (These options are summarized below.)
(Adapted from the ‘Mail Reference Manual’)
Each command is typed on a line by itself, and may take arguments following 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 (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.
(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.
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.
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.
(h) Lists the current range of headers, which is an 18-message group. If a ‘+’ argument is given, then the next 18-message group is printed, and if a ‘-’ argument is given, the previous 18-message group is printed.
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, including ignored fields. If ignore is executed with no arguments, it lists the current set of ignored fields.
(pre) A synonym for hold.
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 suppressed. The Type and Print commands can be used to print a message in its entirety. If retain is executed with no arguments, it lists the current set of retained fields.
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.
source The source command reads commands from a file.
Takes a list of names defined by alias commands and discards the remembered groups of users. The group names no longer have any significance.
(u) Takes a message list and marks each message as not being deleted.
unread (U) Takes a message list and marks each message as not having been read.
visual (v) Takes a message list and invokes the display editor on each message.
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 escape.
Execute the indicated shell command, then return to the message.
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).
Add the given names to the list of carbon copy recipients.
Read the named messages into the message being sent. If no messages are specified, read in the current message. Message headers currently being ignored (by the ignore or retain command) are not included.
Identical to ~f, except all message headers are included.
Read the named messages into the message being sent, indented by a tab or by the value of indentprefix. If no messages are specified, 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.
Read the named file into the message.
Cause the named string to become the current subject field.
Add the given names to the direct recipient list.
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 allowed.
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.
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 /etc/mail.rc).
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.
askbcc Causes you to be prompted for additional blind carbon copy recipients at the end of each message. Responding with a newline indicates 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.
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 applies to mail command mode.
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 this.
Reverses the sense of reply and Reply commands.
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 insensitive.
Setting the option verbose is the same as using the -v flag on the command line. When mail runs in verbose mode, the actual delivery of messages is displayed on the user’s terminal.
Option String Values
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.
Mail utilizes the HOME, USER, SHELL, DEAD, PAGER, LISTER, EDITOR, VISUAL and MBOX environment variables.
fmt(1) , newaliases(1) , vacation(1) , aliases(5) , mailaddr(7) , sendmail(8) and
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.
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