mail, mailx, Mail - send and receive mail
mail [-Iinv] [-b list] [-c list] [-s subject] to-addr [...]
mail [-IiNnv] -f [name]
mail [-IiNnv] [-u user]
mail is an intelligent mail processing system which has a
reminiscent of ed(1) with lines replaced by messages.
The options are as follows:
Send blind carbon copies to list.
Send carbon copies to list of users. list should be
a comma separated
list of names.
Read in the contents of your mailbox (or the specified file name)
for processing; when you quit, mail writes undeleted
back to this file.
-I Forces mail to run in interactive mode, even when
input is not a
terminal. In particular, the special ~ command
when sending mail, is only available interactively.
-i Ignore tty interrupt signals. This is particularly
using mail on noisy phone lines.
-N Inhibits initial display of message headers when
reading mail or
editing a mail folder.
-n Inhibits reading /etc/mail.rc upon startup.
Specify subject on command line (only the first argument after
the -s flag is used as a subject; be careful to
$ mail -f /var/mail/user
except that locking is done.
-v Verbose mode. The details of delivery are displayed
on the user's
Startup actions [Toc] [Back]
At startup time, mail will execute commands in the system
/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,
in the user's personal command file ~/.mailrc are executed.
examines its command line options to determine whether the
a new message to be sent or existing messages in a mailbox
to be examined.
Sending mail [Toc] [Back]
To send a message to one or more people, mail can be invoked
which are the names of people to whom the mail will be
are then expected to type in your message, followed by a
at the beginning of a line. The section below, Replying to
originating mail, describes some features of mail available
to help you
compose your letter.
Reading mail [Toc] [Back]
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
The current message is initially set to the first message
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 [Toc] [Back]
After examining a message you can delete (d) or reply (r) to
causes the mail program to forget about the message.
This is not
irreversible; the message can be undeleted (u) by giving its
the mail session can be aborted by giving the exit (x) command. Deleted
messages, however, will usually disappear, never to be seen
Specifying messages [Toc] [Back]
Commands such as print and delete can be given a list of
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
Replying to or originating mail [Toc] [Back]
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
a message, mail treats lines beginning with the tilde
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 the indentprefix variable, below). Other escapes will set
up subject fields, add and delete recipients to the message,
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 [Toc] [Back]
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 [Toc] [Back]
It is also possible to create personal distribution lists so
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.
distribution lists can be created by editing
aliases(5) and sendmail(8)); these are kept in a different
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
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.
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
the first command which matches the typed prefix is used.
which take message lists as arguments, if no message list is
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
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
Print (P) Like print but also prints out ignored header
also print, ignore, and retain.
Reply (R) Reply to originator. Does not reply to other
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 argument,
creates a new alias or changes an old one.
(alt) The alternates command is useful if you have
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
given. If no directory is given, then changes to
the user's login
copy (co) The copy command does the same thing that save
that it does not mark the messages it is used on for
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
If there is no next message, mail says ``No
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
the user's system mailbox, his mbox file, or
his edit file
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
With no arguments, it tells you which file you are
reading. If you give it an argument, it will write
(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
+folder means a file in your folder directory.
from (f) Takes a list of messages and prints their message headers.
(h) Lists the current windowful of headers. To view
the next or
previous group of headers, see the z command.
help A synonym for ?.
hold (ho, also preserve) Takes a message list and marks
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
fields in the ignore list are not printed on your
you print a message. This command is very handy for
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
lists the current set of ignored fields.
inc Incorporate any new messages that have arrived while
mail is being
read. The new messages are added to the end of
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.
list (l) List the valid mail commands.
mail (m) Takes as argument login names and distribution
and sends mail to those people.
mbox Indicate that a list of messages be sent to mbox in
your home directory
when you quit. This is the default action
if you do not have the hold option set.
more (mo) Takes a message list and invokes the pager on
next (n) (like + or CR) Goes to the next message in sequence and types
it. With an argument list, types the next matching
(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,
in the user's mbox file in his login directory, preserving
all messages marked with hold or preserve or never
his system mailbox, and removing all other messages
from his system
mailbox. If new mail has arrived during the
message ``You have new mail'' is given. If given
while editing a
mailbox file with the -f flag, then the edit file is
A return to the shell is effected, unless the
rewrite of edit
file fails, in which case the user can escape with
the exit command.
reply (r) Takes a message list and sends mail to the
sender and all recipients
of the specified message. The default message must not
A synonym for reply.
retain Add the list of header fields named to the retained
the header fields in the retain list are shown on
when you print a message. All other header fields
The Type and Print commands can be used to
print a message
in its entirety. If retain is executed with no
it lists the current set of retained fields.
save (s) Takes a message list and a filename and appends
in turn to the end of the file. The filename in
by the line count and character count is echoed on
saveignore is to save what ignore is to print and
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
fields thus marked are the only ones saved with a
saving by save or when automatically saving to mbox.
set (se) With no arguments, prints all variable values.
sets option. Arguments are of the form option=value
before or after =) or option. Quotation marks may
around any part of the assignment statement to quote
tabs, i.e., set indentprefix="->".
shell (sh) Invokes an interactive version of the shell.
size Takes a message list and prints out the size in
source The source command reads commands from a file.
top Takes a message list and prints the top few lines of
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
remembered groups of users. The group names no
longer have any
(u) Takes a message list and marks each message as
unread (U) Takes a message list and marks each message as
unset Takes a list of option names and discards their remembered values;
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
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
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
messages to perform special functions. Tilde escapes are
at the beginning of lines. The name ``tilde escape'' is
somewhat of a
misnomer since the actual escape character can be set by the
Execute the indicated shell command, then return to
Add the given names to the list of carbon copy recipients but do
not make the names visible in the Cc: line ("blind"
Add the given names to the list of carbon copy recipients.
~d Read the file dead.letter from your home directory
into the message.
~e Invoke the text editor on the message collected so
the editing session is finished, you may continue
to the message.
Read the named messages into the message being sent.
If no messages
are specified, read in the current message.
currently being ignored (by the ignore or retain
Identical to ~f, except all message headers are included.
~h Edit the message header fields by typing each one in
turn and allowing
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,
a tab or by the value of indentprefix. If no messages are specified,
read the current message. Message headers
ignored (by the ignore or retain command) are not
Identical to ~m, except all message headers are included.
~p Print out the message collected so far, prefaced by
~q Abort the message being sent, copying the message to
in your home directory if save is set.
Read the named file into the message.
Cause the named string to become the current subject
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
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
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,
Insert the string of text in the message prefaced by
a single ~.
If you have changed the escape character, then you
that character in order to send it.
Mail options [Toc] [Back]
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
than prepended. This should always be set (perhaps
Causes mail to prompt you for the subject of each
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
your satisfaction with the current list.
askcc Causes you to be prompted for additional carbon copy
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
prompt, except that the current message is not reset
Causes the delete command to behave like dp; thus,
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
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 default.
ignore Causes interrupt signals from your terminal to be
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.
keep Setting this option causes mail to truncate your
instead of deleting it when it's empty.
Messages saved with the save command are not normally saved in
mbox at quit time. Use this option to retain those
metoo Usually, when a group is expanded that contains the
sender is removed from the expansion. Setting this
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 interrupt characters
(usually control-C), 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.
quiet Suppresses the printing of the version when first
If this option is set, then a message-list specifier
in the form
``/x:y'' will expand to all messages containing the
in the header field `x'. The string search is case
If `x' is omitted, it will default to the ``Subject'' header
field. The form ``/to:y'' is a special case, and
will expand to
all messages containing the substring `y' in the
or ``Bcc'' header fields. The check for ``to'' is
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 delivery
of messages is displayed on the user's terminal.
Option string values [Toc] [Back]
EDITOR Pathname of the text editor to use in the edit
~e escape. If not defined, /usr/bin/ex is
LISTER Pathname of the directory lister to use in the
Default is /bin/ls.
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.
PAGER Pathname of the program to use in the more
command or when
the 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 defined.
VISUAL Pathname of the text editor to use in the
and ~v escape. If not defined, /usr/bin/vi is
crt The valued option crt is used as a threshold
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 terminal
screen stored in the system is used to
threshold (see stty(1)).
escape If defined, the first character of this option
character to use in the place of ~ to denote
folder The name of the directory to use for storing
messages. If this name begins with a `/',
it to be an absolute pathname; otherwise, the
is found relative to your home directory.
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.
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.
screen Size of window of message headers for z.
sendmail Pathname to an alternative mail delivery system.
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, MAIL, MAILRC, 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
~/mbox user's old mail
~/.mailrc file giving initial mail commands; can be
overridden by setting the MAILRC
/tmp/R* temporary files
/usr/share/misc/mail.*help help files
/etc/mail.rc system initialization file
fmt(1), lockspool(1), vacation(1), aliases(5), mailaddr(7),
mail.local(8), newaliases(8), sendmail(8)
"The Mail Reference Manual", /usr/share/doc/usd/07.mail/.
A mail command appeared in Version 3 AT&T UNIX. This man
page is derived
from The Mail Reference Manual originally written by Kurt
There are some flags that are not documented here. Most are
to the general user.
Usually, mail and mailx are just links to Mail, which can be
OpenBSD 3.6 April 28, 1995
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