mail



MAIL(1)                    OpenBSD Reference Manual                    MAIL(1)


NAME

     mail, mailx, Mail - send and receive mail


SYNOPSIS

     mail [-dEIinv] [-b list] [-c list] [-s subject] to-addr ...
          [-sendmail-options ...]
     mail [-dEIiNnv] -f [file]
     mail [-dEIiNnv] [-u user]


DESCRIPTION

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

     The options are as follows:

     -b list
             Send blind carbon copies to list.

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

     -d      Causes mail to output all sorts of information useful for
             debugging mail.

     -E      Don't send messages with an empty body.

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

     -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.

     -i      Ignore tty interrupt signals.  This is particularly useful when
             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.

     -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
             containing spaces).

     -u user
             Equivalent to:

                   $ mail -f /var/mail/user

             except that locking is done.

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

   Startup actions
     At startup time, mail will execute commands in the system command file,
     /etc/mail.rc, 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 examined.

   Sending mail
     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 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.
     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, 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.

     Messages may also be selected using one of the following categories:

           *       all messages
           $       last message
           :d      deleted messages
           :n      new messages
           :o      old messages
           :r      read messages
           :u      unread messages

     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 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 the 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 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
     distribution lists can be created by editing /etc/mail/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.)


SUMMARY

     (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 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.

     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.

     alternates
             (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
             login 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
             message.  If there is no next message, mail says ``No more
             messages.''

     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
             in.

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

     file    (fi) The same as folder.

     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.

     folders
             List the names of the folders in your folder directory.

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

     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 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,
             including ignored fields.  If ignore is executed with no
             arguments, it 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 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.

     list    (l) List the valid mail commands.

     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
             directory 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.

     preserve
             (pre) A synonym for hold.

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

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

     quit    (q) Terminates the session, saving all undeleted, unsaved
             messages 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 system 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 command.

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

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

     respond
             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.

     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
             terminal.

     saveignore
             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
             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.

     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="->".

     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) Identical to the Print command.

     type    (t) A synonym for print.

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

     undelete
             (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.

     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
             message.

     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 system.

     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-.

   Tilde/escapes
     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.

     ~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
             message.

     ~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.

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

     ~fmessages
             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.

     ~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.

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

     ~mmessages
             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.

     ~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.

     ~rfilename
     ~<filename
             Read the named file into the message.

     ~sstring
             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
             appending text to the end of your message.

     ~wfilename
             Write the message onto the named file.

     ~x      Abort the message being sent.  No message is copied to
             ~/dead.letter, even if save is set.

     ~?      Prints a brief summary of tilde escapes.

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

     ~|command
             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.

     ~:mail-command
     ~_mail-command
             Execute the given mail command.  Not all commands, however, are
             allowed.

     ~~string
             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.

     ~.      Simulate end of file on input.

   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
             /etc/mail.rc).

     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.

     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.

     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.

     autoinc
             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.

     autoprint
             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
             information 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 ignored and
             echoed as @'s.

     ignoreeof
             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 system mailbox
             instead of deleting it when it's empty.

     keepsave
             Messages saved with the save command are not normally saved in
             mbox at quit time.  Use this option to retain those messages.

     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.

     noheader
             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.

     quiet   Suppresses the printing of the version when first invoked.

     Replyall
             Reverses the sense of reply and Reply commands.

     searchheaders
             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.
             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 ``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.

     skipempty
             Don't send messages with an empty body.

     verbose
             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
     EDITOR        Pathname of the text editor to use in the edit command and
                   ~e escape.  If not defined, /usr/bin/ex is used.

     LISTER        Pathname of the directory lister to use in the folders
                   command.  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.

     TMPDIR        Directory in which temporary files are stored.

     VISUAL        Pathname of the text editor to use in the visual command
                   and ~v escape.  If not defined, /usr/bin/vi is used.

     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
                   terminal 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
                   directory 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.


ENVIRONMENT

     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.


FILES

     /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
                                 variable
     /tmp/R*                     temporary files
     /usr/share/misc/mail.*help  help files
     /etc/mail.rc                system initialization file


EXIT STATUS

     The mail utility exits 0 on success, and >0 if an error occurs.


SEE ALSO

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


STANDARDS

     The mailx utility is compliant with the IEEE Std 1003.1-2008
     (``POSIX.1'') specification.

     The flags [-bcdEIv] are extensions to that specification.


HISTORY

     A mail command appeared in Version 3 AT&T UNIX.  This man page is derived
     from the Mail Reference Manual originally written by Kurt Shoens.


BUGS

     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 5.4                      July 18, 2013                     OpenBSD 5.4

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