send and receive mail

mail [-iInv] [-s "subject"] [-c cc-addr] [-b bcc-addr] to-addr[-- sendmail-options]
mail [-iInNv] -f [filename]
mail [-iInNv] [-u user]
-s subject (quote subjects containing spaces).
-c carbon copies: comma-separated list of names.
-bnot -bcc blind carbon copies to
-i ignore tty interrupt signals
-I Interactive mode when input isn't a terminal. ~ is only active in interactive mode.
-n Inhibits reading /etc/mail.rc
-v Verbose , details of delivery are displayed on the terminal.
-N No display of message headers when reading mail or editing a mail folder.
-f filename Access contents of the specified file.
mail writes undeleted messages back to this file when quitting.
-u user Access mail as another user mail -f /var/spool/mail/user

Reading mail

With no arguments displays a one line header of each message found. The current message is initially the first message (numbered 1) and can be displayed using the print command (p).
Move among the messages with the + and - moving backwards and forwards, and simple numbers.

Sending mail

Arguments usually include -s "subject" and addresses. Type in the message followed by an 'control-D' at the beginning of a line.

Replying to or originating mail.

Use reply to set up a response to a message.
Text typed defines the contents of the message.
While composing a message, lines beginning with ~ are sub-commands.
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).
subcommands set up subject fields, add/delete recipients, allow invoking an editor to revise the message or run shell commands as described in summary .

Disposing of mail.

Deleting (d) the message is reversible using undelete (u n).
The mail session can be aborted by with the exit (x) which undeletes all messages.

Specifying messages

Commands such as print and delete can be given a list of message numbers as arguments. Using * refers to all messages,
$ the last message.
top displays the first few lines of a message could be used in "top *" to print the first few lines of all messages.

Ending a mail processing session.

Quit (q). Messages which have been examined are retained to your mbox file
unless they have been deleted. Unexamined messages ramain post office. (See -f ).

Personal and systemwide distribution lists.

To create a distribution lists which can be used as the to-addr include an alias addr1 addr2 … in ~/.mailrc

alias cohorts bill ozalp tony mark kridle@ucbcory

The current list of such aliases can be displayed with alias .
System wide distribution lists are defined in /etc/aliases, see aliases and sendmail.
System wide aliases are not expanded when the mail is sent, but any reply returned to the system will have the system wide alias expanded .

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

Options set in .~/mailrc
set askcc enables the askcc feature.


(Adapted from the 'Mail Reference Manual')

Commands are typed on a line by themselves, and may take arguments
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.

Deletes the current message and displays the next
-n display the preceding message. If given a numeric argument n, goes to the n'th previous message and displays it.
like + or CR) Goes to the next message in sequence and types it. With an argument
type [n,m, …]
types list of messages
" displays the all headers.
See print, ignore and retain.
to originator only
r [n,m, …]
sends mail to the sender and all recipients of the list of messages. The default message must not be deleted.
alias [aaaaa[nnnnn[ nnnnn …]]]
With no arguments, displays aliases.
With one argument, displays that alias.
With more than one argument, creates a new alias or changes an old one.
unalias aaaaa Takes a list of names defined by alias commands and discards the remembered groups of users which no longer have any significance.
useful if you have accounts on several machines. 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.
c ,B\
command does the same as save , except that it does not mark the messages it is used on for deletion when you quit.
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.
delete [n,m, …]
Marks list of messages as deleted, which will not be saved in mbox, nor will they be available for most other commands.
edit [n,m, …]
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.
folders 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 pre- vious file, % means your system mailbox, %user means user's system mailbox, & means your mbox file, and +folder means a file in your folder directory.
file (fi) The same as folder.
from (f) Takes a list of messages and displays their message headers.
Lists the current range of headers, which is an 18-message group. With '+' the next 18-message group is display, and with '-' the previous …
preserve (pre)
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 displayed on your terminal when you displaye a message. This command is very handy for suppression of certain machine-generated header fields. The Type and Print commands can be used to display a message in its entirety, including ignored fields. If ignore is executed with no arguments, it lists the current set of ignored fields.
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. list, types the next matching message.
chdir (c) Changes the current directory to that specified, if given. If no directory is given, then changes to the user's login directory.
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.
set (se) With no arguments, prints all variable values. Otherwise, sets option. Argu- ments 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 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.
write (w) Similar to save, except that only the message body (without) the header) is saved.
! Executes the shell (see sh(1) and csh(1)) command which follows.
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 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.
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. Extremely useful for such tasks as sending and receiving source program text over the message system.
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-.
exit, ex, x
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.
xit,x return to the Shell without modifying the user's system mailbox, his mbox file, or his edit file in -f.
help ,


Used when composing messages, are only recognized at the beginning of lines.
~!command Execute the indicated shell command, then return to the message.
~cname ... Add to CC
~bname ... Add to BCC
~d Read the file "dead.letter" from your home directory into the message.
~e Invoke the text editor on the message . After the editing session is finished, continue appending text to the message.
~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.
~Fmessages As with 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.
~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.
~Mmessages Identical to ~m, except all message headers are included.
~p display 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 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 edi- tor, you may resume appending text to the end of your message.
~wfilename Write the message onto the named file.
~|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 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.

Mail Options

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 :

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.
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. list.
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 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.
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-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.
Replyall Reverses the sense of reply and Reply commands.
quiet Suppresses the printing of the version when first invoked.
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.
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 eee for edit command and ~e escape.
LISTER lll directory lister for folders command. Default : /bin/ls.
PAGER mmm for more command or when crt is set. Default : more
SHELL sss to use in the ! command and the ~! escape. A default shell is used if this option is not defined.
VISUAL vvvv text editor to use in visual command and ~v escape.
crt ll threshold be before PAGER is used to read it. Without a value, height of the screen (see stty(1)).
escape e character to use instead of ~ foe escape
folder ddd for storing folders of messages.
MBOX [dir/]file file or folder. Default : ~/mbox
record ffff Sent messages file, if not defined, outgoing mail are not saved.
indentprefix i String used by the ~m for indenting , instead of tab (^I). Quote the value if it contains spaces or tabs.
toplines nn the number of lines of a message displayed with top ; Default:5.




/var/spool/mail/* Post office.
~/mbox User's old mail.
~/.mailrc File giving initial mail commands. Only used if the owner of the file is the user running this copy of mail.
/tmp/R* Temporary files.
/usr/lib/mail.*help Help files.
/etc/mail.rc System initialization file.
as of 1/29/12 on
set ask askcc append dot save crt
ignore Received Message-Id Resent-Message-Id Status Mail-From Return-Path Via

SEE ALSO fmt, newaliases, vacation, aliases, mailaddr, sendmail and

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.