mail(1)mail(1)Namemail - send or read mailSyntaxmail [-v] [-i] [-n] [-e] [-s subject] [user...]
mail [-v] [-i] [-n] -f [name]
mail [-v] [-i] [-n] -u user
mail nodename::username (If DECnet is installed.)
The utility is an intelligent mail processing system which has a com‐
mand syntax similar to However, in lines are replaced by messages.
If DECnet is installed on your system, you can also send and receive
mail from other DECnet users. See for information on DECnet address‐
Sending mail. To send a message to one or more persons, type and the
names of the people receiving your mail. Press the RETURN key. Note
that if you use other arguments, the names of the recipients should
always be the last element on the command line. For example,
mail-v -s "mail message" users
If you do not specify a subject on the command line, you are prompted
for a subject. After entering a subject, and pressing the RETURN key,
type your message. To send the message, type a period (.) or CTRL D at
the beginning of a new line.
You can use tilde ( ) escape sequences to perform special functions
when composing mail messages. See the list of options for more on
tilde escape sequences.
Reading mail. In normal usage is given no arguments and checks your
mail out of the mail directory. Then it prints out a one line header of
each message there. The current message is initially the first message
and is numbered 1. It can be displayed using the command.
The option causes mail not to be printed. Instead, an exit value is
returned. For the exit status, see RETURN VALUES. You can move among
the messages by typing a plus sign (+) followed by a number to move
forward that many messages, or a minus sign (-) followed by a number to
move backward that many messages.
Disposing of mail. After reading a message you can delete (d) it or
reply (r) to it. Deleted messages can be undeleted, however, in one of
two ways: you can use the undelete (u) command and the number of the
message, or you can end the mail session with the exit (x) command.
Note that if you end a session with the quit (q) command, you cannot
retrieve deleted messages.
Specifying messages. Commands such as and can be given a list of mes‐
sage numbers as arguments. Thus, the command
delete 1 2
deletes messages 1 and 2, while the command
deletes messages 1 through 5. The asterisk (*) addresses all messages,
and the dollar sign ($) addresses the last message. For example, the
command, which prints the first few lines of a message, can be used in
the following manner to print the first few lines of all messages:
Replying to or originating mail. Use the command to respond to a mes‐
Ending a mail processing session. End a session with the (q) command.
Unless they were deleted, messages that you have read go to your mbox
file. Unread messages go back to the mail directory. The -f option
causes to read in the contents of your mbox (or the specified file) for
processing. When you the mail utility writes undeleted messages back
to this file. The -u flag is a short way of specifying:
Personal and systemwide distribution lists. You can create a personal
distribution list that directs mail to a group of people. Such lists
can be defined by placing a line similar to the following in the
.mailrc file in your home directory:
alias cohorts bill ozalp jkf mark kridle@ucbcory
Cohorts is the name of the distribution list that consists of the fol‐
lowing users: bill, ozalp, jkf, mark, and kridle@ucbcory. A list of
current aliases can be displayed with the command in
System wide distribution lists can be created by editing The syntax of
system wide lists differs from that of personally defined aliases.
Personal aliases are expanded in mail you send. When a recipient on a
personally defined mailing list uses the option, the entire mailing
list receives the response automatically. 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
Forwarding is also a form of aliasing. A file can be set up in a
user's home directory. Mail for that user is then redirected to the
list of addresses in the file. See and for more information.
Network mail (ARPA, UUCP, Berknet, DECnet) See for a description of
Options-e Causes not to be printed. Instead, an exit value is returned.
-f Causes to read in the contents of your mbox file (or another
file you specify) for processing.
-i Causes tty interrupt signals to be ignored. This is useful when
using on noisy phone lines.
-n Inhibits the reading of /usr/lib/Mail.rc.
-s Specifies a subject on the command line. Note that only the
first argument after the -s flag is used as a subject and that
you must enclose subjects containing spaces in quotes.
-u Specifies a short hand for expressing the following:
-v Prints the mail message. The details of delivery are displayed
on the user's terminal.
The following options can be set in the .mailrc file to alter the
behavior of the command.
Each command is typed on a line by itself and may take arguments fol‐
lowing the command word and the command abbreviation. For commands
that 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. If there are no good messages at all, can‐
cels the command, displaying the message: No applicable messages.
- Prints out the previous message. If given a numeric argu‐
ment n, prints n-th previous message.
? Prints a brief summary of commands.
! Executes the ULTRIX shell command which follows.
alias (a) Prints out all currently-defined aliases, if given without
arguments. With one argument, prints out that alias. With
more than one argument, creates a new or changes an old
alias. These aliases are in effect for the current mail
Informs that you have several valid addresses. The command
is useful if you have accounts on more than one machine.
When you to messages, does not send a copy of the message
to any of the addresses listed on the alternates list. If
the command is given with no argument, the current set of
alternate names is displayed.
chdir (ch) Changes the user's working directory to that specified. If
no directory is given, then the command changes to the
user's login directory.
copy (co) Takes a message list and file name and appends each message
to the end of the file. The command functions in the same
way as the command, except that it does not mark the mes‐
sages that you copy for deletion when you quit.
delete (d) Takes a list of messages as argument and marks them all as
deleted. Deleted messages are not saved in mbox, nor are
they available for most other commands.
dp (or dt) Deletes the current message and prints the next message.
If there is no next message, returns a message: 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 in.
exit (ex or x)
Returns to the Shell without modifying the user's system
mailbox, mbox file, or edit file in
file (fi) Switches to a new mail file or folder. If no arguments are
given, it tells you which file you are currently reading.
If you give it an argument, it writes out changes (such as
deletions) you have made in the current file and reads in
the new file. Some special conventions are recognized for
the name. A pound sign (#) indicates the previous file, a
percent sign (%) indicates your systemb mailbox, %user
indicates the user's system mailbox, an ampersand (&) indi‐
cates your /mbox file, and +folder indicates a file in
your folder directory.
folders List the names of the folders in your folder directory.
folder (fo) Switches to a new mail file or folder. The command func‐
tions in the same way as the command.
from (f) Takes a list of messages and prints their message headers
in the order that they appear in the mail directory, not in
the order given in the list.
headers (h) Lists the current range of headers, which is a 20 message
group. If a plus sign (+) is given as an argument, then
the next message group is printed. If a minus sign (-) is
given as an argument, the previous message group is
help Prints a brief summary of commands. Synonymous with ?.
hold (ho, also preserve)
Takes a message list and marks each message in it to be
saved in the user's system mailbox instead of in mbox. The
command does not override the delete command.
ignore Adds 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 fre‐
quently used to suppress certain machine-generated header
fields. The and commands are used to print a message in its
entirety, including ignored fields. If is executed with no
arguments, it lists the current set of ignored fields.
mail (m) Takes login names and distribution group names as arguments
and sends mail to those people.
mbox Indicates that a list of messages should be sent to mbox in
your home directory when you quit. This is the default
action for messages if you did not set the hold option.
next (n, + or CR)
Goes to the next message in sequence and types it. With
an argument list, it types the next matching message.
Takes a message list and marks each message in it to be
saved in the user's system mailbox instead of in mbox .
Synonymous with the command.
print (p) Takes a message list and types out each message on the
user's terminal, without printing any specified ignored
Print (P) Prints a message in its entirety, including specified
quit (q) Terminates the session. All undeleted, unsaved messages
are saved in the user's mbox file in his login directory;
all messages marked with or or that were never referenced
are saved in his system mailbox; and all other messages are
removed from his system mailbox. If new mail arrives dur‐
ing the session, the user receives the message: You have
new mail. If given while editing a mailbox file with the
flag, then the edit file is rewritten. A return to the
Shell is effected, unless the rewrite of the edit file
fails, in which case the user can escape with the 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 be deleted.
Reply (R) Replies to originator of the message. Does not reply to
other recipients of the original message.
respond Takes a message list and sends mail to the sender and all
recipients of the specified message. Synonymous with
save (s) Takes a message list and a file name and appends each mes‐
sage to the end of the file. The messages are saved in the
order in which they appear in the mail directory, not in
the order given in the message list. The filename, which
is enclosed in quotes, followed by the line count and char‐
acter count, is displayed on the user's terminal.
set (se) Prints all variable values when no arguments are given.
Otherwise, the command sets the specified option. Argu‐
ments either take the form
shell (sh) Invokes an interactive version of the shell.
size Takes a message list and prints out the size (in charac‐
ters) of each message. The size of the messages are
printed in the order that they appear in the mail direc‐
tory, not in the order given in the list.
source (so) 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
and defaults to five.
type (t) Takes a message list and types out each message on the
user's terminal, without printing any specified ignored
fields. Synonymous with
type (T) Prints a message in its entirety, including specified
ignored fields. Synonymous with
unalias Takes a list of names defined by commands and cancels the
list of users. The group names no longer have any signifi‐
Takes a message list and marks each one as not being
unset Takes a list of option names and discards their remembered
values; the inverse of
visual (v) Takes a message list and invokes the display editor on each
write (w) Takes a message list and a file name and appends each mes‐
sage to the end of the file. Synonymous with
xit (x) Returns to the Shell without modifying the user's system
mailbox, mbox , or edit file in Synonymous with
z Presents message headers in windowfulls as described under
the command. You can move forward to the next window with
the z command. Also, you can move to the previous window by
The following is a summary of the tilde escape functions that you can
use when composing mail messages. Note that you can only invoke these
functions from within the body of a mail message and that the sequences
are only executed if they are placed at the beginning of lines.
~!command Executes the indicated shell command, then returns to the
~? Prints a brief summary of tilde commands.
~: Executes the mail commands. (For example, the command
prints out message number 10 while prints out the previous
~c name ... Adds the given names to the list of carbon copy recipients.
~d Reads the file named dead.letter from your home directory
into the message.
~e Invokes the text editor on the message you are typing.
After the editing session is finished, you may continue
appending text to the message.
~f messages Reads the named messages into the message being sent. If
no messages are specified, reads in the current message.
~h Edits the message header fields by typing each one in turn
and allowing the user to append text to the end or to mod‐
ify the field by using the current terminal erase and kill
~m messages Reads the named messages into the message being sent,
shifted one tab space to the right. If no messages are
specified, reads the current message.
~p Prints the message on your terminal, prefaced by the mes‐
sage header fields.
~q Aborts the message being sent, copying the message to
dead.letter in your home directory if the save option is
~r filename Reads the named file into the message.
~s string Causes the named string to become the current subject
~t name ... Adds the given names to the direct recipient list.
~v Invokes an alternate editor (defined by the VISUAL option)
on the message. Usually, the alternate editor is a screen
editor. After you quit the editor, you can resume append‐
ing text to the end of your message.
~w filename Writes the message onto the named file.
~|command Pipes the message through the command as a filter. If the
command gives no output or terminates abnormally, retains
the original text of the message. The command fmt(1) is
often used as command to rejustify the message.
~~string Inserts the string of text in the message prefaced by a
single tilde (~). If you have changed the escape charac‐
ter, then you should double that character in order to send
Options are controlled via the and commands. Options may be either
binary or string. If they are binary you should see whether or not
they are set; if they are string it is the actual value that is of
The binary options include the following:
append Causes messages saved in mbox to be appended rather than
prepended. (This is set in /usr/lib/Mail.rc on version
ask Causes mail to prompt you for the subject of each mes‐
sage you send. If you simply respond with a new line,
no subject field is sent.
askcc Asks you at the end of each message whether you want to
send a carbon copy of the message to additional recipi‐
ents. Responding with a new line indicates your satis‐
faction with the current list.
autoprint Causes the command to behave like - thus, after deleting
a message, the next one is typed automatically.
debug Causes to output information useful for debugging Set‐
ting the binary option debug is the same as specifying
on the command line.
dot Causes to interpret a period alone on a line as the ter‐
minator of a message you are sending.
hold Holds messages in the system mailbox by default.
ignore Causes interrupt signals from your terminal to be
ignored and echoed as at signs (@).
ignoreeof Causes to refuse to accept a control-d as the end of a
msgprompt Prompts you for the message text and indicates how to
terminate the message.
metoo Includes the sender in the distribution group receiving
a mail message.
nosave Prevents from copying aborted messages into the
dead.letter file in your home directory.
quiet Suppresses the printing of the version when first
verbose Displays the details of each message's delivery on the
user's terminal. Setting the option is the same as typ‐
ing -v on the command line.
The string options include the following:
EDITOR Pathname of the text editor to use in the command and ~e
escape. If not defined, then a default editor is used.
SHELL Pathname of the shell to use in the ! command and the
~! escape. A default shell is used if this option is
VISUAL Pathname of the text editor to use in the command and ~v
crt Threshold to determine how long a message must be before
is used to read it.
escape The first character of this option gives the character
to use in the place of tilde (~) to denote escapes, if
folder Directory name to use for storing folders of messages.
If this name begins with a backslash (/) considers it an
absolute pathname; otherwise, the folder directory is
found relative to your home directory.
record Pathname of the file used to record all outgoing mail.
If it is not defined, then outgoing mail is not so
toplines The number of lines of a message that is printed out
with the top command; normally, the first five lines are
If mail is invoked with the -e option, the following exit values are
0 the user has mail
1 the user has no mailFiles
/usr/spool/mail/* mail directory
~/mbox your read mail
~/.mailrc file giving initial mail commands
/tmp/R# temporary for editor escape
/usr/lib/Mail.help* help files
/usr/lib/Mail.rc system initialization file
Message* temporary for editing messages
See Alsobinmail(1), fmt(1), newaliases(1), aliases(5), mailaddr(7), sendmail(8)mail(1)