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System User's Guide: Communications and Networks

Mail Applications

Before you can use the mail system, you must select a user-agent program such as one of the following:

A user-agent program provides facilities for creating, receiving, sending, and filing mail. In addition, you need a transport-agent program, sendmail, which distributes incoming mail from other systems or packages and distributes each outgoing mail item and then transmits it to a similar program in one or more remote systems.

Note: mail and mh are incompatible in the way they store mail; you must choose one mail handler or the other.


The mail program provides you with a user interface to handle mail to and from both a local network user and a remote system user.

A mail message can be text, entered using an editor, or an ASCII file. In addition to a typed message or a file, you can send:

system message Informs users the system has been updated. A system message is similar to a broadcast message but is sent on the local network only.
secret mail Used to send classified information. A secret mail message is encrypted. The recipient must enter a password to read it.
vacation message Informs users you are on vacation. When your system receives mail in your absence, it sends a message back to the origin. The message states you are on vacation. Any mail you receive while on vacation can also be forwarded.

When you receive mail using the mail subcommands, you can:

The installation of sendmail is automatic.

For more information about the mail program, refer to Chapter 2, Mail Overview.


mh is a collection of commands that enables you to perform each mail processing function directly from the command line. These commands provide a broader range of function than the subcommands of mail. Also, because the commands can be issued at any time the command prompt is displayed, you gain power and flexibility in creating mail and in processing received mail. For example, you can read a mail message, search a file or run a program to find a particular solution, and answer the message, all within the same shell.

The mh program enables you to create, distribute, receive, view, process, and store messages using the following commands:

ali Lists mail aliases and their addresses.
anno Annotates messages.
ap Parses and reformats addresses.
burst Explodes digests into messages.
comp Starts an editor for creating or modifying a message.
dist Redistributes a message to additional addresses.
dp Parses and reformats dates.
folder Selects and lists folders and messages.
folders Lists all folders and messages in the mail directory.
forw Forwards messages.
inc Incorporates new mail into a folder.
mark Creates, modifies, and displays message sequences.
mhl Produces a formatted listing of messages.
mhmail Sends or receives mail.
mhpath Prints full path names of messages and folders.
msgchk Checks for messages.
msh Creates a mail handler (MH) shell.
next Shows the next message.
packf Compresses the contents of a folder into a file.
pick Selects messages by content and creates and modifies sequences.
prev Shows the previous message.
refile Moves files between folders.
repl Replies to a message.
rmf Removes folders and the messages they contain.
rmm Removes messages from active status.
scan Produces a one-line-per-message scannable listing.
send Sends a message.
show Shows messages.
sortm Sorts messages.
vmh Starts a visual interface for use with mh commands.
whatnow Starts a prompting interface for draft disposition.
whom Manipulates MH addresses.

For more information on mh commands, refer to the AIX 5L Version 5.1 Commands Reference, Volume 3.


bellmail is the original AT&T UNIX mail command, which handles mail for users on the same system and also for users on remote systems that can be accessed by means of Basic Network Utilities (BNU), sometimes known as the UNIX-to-UNIX Copy Program (UUCP). These programs support only networks of systems connected by dial-up or leased point-to-point communication lines. The command opens a shell whose subcommands allow you to:

However, you must have some skill as a UNIX user before you can make full use of this mail handler. For more information, refer to the bellmail command in the AIX 5L Version 5.1 Commands Reference, Volume 1.

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