MAIL(1)                      General Commands Manual                     MAIL(1)

     mail, mailx – send and receive mail

     mail [-EiInv] [-s subject] [-c cc-addr] [-b bcc-addr] [-F] to-addr ...
     mail [-EHiInNv] [-F] -f [name]
     mail [-EHiInNv] [-F] [-u user]
     mail -e [-f name]
     mail [-H]

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

     The following options are available:

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

     -e      Test for the presence of mail in the (by default, system) mailbox.
             An exit status of 0 is returned if it has mail; otherwise, an exit
             status of 1 is returned.

     -H      Write a header summary only.

     -E      Do not send messages with an empty body.  This is useful for piping
             errors from cron(8) scripts.

     -i      Ignore tty interrupt signals.  This is particularly useful when
             using mail on noisy phone lines.

     -I      Force mail to run in interactive mode even when input is not a
             terminal.  In particular, the ‘~’ special character when sending
             mail is only active in interactive mode.

     -n      Inhibit reading the system-wide mail.rc files upon startup.

     -N      Inhibit the initial display of message headers when reading mail or
             editing a mail folder.

     -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.)

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

     -b bcc-addr
             Send blind carbon copies to bcc-addr list of users.  The bcc-addr
             argument should be a comma-separated list of names.

     -f      Use an alternate mailbox.  Defaults to the user's mbox if no file
             is specified.  When quit, mail writes undeleted messages back to
             this file.

     -F      Record the message in a file named after the first recipient.  The
             name is the login-name portion of the address found first on the
             “To:” line in the mail header.  Overrides the record variable, if

     -u      Is equivalent to:

                   mail -f /var/mail/user

   Startup Actions
     At startup time mail will execute commands in the system command files
     /usr/share/misc/mail.rc, /usr/local/etc/mail.rc and /etc/mail.rc in order,
     unless explicitly told not to by the use of the -n option.  Next, the
     commands in the user's personal command file ~/.mailrc are executed.  The
     mail utility then examines its command line options to determine whether a
     new message is to be sent, or whether an existing mailbox is to be read.

   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⟩ 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 the first message (numbered 1) and can be
     printed using the print command (which can be abbreviated p).  You can move
     among the messages much as you move between lines in ed(1), with the
     commands + and - moving backwards and forwards, and simple numbers.

   Disposing of Mail
     After examining a message you can delete (d) the message 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 will, however, 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.
     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 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 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 tabstop (see 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 a 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(8).

   Recipient address specifications
     Recipient addresses (any of the “To”, “Cc” or “Bcc” header fields) are
     subject to expansion when the expandaddr option is set.

     An address may be expanded as follows:

     •       An address that starts with a pipe (‘|’) character is treated as a
             command to run.  The command immediately following the ‘|’ is
             executed with the message as its standard input.

     •       An address that starts with a ‘+’ character is treated as a folder.

     •       An address that contains a ‘/’ character but no ‘!’, ‘%’, or ‘@’
             characters is also treated as a folder.

     •       If none of the above apply, the recipient is treated as a local or
             network mail address.

     If the expandaddr option is not set (the default), no expansion is
     performed and the recipient is treated as a local or network mail address.

   Network Mail (ARPA, UUCP, Berknet)
     See mailaddr(7) for a description of network addresses.

     The mail utility 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.)

     (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 n'th previous message and prints it.

     #       ignore the remainder of the line as a comment.

     ?       Prints a brief summary of commands.

     !       Executes the shell (see sh(1) and csh(1)) command which follows.

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

     Reply   (R) Reply to originator.  Does not reply to other recipients of 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 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 alternative 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

     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 “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) 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.

             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 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.

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

             (h) Lists the current range of headers, which is an 18-message
             group.  If a ‘+’ argument is given, then the next 18-message group
             is printed, and if a ‘-’ argument is given, the previous 18-message
             group is printed.

     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.

     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 list of messages 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.

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

             A synonym for reply.

     retain  Add the list of header fields named to the retained list.  Only the
             header fields in the retained 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

     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="->"”

             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 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.

     shell   (sh) Invokes an interactive version of the shell.

     size    Takes a message list and prints out the size in characters of each

     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 5.

     type    (t) A synonym for print.

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

             (u) Takes a message list and marks each message as not being

     unread  (U) Takes a message list and marks each message as not having been

     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 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       The mail utility 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-.

     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.

     ~a      Inserts the autograph string from the sign= option into the

     ~A      Inserts the autograph string from the Sign= option into the

     ~b name ...
             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).

     ~c name ...
             Add the given names to the list of carbon copy recipients.

     ~d      Read the file dead.letter from your home directory into the

     ~e      Invoke the text editor on the message collected so far.  After the
             editing session is finished, you may continue appending text to the

     ~f messages
             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.

     ~F messages
             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.

     ~i string
             Inserts the value of the named option into the text of the message.

     ~m messages
             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.

     ~M messages
             Identical to ~m, except all message headers are 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.

     ~r filename, ~r !command

     ~< filename, ~< !command
             Read the named file into the message.  If the argument begins with
             a ‘!’, the rest of the string is taken as an arbitrary system
             command and is executed, with the standard output inserted into the

     ~R string
             Use string as the Reply-To field.

     ~s string
             Cause the named string to become the current subject field.

     ~t name ...
             Add the given names to the direct recipient list.

     ~v      Invoke an alternative editor (defined by the VISUAL environment
             variable) on the message collected so far.  Usually, the
             alternative editor will be a screen editor.  After you quit the
             editor, you may resume appending text to the end of your message.

     ~w filename
             Write the message onto the named file.

     ~x      Exits as with ~q, except the message is not saved in dead.letter.

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

     ~| command, ~^ 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

     ~.      Simulate end-of-file on input.

     ~?      Print a summary of the available command escapes.

     ~~ 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 can be set with the set command and can be disabled with the unset
     or set noname 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.  If an option is not set, mail will
     look for an environment variable of the same name.  The available options
     include the following:

     append  Causes messages saved in mbox to be appended to the end rather than
             prepended.  This should always be set (preferably in one of the
             system-wide mail.rc files).  Default is noappend.

     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.  Default is asksub.

     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.  Default is

     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.  Default is noaskcc.

             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.
             Default is noautoinc.

             Causes the delete command to behave like dp; thus, after deleting a
             message, the next one will be typed automatically.  Default is

     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)).  Default
             is nocrt.

     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.  Default is nodebug.

     dot     The binary option dot causes mail to interpret a period alone on a
             line as the terminator of a message you are sending.  Default is

     escape  If defined, the first character of this option gives the character
             to use in place of ‘~’ to denote escapes.

             Causes mail to expand message recipient addresses, as explained in
             the section Recipient address specifications.

     flipr   Reverses the sense of reply and Reply commands.  Default is

     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.

     header  If defined, initially display message headers when reading mail or
             editing a mail folder.  Default is header.  This option can be
             disabled by giving the -N flag on the command line.

     hold    This option is used to hold messages in the system mailbox by
             default.  Default is nohold.

     ignore  Causes interrupt signals from your terminal to be ignored and
             echoed as @'s. Default is noignore.

             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.  Default is noignoreeof.

             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.

     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.  Default is nometoo.

     quiet   Suppresses the printing of the version when first invoked.  Default
             is noquiet.

     record  If defined, gives the pathname of the file used to record all
             outgoing mail.  If not defined, outgoing mail is not saved.
             Default is norecord.

             Reverses the sense of reply and Reply commands.  Default is

     save    If this option is set, and you abort a message with two RUBOUT
             (erase or delete), mail will copy the partial letter to the file
             dead.letter in your home directory.  Default is save.

             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.  Default
             is nosearchheaders.

             If defined, gives the number of lines of a message to be printed
             out with the top command; normally, the first five lines are

             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.  Default is

     DEAD         Pathname of the file to save partial messages to in case of
                  interrupts or delivery errors.  Default is ~/dead.letter.

     EDITOR       Pathname of the text editor to use in the edit command and ~e
                  escape.  If not defined, then a default editor is used.

     HOME         Pathname of the user's home directory.

     LISTER       Pathname of the directory lister to use in the folders
                  command.  Default is /bin/ls.

     MAIL         Location of the user's mailbox.  Default is /var/mail.

     MAILRC       Pathname of file containing initial mail commands.  Default is

     MBOX         The name of the mailbox 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 crt
                  variable is set.  The default paginator more(1) is used if
                  this option is not defined.

     REPLYTO      If set, will be used to initialize the Reply-To field for
                  outgoing messages.

     SHELL        Pathname of the shell to use in the ! command and the ~!
                  escape.  A default shell is used if this option is not

     VISUAL       Pathname of the text editor to use in the visual command and
                  ~v escape.

     USER         Login name of the user executing mail.

     /var/mail/*                     Post office.
     ~/mbox                          User's old mail.
     ~/.mailrc                       File giving initial mail commands.  This
                                     can be overridden by setting the MAILRC
                                     environment variable.
     /tmp/R*                         Temporary files.
     /usr/share/misc/mail.*help      Help files.

     /etc/mail.rc                    System-wide initialization files.  Each
                                     file will be sourced, in order, if it

     fmt(1), newaliases(1), vacation(1), aliases(5), mailaddr(7), sendmail(8)

     The Mail Reference Manual.

     A mail command appeared in Version 1 AT&T UNIX.  This man page is derived
     from The Mail Reference Manual originally written by Kurt Shoens.

     Usually, mail is just a link to Mail and mailx, which can be confusing.

     The name of the alternates list is incorrect English (it should be
     “alternatives”), but is retained for compatibility.

macOS 12.1                      February 29, 2004                     macOS 12.1