mail (Unix)

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mail is a command line email client for Unix and Unix-like operating systems.


A very rudimentary mail command was in Unix by the time of the 1st Edition.[1] Doug McIlroy later wrote, "to this day a simple postmark is all that it adds to what you write. Old Unix hands groan at the monstrous headers that come from latter-day mailer and at the fatness of their manuals."[2]

In 1978 a new mail user agent for Unix was written by Kurt Shoens; referred to as Berkeley Mail. Although initially installed at /usr/ucb/Mail, (with the earlier Unix mail still available at /bin/mail), on most modern Unix and Linux systems the commands Mail, mail or xmail all invoke a descendant of this Berkeley Mail.[3]

Example usage[edit]

mail -s "You've got mail" -c

This sends a message with the subject "You've got mail" to two recipients, and, and CCs (copies) a third, The message will be typed after the command is entered and will be ended with Control-D.

Any Unix command sequence that generates text can be used to send a message in one line. For example:

echo "Some message" | mail -s "meeting today"

This is especially useful for having a system report its status automatically through email.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1], UNIX PROGRAMMER’S MANUAL, K. Thompson & D. M. Ritchie, November 3, 1971
  2. ^ McIlroy, M. D. (1987). A Research Unix reader: annotated excerpts from the Programmer's Manual, 1971–1986 (PDF) (Technical report). CSTR. Bell Labs. 139. 
  3. ^ "mail, Mail, mailx, nail—history notes", Heirloom Project

External links[edit]