[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

Z. Sending Mail

To send a message in Emacs, you start by typing a command (C-x m) to select and initialize the `*mail*' buffer. Then you edit the text and headers of the message in this buffer, and type another command (C-c C-s or C-c C-c) to send the message.

C-x m
Begin composing a message to send (compose-mail).
C-x 4 m
Likewise, but display the message in another window (compose-mail-other-window).
C-x 5 m
Likewise, but make a new frame (compose-mail-other-frame).
C-c C-s
In Mail mode, send the message (mail-send).
C-c C-c
Send the message and bury the mail buffer (mail-send-and-exit).

The command C-x m (compose-mail) selects a buffer named `*mail*' and initializes it with the skeleton of an outgoing message. C-x 4 m (compose-mail-other-window) selects the `*mail*' buffer in a different window, leaving the previous current buffer visible. C-x 5 m (compose-mail-other-frame) creates a new frame to select the `*mail*' buffer.

Because the mail-composition buffer is an ordinary Emacs buffer, you can switch to other buffers while in the middle of composing mail, and switch back later (or never). If you use the C-x m command again when you have been composing another message but have not sent it, you are asked to confirm before the old message is erased. If you answer n, the `*mail*' buffer is left selected with its old contents, so you can finish the old message and send it. C-u C-x m is another way to do this. Sending the message marks the `*mail*' buffer "unmodified," which avoids the need for confirmation when C-x m is next used.

If you are composing a message in the `*mail*' buffer and want to send another message before finishing the first, rename the `*mail*' buffer using M-x rename-uniquely (see section N.3 Miscellaneous Buffer Operations). Then you can use C-x m or its variants described above to make a new `*mail*' buffer. Once you've done that, you can work with each mail buffer independently.

Z.1 The Format of the Mail Buffer  Format of the mail being composed.
Z.2 Mail Header Fields  Details of permitted mail header fields.
Z.3 Mail Aliases  Abbreviating and grouping mail addresses.
Z.4 Mail Mode  Special commands for editing mail being composed.
Z.5 Mail Amusements  Distracting the NSA; adding fortune messages.
Z.6 Mail-Composition Methods  Using alternative mail-composition methods.

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

Z.1 The Format of the Mail Buffer

In addition to the text or body, a message has header fields which say who sent it, when, to whom, why, and so on. Some header fields, such as `Date' and `Sender', are created automatically when you send the message. Others, such as the recipient names, must be specified by you in order to send the message properly.

Mail mode provides a few commands to help you edit some header fields, and some are preinitialized in the buffer automatically at times. You can insert and edit header fields using ordinary editing commands.

The line in the buffer that says

--text follows this line--

is a special delimiter that separates the headers you have specified from the text. Whatever follows this line is the text of the message; the headers precede it. The delimiter line itself does not appear in the message actually sent. The text used for the delimiter line is controlled by the variable mail-header-separator.

Here is an example of what the headers and text in the mail buffer might look like.

To: [email protected]
CC: [email protected], [email protected]
Subject: The Emacs Manual
--Text follows this line--
Please ignore this message.

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

Z.2 Mail Header Fields

A header field in the mail buffer starts with a field name at the beginning of a line, terminated by a colon. Upper and lower case are equivalent in field names (and in mailing addresses also). After the colon and optional whitespace comes the contents of the field.

You can use any name you like for a header field, but normally people use only standard field names with accepted meanings. Here is a table of fields commonly used in outgoing messages.

This field contains the mailing addresses to which the message is addressed. If you list more than one address, use commas, not spaces, to separate them.

The contents of the `Subject' field should be a piece of text that says what the message is about. The reason `Subject' fields are useful is that most mail-reading programs can provide a summary of messages, listing the subject of each message but not its text.

This field contains additional mailing addresses to send the message to, like `To' except that these readers should not regard the message as directed at them.

This field contains additional mailing addresses to send the message to, which should not appear in the header of the message actually sent. Copies sent this way are called blind carbon copies.

To send a blind carbon copy of every outgoing message to yourself, set the variable mail-self-blind to t. To send a blind carbon copy of every message to some other address, set the variable mail-default-headers to "Bcc: address\n".

This field contains the name of one file and directs Emacs to append a copy of the message to that file when you send the message. If the file is in Rmail format, Emacs writes the message in Rmail format; otherwise, Emacs writes the message in system mail file format. To specify more than one file, use several `FCC' fields, with one file name in each field.

To put a fixed file name in the `FCC' field each time you start editing an outgoing message, set the variable mail-archive-file-name to that file name. Unless you remove the `FCC' field before sending, the message will be written into that file when it is sent.

Use the `From' field to say who you are, when the account you are using to send the mail is not your own. The contents of the `From' field should be a valid mailing address, since replies will normally go there. If you don't specify the `From' field yourself, Emacs uses the value of user-mail-address as the default.

Use this field to direct replies to a different address. Most mail-reading programs (including Rmail) automatically send replies to the `Reply-to' address in preference to the `From' address. By adding a `Reply-to' field to your header, you can work around any problems your `From' address may cause for replies.

To put a fixed `Reply-to' address into every outgoing message, set the variable mail-default-reply-to to that address (as a string). Then mail initializes the message with a `Reply-to' field as specified. You can delete or alter that header field before you send the message, if you wish. When Emacs starts up, if the environment variable REPLYTO is set, mail-default-reply-to is initialized from that environment variable.

This field contains a piece of text describing the message you are replying to. Some mail systems can use this information to correlate related pieces of mail. Normally this field is filled in by Rmail when you reply to a message in Rmail, and you never need to think about it (see section AA. Reading Mail with Rmail).

This field lists the message IDs of related previous messages. Rmail sets up this field automatically when you reply to a message.

The `To', `CC', and `BCC' header fields can appear any number of times, and each such header field can contain multiple addresses, separated by commas. This way, you can specify any number of places to send the message. These fields can also have continuation lines: one or more lines starting with whitespace, following the starting line of the field, are considered part of the field. Here's an example of a `To' field with a continuation line:

To: [email protected], [email protected],
  [email protected]

When you send the message, if you didn't write a `From' field yourself, Emacs puts in one for you. The variable mail-from-style controls the format:

Use just the email address, as in `[email protected]'.
Use both email address and full name, as in `[email protected] (Elvis Parsley)'.
Use both email address and full name, as in `Elvis Parsley <[email protected]>'.
Allow the system to insert the `From' field.

You can direct Emacs to insert certain default headers into the outgoing message by setting the variable mail-default-headers to a string. Then C-x m inserts this string into the message headers. If the default header fields are not appropriate for a particular message, edit them as appropriate before sending the message.

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

Z.3 Mail Aliases

You can define mail aliases in a file named `~/.mailrc'. These are short mnemonic names which stand for mail addresses or groups of mail addresses. Like many other mail programs, Emacs expands aliases when they occur in the `To', `From', `CC', `BCC', and `Reply-to' fields, plus their `Resent-' variants.

To define an alias in `~/.mailrc', write a line in the following format:

alias shortaddress fulladdresses

Here fulladdresses stands for one or more mail addresses for shortaddress to expand into. Separate multiple addresses with spaces; if an address contains a space, quote the whole address with a pair of double-quotes.

For instance, to make maingnu stand for [email protected] plus a local address of your own, put in this line:

alias maingnu [email protected] local-gnu

Emacs also recognizes include commands in `.mailrc' files. They look like this:

source filename

The file `~/.mailrc' is used primarily by other mail-reading programs; it can contain various other commands. Emacs ignores everything in it except for alias definitions and include commands.

Another way to define a mail alias, within Emacs alone, is with the define-mail-alias command. It prompts for the alias and then the full address. You can use it to define aliases in your `.emacs' file, like this:

(define-mail-alias "maingnu" "[email protected]")

define-mail-alias records aliases by adding them to a variable named mail-aliases. If you are comfortable with manipulating Lisp lists, you can set mail-aliases directly. The initial value of mail-aliases is t, which means that Emacs should read `.mailrc' to get the proper value.

You can specify a different file name to use instead of `~/.mailrc' by setting the variable mail-personal-alias-file.

Normally, Emacs expands aliases when you send the message. You do not need to expand mail aliases before sending the message, but you can expand them if you want to see where the mail will actually go. To do this, use the command M-x expand-mail-aliases; it expands all mail aliases currently present in the mail headers that hold addresses.

If you like, you can have mail aliases expand as abbrevs, as soon as you type them in (see section X. Abbrevs). To enable this feature, execute the following:

(add-hook 'mail-mode-hook 'mail-abbrevs-setup)

This can go in your `.emacs' file. See section AD.2.3 Hooks. If you use this feature, you must use define-mail-abbrev instead of define-mail-alias; the latter does not work with this package. Note that the mail abbreviation package uses the variable mail-abbrevs instead of mail-aliases, and that all alias names are converted to lower case.

The mail abbreviation package also provides the C-c C-a (mail-interactive-insert-alias) command, which reads an alias name (with completion) and inserts its definition at point. This is useful when editing the message text itself or a header field such as `Subject' in which Emacs does not normally expand aliases.

Note that abbrevs expand only if you insert a word-separator character afterward. However, you can rebind C-n and M-> to cause expansion as well. Here's how to do that:

(add-hook 'mail-mode-hook
          (lambda ()
              'next-line 'mail-abbrev-next-line
              mail-mode-map global-map)
              'end-of-buffer 'mail-abbrev-end-of-buffer
              mail-mode-map global-map)))

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

Z.4 Mail Mode

The major mode used in the mail buffer is Mail mode, which is much like Text mode except that various special commands are provided on the C-c prefix. These commands all have to do specifically with editing or sending the message. In addition, Mail mode defines the character `%' as a word separator; this is helpful for using the word commands to edit mail addresses.

Mail mode is normally used in buffers set up automatically by the mail command and related commands. However, you can also switch to Mail mode in a file-visiting buffer. This is a useful thing to do if you have saved the text of a draft message in a file.

Z.4.1 Mail Sending  Commands to send the message.
Z.4.2 Mail Header Editing  Commands to move to header fields and edit them.
Z.4.3 Citing Mail  Copying all or part of a message you are replying to.
Z.4.4 Mail Mode Miscellany  Spell checking, signatures, etc.

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

Z.4.1 Mail Sending

Mail mode has two commands for sending the message you have been editing:

C-c C-s
Send the message, and leave the mail buffer selected (mail-send).
C-c C-c
Send the message, and select some other buffer (mail-send-and-exit).

C-c C-s (mail-send) sends the message and marks the mail buffer unmodified, but leaves that buffer selected so that you can modify the message (perhaps with new recipients) and send it again. C-c C-c (mail-send-and-exit) sends and then deletes the window or switches to another buffer. It puts the mail buffer at the lowest priority for reselection by default, since you are finished with using it. This is the usual way to send the message.

In a file-visiting buffer, sending the message does not clear the modified flag, because only saving the file should do that. As a result, you don't get a warning if you try to send the same message twice.

When you send a message that contains non-ASCII characters, they need to be encoded with a coding system (see section Q.7 Coding Systems). Usually the coding system is specified automatically by your chosen language environment (see section Q.3 Language Environments). You can explicitly specify the coding system for outgoing mail by setting the variable sendmail-coding-system (see section Q.8 Recognizing Coding Systems).

If the coding system thus determined does not handle the characters in a particular message, Emacs asks you to select the coding system to use, showing a list of possible coding systems.

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

Z.4.2 Mail Header Editing

Mail mode provides special commands to move to particular header fields and to complete addresses in headers.

C-c C-f C-t
Move to the `To' header field, creating one if there is none (mail-to).
C-c C-f C-s
Move to the `Subject' header field, creating one if there is none (mail-subject).
C-c C-f C-c
Move to the `CC' header field, creating one if there is none (mail-cc).
C-c C-f C-b
Move to the `BCC' header field, creating one if there is none (mail-bcc).
C-c C-f C-f
Move to the `FCC' header field, creating one if there is none (mail-fcc).
Complete a mailing address (mail-complete).

There are five commands to move point to particular header fields, all based on the prefix C-c C-f (`C-f' is for "field"). They are listed in the table above. If the field in question does not exist, these commands create one. We provide special motion commands for these particular fields because they are the fields users most often want to edit.

While editing a header field that contains mailing addresses, such as `To:', `CC:' and `BCC:', you can complete a mailing address by typing M-TAB (mail-complete). It inserts the full name corresponding to the address, if it can determine the full name. The variable mail-complete-style controls whether to insert the full name, and what style to use, as in mail-from-style (see section Z.2 Mail Header Fields).

For completion purposes, the valid mailing addresses are taken to be the local users' names plus your personal mail aliases. You can specify additional sources of valid addresses; look at the customization group `mailalias' to see the options for this (see section AD.2.2.1 Customization Groups).

If you type M-TAB in the body of the message, mail-complete invokes ispell-complete-word, as in Text mode.

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

Z.4.3 Citing Mail

Mail mode also has commands for yanking or citing all or part of a message that you are replying to. These commands are active only when you started sending a message using an Rmail command.

C-c C-y
Yank the selected message from Rmail (mail-yank-original).
C-c C-r
Yank the region from the Rmail buffer (mail-yank-region).
C-c C-q
Fill each paragraph cited from another message (mail-fill-yanked-message).

When mail sending is invoked from the Rmail mail reader using an Rmail command, C-c C-y can be used inside the mail buffer to insert the text of the message you are replying to. Normally it indents each line of that message three spaces and eliminates most header fields. A numeric argument specifies the number of spaces to indent. An argument of just C-u says not to indent at all and not to eliminate anything. C-c C-y always uses the current message from the Rmail buffer, so you can insert several old messages by selecting one in Rmail, switching to `*mail*' and yanking it, then switching back to Rmail to select another.

You can specify the text for C-c C-y to insert at the beginning of each line: set mail-yank-prefix to the desired string. (A value of nil means to use indentation; this is the default.) However, C-u C-c C-y never adds anything at the beginning of the inserted lines, regardless of the value of mail-yank-prefix.

To yank just a part of an incoming message, set the region in Rmail to the part you want; then go to the `*Mail*' message and type C-c C-r (mail-yank-region). Each line that is copied is indented or prefixed according to mail-yank-prefix.

After using C-c C-y or C-c C-r, you can type C-c C-q (mail-fill-yanked-message) to fill the paragraphs of the yanked old message or messages. One use of C-c C-q fills all such paragraphs, each one individually. To fill a single paragraph of the quoted message, use M-q. If filling does not automatically handle the type of citation prefix you use, try setting the fill prefix explicitly. See section T.5 Filling Text.

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

Z.4.4 Mail Mode Miscellany

C-c C-t
Move to the beginning of the message body text (mail-text).
C-c C-w
Insert the file `~/.signature' at the end of the message text (mail-signature).
C-c C-i file RET
Insert the contents of file at the end of the outgoing message (mail-attach-file).
M-x ispell-message
Perform spelling correction on the message text, but not on citations from other messages.

C-c C-t (mail-text) moves point to just after the header separator line--that is, to the beginning of the message body text.

C-c C-w (mail-signature) adds a standard piece of text at the end of the message to say more about who you are. The text comes from the file `~/.signature' in your home directory. To insert your signature automatically, set the variable mail-signature to t; after that, starting a mail message automatically inserts the contents of your `~/.signature' file. If you want to omit your signature from a particular message, delete it from the buffer before you send the message.

You can also set mail-signature to a string; then that string is inserted automatically as your signature when you start editing a message to send. If you set it to some other Lisp expression, the expression is evaluated each time, and its value (which should be a string) specifies the signature.

You can do spelling correction on the message text you have written with the command M-x ispell-message. If you have yanked an incoming message into the outgoing draft, this command skips what was yanked, but it checks the text that you yourself inserted. (It looks for indentation or mail-yank-prefix to distinguish the cited lines from your input.) See section L.4 Checking and Correcting Spelling.

To include a file in the outgoing message, you can use C-x i, the usual command to insert a file in the current buffer. But it is often more convenient to use a special command, C-c C-i (mail-attach-file). This command inserts the file contents at the end of the buffer, after your signature if any, with a delimiter line that includes the file name.

Turning on Mail mode (which C-x m does automatically) runs the normal hooks text-mode-hook and mail-mode-hook. Initializing a new outgoing message runs the normal hook mail-setup-hook; if you want to add special fields to your mail header or make other changes to the appearance of the mail buffer, use that hook. See section AD.2.3 Hooks.

The main difference between these hooks is just when they are invoked. Whenever you type M-x mail, mail-mode-hook runs as soon as the `*mail*' buffer is created. Then the mail-setup function inserts the default contents of the buffer. After these default contents are inserted, mail-setup-hook runs.

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

Z.5 Mail Amusements

M-x spook adds a line of randomly chosen keywords to an outgoing mail message. The keywords are chosen from a list of words that suggest you are discussing something subversive.

The idea behind this feature is the suspicion that the NSA(13) snoops on all electronic mail messages that contain keywords suggesting they might find them interesting. (The NSA says they don't, but that's what they would say.) The idea is that if lots of people add suspicious words to their messages, the NSA will get so busy with spurious input that they will have to give up reading it all.

Here's how to insert spook keywords automatically whenever you start entering an outgoing message:

(add-hook 'mail-setup-hook 'spook)

Whether or not this confuses the NSA, it at least amuses people.

You can use the fortune program to put a "fortune cookie" message into outgoing mail. To do this, add fortune-to-signature to mail-setup-hook:

(add-hook 'mail-setup-hook 'fortune-to-signature)

[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

Z.6 Mail-Composition Methods

In this chapter we have described the usual Emacs mode for editing and sending mail--Mail mode. Emacs has alternative facilities for editing and sending mail, including MH-E and Message mode, not documented in this manual. See section `MH-E' in The Emacs Interface to MH. See section `Message' in Message Manual. You can choose any of them as your preferred method. The commands C-x m, C-x 4 m and C-x 5 m use whichever agent you have specified, as do various other Emacs commands and facilities that send mail.

To specify your mail-composition method, customize the variable mail-user-agent. Currently legitimate values include sendmail-user-agent (Mail mode), mh-e-user-agent, message-user-agent and gnus-user-agent.

If you select a different mail-composition method, the information in this chapter about the `*mail*' buffer and Mail mode does not apply; the other methods use a different format of text in a different buffer, and their commands are different as well.

[ << ] [ >> ]           [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

This document was generated on April 2, 2002 using texi2html