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.
The command C-x m (
mail-other-window) selects the
`*mail*' buffer in a different window, leaving the previous current
buffer visible. C-x 5 m (
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 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.
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 the date and sender are created automatically after the message is sent. 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
Here is an example of what the headers and text in the mail buffer might look like.
To: email@example.com CC: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com Subject: The Emacs Manual --Text follows this line-- Please ignore this message.
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.
mail-archive-file-nameto that file name. Unless you remove the `FCC' field before sending, the message will be written into that file when it is sent.
user-mail-addressas the default.
mail-default-reply-toto that address (as a string). Then
mail-default-reply-tois initialized from that environment variable.
The `To', `CC', `BCC' and `FCC' fields can appear any number of times, to specify many places to send the message. The `To', `CC', and `BCC' fields can have continuation lines. All the lines starting with whitespace, following the line on which the field starts, are considered part of the field. For example,
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
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:
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@example.com plus a local address of your own, put in
alias maingnu firstname.lastname@example.org local-gnu
Emacs also recognizes include commands in `.mailrc' files. They look like this:
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@example.com")
define-mail-alias records aliases by adding them to a
mail-aliases. If you are comfortable with
manipulating Lisp lists, you can set
mail-aliases directly. The
initial value of
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
Normally, Emacs expands aliases when you send the message. If you like, you can have mail aliases expand as abbrevs, as soon as you type them in (see section Abbrevs). To enable this feature, execute the following:
(add-hook 'mail-setup-hook 'mail-abbrevs-setup)
This can go in your `.emacs' file. See section 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-setup-hook '(lambda () (substitute-key-definition 'next-line 'mail-abbrev-next-line mail-mode-map global-map) (substitute-key-definition 'end-of-buffer 'mail-abbrev-end-of-buffer mail-mode-map global-map)))
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.
mail-yank-original). This command does nothing unless your command to start sending a message was issued with Rmail.
There are two ways to send the message. 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.
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 (
completion purposes, the valid mailing addresses are taken to be the
local users' names plus your personal mail aliases. Additionally, if
your site provides a mail directory or a specific host to use for any
unrecognized user name, you can arrange to query that host for
completion--see the variables
mail-directory-stream in the source code.
If you type M-TAB in the body of the message, it invokes
ispell-complete-word, as in Text mode.
Mail mode provides special commands for editing the headers and text
of the message before you send it. There are five commands defined to
move point to particular header fields, all based on the prefix C-c
C-f (`C-f' is for "field"). They are C-c C-f C-t
mail-to) to move to the `To' field, C-c C-f C-s
mail-subject) for the `Subject' field, C-c C-f
mail-cc) for the `CC' field, C-c C-f
mail-bcc) for the `BCC' field, and C-c C-f
mail-fcc) for the `FCC' field. 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.
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 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
t; then 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.
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 four 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
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
After using C-c C-y, you can use the command 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, after first setting the fill prefix
appropriately to handle the indentation. See section Filling Text.
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 Checking and Correcting Spelling.
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
Turning on Mail mode (which C-x m does automatically) runs the
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 Hooks.
The main difference between these hooks is just when they are
invoked. Whenever you type M-x mail,
as soon as the `*mail*' buffer is created. Then the
mail-setup function puts in the default contents of the buffer.
After these default contents are inserted,
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 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.
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