EXMH: THE BASICS

Starting exmh

If your front panel includes an icon with an envelope on it, moving the mouse pointer onto that icon and clicking the left mouse button starts exmh (probably). If not, open a terminal window and type

exmh &

at the shell prompt. In either case, exmh runs in its own window.

In its default configuration, exmh presupposes that there is a subdirectory named Mail in your home directory, with at least two subdirectories of its own: inbox, for messages that you have received but have not yet filed or deleted, and drafts, for messages that you have started to write but have not yet sent. Within these subdirectories, exmh stores each message in a separate file. The name of each file is simply a serial number (such as 1, 2, or -- if you have a lot of mail lying around -- 2724). Exmh does not mind if you use other file utilities to operate on message files (rm to remove them, mv to rename them, cp to make copies of them, a2ps to print them, grep to search through them, and so on).

Composing a message

The exmh window is divided into three panels, each with a row of buttons at the top. One of the buttons above the bottom panel is labelled Comp. Move the mouse pointer onto this button and click the left mouse button. A message-composition window appears. Type in the e-addresses of the intended recipients (after To:), the subject of the message (after Subject:), and the text of your message (below the dotted line). When you've finished, move the mouse pointer onto the button labelled Send in the top right corner of the composition window and click the left mouse button.

The editor in the composition window wraps extra-long lines on screen automatically, but waits until you send the message to insert actual newline characters into the message text (unless you press the <Enter> key, in which case a newline character is inserted immediately.) The effect of the wrapping is that, if you do not press the <Enter> key within a paragraph, the editor treats it as one long line while you are working on it, and continually adjusts the on-screen wrapping as you make internal changes. However, when you click on Send, exmh inserts a newline character at each wrapping point, so that if the receiver's display window is at least as many columns wide as your composition window, the message as received looks exactly like the message as it appeared when you sent it.

Sending an attachment

If you want to attach a file, perhaps even a graphics file or a sound file, to a message that you're sending, move the mouse pointer onto the button labelled More... at the top of the composition window, click the left mouse button, move the mouse pointer onto the word Attachment... on the menu that appears, click the left mouse button, move the mouse pointer onto the phrase Attach File... on the secondary menu that appears next, and click the left mouse button once more. Type the full path name of the file you want to attach in the text field at the bottom of the window that pops up, move the mouse pointer onto the button labelled OK, and click the left mouse button.

At this point, a box appears in the middle of the composition window, asking you to confirm that the encoding mechanism that exmh has selected (as most likely to make it through the gauntlet of mail forwarders) is the one you want. Move the mouse pointer onto the button labelled OK at the bottom of this box and click the left mouse button. The encoded version of your file then appears in the composition window, preceded by some header lines that the receiver's mail agent will need in order to reconstruct the file correctly.

You can repeat the process to send two or more attachments with the same message.

Picking up new mail

Exmh does not automatically load up messages that have been delivered since the last time it was started. Instead, you have to tell it explicitly to pick up your mail from the file in which the delivery agent placed it. The jargon term for this operation is ``incorporating new mail,'' and you issue the command for it by moving the mouse pointer onto the button labelled Inc (above the middle panel) and clicking the left mouse button. The new messages are added to the list that appears in the middle panel.

Reading messages

To read a message that is listed in the middle panel, move the mouse pointer onto the entry for that message and click the left mouse button. The message (along with the most interesting of the headers prepended to it) appears in the bottom panel. If it is a long message, the scroll bar at the right-hand side allows you to bring into view the parts that are not immediately visible.

To move from one message to the next, move the mouse pointer onto the Button labelled Next (above the bottom panel) and click the left mouse button. The adjacent Prev button similarly takes you backwards through the list of messages.

Replying to a message

When a message is displayed in the bottom panel, you can reply to it by moving the mouse pointer onto the button labelled Reply ... (above the bottom panel) and clicking the left mouse button. Move the mouse pointer onto the phrase Reply to sender on the menu that appears if you want your reply to go only to the person who sent the message, or onto Reply all if you want the other people who received the original message also to receive your reply. Then click the left mouse button. A composition window appears, in which you can write your response.

Sometimes you want your reply to include some or all of the body of the message you're replying to. To insert that text (with the prefix "> " at the beginning of each line to indicate citation), move the mouse pointer onto the button labelled Quote at the top of the composition window, click the left mouse button, move the mouse pointer onto the word Quote on the menu that appears, and click the left mouse button again. Edit out any parts you don't want.

Forwarding a message

When a message is displayed in the bottom panel, you can forward it by moving the mouse pointer onto the button labelled Forward(above the bottom panel) and clicking the left mouse button. A composition window appears, with the message to be forwarded already in the body. Type the e-mail addresses of any new recipients (after To:). If you want to comment on the message you are forwarding, you can insert your remarks in the body of your message (conventionally, at the top, above the words Forwarded Message).

Deleting messages

To delete a message after reading it, move the mouse pointer onto the button labelled Delete (above the bottom panel) and click the left mouse button. The message disappears from the bottom panel -- usually being replaced by an adjacent message -- and on the list in the middle panel the entry for that message is rendered on a darker gray background.

At this point, the message is still recoverable (it is only ``marked for deletion,'' not yet deleted). If you move the mouse pointer onto the dark gray entry and clicking the left mouse button, the message body reappears in the bottom panel. You can remove the deletion mark by moving the mouse pointer onto the button labelled More... above the bottom panel, clicking the left mouse button, moving the mouse pointer onto the word Unmark on the menu that appears, and clicking the left mouse button again.

To make deletions final, move the mouse pointer onto the button labelled Commit (above the middle panel) and click the left mouse button. The dark-gray entries for deleted messages disappear.

Filing messages

In exmh terminology, the directories inbox and drafts, mentioned above, are ``mail folders.'' One common method of filing mail related to various projects, or from various correspondents, is to set up additional mail folders and to place each message, after it is read, into one or more of those folders.

To create a folder, move the mouse pointer onto the button labelled New (above the middle panel) and press the left mouse button. In the window that pops up, type the name of the folder that you want to create into the text field labelled Folder Name:, then move the mouse pointer onto the button labelled OK in the bottom right corner of the pop-up window and click the left mouse button. (Like the other folders, the new one is actually a subdirectory of ~/Mail, and each message added to it is a file with a serial number as its name.) A rectangle containing the name of the folder appears in the top panel.

To move a message into a new folder, specify the target folder by moving the mouse pointer onto the rectangle containing its name in the top panel and clicking the right mouse button. The rectangle turns yellow, which is exmh's convention for indicating the current target folder. Next, if the message that you want to move is not the one currently displayed in the bottom panel, move the mouse pointer onto the entry for it on the list in the middle panel and click the left mouse button. Finally, move the mouse pointer onto the button labelled Move (above the bottom panel) and click the left mouse button.

As in a deletion, this only marks the message for transfer to the target folder. To complete the transfer, move the mouse pointer onto the button labelled Commit (above the middle panel) and click the left mouse button.

The pink ring around the inbox rectangle in the top panel conventionally indicates that inbox is the current folder -- that is, the one whose contents are currently displayed in the middle panel. You can make a different folder current by moving the mouse pointer onto the rectangle containing its name in the top panel and clicking the left mouse button. All of the operations listed above can be performed no matter which folder is current. (Note, however, that, the Inc operation puts new messages in the inbox folder, no matter what folder is current at the time you perform it.)

If you want to file a message into more than one folder, use the button labelled Link rather than the one labelled Move for all but the last operation.

Receiving attachments

Some of the messages that you receive have attachments. Exmh deals with each attachment in one of three ways, depending on its ``content type'' (as described in part two of ``Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions''):

To find out what external viewers are available, exmh consults its mail-capabilities files. One of these is /etc/mailcap, of which there is a copy on every MathLAN workstation. In addition, each user may create a file named .mailcap in his or her home directory. If this latter file exists, exmh gives precedence to its contents. Thus, by adding entries to your .mailcap file, you can let exmh know about some viewer for files of particular content types or override the system-wide choices.

For instance, the /etc/mailcap file directs the use of the xpdf external viewer for attachments of the application/pdf content type. MathLAN also supports the Adobe Acrobat Reader, which you might prefer to use for any such attachments that you receive. You can arrange for exmh to use the Acrobat Reader instead of xpdf by adding the line

application/pdf; /net/bin/acroread %s

to the .mailcap file in your home directory. (The part before the semicolon specifies the content type, and the part afterward is the command line to be executed to display an attachment of that type, with %s serving as a placeholder the name of a temporary file containing the attachment.)

Similarly, if you occasionally receive messages with DVI files (as generated by TEX) as attachments, you can add the line

application/x-dvi; xdvi %s

to .mailcap to have exmh launch the xdvi previewer.

If you have already set up StarOffice in your home directory (as described in the handout ``Setting up StarOffice''), you can have exmh fire it up to deal with each attachment of the application/msword content type by adding to .mailcap the line

application/msword; /home/spelvin/office52/soffice %s

(substituting your user name for spelvin).

Aliases

An alias is a short synonym for an e-address or a group of e-addresses. The aliases that exmh uses when sending mail are stored in a text file called .mh_aliases in your home directory. You can edit this file with a text editor, if you're careful to follow the format -- alias, colon, space, expansion, with commas between adjacent e-addresses in the expansion, and a backslash at the end of a line to indicate continuation onto the next line, thus:

menagerie: fido, kitty, tortuga@slowmovers.net, baabaaa@ovine.gov, \
        nonesuch@unicorn.edu
fido: poochj@dogworld.com
kitty: mfeline@ailuros.org

The expansion of an alias can include another alias that is defined below it in the .mh_aliases file.

Alternatively, you can use exmh's built-in Alias Browser, which appears when you move the mouse pointer onto the button labelled Address... (above the top panel), click the left mouse button, move the mouse pointer onto the words MH Aliases on the menu that appears, and click the left mouse button again. The Alias Browser displays, at the left, all the aliases that are currently defined; the right-hand side is used to display the expansion of an alias once you have selected it.

To add an alias through the Alias Browser, first type the e-address into the white text field at the bottom of the right column, then the new alias into the text field at the bottom of the left column. Move the mouse pointer onto the button labelled Insert in the lower left-hand corner of the Alias Browser window and click the left mouse button.

If you are defining a group alias, you can now proceed to add another e-address to the expansion of the alias that you just defined by typing it into the white text field at the bottom of the right column, moving the mouse pointer onto the other Insert button (the one just below the text field that you've just filled) and clicking the left mouse button. Repeat until all of the e-addresses that you want in the expansion appear in the right subpanel.

To complete the process of adding aliases, move the mouse pointer onto the button labelled Save at the top of the Alias Browser window and click the left mouse button.

Aliases defined in this way are independent of the aliases that the MathLAN mail system accepts and interprets on incoming mail: faculty, csfaculty, mathfaculty, sepc, students, csseniors, csunders, csstudents, mathseniors, mathunders, and mathstudents. Your exmh aliases apply to outgoing messages that you compose and send, and they are replaced by their expansions as soon as you click on Send.

The Address Book

Since e-addresses are hard to remember precisely, exmh helps you out by extracting information about the sender from every message that you receive and keeping track of it in an Address Book.

To examine the Address Book, move the mouse pointer onto the button labelled Address... (above the top panel), click the left mouse button, move the mouse pointer onto the words Address Book on the menu that appears, and click the left mouse button again. The window that appears has an alphabetical list of ``real names'' down the left side and the corresponding e-addresses down the right side.

If you receive much e-mail, this list quickly attains an unwieldy length. At this point, the text field labelled Find, at the bottom of the Address Book window, becomes useful. If you type a name or part of a name into that text field and press the <Enter> key, the main panel is redrawn so that it contains only the entries that contain that name. This usually makes it a lot easier to find what you're looking for.

For more information

Brent Welch's ``Intro to exmh'' (http://www.beedub.com/exmh/tutorial.html) is a slightly more extensive tutorial. A fuller on-line discussion of exmh is Part VI of Jerry Peek's book MH & xmh: email for users & programmers (http://www.ics.uci.edu/~mh/book/exmh/tocs/jump.htm).

(laurel leaf logo)

created August 3, 2000
last revised June 25, 2001

John David Stone (stone@cs.grinnell.edu)