ARCHIVED: What are some equivalent commands in VMS Mail and the Unix electronic mail program Berkeley mail and Elm?

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Note: Elm is not available on any UITS systems.

Below is a list of some roughly equivalent commands in three different electronic mail programs. It is intended as an aid for someone who knows one of the three mail programs and wishes to learn another.

Please use this list with discretion; it is not a replacement for other mail documentation such as the online help. This list does not explain exactly what each command does, and it assumes knowledge of many aspects of VMS and Unix. Many features of each mail program have been omitted because they do not have equivalents in the others.

Notes on the non-standard notation used:

  • A semicolon separates commands and represents the Return key.
  • Items enclosed in curly brackets are not meant to be typed literally.
  • Items preceded by $ or % should be typed at the command line prompt of your account. ($ represents the VMS prompt and % represents the Unix prompt. The prompt on your account may look different if you have made changes to your account.) All other commands should be typed within the mail program (at the mail prompt).

"Berkeley Mail" refers to the mailer that is traditionally invoked by "mail" or "Mail" on most Unix systems (although many accounts have aliased "mail" to the more modern mailers Pine or Elm.)

Starting an interactive mail session:

  • VMS: $ mail
  • Berkeley: % mail or mail -I
  • Elm: % elm

Getting help from the command prompt:

  • VMS: $ help mail
  • Berkeley: % man mail
  • Elm: % man elm

Getting help from the mail prompt:

  • Berkeley: ? or help or ~?
  • Elm: ? ?

Leaving mail:

  • VMS: exit or CTRL/Z
  • Berkeley: quit
  • Elm: q

Redrawing the screen when it gets garbled:

  • VMS: CTRL/W (in editor), CURRENT (while reading message)
  • Berkeley: CTRL/L
  • Elm: CTRL/L

Navigating folders:

  VMS                     Berkeley                 Elm
  ----------------------  -----------------------  -------------------
  dir/folder              folders                  c =* or ! ls ~/Mail
  dir {folder}            folder {folder}; header  c ={folder}
  dir mail                mail -f {folder}; header c >
  dir newmail or dir/new  headers                  c !
  send/self; dir/new; last                         c <; *


  VMS                     Berkeley                 Elm
  ----------------------  -----------------------  -------------------
  dir/from={string}                                l from {string}
  dir/to={string}                                  l to {string}
  dir/subject={string}                             l subject {string}


  VMS                     Berkeley                 Elm
  ----------------------  -----------------------  -------------------
  read {number}           {number}                 {number} {Return}
  next                    + or next                {down-arrow} or J
  back                    -                        {up-arrow} or K
  first                                            =
  last                                             *
  search {string}                                  / {string} or
                                                   // {string}

Sending mail:

  VMS                     Berkeley                 Elm
  ----------------------  -----------------------  -------------------
  send/edit; {user}       mail {user}; ~e; CTRL/D  m {user}
  reply/edit              reply or Reply           r or g
  forward/edit                                     f y {user}
  forward/noedit                                   f n {user}

Creating and using aliases and distribution lists:

  VMS                     Berkeley                 Elm
  ----------------------  -----------------------  -------------------
  $ define {name} {addr}  alias {name} {addr}      a n {name} {addr}
  send; @{dist-list}      mail {alias-name}        m {alias-name}

Filing messages:

  VMS                     Berkeley                 Elm
  ----------------------  -----------------------  -------------------
  mark                    touch                    t or CTRL/t
  copy {folder}           copy +{folder}           C ={folder}
  move {folder}           save +{folder}           s ={folder}
                                                   or > ={folder}
  extract {filename}      s {msg-list} {filename}  s {filename}
  extract/noheader        write
  delete {message-list}   delete {message-list}    d or CTRL/d
  dir trash; 1; move mail undelete {message-list}  u or CTRL/u
  print                                            p

Performing an operating system command from the mail prompt:

  • VMS: spawn dir (to list files)
  • Berkeley: ! ls or shell ls
  • Elm: ! ls

Sending mail from the command prompt:

  • VMS: $ mail/subj="{subject}" {file} {user}
  • Berkeley: % mail -s {subject} {user} < {file}
  • Elm: % elm -s {subject} {user} < {file}

Viewing and setting some miscellaneous preferences:

  VMS                     Berkeley                 Elm
  ----------------------  -----------------------  -------------------
                          % emacs ~/.mailrc       % emacs ~/.elm/elmrc
  show all                                        o
  set editor emacs        set EDITOR (and VISUAL) o e (and o v)
                           /usr/local/bin/emacs    /usr/local/bin/emacs
  set editor tpu          set EDITOR (and VISUAL) o e (and o v)
                           /usr/local/bin/eve      /usr/local/bin/eve
  set personal_name       alternates              o y
  set copy_self                                   o o =sent
  set cc_prompt           set askcc               askcc = ON (in elmrc)
  set mail_directory      set folder              o f
  set forward {address}   % echo {address} > ~/.forward
  set noforward           % rm ~/.forward
  show forward            % cat ~/.forward

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Last modified on 2021-05-24 12:16:43.