nmh (7) - Linux Manuals

nmh: new MH message system


nmh - new MH message system


nmh is the name of a powerful message handling system. Rather than being a single comprehensive program, nmh consists of a collection of fairly simple single-purpose programs to send, retrieve, save, and manipulate messages.

Unlike most mail clients in UNIX, nmh is not a closed system which must be explicitly run, then exited when you wish to return to the shell. You may freely intersperse nmh commands with other shell commands, allowing you to read and answer your mail while you have (for example) a compilation running, or search for a file or run programs as needed to find the answer to someone's question before answering their mail.

The rest of this manual entry is a quick tutorial which will teach you the basics of nmh. You should read the manual entries for the individual programs for complete documentation.

To get started using nmh, put the directory ``/usr/bin'' in your $PATH. Run the install-mh command. If you've never used nmh before, it will create the necessary default files and directories after asking you if you wish it to do so.

inc moves mail from your system maildrop into your nmh ``+inbox'' folder, breaking it up into separate files and converting it to nmh format as it goes. It prints one line for each message it processes, containing the from field, the subject field and as much of the first line of the message as will fit. It leaves the first message it processes as your current message. You'll need to run inc each time you wish to incorporate new mail into your nmh file.

scan prints a list of the messages in your current folder.

The commands show, next, and prev are used to read specific messages from the current folder. show displays the current message, or a specific message, which may be specified by its number, which you pass as an argument to show. next and prev display, respectively, the message numerically after or before the current message. In all cases, the message displayed becomes the current message. If there is no current message, show may be called with an argument, or next may be used to advance to the first message.

rmm (remove message) deletes the current message. It may be called with message numbers passed as arguments, to delete specific messages.

repl is used to respond to the current message (by default). It places you in the editor with a prototype response form. While you're in the editor, you may peruse the item you're responding to by reading the file @. After completing your response, type ``l'' to list (review) it, or ``s'' to send it.

comp allows you to compose a message by putting you in the editor on a prototype message form, and then lets you send it via the whatnow command. whatnow also supports easy-to-use management of MIME attachments via its attach and related responses, as described in its man page.

nmh command arguments are usually called switches. Some switches have a corresponding ``-no'' switch, which negates all previous occurrences of that switch on the command line. This allows a user to conveniently override, on the command line, a switch in their profile. Switches may be abbreviated as long as there is no ambiguity with another switch of the same command. To avoid ambiguity with any switches that may be added in the future, it is recommended that full switch names be used in durable code such as shell scripts, functions, and aliases.

All the nmh commands may be run with the single switch -help, which causes them to print a list of the switches they may be invoked with and then exit.

All the nmh commands may be run with the single switch -version, which causes them to print the version number of the nmh distribution, and then exit.

Commands which take a message number as an argument (scan, show, repl, ...) also take one of the words ``first'', ``prev'', ``cur'', ``next'', or ``last'' to indicate (respectively) the first, previous, current, next, or last message in the current folder (assuming they are defined). As a shorthand, ``.'' is equivalent to ``cur''.

Commands which take a range of message numbers (rmm, scan, show, ...) also take any of the abbreviations:

Indicates all messages in the range <num1> to <num2>, inclusive. The range must be nonempty.
Indicates all messages, i.e., first-last.
Up to N messages beginning with (or ending with) message num. Num may be any of the pre-defined symbols first, prev, cur, next or last.
The first, previous, next or last messages, if they exist.

Commands that take a folder name (inc, refile, scan, ...) accept the folder name in two formats: ``+folder'' or ``@folder''. In both cases, ``folder'' can be a ``/''-separated path, e.g. ``foo/bar''. ``+folder'' specifies a directory path to a folder. If ``folder'' starts with ``/'' then it's an absolute path from the root directory. If it is ``.'' or ``..'', or starts with ``./'' or ``../'', then it's relative to the current working directory. Otherwise it's relative to mh-profile(5)'s ``Path'', i.e. as given by `mhpath +`. ``@folder'' is a shorthand for ``+curfolder/folder''; it's a relative path from the current folder. ``curfolder'' is given by `mhpath`. For example, assuming a Path profile component of Mail,

scan +inbox scans $HOME/Mail/inbox
scan +work/todo
scans $HOME/Mail/work/todo
scan @todo
scans $HOME/Mail/work/todo, if current folder is +work
refile @../done
refiles to $HOME/Mail/work/done, if the current folder is +work/todo
scan +/tmp
scans /tmp
scan +.
scans the current directory
refile @.
refiles current message to end of current folder.

There are many other possibilities such as creating multiple folders for different topics, and automatically refiling messages according to subject, source, destination, or content. These are beyond the scope of this manual entry.


Following is a list of all the nmh commands, grouped loosely according to their role.


comp(1) compose a message
forward messages
reply to a message
prompting front-end for send

Note that although whatnow provides much of the primary nmh user interface for sending mail, it is almost never invoked manually, but rather is invoked indirectly by one of the above commands, after you've composed a message in your editor, and before you've decided to send it. Here you can add attachments, check the recipient list, decide to quit and send it later, etc.

Related utilities:

ali(1) list mail aliases
annotate messages
report to whom a message would go
redistribute a message to additional addresses

Advanced commands, only sometimes invoked directly:

mhbuild(1) translate MIME composition draft
send a message
send multiple files in a MIME message


incorporate new mail

Related utilities:

burst(1) explode digests into messages
check for messages
asynchronously redistribute new mail
append message to file
asynchronously incorporate new mail
asynchronously filter and deliver new mail


next(1) show the next message
show the previous message
show(display) messages
produce a one line per message scan listing
select the next folder with new messages
select the previous folder with new messages

Related utilities, only sometimes invoked directly:

mhl(1) produce formatted listings of nmh messages
list information about content of MIME messages
display/list/store/cache MIME messages
display MIME messages
store contents of MIME messages into files


Within a folder:

select messages by content

Across folders:

new(1) list folders with new messages
list new messages in a give set of folders
list folders with messages in given sequence(s)
list all folders with messages in given sequence(s)
set/list current folder/message
list all folders


mark(1) mark messages
file messages in other folders
remove folder
remove messages
sort messages

Convenience Wrappers

mhmail(1) send or read mail
nmh shell


mhfixmsg(1) rewrite MIME messages with various transformations
print nmh profile components
print full pathnames of nmh messages and folders
compress a folder into a single file
prompting editor front end
report new mail

Indirectly Invoked Commands

ap(8) parse addresses RFC 822-style
search for alias/password conflicts
parse dates RFC 822-style
decode mh-format(5) files
initialize the nmh environment
deliver a message

Files Used by nmh Commands

mh-alias(5) alias file for nmh message system
format file for nmh message system
user customization for nmh message system
mail transport customization for nmh message system


mh-draft(5) draft folder facility
nmh message storage format specification
message format for nmh message system
sequence specification for nmh message system


contains nmh commands
contains nmh format files
contains nmh library commands
The user's nmh profile


If problems are encountered with an nmh program, the problems should be reported to the local maintainers of nmh. When doing this, the name of the program should be reported, along with the version information for the program.

To find out what version of an nmh program is being run, invoke the program with the -version switch. This prints the version of nmh, the host it was compiled on, and the date the program was linked.

Send bug reports and suggestions to nmh-workers [at] nongnu.org.


install-mh(1), mh-profile(5), mh-chart(7), mh-mime(7)