Communicating with E-mail

Communicating with E-mail

To manage your e-mail, Red Hat Linux features the Ximian Evolution mail program. Mozilla also includes a graphical application for reading, managing, and sending e-mail.

If you don't mind text-based interfaces, or if you are a UNIX person who likes to sort, grep, troff, col, and cat your e-mail, there are still plenty of UNIX-like mail tools around. The mail command itself provides an easy interface for plain-text messages sent to other users on your UNIX system or on your LAN. There are also text-based mail applications, such as the mutt command, that let you handle mail attachments.

After covering some e-mail basics, this section will lead you through the steps that allow you to use e-mail with Evolution and Mozilla Mail. If you are interested in text-based, command-driven mail tools, some of which have been around UNIX systems for many years, descriptions of many of those commands are also in this section.

E-mail basics

E-mail is one of the oldest uses of computer networks — predating the Web by more than 20 years. In fact, e-mail was one of the first applications used to transport information on the Internet, when the Internet consisted of only a few computers.

Today, there are millions of users around the world who have e-mail addresses. Although there are several different styles of e-mail addressing, by far the most popular e-mail address format is the domain style address (used with the Internet and other TCP/IP networks). The e-mail address consists of a user name and domain name, separated by an @ sign. For example:

As someone using e-mail, you need a program (such as Ximian Evolution) that enables you to get your e-mail, manage your e-mail messages, and send messages. Although mail messages were originally only plain text, and still are in most cases today, there are some newer features that let you enhance the kinds of content that you can send and receive. Here are two ways to enhance your mail messages:

  • Attachments — You can attach files to your mail messages. Attachments can contain data that you couldn't ordinarily keep in a mail message, such as a binary program, a word processing file, or an image. The recipient of the mail attachment can either save the file to a local hard disk or open it in a program designed to read the attachment.

  • HTML — The same stuff used to create Web pages can be included in mail messages you create with certain mail clients (including Evolution and Mozilla Mail). This lets you change fonts and colors, add backgrounds, insert images, or add HTML features.


    To people who use text-based mail clients, HTML content can't be interpreted (it shows up as a bunch of markers that overwhelm the text). In general, don't use HTML in messages that are being distributed to a large group of people (such as in a newsgroup). Also, e-mail was never intended to transport large attachments. For larger files, try copying to an FTP site instead of doing e-mail attachments.

Depending on the mail program you are using (which is also referred to as a Mail User Agent or MUA), e-mail management features let you direct incoming e-mail into different folders and sort messages by date, sender, or other attributes. E-mail sending features let you reply to messages, forward messages, and draw names from an address book or directory server.


If you don't have an e-mail account, you can set up your own e-mail server using Red Hat Linux. For information on setting up a mail server, see Chapter 19.

Using Evolution e-mail

Evolution is the preferred application for sending and managing e-mail in Red Hat Linux. Red Hat gave it a prime spot on the desktop, just to the right of the Red Hat main menu and Web browser icons. After you launch Evolution for the first time and run the Startup Assistant, the Evolution window appears, showing the different types of operations you can perform.

Figure 9-6 shows an example of the Evolution window. Evolution is a groupware application, combining several types of applications that help groups of people communicate and work together. The features of Evolution include:

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Figure 9-6: Evolution can be used to manage your mail, appointments, and tasks.
  • E-mail Includes a complete set of features for getting, reading, managing, composing, and sending e-mail on one or more e-mail accounts.

  • Calendar Create and manage appointments on your personal calendar. You can e-mail appointment information to others and do keyword searches of your calendar.

  • Tasks — Organize ongoing tasks into folders.

  • Contacts Create contact information for friends and associates, such as names, addresses, and telephone numbers. A Categories feature helps you remember who gets birthday and anniversary gifts.

In the next section, I focus on the Summary and E-mail features of Evolution.

Setting Evolution preferences

To really make Evolution your own, you can set preferences that are particular to you. Certain settings let you choose the information that appears on the Summary page when you start Evolution. Other settings let you choose how your e-mail is gathered and sorted.

Changing Summary settings

You can change Summary settings by performing the following steps:

  1. From the Evolution main window, select Tools ?Settings.

  2. Select Summary Preferences (left column). You can change the following Summary settings:

    • Mail Select which folders should appear on the Summary window. By default, only the Mail Summary link appears, but no specific folders are shown.

    • News Feeds Select from a variety of news feeds, to have headlines and links to news stories added to your Summary page. Click the News Feeds tab, choose the news headlines that interest you, and click Add to have them appear on the list. By default, news headlines will refresh every 10 minutes (600 seconds), and up to 10 headlines will appear for each feed (both values are configurable).

    • Weather Choose to have weather for a particular city appear on your Summary page. Click the Weather tab, select the country, state, and city for which you want to see weather, and then click Add to make the change.

    • Schedule Choose how many days of scheduled appointments to appear on your Summary page. Click the Schedule tab and select one day, five days, one week, or one month of appointments. Also, select to show all or just today's tasks.

  3. Click Apply to apply the changes.

Changing Mail Accounts settings

You can change Mail Accounts settings by performing the following steps:

  1. From the Evolution main window, select Tools ?Settings.

  2. Click Mail Accounts in the left column.

  3. Select the mail account to change and click Edit. The Evolution Account Editor appears.

  4. Here are a few items you may want to change for your e-mail account:

    • Signature Have a signature appear on every e-mail message you send. Either click the Default signature box and select Autogenerated (to use name and e-mail address as a signature) or click Add New Signature to create a signature.

    • Receiving By default, Evolution checks your mail server for your mail every ten minutes. Once downloaded, each message is erased from the server. To change automatic e-mail checking and options to leave messages on the server, select the Receiving Options tab and make the changes you want.

    • Automatic copy You can have every message you send copied to one or more other users. This is a nice feature if you write important e-mail that you want to archive to a different e-mail account. Select the Defaults tab, then click the check box next to Always Cc or Always Bcc. Next, type the correct e-mail address.

    • Security To help validate that you are who you say you are and keep your e-mail private, Evolution lets you use PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encryption keys. Click the Security tab, then enter your PGP/GPG Key ID. Choose settings for signing and encryption as appropriate.

  5. Click Apply to apply the changes.

Receiving, composing, and sending e-mail

Evolution offers a full set of features for sending, receiving and managing your e-mail. I personally prefer the Folder to the Shortcut view for working with Evolution (click View ? Folder Bar to turn it on; click View ? Shortcut Bar to turn it off).

Here are some tips for sending, reading, and receiving mail:

  • Read e-mail Click Inbox in the Folder column. Your messages appear to the right.

  • Delete e-mail After you have read a message, select it and press the Delete key. Click View ? Hide Deleted Messages to toggle whether or not you see deleted messages. Click Actions ? Expunge to permanently remove all messages marked for deletion in the current folder.

  • Send and receive Click the Send/Receive button to send any e-mail queued to be sent and receive any e-mail waiting for you at your mail server.

  • Compose e-mail Click New ? Mail Message. A Compose a Message window appears. Type the e-mail address, a message for the subject line, and the body of the message. Click Send when you are finished. Buttons on the Compose window let you add attachments, cut and paste text, choose a format (HTML or plain text), and sign the message (if you have set up appropriate keys).

  • Create folders If you like to keep old messages, you may want to save them outside your Inbox (so it won't get too junked up). Right-click on the Inbox, then select New Folder. Type a folder name and click OK (to store it as a subfolder to your Inbox).

  • Sort messages With new folders created, you can easily sort messages from your Inbox to another folder. The easiest way is to simply drag-and-drop each message (or a set of selected messages) from the message pane to the new folder.

  • Search messages Type a keyword in the search box over your e-mail message pane and select whether to search your message subject lines, sender, recipient, or message body. Click Find Now to search for the keyword. After viewing the messages, click Clear to have the other messages reappear.

  • Filter messages You can take action on an e-mail message before it even lands in your Inbox. Click Tools ?Filters. A Filters window appears that lets you add filters to deal with incoming or outgoing messages. Click Add to create criteria and set actions.

    For example, you could have all messages from a particular sender, subject, date, status, or size sorted to a selected folder. Or you could have messages matching your criteria deleted, assigned a color, or respond by playing a sound clip.


    Refer to Chapter 19 for information on using Spamassassin, along with Evolution filters, to sort out SPAM from your real e-mail messages.

Besides the features mentioned in the previous list, Evolution supports many common features, such as printing, saving, and viewing e-mail messages in various ways. The help system that comes with Evolution (click the Help button) includes a good manual, FAQ, and service for reporting bugs.

Mozilla Mail client

The Mozilla Mail client program provides a simple interface for using e-mail in Red Hat Linux. You can access the Mozilla Mail window from your Mozilla browser window by choosing Tasks ? Mail & Newsgroups. Figure 9-7 shows an example of the Mozilla Mail window that is ready to use mail and news.

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Figure 9-7: Manage your e-mail from the Mozilla Mail window.

As with Evolution e-mail, you need to provide some information about your mail account before you can connect to your mail server and use Mozilla Mail.


A new Junk Mail feature was recently added to Mozilla Mail. With Junk Mail, Mozilla Mail automatically tags any message it believes to be junk mail with a blue recycle-bin icon. Using the Junk Toolbar, you train the Junk Mail feature by telling it when a message is or isn't junk mail. After you have identified which messages are junk mail, you can automatically move incoming junk mail to the Junk folder.

Connecting to the mail server

You must identify information about yourself and your mail server before you can download or send mail messages. The first time you open Mozilla Mail, an Account Wizard appears. Select to set up an e-mail account; then enter the following information as you are prompted for it:

  • Your Name — The name to appear on messages you send (for example, John Smith).

  • Your E-mail Address — The name@domain address that is assigned to you.

  • Incoming Mail Server — The name or IP address of the mail server from which you get your messages. You also need to know what type of server it is (POP or IMAP). POP servers require a POP login and password. POP stands for Post Office Protocol. IMAP stands for Internet Message Protocol.

  • Outgoing Mail Server — If there is a different outgoing mail server, you need the name or IP address of that server. Likewise, you will probably need login and password information to send mail on that server. You can choose to use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) to protect your outgoing messages (if it is supported by the server).

Once the wizard has created the account, you are prompted for the password for your account on the mail server. Using that password, Mozilla Mail will download all your messages from the mail server. It will try to download messages again every 10 minutes. Or, you can click the Get Msgs button to download messages immediately.

If you want to change how often mail is downloaded, or other features of your account, click Edit ? Mail & Newsgroup Account Settings. Under the e-mail account you added are categories to change the set-up and behavior of the account. (Click Server Settings to change how often, if at all, new messages are automatically downloaded from the mail server.)

Managing incoming mail

There are various ways to store and manage the e-mail messages in Mozilla Mail. The following is a quick rundown of how to use Mozilla Mail for managing incoming mail:

  • Your e-mail messages are typically stored on a mail server that is contacted over the network. To download your mail messages immediately from the mail server, click File ? Get New Messages (or click Get Msgs on the toolbar).

  • Mail messages are stored in folders under the Mail Folders heading in the left column. There should be a separate heading for each mail account you have. For each mail account, incoming messages are stored (by default) in your Inbox folder. You can create additional folders to better keep track of your mail (right-click on Inbox, then select New Folder to add a folder). Other folders contain drafts of messages set aside for a time (Drafts), templates for creating messages (Templates), messages you have sent (Sent), and messages that you have discarded (Trash).

  • Messages are sorted by date for the folder you select, in the upper-right corner of the display. Click on the heading over the messages to sort by subject, sender, or priority.

  • When you select a message, it appears in the lower-right corner of the display.

Composing and sending mail

To compose e-mail messages, you can either start from scratch or respond to an existing e-mail message. The following are some quick descriptions of how to create outgoing mail:

  • To create a new message, choose File ? New ? Message (or Compose on the toolbar).

  • To reply to a mail message, click on the message on the right side of your screen, and then choose Message ? Reply (to reply only to the author of the message) or Message ? Reply to All (to reply to everyone listed as copied on the message).

  • To forward a mail message, choose Message ? Forward. You can also forward a message and have it appear in the text (Message ? Forward As ? Inline) or as an attachment (Message ? Forward As ? Attachment).

In each case of outgoing mail, a mail Compose window appears, in which you compose your e-mail message. As you compose your message in the Compose window, you can:

  • Add e-mail addresses from your personal address book (or from one of several different directory servers) by choosing Options ? Select Addresses. A list of your stored addresses appears for you to choose from. Click Collected Addresses to see a list of addresses that have been collected from e-mail messages you have received.

  • Add attachments to the message (such as a word processing file, image, or executable program) by choosing File ? Attach File. After that, you can select a file from your file system to attach. (You can also choose File ? Attach Web Page to choose the URL of a Web page that you want to attach.)

  • Add certificates or view security information about your mail message by clicking View ?Message Security Info. In the window that appears, you can view general security information about the message.

When you are finished composing the message, click Send to send the message. If you prefer, queue the message to be sent later by choosing File ? Send Later. (Send Later is useful if you have a dial-up connection to the network and you are not currently online.)


If you want to quit and finish the e-mail message later, you can choose File ? Save As ? Draft. Then click the X in the upper-right corner to close the window. When you are ready to resume work on the message, click the Draft folder in the Mozilla Mail window and double-click the message.

Text-based mail programs

There are many text-based mail programs for reading, sending, and working with your mail. Many of these programs have been around for a long time, so they are full of features and have been well debugged. As a group, however, they are not very intuitive. The following sections describe some text-based commands.


Most of these programs use the value of your $MAIL environment variable as your local mailbox. Usually, that location is /var/spool/mail/user, where user is your user name. To set your $MAIL so that it points to your Mozilla mailbox (so you can use either Mozilla Mail or a text-based mail program), add the following line to one of your startup files:

export MAIL=$HOME/.mozilla/default/*/Mail/hostname/Inbox

If you usually use Mozilla for mail, set this variable temporarily to try out some of these mail programs.

Mail readers and managers

Mail readers described below are text-based and use the entire screen. Although some features are different, menu bars show available options right on the screen.

Mutt mail reader


To use the mutt mail reader you must have the mutt software package installed from CD #1.

The mutt command is a text-based, full-screen mail user agent for reading and sending e-mail. The interface is quick and efficient. Type mutt to start the mail program. Move arrow keys up and down to select from your listed messages. Press Enter to see a mail message and type i to return to the Main menu.

The menu bar indicates how to mark messages for deletion or undelete them, save messages to a directory, or reply to a message. Type m to compose a new message and it opens your default editor (for me, vi) to create the message. Type y to send the message. If you want to read mail without having your fingers leave your keyboard, mutt is a nice choice. (It even handles attachments!)

Pine mail reader


To use the pine mail reader, you must have the pine software package installed. The pine package is no longer distributed with Red Hat Linux. You can try to get a pine package.

The pine mail reader is another full-screen mail reader, but it offers many more features than does mutt. With pine, you can manage multiple mail folders. You can also manage newsgroup messages, as well as mail messages. As text-based applications go, pine is quite easy to use. It was developed by a group at the University of Washington for use by students on campus, but has become widely used in UNIX and Linux environments.

Start this mail program by typing pine. The following menu is displayed, from which you can select items by typing the associated letter or using up and down arrows and pressing Enter:

?  HELP                - Get help using Pine
C  COMPOSE MESSAGE     - Compose and send a message
I  MESSAGE INDEX       - View messages in current folder
L  FOLDER LIST         - Select a folder to view
A  ADDRESS BOOK        - Update address book
S  SETUP               - Configure Pine Options
Q  QUIT                - Leave the Pine program

To read your e-mail, select either I or L. Commands are listed along the bottom of the screen and change to suit the content you are viewing. Left (() and right (?) arrow keys let you step backward and forward among the pine screens.

Mail reader

The mail command was the first mail reader for UNIX. It is text-based, but not screen-oriented. Type mail and you will see the messages in your mailbox. Because mail is not screen-oriented, you just get a prompt after message headings are displayed — you are expected to know what to do next. (You can use the Enter key to step through messages.) Type ? to see which commands are available.

While in mail, type h to see mail headings again. Simply type a message number to see the message. Type d# (replacing # with a message number) to delete a message. To create a new message, type m. To respond to a message, type r# (replacing # with the message number).

Part IV: Red Hat Linux Network and Server Setup