Using Elm for E-mail

In CS courses, instructors and teaching assistant(s) will often communicate with you by e-mail. Although you may be able to read your mail via a web browser or other graphical program, you'll want to know how to use a mail program that can be run in a plain text terminal. The mail program elm is such a program.

The first time you start up elm, it will prompt you asking whether it can create a few directories it needs. Just type <RETURN> to each of those prompts.

Note that one of the new directories it creates is named Mail, and that it now appears in your account (see where it is below in our drawing of the files in your account):
Your Account

   username <-- your home directory
 Mail <-- new directory

Once started, elm will show you the messages in your main mailbox.

You can scroll through messages with the arrow keys and read a message by pressing <Return>. The letters that correspond to basic commands are listed at the bottom of the screen. Note that these commands just require typing the not press <Return> after doing so. For example, to send a message just press reply to a message, just press r. Press ? for a list of other commands.

Often times you will want to save messages into different mailboxes (elm calls these folders, but they are just files, not directories). For example, you may want to have folders to store messages from friends, this course, etc. To do so, use the save command, s. When prompted, type in a folder name beginning with an equal sign. For example, save a message to folder =misc.

Save message to:  =misc

The equal sign just tells elm to put the folder in your Mail directory.

Of course, this new mail folder goes in the previously-created Mail directory:
Your Account

   username <-- your home directory
 misc <-- new file (mail folder)

When you are done using elm, use q to quit. If any messages were marked for deletion, either because you deleted them explicitly or you saved them to another folder, it will prompt you if you want them deleted, as in:

Delete message? (y/n)

It will also ask you if you want to move messages you've read into the received folder, as in:

Move read messages to "received" folder? (y/n)

In general, you won't want to move them.

Finally, if you want to start up elm reading messages from some folder other than your main mailbox. You can use,

elm -f =misc
And it will only display messages that were saved to the =misc folder.

BU CAS CS - Using Elm for E-mail
Copyright © 1993-2000 by Robert I. Pitts <rip at bu dot edu>. All Rights Reserved.