Using Email on the VAX

THIS PAGE covers some of the basics of using Email on the HWS VAX computer. (Note that it is also possible to use Netscape to send and receive email, as is explained on a separate page.)

Telnetting to the VAX

The VAX is the Colleges' main computer. You have a username and password for an account on the VAX. (If you forget your password, you will have to see Barry Jones in Williams Hall.) You can send and receive email through this account by "logging on" to the VAX. You can log on to the VAX through terminals in Williams Hall or in the Gulick microcomputer lab. You can also use your own computer, if you have a modem or an Internet connection. In Gulick hall, you'll find an icon labeled "HWS Campus VAX" on each computer. Just double-click that icon to connect to the VAX. If you want to use a Telnet program to connect to the VAX through the Internet, you should telnet to the VAX's Internet name,

Once you connect to the VAX, the first thing you see is the prompt, "USERNAME:". This means that you are ready to log on. You log on to the VAX by entering your assigned username and password. When the computer asks you for "USERNAME:", type in your username and press return. The computer will ask for your "PASSWORD:". Type it in and press return. (For security, the password will not appear on the screen as you type it.) If you don't enter your username and password correctly, you will get an error message. Just press return to get another USERNAME prompt, and try again.

Once you have logged on, the computer will print a bunch of introductory stuff. Eventually, it will type a $ and stop. The $ is the "command prompt" on the VAX. It means that the computer is waiting for you to type in a command. There are many different commands that the VAX understands, but I am only interested in one here, the MAIL command.

Using MAIL

To access the email system on the VAX, type "mail" at the $ prompt (without the quotes). The computer will respond with the mail prompt "MAIL>". When you see this prompt, you can type in any email command.

If you have mail waiting for you to read, then as soon as you enter the email system you will see a message telling you how many messages there are waiting for you. All you have to do to read these messages is to keep pressing return at the MAIL> prompt.

To send a message, enter "send" (without the quotes) at the MAIL> prompt, and press return. The computer will prompt you with "To:". Type in the email address of the person you want to write to. For students and faculty, the email address is just the person's username. For example, to send me mail, you would enter "eck" (without the quotes) at the "To:" prompt. (Not everyone's username is the same as their name. To help you find user names, there is a finduser web page.)

To send email to someone off campus, you need to know their full Internet email address. For example, my Internet email address is Your own Internet email address is of the form Anyone on the Internet who knows this address can send email to you. The syntax for sending email off campus is a bit silly: At the "To:" prompt, you have to enter something of the form:


including the quotes and with no spaces. Of course, you substitute whatever email address that you want for

After you have responded to the "To:" command, the computer will prompt you for a "Subject:". You can enter a single-line subject description for the message you want to send.

When you press return after typing the subject, the computer will go into "full-screen editing" mode. You can type in your message, using the arrow keys to move around on the screen. When you finish typing the message, press Control-Z. (This means, hold down the key labeled "Control" or "CTRL" and hit the Z key.) This should send the message and return you to the MAIL> prompt. (If you see a "*" as a prompt on the bottom of the screen, however, you are using a different editor from the one I am describing. Type "exit" at the * prompt, and press return to send the message._

Note: If you have just finished reading an incoming message, or are in the middle of reading it, you can reply to that message by entering the command "reply" at the MAIL> prompt. The computer will fill in the "To:" part for you and will fill in the "Subject:" part if the note you were reading had a Subject.

This is enough information to get you started using email, but once you've started using it, you might want to read the following section on advanced email.

When are finished with mail, enter "exit" at the MAIL> prompt to exit from the mail system and get back to the $ prompt. Then, enter "logout" at the $ to break your connection with the VAX.

Advanced Email on the VAX

The mail system on the VAX has a lot of nice features that many people never find out about. One way to learn about them is to use the "help" command at the MAIL> prompt. But here are some of the more common useful features.

A Personal Touch

One easy way to add a bit of class to your email is to have a "personal name" added to the heading of each message you send. To do this, at the MAIL> prompt, say

                set personal "Your Name"

including the quotes. (Substitute your own name -- or whatever "handle" you want to use.) You only have to do this once, and the mail system will remember your name permanently and include it will all your messages. (It will turn up in the first line, labeled "From:", at the top of the message.)

Listing and Reading Messages

You can get a listing of a "directory" of all the mail messages you have received by entering the command


at the MAIL> prompt. This works two ways, depending on whether you have new messages or not. If you have new messages waiting for you when you enter the mail system, then the "dir" command will list only the new messages. If there are no new messages, then "dir" will list all the old messages that you have already read, unless you have explicitly deleted them.

What can you do with a list of messages? Well, you can pick one out and read it. The list of messages will be numbered. To read message number 5, say, you would say

               read 5

at the MAIL> prompt.

Deleting Messages

All the messages you receive just keep building up unless you explicitly delete them. When you are reading a message, or when you have just finished reading it, you can delete it by typing the command


at the MAIL> prompt. Also if you are looking at a directory listing of your messages, you can delete messages by number (for example: "del 5"), or you can delete a range of message numbers (for example: "del 5-10" will delete messages number 5 through 10).

Forwarding Messages

When you are reading a message, or when you have just finished reading it, you can forward a copy of that message to another email address simply by using the


command at the MAIL> prompt. You will be asked to enter the address to which you want to forward the message, and you will be asked for a subject line for the forwarded message.

Multiple Recipients

It's easy to send the same message to several different addresses. When the computer types the "To:" prompt to ask you for the recipient of the message, just enter a list of addresses, separated by commas (for example: eck,jones,in%"").

There is an old tradition of "CC-ing" a message to people other than its addressees. ("CC" comes from "carbon copy.") If you would like to CC your message to one or more addresses, you just have to add "/cc" to the "send" command (without the quotes; that is: send/cc). Then, after you respond to the computer's "To:" prompt, the computer will prompt you with "CC:", and you can enter one or more addresses to receive a copy of the message.

You could, for example, CC the message to yourself, so you will get a copy to keep. This is so common that the mail system makes it easy. To send a copy of the message to yourself, just add "/self" to the "send" command (that is: send/self).

(Note: With the command "forward/edit", you get to edit the text of the note you are forwarding. The command "reply/extract" lets you edit a copy of the note you are replying to, which lets you include a copy of the original note in your reply.)

Sending a File

You have space in your computer account on the VAX for storing files. (And there are, by the way, ways of getting files back and forth between your computer and the VAX.) You might have a file that you want to send to someone via email. This is easy. Just put the name of the file after the "send" command. For example:

               send myfile.txt

where "myfile.txt" is the name of the file. You need a space after the word "send".