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ELM -- A better way

Elm is a combination mailbox and letter-writing system that uses menus to help you navigate through mail. Most Unix-based host systems now have it online. To use it, type


and hit enter. You'll get a menu of your waiting mail, along with a list of commands you can execute, that will look something like this:

Mailbox is '/usr/spool/mail/adamg' with 38 messages [ELM 2.3 PL11]

1   Sep 1  Christopher Davis  (13)   here's another message.
2   Sep 1  Christopher Davis  (91)   This is a message from Eudora
3   Aug 31 Rita Marie Rouvali (161)  First Internet Hunt !!! (fwd)
4   Aug 31 Peter Scott/Manage (69)   New File <UK077> University of Londo
5   Aug 30 Peter Scott/Manage (64)   New File <DIR020> X.500 service at A
6   Aug 30 Peter Scott/Manage (39)   New File <NET016> DATAPAC Informatio
7   Aug 28 Peter Scott/Manage (67)   Proposed Usenet group for HYTELNET n
8   Aug 28 Peter Scott/Manage (56)   New File <DIR019> JANET Public Acces
9   Aug 26 Helen Trillian Ros (15)   Tuesday
10  Aug 26 Peter Scott/Manage (151)  Update <CWK004> Oxford University OU

You can use any of the following commands by pressing the first character;
d)elete or u)ndelete mail, m)ail a message, r)eply or f)orward mail, q)uit
To read a message, press <return>. j = move down, k = move up, ? = help

Each line shows the date you received the message, who sent it, how many lines long the message is, and the message's subject.

If you are using VT100 emulation, you can move up and down the menu with your up and down arrow keys. Otherwise, type the line number of the message you want to read or delete and hit enter.

When you read a message, it pauses every 24 lines, instead of scrolling until it's done. Hit the space bar to read the next page. You can type a lowercase "r" to reply or a lowercase "q" or "i" to get back to the menu (the I stands for "index").

At the main menu, hitting a lowercase "m" followed by enter will let you start a message. To delete a message, type a lowercase "d". You can do this while reading the message. Or, if you are in the menu, move the cursor to the message's line and then hit D.

When you're done with Elm, type a lowercase "q". The program will ask if you really want to delete the messages you marked. Then, it will ask you if you want to move any messages you've read but haven't marked for deletion to a "received" file. For now, hit your "n" key.

Elm has a major disadvantage for the beginner. The default text editor it generally calls up when you hit your "r" or "m" key is often a program called emacs. Unixoids swear by emacs, but everybody else almost always finds it impossible. Unfortunately, you can't always get away from it (or vi, another text editor often found on Unix systems), so later on we'll talk about some basic commands that will keep you from going totally nuts.

If you want to save a message to your own computer, hit "s", either within the message or with your cursor on the message entry in the elm menu. A filename will pop up. If you do not like it, type a new name (you won't have to backspace). Hit enter, and the message will be saved with that file name in your "home directory" on your host system. After you exit elm, you can now download it (ask your system administrator for specifics on how to download -- and upload -- such files).

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