Taming the Wild E-Mail

A Cheat Sheet Addendum

by Kevin Cole

As you may have already discovered, e-mail can get out of control very quickly. However, with the right techniques at your disposal, you can keep the beastie domesticated. The bottom line is that you MUST delete old messages eventually. If you need to keep them, you can either print them or move them to a floppy disk via the EXTRACT command and read them on your PC. If you choose to print them, you can either print them directly to your PC printer, or print them on Computer Services printer in the basement of EMG. In addition to deleting messages, you must also periodically COMPRESS the e-mail index.

Selecting messages

You can select messages one at a time, and then print, extract, or delete the message, but, if you have several messages that you'd like to take care of at one time, the SELECT command is probably the way to go. While you are at the Mail> prompt, type:

to select all messages in the folder MAIL that contain the "user" on the From: line. For example, to choose all messages from JLSMITH, MPSMITH, SMITHERS, IN%"JQPUBLIC@SMITH.COM" and anyone else who has a user name with "SMITH" somewhere in it, you could type SEL/FROM=SMITH MAIL. Similarly, you can use /TO=... /CC=... and /SUBJ=... to select using the To:, CC: or Subj: lines.
SEL/BEFORE=dd-mmm-yyyy MAIL
allows you to select all messages created before a specific date. E.G. SEL/BEFORE=01-DEC-1992 MAIL selects all message created before December 1, 1992. Note: the date must be in the format shown -- two digits for the day, hyphen, three letters for the month, hyphen, four digits for the year. To select messages created on or after a specific date, use /SINCE in place of /BEFORE.

(You can also select only messages which you have replied to, only those messages which you have not replied to, or only "marked" messages, as well as a few other options. However, I'm trying to keep this document brief.)

The selection will remain in effect until you make another selection, or exit MAIL. In order to avoid confusion, I would still suggest that you print, extract, and/or delete the messages immediately after making your selection.

Printing messages (to the PC printer)

Now that you have selected the messages you wish to work with, you can print them directly to your PC. First, activate continuous printing. If you are using MSKERMIT type Ctrl-PrtScr. (Hold the Ctrl key and strike the key labeled either PrtScr or Print Screen.) MSKERMIT should respond by displaying the letters PRN in the lower right corner of the screen. Next, type:


At this point, your messages should start spitting out of the printer. When it has finished printing, you can get a directory of the messages by typing:


When you have everything printed, type Ctrl-PrtScr a second time to turn off the continuous printing. The PRN in the lower right corner should disappear when you do this.

Extracting messages (for moving to floppies or remote printing)

Once again, start by selecting the messages you want to work with. Then, type:

EXT/ALL filename

where "filename" can be any name you wish to call the group of selected messages. This will put all of the selected messages in a file called "filename.TXT", unless you specify your own extension by adding a period to the filename. If you intend to move it to the PC, keep the filename at 8 characters or less.

Deleting messages

Now that you have printed and/or extracted the messages, it's time to remove them from MAIL. To do this, type:


and all of your selected messages will be deleted. Occasionally (once a week for people who are getting 60 messages a day or more), you should also reorganize the message index that MAIL automatically keeps for you. To do this, type the following (at the Mail> prompt):

(wait a bit. This step takes some time to complete.)

Type it exactly as shown, including the "..." stuff. MAIL makes a backup copy of the index while it is compressing it. The last line deletes this backup index, often freeing a considerable amount of disk space. Note: DO NOT wait until you are close to your quota limit before compressing. In order for MAIL to compress the index, it needs extra disk space. If you wait til the last minute, you will not have room for this, and the COMPRESS command will fail.

Printing messages to the EMG printer

As outlined above, you should have extracted messages to a file for printing, and deleted the messages from MAIL. Now you should be at the $ prompt, with a file called "filename.TXT" in your VAX directory. The simplest way to print them is by typing:

PRINT filename.TXT

You can get a somewhat smaller printout using either of the following two commands:




which gets 4 pages onto a single sheet of paper. (Personally, I use the second, but I have set up a batch file to type all that for me.)

Then wait. (You can log off, or send mail, or whatever while you wait for your file to be printed.) Periodically, you can check on the status of your file with the command:


When this command no longer shows your filename, wander over to the basement of EMG to pick up your printout. Depending upon how busy they are, this can range from a few minutes to a few days. (Usually, it's only days when they are doing special end-of-the-month financial reports which print forever.) Once you have the printout in your hot, little hands, it's safe to delete the extracted file from the VAX. Again, at the $ prompt, type:

DELETE filename.TXT;*

Moving messages to the PC (a.k.a. "downloading")

This is the hard part. The best way to move files between the VAX and the PC is to use a transfer method that checks for errors in transmission, and retransmits sections of a file until there are no errors reported. There are several programs that do this, but, to keep things simple, I'm going to suggest MSKERMIT once again.

Okay, at this point, you should:

  1. be using MSKERMIT.
  2. be logged in and at the $ prompt.
  3. have a file named "filename.TXT" which you extracted earlier.

Now, at the $ prompt, type:

(if that fails type Ctrl-]C. That's Ctrl-] followed by C.)
(or B:\ or C:\ or wherever you want the file to be)
GET filename.TXT
(wait for a "transfer completed" message)

First, it should respond with three lines about Kermit server mode and escape sequences. Then, after you type the Alt-X (or Ctrl-]C) you should see the MS-Kermit> prompt. The SET DEFAULT tells MSKERMIT where to put the file that you are copying from the VAX. GET clears the screen, gets the file, (logically enough) and gives a progress report while receiving the file. Now, the most important part: FINISH. DO NOT FORGET TO TYPE FINISH!!! When you are in "server mode" the VAX locks up, and will only accept a limited number of commands relating to file transfers. If you forget to type FINISH the VAX will fail to respond, the next time you use it. You could turn the PC off, go home for the day, come back the next day and turn on your PC and attempt to LOGIN, but if you had failed to type FINISH all you would get is a blank screen, because the VAX would still be expecting you to GET more files or SEND more files to the VAX.

Finally, the C gets you back to the VAX after the transfer is completed. At this point, you should have the extracted messages on your PC, and you can delete "filename.TXT" as shown above. (See Printing to the EMG printer.)

One-at-a-time messages

If you don't like the idea of selecting several messages at once, but would like to pick and choose at random, you can use the EXTRACT and DELETE commands without the /ALL. Read the message you wish to extract, print or delete, and then type any of the following:

to delete the message
to print that message to the PC
EXT filename
to move the message to a NEW file
EXT/APPEND filename
to add the message to the end of an OLD file

The EXTRACT without the /APPEND creates a new file with a single message in it. The EXTRACT/APPEND looks for an old file and adds the current message to the end of it.

The rules for printing and extracting still apply (i.e. these commands are all typed at the Mail> prompt, and continuous printing must be activated for the EXT TT: command, etc.)

Most of the information here (as well as tons of other stuff like editing your e-mail, transferring Notes entries, the NEWS program, Internet/BITNET tricks, FTP, GOPHER, ARCHIE, etc) can be found buried in the INFO-VAX Notes conference, which I urge you to read. Also take a look at the other cheat sheets I'm sending. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at x5575 or e-mail to CADS_COLE.

Good Luck, and Happy VAX-ing.