Chapter 5. Email

Table of Contents

5.1. Checking your mail
5.2. Sending mail
5.3. Mailing lists
5.4. Aliases

Accounts on come with an email address. You can have a pretty much unlimited amount of mail in your account, and there's effectively no size limits on any messages you send.

Your email address is your It's also possible to set up aliases if you want more email addresses that go to the same account, but you'll need to ask an administrator to set that up.

You can also automatically forward all of your mail to another server by putting a file called .forward in your home directory, and putting the new email address in there. But why would you want to do that?


Due to problems with Gmail and forwarded spam, if you want to forward messages to Gmail, you will need to enable POP3 checking. See this help article for more information on how to do that.

5.1. Checking your mail

There are many ways to check your email using They all have relative benefits and drawbacks, and you may find yourself using several methods, depending on the situation.

5.1.1. Command line

The command line presents the most traffic-efficient method of checking mail. If you have a slow connection that has low latency (have lots of delay between you and the server) very much, this is the best way to check mail. The major disadvantage is that you can't view graphics or attachments in your emails.

From the command line, you can check your mail using the Mutt application. For those of you familiar with Alpine, Mutt works in a similar manner, but is much more configurable and powerful. In addition, since we are using a special mail system here, Alpine cannot read the mail directly, and you need to enter your password whenever you use it. If you have never used either application, you would probably best learn Mutt. If you're really used to Alpine (which is more widely available on UNIX systems), it's available, but you may want to consider switching.

To check mail using Mutt, just type

chaos[1] % mutt

5.1.2. Web mail

Many people are used to checking their mail using a web browser; Gmail or Hotmail are examples of popular web mail services. The advantage of web mail is that it's accessible from practically anywhere, regardless of the computer you're using. The major disadvantage is that it takes quite a bit of trickery to make it behave with the same level of features and responsiveness as a traditional, dedicated email program on your desktop. Still, web mail software is getting better all the time, and many people prefer this method of checking mail even with other options available.'s webmail system is fairly convenient and has some useful features, and doesn't have the usual size limitations or huge spam load of other webmail providers. The thing that really sets it apart is that it's truly free -- it's not supported by ads, and it doesn't depend on the success of some corporation's business model.

Our webmail is accessible at

5.1.3. POP3

The Post Office Protocol (POP) is another method for checking your email. This method is best for people who only check mail from one computer. The advantages are that all email is stored on your local hard drive, meaning that you can read old emails even if you're not connected to the Internet, and that you can use a full-featured email client, such as Outlook or Thunderbird. The disadvantage is that the system is set up for offline mail reading from a single computer, so if you want to check mail using multiple computers, or if you sometimes use webmail, things can get pretty confusing. IMAP (see Section 5.1.4, “IMAP”) is really the recommended mail-checking protocol these days.

The main reason I mention POP here is that lots of mobile devices and other systems only let you check mail using POP. Just be careful with your settings (I usually recommend turning on the "leave mail on server" option if there is one), especially if you also use webmail or other methods for checking your mail, or you may find that once you download the mail, the POP client deletes it from the server.

5.1.4. IMAP

The Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) is currently the best way of accessing your mail remotely. In fact, the web mail system and Alpine both use it behind the scenes to get your mail. IMAP is similar to POP3 in that you can download your messages from the server to an email client (like Outlook or Thunderbird), but it also stores the mail on the server, so you can check the mail from several computers.

Because your entire mail archive is stored on the server, you have many more options for checking it. For example, you could use Mutt at the office, where you have a nice SSH client. When you get home, you can open up and get all of the day's messages. You can also check messages with your mobile phone. Not only that, but if you read a message one way, it will be marked read on all other systems, so next time you won't have to go through mail you've already read. The point is that even if you check your mail with one system, it'll all be in every other system, without having to download each message. Additionally, you can sort your mail into folders on the server, and the folders will be right there in webmail and Mutt, without you having to do anything. If you delete or move a message, the change is automatically recorded in every program you use.

In order to use IMAP, you need an email client. Examples are Outlook, Thunderbird, K9 Mail for Android, Evolution, and the OS X Mail client, though there are many others out there.

Configuration for each program is quite different, but if you look at the information in Chapter 2, Basic Information, you should be able to fill in the options correctly.


Be sure to turn on SSL/TLS in your mail client. You won't be able to connect otherwise.