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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ By Nancy McGough (


Below is a draft outline of a Procmail User Guide I'm writing. My plan is to put a couple draft chapters here on the Net, find a publisher, continue writing it and continue to put draft chapters on the Net. If you are a publisher who is interested in publishing this book and will let me put a draft of the book on the Net, please contact me. Advantages of putting a draft of the book on the Net are that 1) I'll get feedback from procmail experts; 2) People can see what a great book it is and then, rather than printing it out and having a mess of 8½" x 11" pages, they can buy a copy of the book; and 3) It is in sync with the spirit of procmail and the original spirit of the Net.

Question: Would you, dear reader, buy a copy of this book if you could get a draft of it on the Net? If so, what's the maximum you'd be willing to pay for the book? Please let me know. Also, feedback on the outline is welcome!


Possible Title
Using Procmail for Message Filtering, Auto-Responding, and General Message Management

  • Unix sys admins
  • Unix users using any mail program that can access mbox, mh, or other folder formats that procmail can deliver to (pine, elm, emacs mail mode, mail, zmail, mh, and more)
  • Windows, Macintosh, OS/2, Amiga, and NC users whose mail is delivered to a Unix server and who access their mail folder(s) using either IMAP or POP. These people will need to be able to update their procmail files on the Unix server.

Web Companions
  • procmail library
  • form interface for creating recipes

Draft Outline

  1. Mail Overview
    • How mail works:
          MTA -> Procmail -> MTA (forwarding, auto-responding)
                          -> filing into mail folders 
                          -> logging
                          -> etc.
    • Accessing folders with MUAs
    • Client/Server model
    • Access protocols (IMAP, POP)

  2. Setting up Procmail (for users; sys admins will be referred to the Appendix for installation instructions)
    • Strategy: Plug and Play
    • Setting up Procmail Files for Testing (.forward, .procmailrc)
    • Testing
    • Troubleshooting

  3. Quick Start Basic recipe templates with brief explanations
    • Filtering mailing list messages
    • More filtering examples: your friends, bozos, ...
    • Eliminating duplicate messages
    • Auto-replying to some messages

  4. Mail Messages and Folders
    • Anatomy of a Mail Message
      • header and body
      • MIME
    • Anatomy of a Mail Folder
      • mbox format
      • mh format
      • other formats

  5. Anatomy of a Procmail Recipe
    • Flags
    • Lock file (more details in later chapter)
    • Conditions
      • regular expressions
    • Action
      • Delivering a message (filing, forwarding, etc.)
      • Non-delivery actions (munging the header, auto-replying, etc.)
    • Multiple actions on a single message
      • using the c flag
      • using grouping of actions

  6. Using Formail
    • Reformatting a message
    • Extracting parts of a message
    • Bursting a digest

  7. Auto-Replying
    • Avoiding loops
    • Using sendmail
    • Sending requested files
    • Examples
      • vacation message
      • setting up a mail file server

  8. Sending a Message to a Script
    • Auto registration
    • Appending to an HTML mail archive

  9. Example Library
    • Dealing with junk mail
    • (lots more)

  10. Ordering Your Recipes

  11. Tracking Your Incoming Mail
    • Mailstat
    • Keeping log files

  12. Processing an Existing Message Folder...
    • Using Your Normal Recipes
    • Using Special Recipes

  13. Processing Your Outgoing Messages

  14. MUA-Specific Info
    • Using the incoming-folders variable in Pine
    • (other MUAs)

  15. FAQ A list of frequently asked questions about procmail and their answers.

  16. Getting More Procmail Information
    • Web pages
    • Discussion groups

  17. Using Procmailsc: Varying the Weight of Your Recipe's Conditions

  18. Understanding Lock Files

  19. Running a Mailing List
    • Using Procmail to do mail exploding
    • Using Smartlist

  20. Appendix 1: Installing Procmail Include information about using procmail as the delivery agent

  21. Appendix 2: Procmail and Formail Flag Quick References

  22. Acknowledgments



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Copyright © 1992-1997 Infinite Ink and Nancy McGough
Last significant update August 12, 1997
Last tweak August 12, 1997