email - Encrypted SMTP email via Command line



email − Encrypted SMTP email via Command line


email [options] recipient1,recipient2,recipient3,...


Email is a command line email client similiar to ’mailx’. Added features make this a more advanced client for sending email via the command line. Email works with sendmail, just as ’mailx’ does, but email also allows sending to remote smtp servers for your email delivery. It also works with GPG for encrypting and signing the emails on the fly.

Email also incorporates a few other features as well. These features include signature files with wildcard options to specify the data, time, day, version, system, and even a ’fortune’ with the help of the ’fortune’ command. Email also supports a very configurable address book. This way you can specify a persons name with an email address and also place a group of names into one group for sending.

Email also supports attachments. It will accept N attachments via a command line option and encode them with Base64 before sending them with the email.

Email works with a configuration file named email.conf which is found in /etc/email/email.conf although can be changed by specifying the --sysconfdir option during the ./configure. If you do not have or want a configuration file, you can specify the -r option to specify your smtp server and this will allow you to bypass using a configuration file and use default values. If you specify the -r option (listed below) and you do have a configuration file, it will still use the configuration file but override the SMTP_SERVER variable with what is used at the command line.


There are a few possible options to email. I have listed them in order of relevance of usage:
−−help module | −h Module of Help

This option can be specified with a module of help topic, or without one. Without a module of help topic, it will just print a standard help screen with all your possible options. With a module of help option, it will display a more detailed discription of that module.

Modules are determined by command line switches. For instance: if you want to know about the ’encrypt’ command line option, you would specify −−help ’encrypt’ or −−help ’e’ and help will display the correct module help section.

The Help is not statically programmed into email. Instead it is a file in email’s home directory called be rewritten with every release of email.

−−verbose | −V

This option will display the progress of communicating with the SMTP server. A pretty progress bar will be displayed when data is sent. This option is replacing the old −quiet option that would do the exact opposite.

−−blank-mail | −blank-mail | −b

Use this option if you would like to send a blank email from the command line. This is good if you just want to send a message with only the headers and no content.

−−subject subject | −subject subject | −s Subject of Email

This option should be rather obvious. You specify the subject of the email with this option. If you are not redirecting to standard input and you do not specify a subject, email will ask you for the subject. Null subjects are allowed.

−−encrypt | −encrypt | −e

This options allows you to encrypt your email message using ’gpg’. GPG can be obtained by going to: When this option is specified, it will get the first recipient from the recipient list and it will encrypt the message using their key. This key MUST be present in order for the encryption to work properly.

−−sign | −sign

This options will let you sign your emails on the fly... It uses the ’gpg --detach-sign’ option. It will ’sign’ the email with your public key.

−−cc recipient | −cc recipient1,recipient2,recipient3,...

This option allows you to "curtosy copy" a list of recipients. Recipients can be from the address book or just plain email addresses. They should be comma delimited just as the main recipients will be. CC recipients *will* be posted in the headers and read by email clients.

−−bcc receipient | −bcc recipient1,recipient2,recipient3,...

Same as the --cc option, but these recipients will *not* be posted in the headers of the email. This is a positive solution to "secretly" copy someone on the email without the other recipients knowing so (Managers usually bcc their boss when sending an email to you about your performance and you’ll never know it )

−−attach file | −a file

Attach a binary file. This option will allow you to attach N files to your email and will be base64 encoded upon delivery. This option is helpful if you need to send any type of file that is not plain ascii text. This option can be used multiple times to add multiple files to attach.

−−smtp-server server | −r server

This option will let you override the smtp server that is specified in the email.conf file... You can use this option if you do not have an email.conf file. It will allow you to use email without a configuration file. A helpful option to add with this option would be the −−smtp-port option, however, it is not needed.

−−smtp-port port | −p port

This option works well with the above option as it will allow you to bypass the configuration file and specify a port on the command line. This is helpful if you don’t have a configuration file yet need to specify an smtp server and a port. The default port is always port 25, so that if you don’t specify this option, and you don’t have an email.conf file, it will default to port 25 for you.

−−smtp-auth type | -m type

You must specify this option to use SMTP AUTH if you aren’t using a configuration file. ’type’ is the type of AUTH your server lets you use. There are two supported AUTH types with email: PLAIN and LOGIN.

−−smtp-user user | -u user

If you don’t want to keep your SMTP username in your email.conf file (SMTP_AUTH_USER), then you can use this command line option to specify it.

−−smtp-pass pass | -i pass

If you don’t want to keep your SMTP password in your email.conf file (SMTP_AUTH_PASS), then you can use this command line option to specify it.

−−from-name name | -n name

This option will override MY_NAME in email.conf. This is what the recipient will see in the from field of their email client.

−−from-addr addr | -f addr

This option will override MY_EMAIL in email.conf. This is what the recipient will see in the from field of their email client as your email address.

−−conf-file file

Use this option to specify a configuration file other than ~/.email.conf or /etc/email/email.conf.

−−header string | −H string,string,string,...

If you would like to append headers to the message that you are sending, you can use this option multiple times and specify the header you would like to append as well as delimit each header string with a comma for multiple headers.

An example of a header string would look like: --header "X-My-Header: Stuff goes here"

−−timeout secs | −x secs

Set a timeout (in seconds) on the socket. This is helpful if you would like to have the client stop trying to send/recv data from the SMTP server if it hangs after a period of time.

−−high-priority | −o

This options allows you to take advantage of using the priority option used by some email clients. If the option is specified when sent to a user using MS Outlook, a small exclimation mark will be next to the message as to let the user know this email is important.


This option allows you to send html emails. As of right now, you need to write your own html.

−−gpg-pass , -g pass

If you don’t want to keep your GPG password in your email.conf file (GPG_PASS), then you can use this command line option to specify it.


If you’d like to use TLS/SSL communication with the smtp server, use this option (if it’s not already set in the config file.)


If you don’t want eMail to automatically use UTF-8 encoding when finding non ascii characters, use this option.


Configuration of email is fairly simple. Just open the default configuration file. If you did not specify an email home directory during your compilation of email then this will be in /etc/email and the file is called ’email.conf’. The configuration options are listed below.

SMTP_SERVER : Server name, or IP
SMTP_PORT : Servers port number
SENDMAIL_BIN : Specify the sendmail binary path and options
MY_NAME : Specify your Name
MY_EMAIL : Specify your email address
REPLY_TO : Seperate reply to address
SIGNATURE_FILE : Your signature file
SIGNATURE_DIVIDE : A design for a divider
ADDRESS_BOOK : Location of your address book file
SAVE_SENT_MAIL : Directory to save email.sent file
GPG_BIN : Full path to gpg binary
GPG_PASS : Optional passphrase for gpg
TEMP_DIR : Specify where to store temp files
SMTP_AUTH : Specify what type of authentication
for your smtp server.
SMTP_AUTH_USER : Specify a username login for SMTP AUTH
SMTP_AUTH_PASS : Specify a password for SMTP AUTH
USE_TLS : Boolean (true/false) if you want to use TLS/SSL
VCARD : Specify a vcard to attach to each message.

You can choose to use sendmail instead of a remote smtp server. All you have to do is input the path of where you have sendmail located in the SENDMAIL_BIN variable. You may also provide options to pass sendmail. The best values for this would be /usr/lib/sendmail -t -i. If you have both SENDMAIL_BIN and SMTP_SERVER uncommented and both have values, then SMTP_SERVER will take presedence over SENDMAIL_BIN and ’email’ will try to contact the SMTP server provided.

You can create your own email.conf file in your home directory. It must be a hidden file. For instance: ~/.email.conf

Email will look in your home directory before it looks for a global configuration file. The easiest thing to do is simply copy your global config file to your home directory as .email.conf and edit it as needed.

If you do not have a global config file or a personal config file, email will choose defaults according to your current login on the system. So a configuration file is not manditory, it just helps you customize email.

You can look at the basic configuration file for more information on the configuration of ’email’.


Email now support SMTP AUTH. I will briefly describe how it works here.

To use email with an SMTP server that expects authentication you must set a few options in your email.conf file. These options are: SMTP_AUTH, SMTP_AUTH_USER, SMTP_AUTH_PASS.

This option must be set to one of the two: LOGIN or
PLAIN. LOGIN and PLAIN are standard RFC compliant SMTP AUTH
protocols. If you are unsure which options to choose,
ask your ISP or SMTP Administrator if any of these are
supported. Usually it’s a safe bet to use LOGIN for
SMTP AUTH. Most AUTH servers support LOGIN.

If you’re using SMTP AUTH, please specify your username
here. This option is MANDITORY if you’re using SMTP AUTH.

You can choose to set this option or not. However, if
you don’t set this option, email will prompt you for your
password before proceeding. So if you’re using email from
a cron job and don’t expect any interaction with email,
please set this option!

This option allows you to use TLS/SSL to communicate with
your SMTP server. This is the most basic use of TLS/SSL
possible. Please be advised that not much is done to
verify the certificate from the server. Also, currently
there is no support for providing your own certificate for
the server to authenticate since typical TLS does not do this.


Two environment variables can be set that email will check.

EDITOR will allow you to specify your favorite editor to use with email for constructing messages. If this variable is not set, it will default to vi.

TMPDIR can be set to specify a temporary directory to place your temp files while email is working. This is analogous to the TEMP_DIR variable in email.conf. environment variable TMPDIR for a temporary directory. If neither contains a value, email defaults to /tmp.


The address book for email takes on the format as described below. It will check for any syntax errors in the address book and completely stop email if it finds any, so try to keep the same gramatical syntax. A single entry in the address book will look like:

single: Tim = [email protected] #Comments allowed

You are welcome to use a whole name with spaces as long as you use a single quote closing the name with another single quote. You may also use double quotes in place of the single quotes. Example:

single: ’Tim Gahan’ = [email protected]

Groups are allowed and can only consist of comma delimited single entries from the file and may contain spaces. You can *not* recursively specify groups. You may, however specify single email addresses that are not part of the address book.

If you would like to break one line into two lines, you should use the ’\’ as a newline escape mark. Examples:

group: Mygroup = ’Tim Gahan’, John, Sam, Bob, \
[email protected]

This example will specify a group with the single entries of ’Dean Jones’, John, Sam, Bob, and the unadded email address of ’[email protected]’.


The signature file is specified in the configuration file. You will also have the option to specify a signature divider. This is by default ’---’. This just divides the signature file from the rest of the email.

There are a few wild cards that you can specify in writing your signature file that will allow your signature file to obtain dynamic options when sending your email.


This will show the version of email


This will show the time the email was sent


This will display the date the email was sent


This will display a completely formated date and time


This will display the host type


This will display the output of the ’fortune’ command


Example of a signature file is below:

This email was sent with ’email %v’
Sent on host: %h
At the time : %c
Your fortune for today is:

This will end up replacing the %v, %h, %c, and %f with their corresponding equivalents above respectively.


# Redirect your message to email

email −s "Sending this.txt" [email protected] < this.txt

# Make your message with email

email −s "Subject" [email protected]

# Encrypt and email to "Dean Jones"

email −s "Encryted" −encrypt [email protected]

# Multiple Recipients from address book

email −s "no subject" Dean,Jeff,Tom,Bob −cc Josh,Carl

# Attach some files with your message

email −s "files attached" Dean,Jeff --attach stuff.tar.gz,readme.doc


If you find any in this program, please submit them to


Dean Jones -


Philip Lewis - Helped in debugging.


(C) 2001 - 2008

Updated 2023-02-15 - |