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GNU Emacs Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), part 5/5

Questions and answers having to do with GNU Emacs
Archive-name: GNU-Emacs-FAQ/part5


If you are viewing this text in a GNU Emacs Buffer, you can type "M-2 C-x
$" to get an overview of just the questions.  Then, when you want to look
at the text of the answers, just type "C-x $".

To search for a question numbered XXX, type "M-C-s ^XXX:", followed by a
C-r if that doesn't work.  Type RET to end the search.

If you have w3-mode installed (see question 111), you can visit ftp and
HTTP uniform resource locators (URLs) by placing the cursor on the URL and
typing M-x w3-follow-url-at-point.

The FAQ is posted in five parts; if you are missing a section or would
prefer to read the FAQ in a single file, see question 22.


Mail and News

136: How do I change the included text prefix in mail/news followups?

  If you read mail with Rmail or news with Gnus, set the variable
  mail-yank-prefix.  For VM, set vm-included-text-prefix.  For mh-e, set

  For fancier control of citations, use SuperCite.  See question 104.

  To prevent Emacs from including various headers of the replied-to
  message, set the value of mail-yank-ignored-headers to an appropriate

137: How do I save a copy of outgoing mail?

  You can either mail yourself a copy by including a "BCC:" header in the
  mail message, or store a copy of the message directly to a file by
  including an "FCC:" header.

  If you use standard mail, you can automatically create a "BCC:" to
  yourself by putting

    (setq mail-self-blind t)

  in your .emacs file.  You can automatically include an "FCC:" field by
  putting something like the following in your .emacs file:

    (setq mail-archive-file-name (expand-file-name "~/outgoing"))

  The output file will be in Unix mail format, which can be read directly
  by VM, but not always by Rmail.  See question 139.

  If you use mh-e, add an "FCC:" or "BCC:" field to your components file.

  It does not work to put "set record filename" in the .mailrc file.

138: Why doesn't Emacs expand my aliases when sending mail?

  * You must separate multiple addresses in the headers of the mail buffer
    with commas.  This is because Emacs supports RFC822 standard addresses
    like this one:

      To: Willy Smith <>

    However, you do not need to -- and probably should not, unless your
    system's version of /usr/ucb/mail (aka mailx) supports RFC822 --
    separate addresses with commas in your ~/.mailrc file.

  * Emacs normally only reads the ".mailrc" file once per session, when you
    start to compose your first mail message.  If you edit .mailrc, you can
    type "M-x rebuild-mail-abbrevs RET" to make Emacs reread your ~/.mailrc

  * If you like, you can expand mail aliases as abbrevs, as soon as you
    type them in.  To enable this feature, execute the following:

       (add-hook 'mail-setup-hook 'mail-abbrevs-setup)

    Note that the aliases are expanded automatically only after you type
    RET or a punctuation character (e.g. `,').  You can force their
    expansion by moving point to the end of the alias and typing "C-x a e"
    (M-x expand-abbrev).

139: Why does Rmail think all my saved messages are one big message?

  A file created through the FCC: field in a message is in Unix mail
  format, not the format that Rmail uses (BABYL format).  Rmail will try to
  convert a Unix mail file into BABYL format on input, but sometimes it
  makes errors.  For guaranteed safety, you can make the saved-messages
  file be an inbox for your Rmail file by using the function

140: How can I sort the messages in my Rmail folder?

  In Rmail, type "C-c C-s C-h" to get a list of sorting functions and their
  key bindings.

141: Why does Rmail need to write to /usr/spool/mail?

  This is the behavior of the "movemail" program which Rmail uses.  This
  indicates that movemail is configured to use lock files.

  RMS writes:

    Certain systems require lock files to interlock access to mail files.
    On these systems, movemail must write lock files, or you risk losing
    mail.  You simply must arrange to let movemail write them.

    Other systems use the flock system call to interlock access.  On these
    systems, you should configure movemail to use flock.

142: How do I recover my mail files after Rmail munges their format?

  If you have just done rmail-input on a file and you don't want to save it
  in Rmail's format (called BABYL), just kill the buffer (with C-x k).

  If you typed M-x rmail and it read some messages out of your inbox and
  you want to put them in a Unix mail file, use C-o on each message.

  If you want to convert an existing file from BABYL format to Unix mail
  format, use the command M-x unrmail: it will prompt you for the input and
  output file names.

143: How do I make Emacs automatically start my mail/news reader?

  To start Emacs in Gnus:

    emacs -f gnus

  in Rmail:

    emacs -f rmail

  A more convenient way to start with Gnus:

    alias gnus 'emacs -f gnus'

  It is probably unwise to automatically start your mail or news reader
  from your .emacs file.  This would cause problems if you needed to run
  two copies of Emacs at one time.  Also, this would make it difficult for
  you to start Emacs quickly when you needed to.

144: How do I read news under Emacs?

  Use M-x gnus.  It is documented in Info (see question 14).

145: Why doesn't Gnus work via NNTP?

  There is a bug in NNTP version 1.5.10, such that when multiple requests
  are sent to the NNTP server, the server only handles the first one before
  blocking waiting for more input which never comes.  NNTP version 1.5.11
  claims to fix this.

  You can work around the bug inside Emacs like this:

    (setq nntp-maximum-request 1)

  You can find out what version of NNTP your news server is running by
  telnetting to the NNTP port (usually 119) on the news server machine
  (i.e., "telnet server-machine 119").  The server should give its version
  number in the welcome message.  Type "quit" to get out.

  Also see question 74 in this FAQ for some additional ideas.

146: How do I view news articles with embedded underlining (e.g.,

  Underlining appears like this:


  Per Abrahamsen <> suggests using the following code,
  which uses the underline face to turn such text into true underlining:

    (defun gnus-article-prepare-overstrike ()
      ;; Prepare article for overstrike commands.
        (set-buffer gnus-article-buffer)
        (let ((buffer-read-only nil))
        (goto-char (point-min))
          (while (search-forward "\b" nil t)
            (let ((next (following-char))
                  (previous (char-after (- (point) 2))))
              (cond ((eq next previous)
                     (delete-region (- (point) 2) (point))
                     (put-text-property (point) (1+ (point))
                                        'face 'bold))
                    ((eq next ?_)
                     (delete-region (1- (point)) (1+ (point)))
                     (put-text-property (1- (point)) (point)
                                        'face 'underline))
                    ((eq previous ?_)
                     (delete-region (- (point) 2) (point))
                     (put-text-property (point) (1+ (point))
                                        'face 'underline))))))))

    (add-hook 'gnus-article-prepare-hook 'gnus-article-prepare-overstrike)

  If you prefer to do away with underlining altogether, you can
  destructively remove it with M-x ununderline-region; do this
  automatically via

    (add-hook 'gnus-article-prepare-hook
      '(lambda () (ununderline-region (point-min) (point-max))))

147: How do I save all the items of a multi-part posting in Gnus?

  Use gnus-uu.  Type C-c C-v C-h in the Gnus summary buffer to see a list
  of available commands.

148: Why does Gnus put the subjects in replies beyond the 80th column?

  This is a feature.  If you set gnus-thread-hide-subject to non-nil, Gnus
  will only display the subject of the first posting in a thread, even if
  some of the replies use different subjects.  It hides the subjects by
  putting them past the edge of the window and setting truncate lines to t.

  If your screen looks messed up, then for some reason truncate-lines in
  your "*Subject*" buffer has been set to nil.  It should be set to t.

149: How do I make Gnus start up faster?

  Remove all the newsgroups in which you have no interest from your .newsrc
  file by using Gnus's C-k or C-w commands in the "*Newsgroup*" buffer,
  perhaps after displaying all newsgroups with the L command.
  Unsubscribing will not speed up Gnus.

150: How do I catch up all newsgroups in Gnus?

  In the "*Newsgroup*" buffer, type the following magical incantation:

    M-< C-x ( c y C-x ) M-0 C-x e

  Leave off the "M-<" if you only want to catch up from point to the end of
  the "*Newsgroup" buffer.

151: Why can't I kill in Gnus based on the Newsgroups/Keywords/Control

  Gnus will complain that the "Newsgroups:", "Keywords:", and "Control:"
  headers are "Unknown header" fields.

  For the "Newsgroups:" header, there is an easy workaround: kill on the
  "Xref" header instead, which will be present on any cross-posted article
  (as long as your site carries the cross-post group).

  If you really want to kill on one of these headers, you can do it like

    (gnus-kill nil "^Newsgroups: .*\\(bad\\.group\\|worse\\.group\\)")

152: How do I get rid of flashing messages in Gnus for slow connections?

  Set nntp-debug-read to nil.

153: Why is catch up slow in Gnus?

  Because Gnus is marking crosspostings read.  You can control this with
  the variable gnus-use-cross-reference.

154: Why does Gnus hang for a long time when posting?

  David Lawrence <> explains:

    The problem is almost always interaction between NNTP and C News.  NNTP
    POST asks C News's inews to not background itself but rather hang
    around and give its exit status so it knows whether the post was
    successful.  (That wait will on some systems not return the exit status
    of the waited for job is a different sort of problem.)  It ends up
    taking a long time because inews is calling relaynews, which often
    waits for another relaynews to free the lock on the news system so it
    can file the article.

    My preferred solution is to change inews to not call relaynews, but
    rather use newsspool.  This loses some error-catching functionality,
    but is for the most part safe as inews will detect a lot of the errors
    on its own.  The C News folks have sped up inews, too, so speed should
    look better to most folks as that update propagates around.

155: Why don't my news postings in Gnus get past the local machine?

  It could be that your Distribution: field is "local" or a synonym, or
  your Path: field may be wrong.  This piece of code may fix the latter

    (setq gnus-use-generic-path t)

156: Why doesn't Gnus generate the "Lines:" header?

  The posting software down the line from Gnus often generates a "Lines:"
  header so Gnus doesn't have to.  If you want it to, just add Lines to the
  list in gnus-required-headers:

    (add-hook 'gnus-startup-hook
        '(lambda ()
           (setq gnus-required-headers (cons 'Lines gnus-required-headers))))

157: How do I kill all articles in Gnus but those matching a pattern?

  Example kill file code:

    ;; kill everything
    (gnus-kill "subject" "" nil nil)
    ;; then restore stuff by our favorite poster
    (gnus-kill "from" "good-guy"
                (lambda ()
                  (if (eq ?X (char-after (save-excursion
                                           (beginning-of-line 1)
                      (gnus-summary-clear-mark-forward 1))))

158: How do I abort sending mail or posting a message?

  Kill the mail or posting buffer with C-x k.

159: How do I fix and resubmit a rejected Gnus posting?

  The standard buffer name for editing Gnus posts is *post-news*.  Assuming
  that you haven't used that buffer since trying to post the rejected
  article, you should be able to switch to it using C-x b or

    M-x select-buffer RET *post-news* RET

  Once in that buffer, fix whatever problems the message might have, and
  submit it again using C-c C-c.

160: How do I automatically mail a copy of a Gnus followup message to
     the original poster?

  Include this Lisp form in your .emacs file:

    (setq gnus-auto-mail-to-author t)

161: How do I make Gnus behave more like nn, where I scan all the messages
     and select the ones I want before I read any?

   Include this Lisp form in your .emacs file:

     (setq gnus-auto-select-first nil
        gnus-auto-select-next 'quietly)

  When you enter a group, mark the articles you don't want using `d' and
  `C-k', then expunge the ones so marked with `x'.  Move to the first
  article with `M-<', and start reading (with SPC).

Copyright 1994, 1995 Reuven M. Lerner
Copyright 1992, 1993 Steven Byrnes
Copyright 1990, 1991, 1992 Joseph Brian Wells

This list of frequently asked questions about GNU Emacs with answers
("FAQ") may be translated into other languages, transformed into other
formats (e.g. Texinfo, Info, WWW, WAIS), and updated with new information.

The same conditions apply to any derivative of the FAQ as apply to the FAQ
itself.  Every copy of the FAQ must include this notice or an approved
translation, information on who is currently maintaining the FAQ and how to
contact them (including their e-mail address), and information on where the
latest version of the FAQ is archived (including FTP information).

The FAQ may be copied and redistributed under these conditions, except that
the FAQ may not be embedded in a larger literary work unless that work
itself allows free copying and redistribution.


People who helped with this version of the FAQ:

Ethan Bradford <>, William G. Dubuque
<>, Michael Ernst <>,
and Denby Wong <3dw16@qlink.QueensU.CA>.

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