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Emacs SMTP Library

Copyright (C) 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 Free Software
Foundation, Inc.

     Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this
     document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License,
     Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software
     Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with the Front-Cover texts
     being "A GNU Manual", and with the Back-Cover Texts as in (a)
     below.  A copy of the license is included in the section entitled
     "GNU Free Documentation License".

     (a) The FSF's Back-Cover Text is: "You have the freedom to copy and
     modify this GNU manual.  Buying copies from the FSF supports it in
     developing GNU and promoting software freedom."

* Menu:

* How Mail Works::	Brief introduction to mail concepts.
* Emacs Speaks SMTP::   How to use the SMTP library in Emacs.
* Authentication::	Authenticating yourself to the server.
* Queued delivery::	Sending mail without an internet connection.
* Server workarounds::	Mail servers with special requirements.
* Debugging::		Tracking down problems.
* GNU Free Documentation License:: The license for this documentation.


* Index::		Index over variables and functions.

File: smtpmail,  Node: How Mail Works,  Next: Emacs Speaks SMTP,  Prev: Top,  Up: Top

1 How Mail Works

On the internet, mail is sent from mail host to mail host using the
simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP).  To send and receive mail, you
must get it from and send it to a mail host.  Every mail host runs a
mail transfer agent (MTA) such as Exim that accepts mails and passes
them on.  The communication between a mail host and other clients does
not necessarily involve SMTP, however.  Here is short overview of what
is involved.

   The mail program -- also called a mail user agent (MUA) -- usually
sends outgoing mail to a mail host.  When your computer is permanently
connected to the internet, it might even be a mail host itself.  In
this case, the MUA will pipe mail to the `/usr/lib/sendmail'
application.  It will take care of your mail and pass it on to the next
mail host.

   When you are only connected to the internet from time to time, your
internet service provider (ISP) has probably told you which mail host
to use.  You must configure your MUA to use that mail host.  Since you
are reading this manual, you probably want to configure Emacs to use
SMTP to send mail to that mail host.  More on that in the next section.

   Things are different when reading mail.  The mail host responsible
for your mail keeps it in a file somewhere.  The messages get into the
file by way of a mail delivery agent (MDA) such as procmail.  These
delivery agents often allow you to filter and munge your mails before
you get to see it.  When your computer is that mail host, this file is
called a spool, and sometimes located in the directory
`/var/spool/mail/'.  All your MUA has to do is read mail from the
spool, then.

   When your computer is not always connected to the internet, you must
get the mail from the remote mail host using a protocol such as POP3 or
IMAP.  POP3 essentially downloads all your mail from the mail host to
your computer.  The mail is stored in some file on your computer, and
again, all your MUA has to do is read mail from the spool.

   When you read mail from various machines, downloading mail from the
mail host to your current machine is not convenient.  In that case, you
will probably want to use the IMAP protocol.  Your mail is kept on the
mail host, and you can read it while you are connected via IMAP to the
mail host.

   So how does reading mail via the web work, you ask.  In that case,
the web interface just allows you to remote-control a MUA on the web
host.  Whether the web host is also a mail host, and how all the pieces
interact is completely irrelevant.  You usually cannot use Emacs to
read mail via the web, unless you use software that parses the
ever-changing HTML of the web interface.

File: smtpmail,  Node: Emacs Speaks SMTP,  Next: Authentication,  Prev: How Mail Works,  Up: Top

2 Emacs Speaks SMTP

Emacs includes a package for sending your mail to a SMTP server and
have it take care of delivering it to the final destination, rather
than letting the MTA on your local system take care of it.  This can be
useful if you don't have a MTA set up on your host, or if your machine
is often disconnected from the internet.

   Sending mail via SMTP requires configuring your mail user agent
(*note Mail Methods: (emacs)Mail Methods.) to use the SMTP library.
How to do this should be described for each mail user agent; for the
default mail user agent the variable `send-mail-function' (*note Mail
Sending: (emacs)Mail Sending.) is used; for the Message and Gnus user
agents the variable `message-send-mail-function' (*note Mail Variables:
(message)Mail Variables.) is used.

     ;; If you use the default mail user agent.
     (setq send-mail-function 'smtpmail-send-it)
     ;; If you use Message or Gnus.
     (setq message-send-mail-function 'smtpmail-send-it)

   Before using SMTP you must find out the hostname of the SMTP server
to use.  Your system administrator should provide you with this
information, but often it is the same as the server you receive mail

     The variable `smtpmail-smtp-server' controls the hostname of the
     server to use.  It is a string with an IP address or hostname.  It
     defaults to the contents of the `SMTPSERVER' environment variable,
     or, if empty, the contents of `smtpmail-default-smtp-server'.

     The variable `smtpmail-default-smtp-server' controls the default
     hostname of the server to use.  It is a string with an IP address
     or hostname.  It must be set before the SMTP library is loaded.
     It has no effect if set after the SMTP library has been loaded, or
     if `smtpmail-smtp-server' is defined.  It is usually set by system
     administrators in a site wide initialization file.

   The following example illustrates what you could put in `~/.emacs'
to set the SMTP server name.

     ;; Send mail using SMTP via
     (setq smtpmail-smtp-server "")

   SMTP is normally used on the registered "smtp" TCP service port 25.
Some environments use SMTP in "Mail Submission" mode, which uses port
587.  Using other ports is not uncommon, either for security by
obscurity purposes, port forwarding, or otherwise.

     The variable `smtpmail-smtp-service' controls the port on the
     server to contact.  It is either a string, in which case it will be
     translated into an integer using system calls, or an integer.

   The following example illustrates what you could put in `~/.emacs'
to set the SMTP service port.

     ;; Send mail using SMTP on the mail submission port 587.
     (setq smtpmail-smtp-service 587)

File: smtpmail,  Node: Authentication,  Next: Queued delivery,  Prev: Emacs Speaks SMTP,  Up: Top

3 Authentication

Many environments require SMTP clients to authenticate themselves
before they are allowed to route mail via a server.  The two following
variables contains the authentication information needed for this.

   The first variable, `smtpmail-auth-credentials', instructs the SMTP
library to use a SASL authentication step, currently only the CRAM-MD5
and LOGIN mechanisms are supported and will be selected in that order
if the server support both.

   The second variable, `smtpmail-starttls-credentials', instructs the
SMTP library to connect to the server using STARTTLS.  This means the
protocol exchange may be integrity protected and confidential by using
the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol, and optionally also
authentication of the client and server.

   TLS is a security protocol that is also known as SSL, although
strictly speaking, SSL is an older variant of TLS.  TLS is backwards
compatible with SSL.  In most mundane situations, the two terms are

   The TLS feature uses the elisp package `starttls.el' (see it for
more information on customization), which in turn require that at least
one of the following external tools are installed:

  1. The GNUTLS command line tool `gnutls-cli', you can get it from
     `'.  This is the recommended
     tool, mainly because it can verify the server certificates.

  2. The `starttls' external program, you can get it from
     `starttls-*.tar.gz' from `'.

   It is not uncommon to use both these mechanisms, e.g., to use
STARTTLS to achieve integrity and confidentiality and then use SASL for
client authentication.

     The variable `smtpmail-auth-credentials' contains a list of
     hostname, port, username and password tuples.  When the SMTP
     library connects to a host on a certain port, this variable is
     searched to find a matching entry for that hostname and port.  If
     an entry is found, the authentication process is invoked and the
     credentials are used.

     The hostname field follows the same format as
     `smtpmail-smtp-server' (i.e., a string) and the port field the
     same format as `smtpmail-smtp-service' (i.e., a string or an
     integer).  The username and password fields, which either can be
     `nil' to indicate that the user is prompted for the value
     interactively, should be strings with the username and password,
     respectively, information that is normally provided by system

     The variable `smtpmail-starttls-credentials' contains a list of
     tuples with hostname, port, name of file containing client key, and
     name of file containing client certificate.  The processing is
     similar to the previous variable.  The client key and certificate
     may be `nil' if you do not wish to use client authentication.

   The following example illustrates what you could put in `~/.emacs'
to enable both SASL authentication and STARTTLS.  The server name
(`smtpmail-smtp-server') is HOSTNAME, the server port
(`smtpmail-smtp-service') is PORT, and the username and password are
USERNAME and PASSWORD respectively.

     ;; Authenticate using this username and password against my server.
     (setq smtpmail-auth-credentials
           '(("HOSTNAME" "PORT" "USERNAME" "PASSWORD")))

     ;; Note that if PORT is an integer, you must not quote it as a
     ;; string.  Normally PORT should be the integer 25, and the example
     ;; become:
     (setq smtpmail-auth-credentials
           '(("HOSTNAME" 25 "USERNAME" "PASSWORD")))

     ;; Use STARTTLS without authentication against the server.
     (setq smtpmail-starttls-credentials
           '(("HOSTNAME" "PORT" nil nil)))

File: smtpmail,  Node: Queued delivery,  Next: Server workarounds,  Prev: Authentication,  Up: Top

4 Queued delivery

If you connect to the internet via a dialup connection, or for some
other reason don't have permanent internet connection, sending mail
will fail when you are not connected.  The SMTP library implements
queued delivery, and the following variable control its behavior.

     The variable `smtpmail-queue-mail' controls whether a simple off
     line mail sender is active.  This variable is a boolean, and
     defaults to `nil' (disabled).  If this is non-`nil', mail is not
     sent immediately but rather queued in the directory
     `smtpmail-queue-dir' and can be later sent manually by invoking
     `smtpmail-send-queued-mail' (typically when you connect to the

     The variable `smtpmail-queue-dir' specifies the name of the
     directory to hold queued messages.  It defaults to

   The function `smtpmail-send-queued-mail' can be used to send any
queued mail when `smtpmail-queue-mail' is enabled.  It is typically
invoked interactively with `M-x smtpmail-send-queued-mail RET' when you
are connected to the internet.

File: smtpmail,  Node: Server workarounds,  Next: Debugging,  Prev: Queued delivery,  Up: Top

5 Server workarounds

Some SMTP servers have special requirements.  The following variables
implement support for common requirements.

     The variable `smtpmail-local-domain' controls the hostname sent in
     the first `EHLO' or `HELO' command sent to the server.  It should
     only be set if the `system-name' function returns a name that
     isn't accepted by the server.  Do not set this variable unless
     your server complains.

     The variable `smtpmail-sendto-domain' makes the SMTP library add
     `@' and the specified value to recipients specified in the message
     when they are sent using the `RCPT TO' command.  Some
     configurations of sendmail requires this behavior.  Don't bother to
     set this unless you have get an error like:

          	Sending failed; SMTP protocol error

     when sending mail, and the debug buffer (*note Debugging::))
     contains an error such as:

          	RCPT TO: SOMEONE
          	501 SOMEONE: recipient address must contain a domain

File: smtpmail,  Node: Debugging,  Next: GNU Free Documentation License,  Prev: Server workarounds,  Up: Top

6 Debugging

Sometimes delivery fails, often with the generic error message `Sending
failed; SMTP protocol error'.  Enabling one or both of the following
variables and inspecting a trace buffer will often give clues to the
reason for the error.

     The variable `smtpmail-debug-info' controls whether to print the
     SMTP protocol exchange in the minibuffer, and retain the entire
     exchange in a buffer `*trace of SMTP session to SERVER*', where
     SERVER is the name of the mail server to which you send mail.

     The variable `smtpmail-debug-verb' controls whether to send the
     `VERB' token to the server.  The `VERB' server instructs the
     server to be more verbose, and often also to attempt final delivery
     while your SMTP session is still running.  It is usually only
     useful together with `smtpmail-debug-info'.  Note that this may
     cause mail delivery to take considerable time if the final
     destination cannot accept mail.

File: smtpmail,  Node: GNU Free Documentation License,  Next: Index,  Prev: Debugging,  Up: Top

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                     Version 1.3, 3 November 2008

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     If a section in the Document is Entitled "Acknowledgements",
     "Dedications", or "History", the requirement (section 4) to
     Preserve its Title (section 1) will typically require changing the
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     You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Document
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     otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute it is void,
     and will automatically terminate your rights under this License.

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     Termination of your rights under this section does not terminate
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     not permanently reinstated, receipt of a copy of some or all of
     the same material does not give you any rights to use it.


     The Free Software Foundation may publish new, revised versions of
     the GNU Free Documentation License from time to time.  Such new
     versions will be similar in spirit to the present version, but may
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     Each version of the License is given a distinguishing version
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     have the option of following the terms and conditions either of
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     you may choose any version ever published (not as a draft) by the
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     "Massive Multiauthor Collaboration Site" (or "MMC Site") means any
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     A "Massive Multiauthor Collaboration" (or "MMC") contained in the
     site means any set of copyrightable works thus published on the MMC

     "CC-BY-SA" means the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0
     license published by Creative Commons Corporation, a not-for-profit
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     "Incorporate" means to publish or republish a Document, in whole or
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     An MMC is "eligible for relicensing" if it is licensed under this
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     The operator of an MMC Site may republish an MMC contained in the
     site under CC-BY-SA on the same site at any time before August 1,
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ADDENDUM: How to use this License for your documents

To use this License in a document you have written, include a copy of
the License in the document and put the following copyright and license
notices just after the title page:

       Copyright (C)  YEAR  YOUR NAME.
       Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
       under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3
       or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
       with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover
       Texts.  A copy of the license is included in the section entitled ``GNU
       Free Documentation License''.

   If you have Invariant Sections, Front-Cover Texts and Back-Cover
Texts, replace the "with...Texts." line with this:

         with the Invariant Sections being LIST THEIR TITLES, with
         the Front-Cover Texts being LIST, and with the Back-Cover Texts
         being LIST.

   If you have Invariant Sections without Cover Texts, or some other
combination of the three, merge those two alternatives to suit the

   If your document contains nontrivial examples of program code, we
recommend releasing these examples in parallel under your choice of
free software license, such as the GNU General Public License, to
permit their use in free software.

File: smtpmail,  Node: Index,  Prev: GNU Free Documentation License,  Up: Top

8 Index

8.1 Concept Index

* Menu:

* CRAM-MD5:                              Authentication.       (line  6)
* Dialup connection:                     Queued delivery.      (line  6)
* IMAP:                                  How Mail Works.       (line 36)
* ISP:                                   How Mail Works.       (line 21)
* LOGIN:                                 Authentication.       (line  6)
* Mail Submission:                       Emacs Speaks SMTP.    (line 50)
* MDA:                                   How Mail Works.       (line 27)
* MTA:                                   How Mail Works.       (line  6)
* MUA:                                   How Mail Works.       (line 14)
* POP3:                                  How Mail Works.       (line 36)
* SASL:                                  Authentication.       (line  6)
* SMTP:                                  How Mail Works.       (line  6)
* SSL:                                   Authentication.       (line  6)
* STARTTLS:                              Authentication.       (line  6)
* TLS:                                   Authentication.       (line  6)
* Webmail:                               How Mail Works.       (line 48)

8.2 Function and Variable Index

* Menu:

* smtpmail-auth-credentials:             Authentication.       (line 42)
* smtpmail-debug-info:                   Debugging.            (line 12)
* smtpmail-debug-verb:                   Debugging.            (line 18)
* smtpmail-default-smtp-server:          Emacs Speaks SMTP.    (line 37)
* smtpmail-local-domain:                 Server workarounds.   (line 10)
* smtpmail-queue-dir:                    Queued delivery.      (line 21)
* smtpmail-queue-mail:                   Queued delivery.      (line 12)
* smtpmail-send-queued-mail:             Queued delivery.      (line 25)
* smtpmail-sendto-domain:                Server workarounds.   (line 17)
* smtpmail-smtp-server:                  Emacs Speaks SMTP.    (line 31)
* smtpmail-smtp-service:                 Emacs Speaks SMTP.    (line 56)
* smtpmail-starttls-credentials:         Authentication.       (line 59)
* SMTPSERVER:                            Emacs Speaks SMTP.    (line 31)