Last modified: Sun Jan 2 20:59:43 PST 2005
exmh version: 2.7.2
"Brent Welch" <welch@acm.org>

exmh is a TCL/TK based interface to the MH mail system.

Version 2.7 requires Tcl/Tk 8.3 or higher. exmh is known to work with MH versions 6.7 and 6.8.*. There is a clean replacement for MH called nmh available at http://www.nongnu.org/nmh

Experienced EXMH installers should check FLASHES below and the exmh.CHANGES file.

New EXMH installers

Please read through all of this, thanks, especially the part at the end about the TK send command. See also the on-line FAQ file under the Help... menu.

The exmh documentation is now all in HTML and viewable from within exmh.

Please encourage your exmh users to REGISTER via the Register menu entry under the Help... menu. This lets me track exmh usage and get user feedback. I won't abuse this registration - there is no obligation associated with registration, but I would like all exmh users to do it.

All registration does is send me a mail message. You get to add your comments, pro and con, about exmh. I've learned a lot from the 2000+ registrations I have received so far. Thanks!

Other software you'll need

EXMH lives "high in the food chain". You'll need some additional software. Please review the necessary and optional packages for exmh.

Known Bugs

See the exmh.BUGS and exmh.TODO files in the distribution, or the Exmh SourceForge site.

Exmh Wiki

See the exmh wiki for a web site you can use to share tips and tricks with other users.

Frequently Asked Questions

See the exmh-faq.html for answers to some frequently asked questions. This information is now available via the FAQ button in exmh.


Multidrop+Inc style inc has been added. Set up your .xmhcheck file to use the MyIncTmp folder. Any messages in that folder get sorted by slocal.

The man page has been chopped into 4 documents:
exmh.l - a tutorial
exmh-use.l - a more comprehensive user guide
exmh-custom.l - a guide to exmh customization
exmh-ref.l - a terse description of all buttons and menu entries.

Performance Hints

Grab the Tcl/Tk 8.0 releases for a nice performance boost!

Squeeze the last drop out of message display by disabling the separator bars in message display. (Show Graphic Part Separator under MIME)

Really large folders make exmh run slowly. Take this as a hint to reorganize things into sub-folders if you have more than 500 or so messages in a folder.

Bound the unseen folder search by defining the .mh_profile

	Folder-Unseen: pattern pattern pattern
entry to name the folders to search under. The default is *, so all folders are searched.

Reverse Video

It takes just a few resource settings in your ~/.exmh/exmh-defaults-mono file to get reverse video on a black and white display:
! For widgets
*Background: black
*Foreground: white
! For highlights
*c_background: black
*c_foreground: white

Colorized Headers

Did you know you can colorize rfc822 headers in the message display by setting *m_tagnames and related X resources? This feature has been around for some time, but seems to be little-known. Here's what I have in my ~/.exmh/exmh-defaults-color file.
*m_tagnames:    hidden subject from x-filters-matched content-type x-mailer repl
ied replied-to
*m_hidden:      -font 6x10
*m_subject:     -foreground blue
*m_x-filters-matched:   -foreground "medium sea green"
*m_content-type:        -foreground "medium sea green"
*m_x-mailer:    -foreground "medium sea green"
*m_from:        -foreground blue
*m_replied:     -foreground "violet red"
The *c_ family of resources has expanded a bit to allow control of both foreground and background colors for current, unseen, moved, and delete messages.

Mailing Lists

There are now three exmh-related mailing lists. YOU ONLY NEED TO PICK ONE LIST. Send your subscription requests to:
	exmh-announce-request 	- to receive release notices 
	exmh-users-request 	- to get exmh-announce + user discussion 
	exmh-workers-request 	- to just get exmh hacker discussion 
The mailing lists have the following addresses, but please send your subscription requests to the -request aliases. If you use the menu entries under Help, they format the message automatically.


Thanks go to Ed Oskiewicz for inspiring me with an initial version, which is much modified by now. Thanks also go to many beta testers that put up with buggy versions and suggested many features that are now part of exmh. Feature requests that come with code diffs to implement them are especially nice.

The following employers of mine deserve credit for letting me indulge in exmh hacking: Xerox/PARC, Mark Weiser and Doug Terry. Sun Microsystems Laboratories, John Ousterhout. Scriptics, The Tcl/Tk Platform Company, John Ousterhout.

Honorable mentions:

There are a lot of other folks that contributed code and patches. Without them, exmh wouldn't be what it is today.


As well as providing the usual layer on top of MH commands, exmh has a number of other features:

MIME support! Displays richtext and enriched directly. Parses multipart messages. A popup menu under the right button can invoke external viewers (metamail) for things not directly supported. Built-in editor allows simple composition of text/enriched format and multipart messages (via Insert Part).

Color feedback in the scan listing so you can easily identify unseen messages (white background), the current message (raised display), deleted messages (strikeout), and moved messages (yellow background). Xresources control these color choices.

Monochrome displays highlight unseen messages with underline, current message in reverse video, deleted messages with strikeout, and moved messages with stippled background.

A folder display with one label per folder. Color highlights indicate the current folder (red), folders with unseen messages in them (blue), and the target folder for moves (yellow background). Nested folders are highlighted by a shadow box. A cache of recently visited folder buttons is also maintained. Monochrome highlights are reverse video for the current folder, bold box for folders with unseen messages, and stippled box for the target of move operations.

Clever scan caching. MH users know that scan is slow, so exmh tries hard to cache the current state of the folder to avoid scanning. Moves and deletes within exmh do not invalidate the cache, and background incs that add new messages are handled by merging them into the scan listing. The scan cache is compatible with xmh.

Facesaver bitmap display. If you have a facesaver database on your system, exmh displays the bitmap face of the person that sent the current message (or their organization). Otherwise, it just displays a boring EXMH logo.

Background inc. You can set exmh to run inc periodically, or just to periodically count up the messages in your mail spool file. (Depends on proper TK send functioning. See notes below.)

Various inc styles. Exmh knows about three styles of inc usage: Inc from your spool file to your inbox folder. Inc from your spool file or POP host to a set of dropboxes as specified by your ~/.xmhcheck file. Inc from your spool file directly into folders. exmh can run the MH filtering program (slocal) for you, or you can let an external agent presort mail into folders for you.

Searching over folder listing and message body.

A dialog-box interface to MH pick.

A simple editor with emacs-like bindings is provided by default. It has an interface that lets you tweak key bindings.

Editor interface. You can hook up exmh to TCL based-editors like mxedit quite easily. A script is also provided, exmh-async, for using terminal based editors like vi. The emacsclient.README file has hand-wavy instructions for using emacsclient to talk to an emacs server.

Glimpse interface. You can index all your mail with glimpse and search for messages by content. The search works across all folders and runs quite fast. The indexes are only about 10% of the space of your mail database.

User preferences. You can tune exmh through a dialog box. The settings are saved in an Xresource-style file named .exmh/exmh-defaults. You can also put font and color resource specifications in this file, plus there are a few random parameters not exposed via preferences.

User hacking support. A user library of TCL routines is supported. The main implementation is chopped up into many smallish modules. So, you can modify a copy of some module to put your favorite mail reader hack in without affecting others (or convincing me to put it into the main line). There are also a number of places where hook procedures are used so you can refine the behavior of things like composing a reply message. Details in the man page.


Installation is done via the exmh.install script. Invoke it as:
	wish -f exmh.install
This puts up a dialog box that lets you patch various file system specific pathnames and enable or disable features that your system cannot support (e.g., facesaver, sound). You can test out exmh via this dialog before installing it.

Upon startup, exmh.install looks around for .exmhinstall files from previous installations. It will ask you which one you want to use, unless there is already one in the current directory. You can also use the Conf button to look for config files. This lets you maintain a set of config files, .exmhinstall.* if you need this for multiple architectures, for example.

In the install dialog, the "Script Library" and the "Install lib directory" are usually the same place. The script library is the run-time value of the library directory, while the install lib directory is the install-time value. The Test button now automatically changes the run-time value to "./lib" in order to test before installing. So, the only reason for the distinction between install-time and run-time is for AFS environments where writable and read-only volumes might have different names.

Remember to choose a script library directory that exmh can take up all for itself. The install is *not* smart enough to make an exmh subdirectory in a common lib dir (e.g., /usr/local/lib).

WARNING: you need to specify an alternate location - the install is *not yet* smart enough to handle leaving the script library where you unpacked the tar file.

After you set things up in the dialog box, then hit some buttons:

If the install fails to work gracefully on your system, let me know! One common error is to get a complaint about the procedure "Exmh" not being defined. This happens when the value of the script library is not correct.

Tk Send Problems


exmh depends on the TK send facility for its background processing. With TK 3.3, send now uses Xauthority mechanisms by default, unless you compile TK with -DTK_NO_SECURITY. A manifestation of problems are that background processing doesn't work: new messages are not scanned into the current folder, the flag icon doesn't behave, and so on. Similarly, use of the exmh-async wrapper script also fails. If you cannot recompile wish, then the trick is to get your X server process started with the right incantation.

You can easily test send (and my installation process should have...) Just run wish, and type in the following command to it:

	send exmh {Exmh_Status "Hello world"}
Obviously, make sure exmh is running first.

If you get an error, you need to recompile the TK library, or learn how to start up the X server so it does the right Xauthentication stuff.

Here is one example, for SunOS openwindows. This is an excerpt from an .xserverrc file:

    if [ ! \( -d $HOME -a -w $HOME \) ]; then
      echo "Warning: Can't write X authority file" 1>&2 ;
      authfname=$HOME/.xnews.`uname -n`$DISPLAY
      ${OPENWINHOME}/lib/mkcookie $authfname -auth magic-cookie
      auth_args="-auth $authfname"
    fi ;
    ${OPENWINHOME}/bin/xnews $auth_args $server_args $xnews_config_args ;;
The general picture of what's going on is this: If you have the xauth program and your server doesn't like to be told about the intermediate file, then you can use xauth to write into the ~/.Xauthority file for you, and apparently the right thing will happen. If this sounds vague, it is. For precise details, do some experimentation or ask your local X guru. If you come up with particular solutions, feel free to post them to "comp.lang.tcl" so other folks with similar configurations can learn how to do the right thing as well.

See also "misc/Xauthority" for similar info.

Concluding Remarks

If you end up using exmh on a regular basis, also let me know! If I can tell my managers that there are N users of my mail reader, there is a greater chance I'll have time to hack up more tools in the future (and still get paid). There is a Register User menu entry under the Help... menu that you can use for this purpose. Encourage your users to do this if you are an administrator at a large site.

Finally, please take time to read the man page before asking too many questions. If exmh gets an internal error it will display a dialog box with a TCL trace back and a What Happened: area. You can type short note into that area, and then hit the "mail to" button in order to file a bug report. I'll consider feature requests, but basically I'd appreciate it if you'd code up your feature and send me some diffs or just the whole file that is affected. Many of the neat features in exmh were originally contributed by its users.


-- "Brent Welch" <welch@acm.org>

exmh:The Right Tool for the Job