An MH Primer

Matt Midboe


v1.0, 16 January 1996

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This document contains an introduction to using MH on FreeBSD

1 Introduction

MH started back in 1977 at the RAND Corporation, where the initial philosophies behind MH were developed. MH is not so much a monolithic email program but a philosophy about how best to develop tools for reading email. The MH developers have done a great job adhering to the KISS principle: Keep It Simple Stupid. Rather than have one large program for reading, sending and handling email they have written specialized programs for each part of your email life. One might liken MH to the specialization that one finds in insects and nature. Each tool in MH does one thing, and does it very well.

Beyond just the various tools that one uses to handle their email MH has done an excellent job keeping the configuration of each of these tools consistent and uniform. In fact, if you are not quite sure how something is supposed to work or what the arguments for some command are supposed to be, then you can generally guess and be right. Each MH command is consistent about how it handles reading the configuration files and how it takes arguments on the command line. One useful thing to remember is that you can always add a -help to the command to have it display the options for that command.

The first thing that you need to do is to make sure that you have installed the MH package on your FreeBSD machine. If you installed from CDROM you should be able to execute the following to load MH:

# pkg_add /cdrom/packages/mh-6.8.3.tgz
You will notice that it created a /usr/local/lib/mh directory for you as well as adding several binaries to the /usr/local/bin directory. If you would prefer to compile it yourself then you can anonymous ftp it from or

This primer is not a full comprehensive explanation of how MH works. This is just intended to get you started on the road to happier, faster mail reading. You should read the manual pages for the various commands. You might also want to read the newsgroup. Also you can read the FAQ for MH. The best resource for MH is Jerry Peek's MH & nmh: Email for Users & Programmers.

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