elm – Plain Text Mail Client Program

ELM is a popular text-based email client program for Unix and Unix-like systems. It is designed to be simple, fast, and easy to use, making it a popular choice for those who prefer a command-line interface for their email needs. ELM allows users to read, compose, and send email messages using a simple, intuitive interface.


ELM is a command-line email client that can be used to read, compose, and send email messages. To use ELM, simply type ‘elm’ at the command prompt, and the program will launch in your terminal window. From there, you can use a variety of commands to navigate through your email messages and perform various tasks.

Reading email messages

To read an email message, simply use the arrow keys to navigate through your inbox, and press enter to open a message. Once you have opened a message, you can use the arrow keys to scroll through the message, and press ‘q’ to return to the inbox.

Composing email messages

To compose a new email message, press ‘c’ while in the inbox. This will open a new message window, where you can enter the recipient’s email address, subject, and message body. Once you have finished composing your message, press ‘ctrl-x’ to send it.

Sending email messages

To send an email message, simply press ‘ctrl-x’ while in the message composition window. ELM will prompt you to confirm that you want to send the message, and then it will be sent.

Other commands

ELM has a variety of other commands that can be used to perform various tasks, such as deleting messages, replying to messages, and searching for messages. To view a list of available commands, press ‘h’ while in the inbox.


The following options are available for the ELM command:

Option Description
-f Specify a mailbox file to use instead of the default mailbox
-F Specify a configuration file to use instead of the default configuration
-i Ignore the user’s mail file and use the specified mailbox file
-n Start ELM in no-update mode
-p Specify a printer to use for printing messages
-s Start ELM in silent mode
-t Specify a temporary file to use instead of the default temporary file
-v Start ELM in verbose mode

Troubleshooting tips

If you are experiencing issues with ELM, try the following troubleshooting tips:

  • Ensure that you have a valid email account and that your email server is configured correctly.
  • Check that your mailbox file is not corrupted or unreadable.
  • Make sure that you are using the correct command syntax and options.
  • If you are having trouble sending email messages, check that your outgoing mail server is configured correctly.


  • ELM is a lightweight and simple email client that is ideal for those who prefer a command-line interface.
  • ELM has been around since the early days of Unix and is still a popular choice for many users today.
  • While ELM is not as feature-rich as some other email clients, it is still a reliable and efficient way to manage your email messages.