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Re: [bug-mailutils] mail -f option processing

From: Sergey Poznyakoff
Subject: Re: [bug-mailutils] mail -f option processing
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2006 21:09:50 EET

Helmut Leitner <address@hidden> wrote:

> The program "mail" seems to process the -f option incorrectly.
> In a call
>    mail -f path name
> or
>    mail name
>      (with "-f path" coming from /etc/mailutils.rc ":mail -f path")
> the name is interpreted as another mailbox path and the
> stored path is overwritten and lost.

The switch -f takes an optional argument. As such, it must eiter appear
right after the short form (-f), or after an equal sign if used with the
long form (--file), in both cases without any intervening
whitespace. That is, the correct ways of invocation are:

  mail -fpath
  mail --file=path

Any other usage is an error and previous versions of mail detected it as
such. However, as the comment you noticed states, people were often
forgetting this option specific and therefore an heuristics was
introduced that allows to handle both  `mail -fpath' and `mail -f path'
the same way *in the absence of other command line arguments*.

It did not appear to me that anyone would want to use both mailbox name
and recipient addresses on the same command line, since this is
effectively senseless. The invocation

  mail -f path name

should be understood as follows: "set default mailbox url to the system
mailbox for the current uid and enter compose mode for sending a message
to users `path' (sic) and `name'". Currently, however, mail understands
it as "open `path', than drop it and open `name' instead". The proposed
way of understanding this invocation as "open mailbox `path' and send a
mail to `name'" is also wrong, since `path' has nothing to do with -f,
because it is separated from it. Perhaps the best bet would be to print
an error message and exit. 


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