Linux man pages : sendmail (8)
sendmail - an electronic mail transport agent
sendmail [flags] [address ...]
Sendmail sends a message to one or more recipients, routing the message
over whatever networks are necessary. Sendmail does internetwork for-
warding as necessary to deliver the message to the correct place.
Sendmail is not intended as a user interface routine; other programs
provide user-friendly front ends; sendmail is used only to deliver pre-
With no flags, sendmail reads its standard input up to an end-of-file
or a line consisting only of a single dot and sends a copy of the mes-
sage found there to all of the addresses listed. It determines the
network(s) to use based on the syntax and contents of the addresses.
Local addresses are looked up in a file and aliased appropriately.
Aliasing can be prevented by preceding the address with a backslash.
Beginning with 8.10, the sender is included in any alias expansions,
e.g., if `john' sends to `group', and `group' includes `john' in the
expansion, then the letter will also be delivered to `john'.
-Ac Use submit.cf even if the operation mode does not indicate an
initial mail submission.
-Am Use sendmail.cf even if the operation mode indicates an initial
-Btype Set the body type to type. Current legal values are 7BIT or
-ba Go into ARPANET mode. All input lines must end with a CR-LF,
and all messages will be generated with a CR-LF at the end.
Also, the ``From:'' and ``Sender:'' fields are examined for the
name of the sender.
-bd Run as a daemon. Sendmail will fork and run in background lis-
tening on socket 25 for incoming SMTP connections. This is nor-
mally run from /etc/rc.
-bD Same as -bd except runs in foreground.
-bh Print the persistent host status database.
-bH Purge expired entries from the persistent host status database.
-bi Initialize the alias database.
-bm Deliver mail in the usual way (default).
-bp Print a listing of the queue(s).
-bP Print number of entries in the queue(s); only available with
shared memory support.
-bs Use the SMTP protocol as described in RFC821 on standard input
and output. This flag implies all the operations of the -ba
flag that are compatible with SMTP.
-bt Run in address test mode. This mode reads addresses and shows
the steps in parsing; it is used for debugging configuration
-bv Verify names only - do not try to collect or deliver a message.
Verify mode is normally used for validating users or mailing
-Cfile Use alternate configuration file. Sendmail refuses to run as
root if an alternate configuration file is specified.
-dX Set debugging value to X.
Set the full name of the sender.
-fname Sets the name of the ``from'' person (i.e., the envelope sender
of the mail). This address may also be used in the From: header
if that header is missing during initial submission. The enve-
lope sender address is used as the recipient for delivery status
notifications and may also appear in a Return-Path: header. -f
should only be used by ``trusted'' users (normally root, daemon,
and network) or if the person you are trying to become is the
same as the person you are. Otherwise, an X-Authentication-
Warning header will be added to the message.
-G Relay (gateway) submission of a message, e.g., when rmail calls
-hN Set the hop count to N. The hop count is incremented every time
the mail is processed. When it reaches a limit, the mail is
returned with an error message, the victim of an aliasing loop.
If not specified, ``Received:'' lines in the message are
-i Ignore dots alone on lines by themselves in incoming messages.
This should be set if you are reading data from a file.
-L tag Set the identifier used in syslog messages to the supplied tag.
-N dsn Set delivery status notification conditions to dsn, which can be
`never' for no notifications or a comma separated list of the
values `failure' to be notified if delivery failed, `delay' to
be notified if delivery is delayed, and `success' to be notified
when the message is successfully delivered.
-n Don't do aliasing.
Set option option to the specified value. This form uses long
names. See below for more details.
Set option x to the specified value. This form uses single
character names only. The short names are not described in this
manual page; see the Sendmail Installation and Operation Guide
Set the name of the protocol used to receive the message. This
can be a simple protocol name such as ``UUCP'' or a protocol and
hostname, such as ``UUCP:ucbvax''.
Process saved messages in the queue at given intervals. If time
is omitted, process the queue once. Time is given as a tagged
number, with `s' being seconds, `m' being minutes (default), `h'
being hours, `d' being days, and `w' being weeks. For example,
`-q1h30m' or `-q90m' would both set the timeout to one hour
thirty minutes. By default, sendmail will run in the back-
ground. This option can be used safely with -bd.
Similar to -qtime, except that instead of periodically forking a
child to process the queue, sendmail forks a single persistent
child for each queue that alternates between processing the
queue and sleeping. The sleep time is given as the argument; it
defaults to 1 second. The process will always sleep at least 5
seconds if the queue was empty in the previous queue run.
-qf Process saved messages in the queue once and do not fork(), but
run in the foreground.
Process jobs in queue group called name only.
Limit processed jobs to those containing substr as a substring
of the queue id or not when ! is specified.
Limit processed jobs to those containing substr as a substring
of one of the recipients or not when ! is specified.
Limit processed jobs to those containing substr as a substring
of the sender or not when ! is specified.
Set the amount of the message to be returned if the message
bounces. The return parameter can be `full' to return the
entire message or `hdrs' to return only the headers. In the
latter case also local bounces return only the headers.
-rname An alternate and obsolete form of the -f flag.
-t Read message for recipients. To:, Cc:, and Bcc: lines will be
scanned for recipient addresses. The Bcc: line will be deleted
Set the original envelope id. This is propagated across SMTP to
servers that support DSNs and is returned in DSN-compliant error
-v Go into verbose mode. Alias expansions will be announced, etc.
Log all traffic in and out of mailers in the indicated log file.
This should only be used as a last resort for debugging mailer
bugs. It will log a lot of data very quickly.
-- Stop processing command flags and use the rest of the arguments
There are also a number of processing options that may be set. Nor-
mally these will only be used by a system administrator. Options may
be set either on the command line using the -o flag (for short names),
the -O flag (for long names), or in the configuration file. This is a
partial list limited to those options that are likely to be useful on
the command line and only shows the long names; for a complete list
(and details), consult the Sendmail Installation and Operation Guide.
The options are:
Use alternate alias file.
On mailers that are considered ``expensive'' to connect to,
don't initiate immediate connection. This requires queueing.
Checkpoint the queue file after every N successful deliveries
(default 10). This avoids excessive duplicate deliveries when
sending to long mailing lists interrupted by system crashes.
Set the delivery mode to x. Delivery modes are `i' for interac-
tive (synchronous) delivery, `b' for background (asynchronous)
delivery, `q' for queue only - i.e., actual delivery is done the
next time the queue is run, and `d' for deferred - the same as
`q' except that database lookups for maps which have set the -D
option (default for the host map) are avoided.
Set error processing to mode x. Valid modes are `m' to mail
back the error message, `w' to ``write'' back the error message
(or mail it back if the sender is not logged in), `p' to print
the errors on the terminal (default), `q' to throw away error
messages (only exit status is returned), and `e' to do special
processing for the BerkNet. If the text of the message is not
mailed back by modes `m' or `w' and if the sender is local to
this machine, a copy of the message is appended to the file
dead.letter in the sender's home directory.
Save UNIX-style From lines at the front of messages.
The maximum number of times a message is allowed to ``hop''
before we decide it is in a loop.
Do not take dots on a line by themselves as a message termina-
Send error messages in MIME format. If not set, the DSN (Deliv-
ery Status Notification) SMTP extension is disabled.
Set connection cache timeout.
Set connection cache size.
The log level.
Don't send to ``me'' (the sender) if I am in an alias expansion.
Validate the right hand side of aliases during a newaliases(1)
If set, this message may have old style headers. If not set,
this message is guaranteed to have new style headers (i.e., com-
mas instead of spaces between addresses). If set, an adaptive
algorithm is used that will correctly determine the header for-
mat in most cases.
Select the directory in which to queue messages.
Save statistics in the named file.
Set the timeout on undelivered messages in the queue to the
specified time. After delivery has failed (e.g., because of a
host being down) for this amount of time, failed messages will
be returned to the sender. The default is five days.
If set, a user database is consulted to get forwarding informa-
tion. You can consider this an adjunct to the aliasing mecha-
nism, except that the database is intended to be distributed;
aliases are local to a particular host. This may not be avail-
able if your sendmail does not have the USERDB option compiled
Fork each job during queue runs. May be convenient on memory-
Strip incoming messages to seven bits.
Set the handling of eight bit input to seven bit destinations to
mode: m (mimefy) will convert to seven-bit MIME format, p (pass)
will pass it as eight bits (but violates protocols), and s
(strict) will bounce the message.
Sets how long a job must ferment in the queue between attempts
to send it.
Sets the default character set used to label 8-bit data that is
not otherwise labelled.
If opening a connection fails, sleep for sleeptime seconds and
try again. Useful on dial-on-demand sites.
Set the behaviour when there are no recipient headers (To:, Cc:
or Bcc:) in the message to action: none leaves the message
unchanged, add-to adds a To: header with the envelope recipi-
ents, add-apparently-to adds an Apparently-To: header with the
envelope recipients, add-bcc adds an empty Bcc: header, and add-
to-undisclosed adds a header reading `To: undisclosed-recipi-
Sets the maximum number of children that an incoming SMTP daemon
will allow to spawn at any time to N.
Sets the maximum number of connections per second to the SMTP
port to N.
In aliases, the first character of a name may be a vertical bar to
cause interpretation of the rest of the name as a command to pipe the
mail to. It may be necessary to quote the name to keep sendmail from
suppressing the blanks from between arguments. For example, a common
msgs: "|/usr/bin/msgs -s"
Aliases may also have the syntax ``:include:filename'' to ask sendmail
to read the named file for a list of recipients. For example, an alias
would read /usr/local/lib/poets.list for the list of addresses making
up the group.
Sendmail returns an exit status describing what it did. The codes are
defined in <sysexits.h>:
EX_OK Successful completion on all addresses.
User name not recognized.
Catchall meaning necessary resources were not available.
Syntax error in address.
Internal software error, including bad arguments.
Temporary operating system error, such as ``cannot fork''.
Host name not recognized.
Message could not be sent immediately, but was queued.
If invoked as newaliases, sendmail will rebuild the alias database. If
invoked as mailq, sendmail will print the contents of the mail queue.
If invoked as hoststat, sendmail will print the persistent host status
database. If invoked as purgestat, sendmail will purge expired entries
from the persistent host status database. If invoked as smtpd, send-
mail will act as a daemon, as if the -bd option were specified.
sendmail often gets blamed for many problems that are actually the
result of other problems, such as overly permissive modes on directo-
ries. For this reason, sendmail checks the modes on system directories
and files to determine if they can be trusted. Although these checks
can be turned off and your system security reduced by setting the Dont-
BlameSendmail option, the permission problems should be fixed. For
more information, see:
Except for the file /etc/mail/sendmail.cf itself the following path-
names are all specified in /etc/mail/sendmail.cf. Thus, these values
are only approximations.
raw data for alias names
data base of alias names
mail(1), rmail(1), syslog(3), aliases(5), mailaddr(7),
DARPA Internet Request For Comments RFC819, RFC821, RFC822. Sendmail
Installation and Operation Guide, No. 8, SMM.
The sendmail command appeared in 4.2BSD.
$Date: 2002/05/24 15:42:13 $ SENDMAIL(8)