Howto: Send The Content Of a Text File Using mail Command In Unix / Linux

Posted on in Categories last updated April 17, 2012

I‘d like to send an email with the content of a text file using mail command in Unix / Linux operating system. How do I do it?

mail command (also mailx command) is an intelligent mail processing system under Unix and Linux. You need to use the following syntax to send an email using mail command:

mail -s 'Subject-Here' < input.file
mail -s 'Uptime Report' < /tmp/output.txt


  • -s ‘Subject’ : Specify subject on command line.
  • [email protected]: To email user.
  • /tmp/output.txt : Send the content of /tmp/output.txt file using mail command.

Send an email as attachment from Unix command line

Either can use the mutt command or uuencode command as described below:

### Attach /tmp/filelist.tar.gz and read the content of a text using /tmp/body.txt ###
mutt -s "Backup status" -a /tmp/filelist.tar.gz < /tmp/body.txt


### Attach /tmp/list.tar.gz and and send it  ###
uuencode /tmp/list.tar.gz /tmp/list.tar.gz | mailx -s "Reports"
### Email photo.png along with a text message read from body.txt ##
(cat body.txt; uuencode photo.png photo.png) | mail -s "Subject"

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. He has worked with global clients and in various industries, including IT, education, defense and space research, and the nonprofit sector. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.

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22 comment

  1. Hi, thank you for this great tutorial. Just wondering if there’s a pre-requirement for the above to work? I have tried on my Debian Linux box but my emails have not received the sent message. My Linux box is connected to the Internet. It’s just a web server.

  2. I see issue with uuencode not showing the file attachment when opened in webmail

    begin 640 t1.txt

    above content is coming in body of the mail in place of attachment. Please let me know how to fix this.

  3. My attachment is blank. I’m having a similar problem as harsha above.

    Any clues? I can’t seem to send this file without it getting messed up. Is there another way to send text from a file to another email?

  4. Hi,

    Great one! I have a question for you.

    mailx is not working properly when sending the contents of the text file. Received mail as the content in one line even though the text file contains line by line.

    Please help me out on this issue.


    1. Are you reading the mail on a Windows computer?

      Then it might be related to the difference in line-endings used in *nix systems and Windows.
      If you want to send a file created on a *nix system to a Windows system, first do unix2dos which will convert the file to match with the DOS (Windows) standards

  5. I am trying below command
    mail -s ‘unix test’ [email protected] < body.txt
    where "unix test" is my subject, [email protected] is my gmail id and body.txt is my text file from which i want to copy content into my email body.

    I am getting below error message:
    postdrop: warning: unable to look up public/pickup: No such file or directory

    Is something missing in my command or is there any pre-requisit i need to follow to use this command.
    I am new to UNIX


    1. Hi PJeet,

      Saw no one had replied so thought I would.

      I had the same issue. I reran the same command line a 2nd time, and it worked. No changes to the command line were made. Just entered it twice. The 1st time failed with your error. The 2nd time successfully ran. It clearly needed to create the mailbox drop location which it did after the 1st attempt. It took about 7 minutes to receive the email.

  6. Hi

    I have two variables M1 and M2 in my script. For M1 output is previous month name and M2 is current month name.
    I want to use the output of these variables in my subject of email using mailx command.
    Is it possible? How it can be done?
    If not, can i get these month name using unix commands ? but how to use commands in subject ?

    Meenu Malik

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