Twin Cities Free-Net Help Center

Messages - Your Electronic Mail

What are Messages?

Items and responses are fine for public discussions, but there will be times when you want more privacy. That is when you should use MESSAGES. Send a message when you want to make a private comment to someone or ask a question ("How was your vacation, George?") that does not belong in the public conference.

Caucus keeps track of the messages that you receive from other people. Each message is numbered when it is received. The first message you receive is Message 1, the second is Message 2, and so forth. The newer the message, the higher the number.

Caucus stores your messages in a "mailbox" that you can access from any conference. Only you can look at your messages. Once a message has been sent to you, it is yours to read, keep, or delete as you prefer.

When you send a message, you can edit it before you send it. Once you have sent it, however, you cannot retrieve it. (Just like the U.S. Mail. Once you drop a letter in a mailbox, it is mailed, and that is that.)

Sending Messages

To send a private message, type SEND at the "AND NOW?" prompt. (ADD is the same as .) Caucus prompts you to enter a subject heading, the text of your message, and the name(s) of the recipient(s). If you are not sure what the questions mean, you can type ? or HELP at any prompt for more information.

Once you have typed SEND, Caucus responds with:


and displays a ">" at the beginning of each line. Type as much as you like; your message can be up to 9999 lines long. Remember to press <RETURN> at the end of each line of text.

Typing a message is like typing a response. You can edit the text of your message by typing "edit" at the beginning of a line. (You can also edit your message by responding "yes" to the "Edit Message?" prompt described below). You can cancel your message altogether by pressing the <CANCEL> key. When you finish entering your message, type a dot (period) at the start of a new line. For more details on this process, see Responding.

After you complete your message, Caucus asks you to:


You should type one line that briefly summarizes what your message is about. The subject is like the "regarding:" part of a memo or the title of a Caucus item.

Next, Caucus gives you another chance to fix any mistakes in your message. At the prompt:


type YES if you want to edit your message before it is sent. This starts up your default text editor (see Chapter 9) with the text of your message. Otherwise, type NO (or just press <RETURN>, since NO is the default choice shown in parentheses).

Now that your message is ready to send, Caucus asks you to whom it should send the message. Type the name of the recipient or the recipient's userid in parentheses (e.g, "(roth)").


Usually you only need to type the first few letters of the person's name. Caucus figures out who you mean and asks for confirmation to send the message by displaying the recipient's full name:


You may also type "SEND TO recipient " in which case you will not be prompted for the recipient's name a second time. "Recipient" may be a Unix or Vax mailbox address, or a CaucusLink host address as described in Internet mail and SET IMPORT_MAIL.

Answer YES, RR (send with receipt), or NO: (yes)

Type YES, OK, or press <RETURN> (the default) to send the message. Type NO if you do not want to send the message to this person. Type RR if you want a return-receipt for this message.

Asking for a return-receipt means that Caucus automatically sends you a "receipt" message when Joe Smith reads your message. The receipt tells you that Joe Smith read the message, when he read the message, and what the subject of the message was. You also can include a preset number of lines from the original message. (See SET RECEIPTSIZE, for more information.)

Finally, Caucus asks if you want to send the message to anyone else. At the prompt:


you may type the name of another recipient. Caucus continues to prompt you with OK TO SEND MESSAGE and ENTER ANOTHER RECIPIENT until you press <RETURN> at the latter. You can thus send copies of your message to as many people as you like.

Reading Your Mail

Whenever you receive a message, it gets placed in your mailbox and marked as NEW. Seeing your new messages is very straightforward. At the "AND NOW?" prompt, type SHOW S NEW. You can also rearrange ( MESSAGE NEW) or abbreviate (SH M NEW) the command. For each new message, Caucus displays:

After you read each message, Caucus asks if you want to reply to the sender with a message of your own. Following the text of the message, you see the prompt:

MESSAGE 1...REPLY, PASS, DELETE, or ? for options (pass)

This is your opportunity to reply to the message. Note what each piece of this prompt tells you:

MESSAGE 1 You have just seen message number 1.

REPLY You can type REPLY (or just R) at this prompt to send a reply to your correspondent. Once you have sent a reply, Caucus will repeat this prompt.

PASS You can PASS on this message, and go on to see other new messages. The message will stay in your mailbox.

DELETE You can DELETE (erase) this message. You should delete messages you no longer need.

? for options The prompt includes the three most common actions, REPLY, PASS, and DELETE. Type ? or HELP to learn about your other options. Caucus shows available options and repeats the original prompt.

(pass) Pressing <RETURN> in this case is the same as typing PASS.

If you do not want to do anything with this message, and you do not want to PASS on to any other new messages, press the <CANCEL> key. Caucus will return to the "AND NOW?" prompt.

Replying to a Message

Replying to a message is much like sending a message. Caucus prompts you to enter the text of your message, and offers you the opportunity to edit it once you are done. Since this is a reply, Caucus already knows who the message is going to and just asks for confirmation:


Again, you have the option of sending the reply to other people. At the prompt:


you may type the name of any other person. Caucus continues to prompt you with OK TO SEND MESSAGE and ENTER ANOTHER RECIPIENT until you press <RETURN> at the latter. In this way, you can send a copy of your reply message to as many people as you like.

Replies to Replies

When you reply to a message, Caucus adds the reply to the end of the message you read and mails the whole package back to the sender. The sender gets the text of the original message, plus your reply, as a new message.

Caucus does this to provide context to a reply. Suppose you send someone a message asking a question, and they simply reply "No." Without seeing your original question, you may not know what "No." means!

Of course, this can get out of hand. If you and John Doe are exchanging messages and John replies to your reply to John's reply to your reply to John's original message, the result could be both long and confusing. Caucus can trim such sequences for you. Whenever a message has three or more parts, Caucus asks:


For example, suppose you send a message to John Doe. Let us call it A. John Doe replies to it with B. You, in turn, reply to B with C. Now the message has three parts (A, B, and C). Caucus prompts you to CUT EARLIER EXCHANGES. If you type YES (or press <RETURN>), Caucus trims off A and sends John Doe a message containing only B and C. If you type NO, Caucus sends A, B, and C together as one message.


SHOW MESSAGES NEW keeps you up-to-date on your new messages, but often messages require action on your part before you can reply to or delete them. Seeing your old messages is easy. The general form of the SHOW MESSAGES command is:

SHOW instance

where the instance selects the particular messages you want to see. An instance can specify a message or messages in several ways. For example:

MESSAGE 5 displays message 5

SHOW MESSAGE 1, 3, 17 displays messages 1, 3, and 17 in that order

SHOW MESSAGES 3-6 displays messages 3, 4, 5, and 6

SHOW MESSAGES ALL displays all of your messages

SHOW MESSAGE LAST displays the last message you received

SHOW MESSAGES NEW displays all new messages, including return receipts

SHOW MESSAGES NOMARK leaves NEW messages NEW, whether read or not

SHOW MESSAGES OLD displays messages you have seen, but have not deleted

After you SHOW a message, Caucus prompts you with:

MESSAGE 1...REPLY, PASS, DELETE, or ? for options (pass)

If you want to read your messages without this prompt, you can tell Caucus to automatically PASS on each message. For example, typing SHOW MESSAGES ALL PASS at the "AND NOW?" prompt displays all of your messages, without stopping to ask you about the disposition of each one. (PASS is a command modifier. Modifiers are described in more detail in chapter 9.)

LIST - Getting an Overview

If you are like most people, you do not read your mail letter by letter. You skim through it first, looking for the most important or interesting letters. You can do the same thing with your Caucus messages by using the Caucus LIST MESSAGES command. It has the same form as the SHOW MESSAGES command:

LIST instance

where the instance can be any of the instances shown in Other Ways to SHOW MESSAGES. For each message selected, MESSAGES displays:

When Caucus is finished displaying the list, it returns you to the "AND NOW?" prompt.

If your lists are very long, you may wish to see information in a more condensed form. LIST has a modifier called BRIEF that tells Caucus to display only one line of information per message. For example, displays one line of information per message. Each line contains:

Both forms of LIST MESSAGES put an asterisk (*) in column 1 if the message is NEW. Return receipts also are marked as NEW and automatically note "RETURN RECEIPT" as their subject line.

STATUS - What Is New

Each time you join a conference, you see a greeting from the organizer followed by very brief summary of the new items, responses, and messages. You can obtain this summary at any time by typing STATUS at the "AND NOW?" prompt. Here is an example from a typical conference:

AND NOW? status

Caucus (TM) Version 2.2/IM. Copyright (C) 1988 Camber-Roth.

The Conference is: demonstration

The Organizer is: Charles Roth (roth)

You are: Joan Doe

The time is: 29-OCT-89 14:41

The <CANCEL> key is Control-C.

New Messages are 4-5

This display says that you have two new messages, numbered 4 and 5.

Caucus also tells you about new messages received while you are conferencing. If you are using Caucus and someone sends you a message, you will see:

New message(s) you just received are: 6

This means that you just now received a new message, numbered 6. The message appears on your screen just before the next "AND NOW?" prompt.

Cleaning Out Your Mailbox

Messages, like dust under a bed, tend to accumulate. From time to time, you should clean out messages that are no longer useful. You can delete Caucus messages immediately after you read them or at "AND NOW?".

Each time you SHOW a message, after the text you will see the prompt:

MESSAGE 1...REPLY, PASS, DELETE, or ? for options (pass)

Type DELETE (or just D) to delete that message.

To delete messages at the "AND NOW?" prompt, use the command:

DELETE instance

This command erases the messages selected by the instance. Caucus asks for confirmation that you really want to delete these messages. The instance can be any of the examples shown in Other Ways to SHOW MESSAGES.

If you do not want to completely destroy your messages, you have several other options. Suppose messages 5 through 10 contain useful information that you want to keep, but that you do not want cluttering up your mailbox. If you have access to a printer, the Caucus commands:



will print messages 5 through 10 and then delete them. (PRINT is a command modifier that tells Caucus to display the messages, not on your screen, but on your computer's printer. and other modifiers are described in more detail in Chapter 9.)

Here is another approach which adds the messages to a file called "ARCHIVE":



The ">>" modifier tells Caucus to put the messages onto the end of the operating system file "ARCHIVE". (">>" is a "redirection" modifier and is described in Chapter 9.)

Advanced Options

At the REPLY prompt

Whenever you SHOW a message, you see the prompt:

MESSAGE 1...REPLY, PASS, DELETE, or ? for options (pass)

While REPLY, PASS, and DELETE are the most commonly used options, there are four others that you may find useful:

FORWARD tells Caucus to forward a copy of the message to another person.

NEW marks the message as NEW even though you just read it. (This can be useful for marking messages for later attention if you do not have the time or information needed to deal with them.)

5 shows Message 5

-1 shows again the message you just read


The SEND command also has an advanced option. Each time you SEND (or REPLY to) a message, Caucus saves a copy of the message you sent. Typing "SEND " at the "AND NOW?" prompt lets you send that copy to another person. You may only SEND AGAIN the last message you sent.

Distribution Lists

Caucus supports mail distribution lists. You can create a distribution list by using the EDIT command described in Other Commands. The file must contain a list of user's names, with one user per line. When Caucus asks you to ENTER NAME OF RECIPIENT, enter


where filename is the name of the distribution list file. Caucus will send the message to all of the people on the list. These files are permanent and remain from one Caucus session to the next.

<CANCEL> key

The <CANCEL> key has a special function when SHOWing messages. Suppose you SHOW a message that has multiple parts (original message, reply, reply to a reply, and so forth). If you press <CANCEL> in the midst of the display, Caucus skips directly to the next part of the message and continues displaying text from there. Each time you press <CANCEL>, Caucus skips to the next part of the message. If there are no more parts to the message, <CANCEL> interrupts the display and Caucus prompts:

MESSAGE 1...REPLY, PASS, DELETE, or ? for options (pass)

Internet mail

You can use the "=" gateway indicator to send mail to people on other computers. For example, if you are using a Unix system which is connected to the Internet, you can send mail to another user on the Internet by entering their e-mail address after the "=", e.g. "".

This also allows you to send mail to users of different mail systems. The following list demonstrates some possibilities:


America On-Line




For each of these examples, you must supply the correct information for the field(s) before the "@". For SprintMail, you must also supply the correct "orgname".

If you send Internet mail, and the recipients reply to your mail, the reply will appear in your system mailbox. If you want to receive this mail in your Caucus mailbox, you must SET IMPORT ON or SET IMPORT COPY (see SET IMPORT_MAIL).

Messages versus Items

When should you use messages and when should you use items? The answer depends on what you are trying to do. Use messages if you want to have a short, private discussion with one other person. Use items if you want to start a public discussion or if you have a question to ask, but do not know who to ask.

What about the gray areas in between? Then the question depends on two issues: the importance of privacy and the exponential explosion of mail.

To illustrate the privacy concern, suppose you want to ask ten people about their security clearance levels. You are better off sending the same private message to all ten people. Now suppose that you are asking the same ten people if they are going to attend a party. Using an item would be more appropriate. Their responses will all be in one place, and they all can see who is planning to attend.

As another example, suppose you want to have a discussion with four people about the precise wording of a legal contract. If you use messages, you will soon be swamped by everyone's replies to everyone else's messages. This is the exponential explosion of mail. Using an item is much neater. It prevents people from giving overlapping advice and gives you a complete record of everyone's comments.

If you need to keep certain group discussions private, the best solution is to create a conference specifically for dealing with those items. The conference should be set up with participants limited to appropriate individuals.

Suppose you wish to set up a conference for discussing staff reviews and raises. If you use a conference open to all employees, your staff members could access both your discussions and other confidential personnel information. By creating a separate conference and limiting participants to appropriate managers, you gain the privacy needed to discuss these confidential matters and to document your decisions. (See Chapter 12 for details on creating a conference.)

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©1996, Screen Porch LLC
©1997, Twin Cities Free-Net
Last modified: March 1997