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Signature, Finger, & Customized Headers FAQ

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Archive-name: signature_finger_faq
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Last-modified: 25 April 1995

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         ( -O>                                                
Subject: 0.0 Preliminaries

This article describes these ways you can tell people on the Internet more 
about yourself:
 * Your signature file which can be automatically appended to your
   mail and news messages.
 * Your finger information which is displayed when people finger you.
 * Your customized header lines, such as Organization, From, and 
   Reply-To, which are part of your mail and news messages.


Date: 17 Apr 1995 00:00:10 GMT
From: FAQ Editor 
Subject:     0.1 Getting the Latest Version of this FAQ

If this FAQ is over a couple months old, there may be an updated
version.  Please get the latest hypertext or plain text version from
one of the places listed below.


Date: 17 Apr 1995 00:00:10 GMT
From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... ... 0.1.1 Hypertext

The best way to read this FAQ (and most other FAQs) is to view the
hypertext version using a Web browser such as Cello, Lynx, Mosaic,
Netscape, or WinWeb.  This will allow you to easily jump:
   * between subjects in the FAQ
   * to any Uniform Resource Locator (URL) in the FAQ
   * to an Internet Request For Comments document (RFC)
   * to some manual pages

This, and all FAQs that are crossposted to news.answers, are available at:

This particular FAQ is at:

If you don't want to type that long URL, you can go to Infinite Ink's
Sample Writings Page and jump to it from there:


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... ... 0.1.2 Plain Text

The plain text version of this FAQ is regularly posted to these
  news.newusers.questions  comp.mail.misc    comp.mail.pine       alt.answers         comp.mail.elm
  news.answers             comp.unix.questions

It's in digest format which means that you may be able to use your
newsreader to easily move between digest items (e.g., nn uses G% to
burst a digest and trn uses ^G to jump to the next digest item).

The plain text version is also available through...

A Link on Infinite Ink's Sample Writings Page:

Anonymous FTP:

 Send mail to containing the following:
    send usenet/news.answers/signature_finger_faq


Hard Copy:
 A printed version of this FAQ is in Chapter 17 of the book 
 "Internet Secrets" by John R. Levine and Carol Baroudi; published 
 1995 by IDG Books; ISBN 1-56884-452-2.


Date: 17 Apr 1995 00:00:20 GMT
From: FAQ Editor 
Subject:     0.2 Terminology

 Term               Meaning
 ====               =======
 browser            Web browser
 FQDN or fqdn       Fully qualified domain name
 mailer or MUA      Mail user agent such as pine or elm
 MTA                Mail transport agent such as sendmail or smail
 pico               PIne COmposer - a user friendly editor
 pico FileName      Use pico to edit file named `FileName'
 pico -w FileName   Use pico with autowrap turned off to edit `FileName'
 mail reader        Mailer, newsreader, or Web browser that can read 
                    mail folders
 regular expression Text that can include "wild cards" (such as . to
                    match any single character); used for searching
 URL                Uniform Resource Locator - address used by Web browsers
 ^X                 Press the Ctrl key and then, while holding down the 
                    Ctrl key, press the X key.  Note that often the
                    the lower case letter works, .e.g, you can use
                    either ^x and ^X
 ~ or $HOME         Your home directory.  You can always get to your
                    home directory by typing: cd


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... 0.3 Notation

 Notation   What you type
 ========   =============
 TextName   replace with appropriate text
      replace with appropriate text without the angle brackets
 `text'     text without the smart single quotes
 ``text''   text without the smart double quotes
 "text"     "text" including the double quotes
 'text'     'text' including the single quotes


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: 1.0 Setting up Your Signature

Q: How can I have a signature automatically appended to my news 
   articles and mail messages?

A: The answer depends on your newsreader and mailer but the 
   procedure below works for many Unix newsreaders and mailers.


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... 1.1 General Unix Instructions

Type...                 In order to...
=======                 ==============
cd                      Change to your home directory (i.e., $HOME or ~)

pico .signature         Use the pico editor to create a .signature file.
                        (Replace "pico" with another editor if you like.)

        Note that most systems require your sig to be <= 4
                        lines.  And it's good netiquette to make it as
                        short as possible.

         In Pico use ^x to exit and answer y when asked
                        if you want to save your changes.

chmod 644 .signature    Make .signature readable by all.

chmod a+x .             Make home directory searchable by all.


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... 1.2 Specific Mailer & Newsreader Instructions

For some newsreaders and mailers the above is all you need to do to
set up your signature.  For example the default behaviour of pine(1),
tin(1), and the rn family - rn(1), trn(1), strn(1), & Pnews(1) - is
to automatically append ~/.signature, if it exists.  To check that
it's working, follow the instruction in "1.3 Testing Your Signature."

If you use Elm, Mail, SUN OpenWindows Mailtool, Emacs Mail Mode, MH,
NN, or GNUS you need to follow the additional instructions described
below.  If you use Pine, you can change it's default signature
behaviour by following the instructions below.


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... ... 1.2.1 Pine
Followup-To: comp.mail.pine

Pine automatically appends ~/.signature (if it exists) to your messages.  
Many people like to set the signature-at-bottom variable which will put 
your signature below both your message and the message you are replying 
to (if you've included it).  Note that if you are forwarding a message 
your signature will be put below the message that you write but above 
the forwarded message.


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... ... ..... Pine 3.90 and Later
Followup-To: comp.mail.pine

Pine automatically appends ~/.signature (if it exists) to your messages.  
To change Pine's signature features:

1. From the Main Menu type S for Setup
2. Type C for Configuration
3. To change the value of the signature-at-bottom feature:
   a) Spacebar and arrow down to the signature-at-bottom variable
   b) Type X to set/unset this variable.
4. To change the name of your signature file:
   a) Arrow down to the signature-file line
   b) Type C for Change Value
   c) Type the path and name of the file you want to use for your
      signature.  Note that ~ can be used for your $HOME directory.


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... ... ..... Pine 3.89 and Earlier
Followup-To: comp.mail.pine

Pine automatically appends ~/.signature (if it exists) to your messages.  
To change Pine's signature features in Pine 3.89 (and earlier versions) you 
need to edit your ~/.pinerc file directly.

Type...                 In order to...
=======                 ==============
cd                      Change to your home directory (i.e., $HOME or ~)
pico .pinerc            Use the pico editor to edit your .pinerc file.
^w                      Search for . . .
feature-list            . . . ``feature-list''

Edit your .pinerc so that it contains this line:


If you want more than one feature in your feature-list then they need to
be comma separated like this:


If you want to use a file other than ~/.signature for your signature
edit the following line:



From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... ... 1.2.2 Elm
Followup-To: comp.mail.elm

In addition to the basic signature instructions in 1.1 above, users of Elm
need to edit their ~/.elm/elmrc file so that it contains the following:

signature = ~/.signature
sigdashes = ON

Remember to delete any # characters before any variables you want
to set.  The defaults are indicated in comment lines starting with ###.

The signature variable sets both the localsignature and
remotesignature variables.  If you want to have a different signature
for local mail (i.e., addresses that don't contain a ! or @) then you
can use the localsignature and remotesignature variables instead of
the signature variable.


From: Jym Dyer 
Subject: ... ... 1.2.3 Mail
Followup-To: comp.mail.misc

=o= Regular Unix "Mail" and "mail" don't have an automatic
signature mechanism.  Many people who normally use a more deluxe
mail utility occasionally find themselves resorting to using one
of these, in which case all you need to know is this command:

	~r $HOME/.signature

This simply tells Mail to include the text of the your signature

=o= If you use Mail on a regular basis you may want to use the
semi-automatic signature feature.  When you're done typing your
message, you append a signature with this command:


=o= In order for this to work, though, you need to set the
"sign" mail variable.  There are two ways to implement this
variable.  The first is to set it in a $HOME/.mailrc file with
a command like this:

	set sign="Jym Dyer "

If your signature is more than one line long, you can use the
C language string syntax, as in these examples:

	set sign="Jym Dyer\n"


	set sign="Jym Dyer\

=o= The disadvantage of doing this in your .mailrc file is
that you now have to maintain the text of your signature in
two places.  Another approach that avoids this problem is to set
"sign" as an environment variable in your shell startup script.
For a Bourne-compatible shell, this is done with this command:

	sign="`cat $HOME/.signature`" export sign

For a C-shell, do this:

	setenv sign "`cat $HOME/.signature`"


From: Jochen Bern 
Subject: ... ... 1.2.4 SUN OpenWindows Mailtool

The mailtool of SUNs OpenWindows lacks numerous Things, including the
Ability to sign Mails. However, most OW Users stick with mailtool
because of the Ability to use "Attachments" to send around Files.

A simple Replacement for Signatures is to add a "Template" (click on
Edit -> Properties, select Category "Template" in the Properties
Window, and give Name and File as desired). Disadvantage: You have
to edit in every Signature by Hand, though.

A better Approach is to use a "set sendmail=..." Line in your ~/.mailrc.
Mails being sent out will be handed over to the Executable named
there instead of the Mail Delivery Subsystem. You can easily plug
in a simple Program to sign your Mails there. However, be warned that
all too simple Siggers aren't aware of the abovementioned Attachments,
so the Signature will end up in the last Attachment instead of the
Mail Text. Information about a Sigger that handles mail containing
attachments correctly can be obtained from Jochen Berg by sending
email to:


From: Jym Dyer 
Subject: ... ... 1.2.5 Emacs Mail Mode

=o= Emacs Mail Mode is usually invoked with the "mail" or
"mail-other-window" commands (bound, respectively, to the
"C-x m" and "C-x 4 m" keys by default).  It is also invoked
from various Emacs mail and news packages.

=o= Mail Mode provides a "mail-signature" command to append
the contents of your signature file to the end of your mail
message.  This command is bound to "C-c C-w" by default,
so to insert the signature before mailing, simply type
"C-c "C-w".

=o= If you'd prefer to have your signature automatically
appended to the end of your mail message, the "mail-signature"
command can be put into your "mail-setup-hook" variable in
your $HOME/.emacs file, as in this example:

    (setq mail-setup-hook
       (lambda ()
	 (mail-signature) )))

This will put the signature in your mail message buffer.

Instructions for Version 19 by Richard Kasperowski and Matt Kaufmann
In emacs 19, I use:

 (setq mail-signature t)

There is a problem with my expression with respect posting to USENET
via GNUS.  GNUS automatically appends .signature to the post when it
There is a problem with my expression with respect posting to USENET
via GNUS.  GNUS automatically appends .signature to the post when it
is sent out.  With (setq mail-signature t), .signature is appended to
the end of the emacs buffer in which you edit your post.  When you
send-out the post, another .signature is appended to the end.  You end
up with two .signatures on your USENET posts.

If you prefer, you can use the following minor modification
of the version 18 form shown above:

    (setq mail-setup-hook
       (lambda ()
        (mail-signature nil) )))


From: Jym Dyer 
Subject: ... ... 1.2.6 MH and Emacs mh-e

=o= MH doesn't have an automatic signature mechanism, but it
is so configurable that there are a number of different ways
to implement one.  Check the periodic "MH Frequently Asked
Questions (FAQ) with Answers" posting for details.

=o= CAVEAT:  If you use the environment variable SIGNATURE to
point to your signature file, MH will use it not as a signature,
but as your "fullname".  Even worse, if your version of MH was
built with the "UCI" option and you *don't* use the environment
variable SIGNATURE to point to another file, MH will use the
$HOME/.signature file for this purpose!  To see if your version
of MH has this behavior, enter this command:

  % send -help

And look for the string "[UCI]" in the output.

=o= There's an Emacs interface to MH, called MH-E.  It has its
own signature mechanism, which is invoked with the "mh-insert-
signature" command (bound to the "C-c C-s" keys by default).

=o= This will insert the file $HOME/.signature file by default.
If your signature file has another name (e.g., to avoid its
being used by an MH build with the "UCI" option), you can set
the "mh-signature-file-name" variable to refer to a different


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... ... 1.2.7 NN

In addition to the basic signature instructions in 1.1 above, users of NN
need to edit their ~/.nn/init file so that it contains the following:

set query-signature off
set append-signature-mail on
set append-signature-post off

Note that the reason that you need to `set append-signature-post off' is
that the news posting software (usually inews) automatically appends
 ~/.signature if it exists.  If you `set append-signature-post on' then
both nn and inews append your sig and you'll send out two identical sigs
every time.


From: Mike Northam 
Subject: ... ... 1.2.8 GNUS
Followup-To: gnu.emacs.gnus

 (Does anyone know Mike Northam's current email address?)

In addition to the basic signature instructions in 1.1 above, users of GNUS
should verify that the value of the variable gnus-signature-file points to the
right place.  If you're in emacs, you can do so by evaluating the following
                   ^ put your cursor here and type C-x C-e

You should see "~/.signature" in the echo area.  If not, edit your
$HOME/.emacs file and add the following:

(setq gnus-signature-file "~/.signature"))

Then load your $HOME/.emacs file or merely restart emacs and the variable
should be set correctly.


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... 1.3 Testing Your Signature 

After you've set everything up, use your mailer to mail a test message
to yourself, and your newsreader or news poster (such as nnpost or
Pnews) to post an article to a test newsgroup (use a local newsgroup
and Distribution set to `local' to save bandwidth).  Note that with
many newsreaders and mailers you will not see your signature while
you are composing a message - it will be automaticlally appended when
you send the message.  Note also that many systems add a line that
contains `-- ' to the top of your sig.  This is used by programs that
automatically deal with mail or news to identify the start of the

If you have a problem with your sig see the next section 1.4 on


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... 1.4 Troubleshooting Your Signature 

On many systems your .signature (and .plan, .project, and .forward) needs 
to be world readable and your home directory needs to be world "executable"
(which means the world can go into that directory).  To check these

Type...          In order to...
-------          --------------
cd               Go to your home directory.

ls -l .filename  Check the permission: it should say -rw-r--r--
                 (Replace `.filename' with the appropriate file name.)

ls -ld .         Check permission of home dir: it should say drwx?-x?-x
                 The ?'s may be r's or hyphens or one of each (i.e.,
                 drwx--x--x, drwxr-xr-x, drwxr-x--x, drwx--xr-x are
                 each acceptable.)
If these aren't set correctly repeat the steps given in 1.1 above for
setting up your .signature.

If you are still having problems read the man pages for your newsreader,
news poster, or mailer and search for the string ``signature''.  There may 
be a variable you need to set in order for the ~/.signature to be appended.

Type...                 In order to...
-------                 --------------
man CommandName |less   Open man pages for CommandName (elm, pine, nn, tin
                        trn, Pnews, etc.) and pipe through less.  If your
                        system doesn't have less replace it with "more".

/signature              Search for first occurrence of "signature".

n                       Search for next occurrence of "signature".
                        Repeat the search until you find the appropriate
                        section of the manual.

u                       Page up half a screen. (This works in less but not in

[Space]                 Page down a screen. (This works in both less and more.)

For more information on reading manual pages see the man(1), less(1), and/or
more(1) man pages.


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: 2.0 Finger

Finger is an Internet tool that you can use to find out information
about people all over the Net.  As long as a person's Internet host
is running the finger daemon (fingerd), you will be able to retrieve
information using the finger command.

This section tells you how to finger others, how to customize your
finger information, and how you may be able to track who fingers you
(and why finger tracking is probably not worth doing).


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... 2.1 How to Finger

This section describes how to finger using the Unix command line commands
or using a Web browser.

You can use finger to find out a person's full name, the shell they
use, and sometimes you can find out when the last time he or she was
logged in.


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... ... 2.1.1 Unix Finger Command

To finger someone


On some systems finger is linked to f so the following also works:

   f UserID@fqdn

Finger displays different information on different systems.  Often it will 
display your full name, your default shell, when your were last logged on, 
and your ~/.plan and ~/.project files.

If you finger someone and the display takes more than one page you can pipe 
the output through less (or more if you don't have less).  For example to 
find out about Halcyon, my Internet service provider, type:

   finger |less

Finger can also be used to display information about groups of people.
For example:

   finger john@random.fqdn |less

Ths will display finger information about everyone with ``john'' in 
their name on random.fqdn.  You can get a short listing for each person
by using:

   finger -q john@random.fqdn |less

For technical details about the finger protocol see RFC1288.


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... ... 2.1.2 Using a Web Browser to Finger

In addition to using the finger or f command you can finger people
through a Web browser.  The following is a form that Doug Stevenson

You can finger a specific user with a syntax like this:

With Doug's finger gateway, if the .plan contains some HTML, it will be 
presented as hypertext, e.g:
 Go to Infinite Ink's Home Page.

Marc VanHeyningen  has a Web finger gateway that 
you can find out about at:

To use it you use this syntax:

For example, to finger Marc, type:

With Marc's finger gateway, if an URL in a .plan uses the  syntax, 
described in 3.1 below, it will be a link, e.g.: 

You can also use this URL:
                                          ^ Note: 0 precedes the userid

For example you can finger my Internet service provider with this URL:


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... ... 2.1.3 Fingering Yourself

To finger yourself by type the following at your Unix prompt.

    finger YourUserID

For a different view of your finger information, and also to see
who else is currently logged in, type:


To ensure that people from other systems can finger you should ask someone 
who's not on your system to finger you too.  It is possible for you to
simulate fingering yourself from another machine (another.fqdn) by doing 

    finger YourUserID@your.fqdn@another.fqdn

In order for this to work another.fqdn must support full finger functionality.


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... ... 2.1.4 Interesting Places to Finger

Scott Yanoff's "Updated Internet Services List" contains a number of 
interesting places to finger.  If you access it through the following URL 
all the finger commands are links.


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... 2.2 Changing Your Finger Information

On most systems you can change the information that people see when
they finger you.


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... ... 2.2.1 Using chfn to change your full name (and more)

On many Unix systems you can change some of your default information,
such as your full name, by typing the following at your Unix prompt:


If chfn is not available try "passwd -f".  If neither of these are
available then you will need to contact your system administrator and
ask him/her to change your full name, etc.

After you have changed your information check that they are in place
by fingering yourself.  Also to see a different display of your
information type the following at your Unix prompt:


This displays a one line description of everyone currently logged on
your system.

For more information see the chfn(1), passwd(1), and finger(1) man pages.


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... ... 2.2.2 Creating Your .plan and .project files

Your ~/.project and ~/.plan files, if they exist, are displayed when you
are fingered.  Setting these up is essentially the same as setting
up a ~/.signature file (described in 1.0 above).

Type...                 In order to...
-------                 --------------
cd                      Change to your home directory.

pico .plan              Use the pico editor to create a .plan file.
                        (Replace "pico" with another editor if you like.)

chmod 644 .plan         Make .plan readable by all.

chmod a+x .             Make home directory searchable by all.

If you want a .project file follow the same procedure.  Note that only the
first line of the .project is displayed (so you might as well only make
it one line!).

If you have problems, see section 1.4 on "Troubleshooting Your
Signature" to make sure that your permissions are set correctly.


From: FAQ Editor 
Subject: ... 2.3 Finding Out Who Fingers You

Finger wasn't designed to log finger requests, so finding who fingers
you is complicated - and sometimes impossible - to setup.  For more
information see:

* The next section of this FAQ on the Backfinger Script.

* Chris Alfeld's fingertrace:

* R.L. Samuell's logfinger script, which you can obtain by fingering:

* Unix - Frequently Asked Questions (4/7) [Frequent posting] 
  4.9) How do I keep track of people who are fingering me? 

  This article is archived in all the usual FAQ archives, including:

An easy thing that you can do to see if anyone has fingered you is type the 
following at your Unix prompt:

  ls -lu $HOME/.plan

This tells you the last time someone accessed your .plan, but it doesn't
tell you who it was.  I have this in my .login because it's interesting to
see when the last time someone was checking on me!

[Note that under AFS (Andrew File System, a distributed filesystem),
 ls -lu $HOME/.plan will not work due to the fact that AFS has no 
 notion of ``atime'', or ``last accessed time''.]


From: Janet Rosenbaum 
Subject: ... ... 2.3.1 Backfinger Script

A script called, among other things, backfinger, planner, and
finger_logger (flogger or frogger, for short), makes your .plan into
a named pipe. Think of a named pipe as being a sort of pipe used with
plumbing that opens on the screen of the person who is fingering you
- say, Fred - so that when the .plan file (a named pipe) is accessed,

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