xbuffy(1) yet another biff for the X Window System


xbuffy [X toolkit options] [-help] [-version] [-horiz] [-silent] [-poll seconds] [-header seconds] [-acmd soundfile] [-nobeep] [-nohighlight] [-names] [-orig] [-priority priority] [-command command] [-shortnames] [-mail <mailbox files...>] [-news <newsgroup names...>]


Xbuffy is based on Xmultibiff by John Reardon.

Xbuffy keeps track of multiple mailboxes. You can either specify mailbox files on the command line, in a Xresources file, in a text configuration file, or set your MAILPATH environment variable (a colon separated list of files). It will display the number of new messages in each mail file in a box. You can clear the reverse video in a box by clicking on the box with Button 3.

Another key feature of xbuffy is that it will use NNTP to watch newsgroups in the same way it watches mailboxes. You can also specify newsgroups on the command line, in Xresources, in a text configuration file (the same file can specify both mailboxes and newsboxes), or set your NEWSPATH environment variable using the same format as the MAILPATH environment variable.

By specifying certain command line options and/or Xresources, xbuffy can show the From and Subject lines in each box. It can also invoke shell commands on button clicks. Each box can be configured differently by using a boxfile. In general, it is a very extensible biff. Read on for details on what it can do.


The following options are recognized:
Print a brief help message and exit
Print the current version and exit
-poll secs
How often the mailbox files are polled for new mail. If this is not specified, it will use the MAILCHECK environment variable. (default: 60)
-header secs
This will display the From: and Subject: lines from incoming mail messages in a popup window when button 1 is pressed in the box label. The mail header will also popup automatically for the amount of time indicated in secs when new mail arrives. If secs is 0, the mail header will not pop up when new mail arrives. Clicking in the popup window when mail arrives (if the argument is non-zero) will instantly popdown the window. This feature was borrowed from xpbiff.
Makes all the boxes the same size.
Centers the name of the box in the box. This option turns on the fill option.
-acmd sound command
This will run a command instead of ringing the bell when new mail arrives. For example, you could "cat meow >/dev/audio". This option could also be used to automatically open a mail reader when new mail arrives.
This will line up the boxes horizontally (default: vertical)
This will disable the beep when new mail arrives
Ignore all beep or audio commands. (i.e. be silent)
This will disable the highlighting of the box in case of new mail.
-boxfile filename
The name of a file containing configuration information for the boxes. The boxfile is an alternative way of specifying what to watch. The boxfile also allows each box to have different polltime, headertime, etc.
This will show all messages in each mailbox. It has no effect on news groups.
Will display the full pathname of all the mailboxes it is watching.
Will display the file names of all the mailboxes it is watching.
-priority priority
Nice level at which xbuffy and its child processes will run.
-command command
This is the default command that is to be executed when Button 2 is pressed on a box.
X Options
Standard X windows options (e.g. -fn, -display, etc.)


If nothing to look at is given at the command line, it will try to open $HOME/.xbuffyrc


The names and purpose of the some of the following environment variables were borrowed from Bash, the GNU Shell.
This specifies the amount of seconds to wait in between polling for mail.
This is a colon separated list of files to check for mail, if nothing to look at was given and no $HOME/.xbuffyrc exists.
This is a colon separated list of newsgroups to monitor, if nothing to look at was given and no $HOME/.xbuffyrc exists.
This is the name of the NNTP server to use for news boxes.


The application class is XBuffy. Almost all the arguments above can be set in the X resource database, allowing for one-time configuration and eliminating long command lines. The environment variables described above take precedence over any X resources that are specified. Also, any command line arguments take precedence over both X resources and environment variables.


The boxfile contains configuration information for each box. Any line that begins with '#' is considered a comment and is ignored. The definition of a box begins with the keyword box followed by the filename or newsgroup for that box. All subsequent lines are then used to configure that box until either another box command or the end of file. Note that these options are NOT case sensitive.

The following are settable on a per box basis by using the boxfile option (note that the boxfile may also be set in the Xresources with the resource Xbuffy.boxfile: <filename> and if nothing it given at the command line, it tries to read $HOME/.xbuffyrc).

When using a boxfile, only the box line is required. All options that are not given in the boxfile will default to the command line (or built in) value.

box filename
The filename or newsgroup for this box. This also marks the beginning of a box definition.
title boxtitle
The title that you want for this box. This will override the shortname or longname option.
Specify that the box is a mailbox (a file). If neither mailbox or newsbox is specified, mailbox is the default.
Specify that the box is a newsbox (a NNTP newsgroup).
Specify to show the kilobytes of the given file. (Useful for watching for mail in other accounts than the one running xbuffy.)
origMode will make Xbuffy try to act like Xmultibiff and count ALL messages instead of just NEW message.
newMode will make Xbuffy count only new messages (this is the default).
This will disable the beep (or sound command) when new mail arrives in the specified mailbox to be counted.
This will enable the beep (or sound) when new mail arrives in the specified mailbox to be counted.
This will disable the highlighting of the box in case of new mail.
This will enable the highlighting of the box in case of new mail. This is the default.
This will cause the specified box to be prefaced with the filename.
This will cause the specified box to be prefaced with a full path name.
audio command string
Set to the command string to be used automatically when new mail arrives.
polltime secs
Set to the time (in seconds) in between polling the box.
headertime secs
Set to the time (in seconds) to display the header when new things arrive.
command command string
Specifies a UNIX shell command to be executed by sh when the middle mouse button is pushed in a box. Take care to escape characters correctly.
led num
Specifies a keyboard led to flash when new mail arrives. This is a number between 1 and 3. (1 - NumLock, 2 - CapsLock or 3 - ScrollLock.)

NOTE: This is only available on LINUX and only if compiled with --enable-led

The following resources are settable on a per application basis in the Xresources:

Set to TRUE or FALSE. Same as the -horiz option.
Set to a colon separated list of mailboxes (files). This is the same as specifying files on the command line.
Set to a colon separated list of news groups. This is the same as specifying files on the command line.


The following examples demonstrate how to configure xbuffy to do the same thing from both the command-line and X resources. Although, for maximum flexibility on a per-box basis, I suggest using a boxfile.

The following example will watch 2 mailboxes in a home directory:

        % xbuffy -mail ~/box1 ~/box2 &


        box ~/box1
        box ~/box2

The following example will watch a mailbox and a newsgroup:

        % xbuffy -mail /usr/spool/mail/you -news comp.windows.x &


        box /usr/spool/mail/you
        box comp.windows.x


Thanks to John Reardon for writing the original Xmultibiff and Xmultibiff 2.0. Xbuffy is a modified version of Xmultibiff 2.0 (although the code is looking less and less similar everyday).


Sometimes buffy detects a change in the mailbox and reports new mail before the mail is finished being delivered. This can (will) be fixed when buffy learns hows to deal with file locking.

There is a bug with the NNTP stuff that isn't really Buffy's fault. Most versions of the NNTP server will not dynamically update the high message number (you must disconnect from the server and re-connect to get a new high message). If your server is running one of these versions of NNTP then you will not get told of new articles in your newsboxes.


xbuffy: Bill Pemberton, [email protected]

xmultibiff: John Reardon, Midnight Networks Inc.,
       [email protected]