The .forward File

Forwarding Mail

The .forward File

The alias database should only be writable by root. However, individual users can also use aliasing by means of the .forward file.

When delivering email to a user, sendmail checks to see if the user has a .forward file in his home directory. If the file is present, the contents are read and treated as an alias for that person's email. So, for example, if I created a .forward file with the line jsmith@ccsf.edu, all my email would be forwarded to that address instead of delivered to my mailbox.

The .forward file can have anything in it that the right-hand side of an alias can. You can specify another user, a filename, or a program to pipe it to. You can also seperate multiple entries with a comma or a newline. However, since alias expansion is done recursively until there's nothing left to expand, you have to do something different if you're sending a copy of the mail to yourself. For example, say user jsmith wants to send a copy of all her mail to user johndoe, but still keep a copy for herself. You'd think to use this .forward file:

jsmith
johndoe
The problem is that when sendmail goes to deliver a copy of the mail to jsmith, the .forward file will be expanded again, resulting in a mail loop! To avoid this, sendmail allows you to put a \ character before an entry in a .forward file which tells it not to expand that entry if it's an alias. So, the above file would be:
\jsmith
johndoe
Now, jsmith's copy will get put directly into her mailbox without expanding the alias again.


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