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3. Additional facilities
3.1. Filing and classifying messages
Laurel provides two facilities to assist you in classifying your mail. Remember that your default mail file should be viewed as holding those messages upon which you have yet to act. Naturally, you may want to file away those messages on which you have already acted. The command Move to {file} in the selection menu allows you to do this. Mark characters provide a simple means of attaching labels to individual messages within a mail file.
Move to {file}
To invoke Move to {file} proceed as follows. First, select (with selection pointerssee section 2.5) the messages you wish to transfer to a separate file. Next, point the cursor at Move to and proceed as you would for Mail file (see sections 2.1 and 2.4). After you have supplied the file name, Laurel will append the selected messages to the indicated file. Laurel will draw a line through the table-of-contents entries of the messages that have been moved so that the corresponding messages will be deleted when you leave Laurel (or change mail files). If you wish to retain any of these messages in the current mail file as well, you may use "Undelete" as described above. Laurel will also mark (in the mark character fieldsee below) moved messages with an "m".
Move to does not move any messages that are indicated as deleted. If a range of messages containing both deleted and non-deleted messages is selected for Move to, only the non-deleted messages are moved.
Move to observes the same type-in conventions that Mail file does. It also implements one other convention that guards against misspelled file names: if the displayed file name does not correspond to any existing file, Laurel prompts you for additional confirmation before creating and writing a new file with that name.
Mark characters
You may wish to classify messages within a particular file. Laurel provides a primitive marking system by allowing you to supply a single mark character for any table-of-contents entry. To set the mark character, position the cursor to the left of the desired entry but to the right of the line bar and selection pointers. Click RED. A blinking caret will appear, inviting you to type a single character. This character will be retained in the table-of-contents entry and displayed whenever the entry is in the region. It will also be retained in the message if it is moved to another file (using Move to {file}). Note that "?" and "m" are valid mark characters but have additional semantics assigned to them by Laurel. Other mark characters may be assigned special meanings in the future, e.g., to permit selective display of the table-of-contents. You may change the mark character by positioning the cursor over the mark to be changed and repeating the preceding steps. A space is a valid mark character.
3.2. Additional editing and delivery facilities
Secondary selection
Laurel supports secondary selection (for Insert, Append, and Replace commands) in the same manner as Bravo does. That is, you may identify the text string to be inserted by using the mouse buttons to select characters, words, lines, or paragraphs. You may select text in either the message display region or the composition region, and you may scroll or thumb within either region while making the secondary selection.
Although Laurel does not implement Bravo’s notion of paragraphs, it does provide a selection mode that gives similar results in simple cases. Laurel defines a paragraph terminator to be two successive CRs. You may select a paragraph by positioning the cursor in the line bar to the left of the desired text and clicking YELLOW, just as in Bravo. The main visible difference is that Laurel will not display Bravo’s paragraph symbol in the cursor.
Distribution lists
Suppose you have a collection of people to whom you frequently send messages. To avoid having to type the entire list of names every time you send a message to the group, you may proceed as follows. Create an Alto file containing the list of names (separated by commas, no CR at the end). You may find it convenient to "label" such distribution lists; you may do so by prefixing the list with identifying text followed by a colon, and then terminating the entire list with a "matching" semicolon. For example, such a file might contain
Alpha users: Brown, Doe, Jones, Smith;
Name this file "AlphaUsers.dl".
Now, when composing a message in Laurel, insert the file name in the appropriate field of the message header (e.g., following "To" or "cc"), followed by an up-arrow character:
To: AlphaUsers↑
While delivering the message, Laurel will read the file to determine the recipients. Multiple distribution list specifiers may be used within a single field and may be intermixed with names of individual recipientsseparate them all with commas. If you give your distribution list files the extension ".dl", you may omit typing the ".dl" to Laurel.
You need not worry about a recipient appearing in more than one distribution list. Laurel will detect duplicate names among the recipients and ensure that each receives the message only once. Thus, you may use multiple distribution list specifiers freely within the "To" and "cc" fields of the message header.
The present distribution list mechanism is a temporary one, and has some inconvenient aspects. In particular, since distribution lists are presently stored on your own Alto’s disk, they can get out-of-date rather easily. Commonly-used distribution lists are maintained centrally, presently as files <Secretary>*.dl on Maxc. We have tried to streamline the task of keeping distribution lists current by providing a command file,, which updates local distribution lists from the central source. Registered Laurel users (i.e., those listed in LaurelUsers.dl) are notified when should be run. is automatically retrieved by and (see section 2). Note that updates only those distribution lists that you already have on your disk. To obtain a copy of a distribution list you don’t already have you must use FTP to retrieve it from the <Secretary> directory on Maxc. Thereafter, running will keep it up-to-date along with all the others.
Get and Put
The composition and delivery menu includes the commands Get, Put {file} for filing and retrieving the contents of the composition window. Put writes out the entire contents of the composition window onto the file whose name is inside the brackets. (If a file with that name already exists, Laurel requires an extra confirmation before overwriting it.) Get replaces the contents of the composition window with the text contained in the file. As usual, if you click RED over Get or Put, a blinking caret appears within the brackets and you may fill in or edit the file name before confirming the command, whereas if you click BLUE, Laurel will execute the command immediately using whatever name is already inside the brackets.
Put is useful when you want to save a partially-composed message to be completed and delivered later. You may also want to do this if you encounter persistent network or mail server problems upon attempting to Deliver. Get is also handy for obtaining custom forms (or form letters) that you have prepared previously. Obviously, you can use Laurel to edit arbitrary text documents in much the same fashion as Bravo; however, since Laurel does not provide any of Bravo’s formatting capabilities (multiple fonts, looks, etc.), you will find Laurel to be of limited utility in this respect.
In addition to the Get and Put menu commands just described, there exist Get and Put keyboard commands. These work somewhat differently from the menu commands. In particular, whereas the Get and Put menu commands operate on the entire composition window, the Get and Put keyboard commands operate only on the current selection. Get and Put do, however, make use of the file name contained in the Get, Put {file} menu command.
The Put keyboard command first prompts you either to confirm the file name already in the brackets or to type in a new file name, then writes a copy of the currently selected text onto the file by that name. This text is not removed from the composition window.
When you issue the Get keyboard command, Laurel first puts a copy of the currently selected text into the file name brackets. You may now either confirm that file name (with ESC or whatever) or type some other name followed by ESC. Laurel then replaces the currently selected text by the contents of the file, leaving the replacement text selected.
The Get keyboard command can be used as a file substitution device anywhere within a composed message. To include the contents of a file within a message, insert the file name (including the extension) at the desired point. Then select the file name with the mouse buttons as you would for a Replace command, but type Get ESC instead of Replace. Laurel will replace the file name with the contents of that file.
It is sometimes useful to expand a distribution list before sending a message. You can do this by inserting the distribution list name in the appropriate header field, selecting it, then typing Get. In addition, there is a short-cut that permits you to omit the explicit ".dl" extension. If you type the file name followed by a "↑", select it, and type Get, Laurel will append the ".dl" (if no extension is present) and perform the Get. You may take advantage of this feature to peek at the contents of a distribution list: use Get as just described, then undo the expansion by typing Undo.
Put produces a file that can be read and manipulated by Bravo. In fact, you can create a Bravo document, use the Get keyboard command to read it into a composed message, then send the message. The recipient can perform a Forward to move the received message into the composition window, select the portion of the message consisting of the Bravo document, and issue the Put keyboard command to write it onto a file. It should be noted that Bravo formatting information in the document may contain unprintable characters, which are displayed by Laurel as black rectangles. However, Laurel does not actually alter these characters, so formatting information is not lost. You must take care to Put the entire Bravo document (and nothing else), or else Bravo won’t be able to read it.
Message header format
Laurel supports a subset of the ARPA standard for message headers (RFC 733/NIC 41952). Happily, users need not be aware of most of the requirements of this extensive standard. However, two features should be noted. First, comments may be included in a header item by surrounding them with parentheses. Second, recipients at Arpanet sites other than Parc-Maxc may be specified as either "name @ site" or "name at site".
You should avoid typing extra CRs in message headers, since the ARPA standard specifies some less-than-obvious behavior in such cases. In practice, this is rarely a problem, because Laurel will supply line breaks for you (both on the screen and in the transmitted message).
3.3. Authentication and logging In
In order to perform New mail, you must be an authenticated user. This means your name and password must be accepted by a centralized authenticator (currently Maxc). When you start up Laurel, it obtains your name and password from the Alto Operating System and submits them to the authenticator for verification. If the authentication fails, the message "Name or password invalid" will appear in the upper menu, just below the Laurel version number. Laurel will not allow you to receive messages until you have been authenticated successfully.
To enter a new name and password, point the cursor at User in the upper menu and click RED. Laurel will invite you to supply a user name in the brackets following User. Respond as you would for other {brackets} prompts (see section 2.1). After you have entered your user name, Laurel will prompt you for a password in a similar way. You must supply the password explicitlyESC, YELLOW, etc. cause a null password to be entered. Laurel will not display your password as you type it. A fine point: At present, the name you supply to the User command is used as the directory on Maxc where your mailbox is located. This may not be true in the future, but it will always be possible for Laurel to locate your mailbox from the user name you supply.
Laurel normally requires that you be an authenticated user before it will allow you to receive or send messages. If, for some reason, you are not an authenticated user and you select Deliver, Laurel will prompt you for confirmation. If you confirm, Laurel will append the phrase "(not authenticated)" to the sender identification it includes in the outgoing message. This makes it difficult for others to masquerade as you (or vice-versa).
When you leave Laurel, your name and password are passed back to the Alto Operating System.
3.4. Polling for new mail
Laurel checks your in-box periodically to determine if new mail has arrived. If it finds messages waiting in your in-box, it stops polling and displays "You have new mail" below the Laurel version number at the left-hand side of the upper menu. You may then use the New mail command (see section 2.4) to move the messages in your in-box to the current mail file. After you have done so, Laurel will remove the "You have new mail" message and resume its periodic polling.
Because this polling is completely automatic, you can leave your Alto running Laurel when you are not using it for other things, and glance at the screen occasionally to see if new messages have arrived. The polling interval at present is about 5 minutes.
3.5. Command line options
Laurel has several command line options that can be specified when you invoke it from the Alto Executive.
Mail file selection
Laurel’s default action, triggered when you type
is to perform an implicit Mail file on Active.mail. If you type
>Laurel filenameCR
Laurel will read filename.mail instead. If you supply an explicit extension, Laurel will respect it, otherwise it will use ".mail".
In-box interrogation
You can also request that Laurel access your in-box automatically when it begins execution. Type
>Laurel/nCRor>Laurel/n filenameCR
Laurel will first perform an implicit Mail file on the indicated or defaulted file (see above). It then will check to see if messages are present in your in-box. If so, Laurel performs an implicit New mail. Upon the completion of the New mail (if any), Laurel is available for normal use.
You may also invoke Laurel by
>Laurel/cCRor>Laurel/c filenameCR
If messages are present in your in-box, Laurel will behave as though "/n" were specified. If no new mail exists, Laurel will omit the implicit Mail file and return directly to the Alto Executive. A fine point: if Laurel is unable to determine whether your in-box has messages, it ignores the /c switch.
Send message mode
If you merely want to send a message, you may request that Laurel omit its implicit Mail file when it begins execution. Type
Instead of reading a mail file, Laurel will perform an implicit New form as it starts up. You may then compose and deliver your message in the usual way. If, after doing so, you wish to process a mail file, simply invoke Mail file and supply a file name as described in section 2.4.
3.6. The Laurel profile
Laurel obtains certain configuration information and options from your Laurel profile, contained in file Laurel.Profile on your Alto disk. A standard Laurel profile is installed when you obtain Laurel using the or command file (section 2). The only things in the Laurel profile you are likely to want to change at present are the name of your printing server and perhaps some of the hardcopy format options. For completeness, however, nearly all possible options are documented here.
Laurel.Profile is a text file containing a sequence of parameter lines, each of which has the following form:
name: valueCR
All lines in the file must adhere to this format. This implies that there may not be any blank lines in the file. Furthermore, the last character in the file must be the CR of the last parameter line. Bravo formatting is not permitted. You should probably use only Laurel to edit Laurel.Profile. Note, however, that Laurel configures itself according to Laurel.Profile when it is started up, so after editing Laurel.Profile you must Quit and restart Laurel before the changes will take effect. The Laurel program processes this file very quickly, with only minimal error checking. If Laurel.Profile is not properly formatted, the only indication from Laurel will be the exception message "The file Laurel.profile is missing or bad."
The value may be preceded by any number of blanks and begins at the first non-blank character. Subsequent characters may be blank and are included in the value. The value is terminated by the CR at the end of the parameter line.
A typical Laurel.Profile for use at Parc might be as follows:
Send: Maxc
Retrieve: Maxc
Authenticate: Maxc
Hardcopy: Clover
PrintedBy: $
Parameter names may be spelled in upper or lower case or in any combination. This example leaves out many possible parameter lines. Parameters that are missing from Laurel.Profile are given default values by Laurel.
Send: host name
The name or network address of the mailbox server machine to which you will send all outgoing mail. (Default: Maxc) Network address constants of the form number#number# must be used at sites where there is no gateway providing name lookup services.
Retrieve: host name
The name or network address of the mailbox server machine from which you will retrieve new mail. (Default: Maxc)
Authenticate: host name
The name or network address of your authentication server, i.e., the machine that verifies user name and password combinations. (Default: Maxc) Normally the values specified for Send, Retrieve, and Authenticate will all be the same.
Hardcopy: host name
The name or network address of the hardcopy server machine to which all hardcopies will be sent. (Default: an illegal server name)
PrintedBy: text
A line of text that will be printed on hardcopy break pages to identify the person making the hardcopy. Any "$" characters will be expanded to your logged-in name at the time you generate the hardcopy. (Default: $)
Herald: text
A line of text to be printed at the top of the first page of each hardcopied message. (Default: Inter-Office Memorandum). You should take care to ensure that the herald will fit on one line when hardcopied.
HeraldFont: font
The font that will be used to print the herald on hardcopied messages. A font value must take the form:
family-name point-size face
TimesRoman 14 B
Helvetica 10
The optional B or I following the point size indicates bold or italic face. If the CR immediately follows the point size, the regular face is used. (Default: TimesRoman 12 B)
Logo: text
A line of text to be printed at the logo position between the header and the message body on the first page of each hardcopied message. (Default: XEROX). You should take care to ensure that the logo will fit on one line when hardcopied.
LogoFont: font
The font that will be used to print the logo on hardcopied messages. The format for the font value is given above under HeraldFont. (Default: Logo 24)
4. If things go wrong . . .
In Laurel, as in most interactive systems, lots of things can go wrong. Also as in most systems, some of them are your fault and some of them are not. Laurel tries to prevent you from wreaking destruction upon your environment, and reports any (perceived) violations in the feedback region.
The error reports in the feedback region are intended to be self-explanatory. If you cannot figure out what one means or what to do next, please send a message to LaurelSupport (using Laurel if possible).
If Laurel detects certain internal error conditions, it interrupts whatever command was in progress and posts a message in the feedback region. In some cases, Laurel may decide that the error should be reported to LaurelSupport, and, in such cases, it will prepare an error report form (after confirmation from you). This form contains internal status information of interest to the Laurel implementers and should be used whenever possible. If you confirm the use of this form, Laurel will restart itself and display the form in the composition region. You should then follow the instructions contain within the form, after which Laurel will again be available for normal use.
5. Laurel and MSG
This section addresses the relationship between MSG and Laurel. As mentioned in section 1, MSG users must thoroughly understand the contents of this section before trying to use Laurel for the first time. If you don’t use Maxc or you have never used MSG, you may skip this section entirely.
Before proceeding to the gory details, we should remind you that these comments apply only to Laurel versions 1 and 2. Most of the difficulties described below are artifacts of a temporary implementation of a number of Laurel facilities. Future releases will cure these ills, so if Laurel appears insufficient for your present needs, don’t give up.
Mail files
Laurel keeps nearly all of its files on your Alto disk. The only exception is your in-box, which is currently file Message.txt in your directory on Maxc. Getting new mail (with Laurel) moves messages from Maxc to your Alto disk, emptying Message.txt. This makes it very inconvenient to continue to use both Laurel and MSG, and it makes Laurel inconvenient to use if you switch Alto disks frequently. For now, our best advice is to designate a disk on which you will use Laurel exclusively, and stick to it. You will need about 500 disk pages to hold Laurel (including, a moderate-sized mail file, and several distribution lists.
Once you have mail files on your Alto disk, it becomes impossible to process them using MSG, since they are on the Alto. Furthermore, MSG and Laurel maintain mail files in formats that are incompatible. You can continue to use MSG to maintain mail files on Maxc, and you can use Laurel to maintain mail files on your Alto, but you cannot move mail files back and forth. If you are willing to convert completely to Laurel, you can move MSG-constructed mail files to your Alto for use by Laurel, as explained below. However, this is a one-way street; once on your Alto the files cannot conveniently be moved back to Maxc and processed by MSG. If you are not willing to convert completely, we recommend that you wait to use Laurel until it is able to deal with remotely-stored mail files.
On the positive side, your correspondents never need to know that you have converted to Laurel, since Laurel is able to process your Message.txt file directly. All that has happened is that you have started using that file in a different way (as your in-box), but the change is invisible to people who send you messages.
Mail file philosophy
Laurel encourages you to use your default mail file (Active.mail) as a temporary storage area, not an archive. Accordingly, deleted messages are expunged whenever you leave Laurel or shift your attention to another mail file. There is no analogue of MSG’s Quit command (which preserves deleted messages); Laurel’s Quit is like MSG’s Exit. If you wish to classify messages, use mark characters (section 3.1). Eventually, selective display on the basis of mark characters may be possible. Use separate mail files to obtain an archive facility. Laurel’s performance will be better and your screen will be less cluttered.
Laurel doesn’t have a command corresponding to MSG’s Overwrite. However, the same effect can be obtained by selecting Mail file with BLUE. After you have read sections 2.4 and 2.5, it should be evident to you why this works.
Processing your mail away from an Alto
You can use MSG from any reasonable terminal dialed to Maxc or connected to the Arpanet, but you can’t use Laurel without an Alto. Consequently, if you have no Alto available and would like to process your mail, you must use MSG. If you observe a few conventions while using MSG, you will not need to reprocess your old messages with Laurel. Thus, you can use MSG from a home terminal or when you are out-of-town, and revert to Laurel when your Alto is again at hand.
As long as you manipulate only your Message.txt file with MSG, Laurel will note what you have done when you perform a New mail command. (Remember, Laurel uses Message.txt as your in-box.) Specifically, deleted messages in Message.txt will appear with lines through them (i.e., marked as deleted), and the examined/unexamined status of each message will be reflected in the mark field in Laurel’s table-of-contents entry.
Moving mail files from Maxc
Because MSG and Laurel have incompatible mail file formats, you cannot simply move your archival mail files to your Alto disk and expect Laurel to read them. The following (admittedly tedious) procedure should be followed for each mail file:
1.On Maxc, append the desired mail file, say Archive.txt, to Message.txt:
@Append Archive.txt Message.txtCR
2.On the Alto, in Laurel, click RED over Mail file and supply the file name "Archive".
3.Select New mail. After the messages have arrived, ensure that no unexpected ones have been included at the beginning and/or end of the file. (New mail might have arrived on Maxc before or after step 1.) Move any extraneous messages to "Active.mail".
4.Quit Laurel and go back to Maxc for the next file. You may delete Archive.txt on Maxc at this point.
Fortunately, once you have moved all of your files in this way, you won’t have to do it again, since Laurel will maintain them in its own format on your Alto disk.
6. Look before you leap . . .
As you become familiar with Laurel, you will doubtless discover features that please you and "features" that annoy you. This section reports some of the annoying "features" other users have encountered and, in some cases, what to do to get around them.
Formatting messages for non-Laurel users
Laurel breaks lines in a transmitted message by a rather simple-minded algorithm. This may lead to line overflow when the message is read on certain terminals using MSG (or other mail systems). If you know that some of your recipients have this problem, you may wish to exercise care in the formatting of your outgoing messages. Use explicit CRs and keep your lines down to about 80% of the Laurel screen width. (A relatively painless way to do this is to compose the entire message without using CRs, then just before delivery make a final pass over the message, substituting CRs for spaces at appropriate points.)
Secondary selection from the message display region
Text in the message display region generally has real CRs in it. Laurel respects this formatting information, even when displayed text is copied into a composed message. If you don’t like what you get when you insert text from a displayed message, you will have to replace explicit CRs by spaces before Laurel will reformat the text.
Laurel does not presently implement true tabs. Instead, a tab is converted to a fixed amount of white space. Thus, if you use tabs only at the beginning of a line, things will line up. In other cases, you are out of luck.
The Answer form
The form provided by the Answer command is not always exactly what you might want. Laurel takes the viewpoint that it is easier to delete than to add text, and therefore includes all the information that seems to be relevant. For example, Laurel often includes your name in the "cc" field of the answer form, even though you may not want a copy of the message you are composing. You should not expect that the answer form will be exactly right; always examine the header to be certain it contains the desired information.
In particular, if you reply to a message that was directed to a distribution list, the Answer command will copy the distribution list specifier into the "cc" field of the answer form. You should consider carefully whether or not it is appropriate for your reply to be sent to that distribution list, and if not delete the distribution list specifier.
File version numbers
Laurel does not support the use of Alto file version numbers. This restriction stems from the underlying implementation of the Mesa run-time system, and is not likely to change. Therefore, mail files and distribution lists should not have version numbers.
Space required for mail files
Some users, when converting from MSG to Laurel, have had a rude shock when they transferred their archival mail files from Maxc to their Alto disk. Recall that one Maxc disk page becomes four Alto disk pages when a file is moved. This is another reason for dedicating an Alto disk to mail processing and filing, particularly if you maintain archival mail files.
Hardcopy usage
Laurel’s Hardcopy command is intended for use in printing copies of isolated messages that you may wish, for whatever reason, to obtain in hardcopy form. It is not suitable for obtaining hardcopy archives of all your messages, say, to put in your filing cabinet. Because Laurel prints each message on a separate page, using Laurel hardcopy for such archival purposes would produce unwieldy quantities of paper.
If you do wish to maintain a hardcopy archive, we recommend that you use the EmPress subsystem to print your mail file as continuous, unformatted text.
7. Things a casual user doesn’t really need to know
Laurel currently executes almost exclusively on your local Alto. Eventually, a large fraction of its facilities will be provided remotely in a transparent fashion, but for now everything except in-box storage is local. This means that all mail files reside on the local Alto disk. For each mail file x, Laurel creates a separate file x-dmsTOC, which holds various internal information about the table-of-contents. When you invoke Mail file {x}, Laurel will recreate this file if necessary. Naturally, this slows down the Mail file command.
Laurel creates scratch files while it is working and leaves them on your Alto disk. You may delete these files (named DMS-n.TMP for various values of n) if necessary, though Laurel ensures that they will not grow very large. Deleting them lengthens the time required to start up Laurel.
If Laurel generates an automatic error report directed to LaurelSupport (see section 4), it will leave behind a file Laurel.BugReport$ containing the text of that report. You may delete this file if you wish.
In-boxes are not stored locally. Laurel assumes that your in-box resides on the server machine indicated in the "Retrieve" line of your Laurel profile, and uses that machine’s mail server to read and empty them. Messages sent via the Deliver command are forwarded to the mail server specified in the "Send" line of your Laurel profile. Arpanet addresses, specified as "name @ site" or "name at site", will work correctly only in messages delivered to Maxc. All this is strictly temporaryeventually, Laurel will understand about mailboxes in multiple places and will introduce its own notions about naming message recipients.