Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online

4.7. How do I know if my e-mail got there?

You don't, really. A problem with Internet e-mail is that you are usually told only if your message doesn't get through--for instance, if the destination host name is invalid. By default, if your mail does get to its destination intact, you won't be informed.

This can be annoying. Even more annoying is the fact that your mail's intended recipients might not check their mailboxes for weeks at a stretch--if ever. There's nothing you can do about that, but most UNIX-esque systems understand a special header item called Return-Receipt-To: that will cause the recipient's host to send you mail verifying delivery of your message. Return-Receipt-To: can't tell you when the recipient reads your message; it can only tell you that your message was received by the destination computer and placed in the recipient's mailbox. It's actually a confirmation of delivery rather than a confirmation that mail has been received by the recipient.

Return-Receipt-To: is a mail header item, just like the To: and Cc: fields. The Return-Receipt-To: command won't do anything if it is in the body of the message. To verify receipt of your mail, you need to know how to edit the mail headers before sending your message (see the next question to find out how). In the headers, add a line like

but use your own e-mail address instead of Keyogi's.

The receiving host must understand the Return-Receipt-To: command to act on it. If you're mailing to a user on another network (like FidoNet or America Online), you're not likely to receive confirmation when your mail is delivered.

As soon as your mail is delivered, you will receive a message with a subject line of

Subject: Returned mail: Return receipt
and you will rest content in the knowledge that your mail is safe and sound in somebody's e-mailbox.

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