Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online

6.21. I don't have access to the FTP program. How can I get files via e-mail?

A variety of servers are available that will send you files by electronic mail. These are useful for folks (like BITNET and UUCP users) who don't have access to FTP, Gopher, or the other methods of accessing Internet file archives.

If you are looking for FAQ documents, for instance, you can access the mail server at A mail server is a program that takes requests for information and mails back to you what you want to know. is home to thousands of the Internet's frequently asked questions and answers lists, which you can retrieve via e-mail. (Actually, this is nothing new. In previous chapters, I've showed how to get a variety of files from the MIT document server.) For information, send e-mail:

Subject: <subject line is ignored>
Body: help
You will soon receive a document explaining how this document server works.

You can also search for and transfer programs, graphic files, and other good stuff from FTP sites using mail servers. A number of FTP-by-mail servers are available. You should use the one that's closest to you.

Note: Please make sure that your system administrator has approved the use of mail servers. Files can take system resources not only at your site, but also on computers "up the stream." Telephone line charges for some electronic mail services--such as FidoNet and UUCP connections--cost real people real money. Your administrator probably won't like you much if he is forced to pay for a three-hour, long-distance phone call because you decided to grab a million files using an e-mail server.

Remember that binary files can't be sent through e-mail, so any files you request will be translated to a 7-bit format. You may be able to choose how your desired files will be encoded--with uuencode or BinHex, for example. Read the server's documentation thoroughly, and experiment by retrieving small files before trying to download every program ever written for your computer.

Note: Electronic mail gateways can be fickle, limiting the size and type of incoming e-mail, so FTP-by-mail servers allow you to set the maximum size of messages sent to you. They can split huge files into smaller chunks that your e-mail gateway can better handle. When you receive the files, you'll need to put the pieces back together, in the right order.

Here's a partial list of FTP-by-mail servers:

If you are on BITNET, send your mail to one of the following:

Commands for using these services are similar to using the FTP program: You put your FTP commands, one per line, for the server to act upon. For information on using one of these services, send e-mail to one of the preceding addresses:
Subject: <subject line is ignored>
Body: help

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