Text Editing and Processing | Mail | Internet | Computation | Miscellaneous

Some of the programs on our system can be started using the menu (e.g. right click on the background on an NCD terminal). You can also run all of these programs from a terminal by typing their name and hitting enter. If you run a program which opens a window of its own from the command line, you can add an ampersand, "&", at the end of the command to let you continue using the original window. If you need more information about a command, you can type

man command

or use xman to find out all you want to know (and then some) about a command. If you don't know the exact name of the command you want, try typing

man -k keyword

which will produce a listing of relevant commands.

Text Editing and Processing

Text editors (relatives of word processors) are essential to many tasks. Correspondingly, there are many editors to choose from. Virtually all text editors are are started by typing

editor filename.

The four most common text editors, ordered from easiest to hardest are: textedit (only on NCDs), pico, emacs and vi.

emacs is somewhat friendlier than vi and on theory you can run xemacs which provides a front end to emacs designed to look as much like MS Word as possible. Emacs has a tutorial which you can access by typing Control-h then t.Emacs is extremely powerful; there are very few imaginable text manipulations which are not built into the program, but it takes years to learn about them all. The tutorial covers all the basics you are likely to need on a regular basis (and then some.) If you program, you will find emacs' built-in modes (which understand about indenting, bracketing, etc.) very nice.

pico is very similar to emacs, but much simpler and with a cheat sheet of available commands on the bottom of the screen. It is used by the Pine mail program, but can be run on its own.

axe and textedit are editors with simple X-windows interfaces. Textedit has a problem that it doesn't insert new line characters into your text, so things won't print or email nicely as is. The best way to fix this is to run reformat filename on your file when you are done writing. This produces a new file named newfilename which is properly formatted.

You will probably want to use LaTeX to write papers. The procedure should be the same on our system as on any other. Use the text editor of your choice to create the tex file, then type latex filename to produce a dvi file (might have to run it twice sometimes). You can view the result on screen using xdvi filename or produce a Postscript file suitable for printing using dvips filename. In all cases, you should not need to include the .tex or .dvi suffixes; The programs are smart enough to figure it out.

Electronic Mail

E-mail is one of the applications which was responsible for popularizing the Internet. By now it has largely supplanted traditional ("snail") mail for personal and business correspondence.

mail is the basic mail program which is included with all Unix distributions. It has a poor user interface and no support for multiple folders. Its only virtues seem to be that it is fast and always there. Basically, though, no one uses it except for non-interactively sending files to someone like this:

mail recipient < file

pine is probably the most popular mail program in use on Unix systems. It is user-friendly and has gotten considerably faster and more powerful than it once was. Pine still does not support filtering or preprocessing and requires you to use pico rather than letting you choose your favorite text editor. For most users, however, this is not a big deal.

mailtool is a simple mail program for X-windows. If you are using the system default settings, it will start up automatically when you start an X-session. You should consider this a historical accident rather than an endorsement by the current sysadmin. Its user interface is in the worst style of X-applications - confusing, unintuitive and undocumented. It forces you to use an editor which is marginally acceptable at best and has no capabilities for preprocessing or filtering of mail. You can keep it from starting every time you log in by removing the line which does so from your .xsession file.

Two other powerful but more difficult alternatives are emacs or mh, the later of which is really a set of programs (such as inc) that allow you to deal with mail.

Finally, it is also possible to read your email using Netscape Communicator. This makes it difficult to view your email remotely (i.e. from home, or on a trip), but it has the same interface that many people are accustomed to on Windows. To set it up the first time, you should enter The edit menu and select preferences. Then go to the mail setup, removed all the defined mail servers, and just add one that uses movemail.

Internet Applications

ssh is installed on our system. Use it. SSH provides secure connections and supersedes telnet, rlogin and rsh. Since using any of those commands will start ssh anyway, you might as well get in the habit of typing ssh.

netscape is the only web browser currently installed on our system. You can start Netscape from the Applications menu. Please contact the sysadmin if you are interested in setting up your own personal homepage.

scp on sftp are used to transfer files between computers. See the remote access help page for more details.

Computational Software

mathematica, maple and matlab are all available on theory. While Mathematica is the most popular of the three, they all have their adherents. You can run Mathematica in a terminal window (useful if you are logged in remotely with a slow connection) by typing math. Some of the packages installed on our system include FeynCalc for Mathematica.

You can also write your own C, C++ or Fortran programs. This may be useful for heavy numerical work. The gcc, CC, g++, f77, and f90 compilers are all available.

In any case, you should avoid running numerical calculations that require more than a day or two to complete, both out of courtesy for other users and to alleviate the risk of losing your work in the event of a crash. There are techniques for breaking long numerical computations up into sensibly sized pieces which you should use. Always nice long calculations.


You can view Postscript files (such as those downloaded from Los Alamos) using ghostview or gv. Ghostview can also be started from the menu.

Star Office (soffice) is a collection of programs similar to the MS Office suite. Before running it for the first time, you must do a personal installation of certain files into your home directory by running /soft3/Office51/bin/setup. You will need our campus key number - see the sysadmin.

The Calendar Manager (cm) is an appointment scheduling tool.

The File Manager (filemgr) provides a graphical display of the file system, similar to that on a Mac or PC. If you double-click on a file, it is opened in the appropriate program. Try to avoid leaving File Manager running when you don't need it as it uses a lot of memory.

On the NCDs, your menu has an "Extras" submenu with starts out empty. You can put whatever you want in it by adding the line

setenv OLWMMENU2 filename

to the .cshrc file in your home directory, where filename contains your personalized menu. You should follow the format in the file /het/etc/std.openwin-menu.