How do I send a file as an email attachment using Linux command line?


I've created a script that runs every night on my Linux server that uses mysqldump to back up each of my MySQL databases to .sql files and packages them together as a compressed .tar file. The next step I want to accomplish is to send that tar file through email to a remote email server for safekeeping. I've been able to send the raw script in the body an email by piping the backup text file to mailx like so:

$ cat mysqldbbackup.sql | mailx [email protected]

cat echoes the backup file's text which is piped into the mailx program with the recipient's email address passed as an argument.

While this accomplishes what I need, I think it could be one step better, Is there any way, using shell scripts or otherwise, to send the compressed .tar file to an outgoing email message as an attachment? This would beat having to deal with very long email messages which contain header data and often have word-wrapping issues etc.

This question is tagged with linux email command-line

~ Asked on 2008-08-20 02:48:50

26 Answers


None of the mutt ones worked for me. It was thinking the email address was part of the attachemnt. Had to do:

echo "This is the message body" | mutt -a "/path/to/" -s "subject of message" -- [email protected]

~ Answered on 2012-03-01 21:26:21


Or, failing mutt:

gzip -c mysqldbbackup.sql | uuencode mysqldbbackup.sql.gz  | mail -s "MySQL DB" [email protected]

~ Answered on 2008-08-20 04:48:25


Depending on your version of linux it may be called mail. To quote @David above:

mail -s "Backup" -a mysqldbbackup.sql [email protected] < message.txt

or also:

cat message.txt | mail -s "Backup" -a mysqldbbackup.sql [email protected] 

~ Answered on 2008-08-20 03:36:24


From looking at man mailx, the mailx program does not have an option for attaching a file. You could use another program such as mutt.

echo "This is the message body" | mutt -a -s "subject of message" [email protected]

Command line options for mutt can be shown with mutt -h.

~ Answered on 2008-08-20 03:05:57


I use SendEmail, which was created for this scenario. It's packaged for Ubuntu so I assume it's available

sendemail -f [email protected] -t [email protected] -m "Here are your files!" -a file1.jpg

~ Answered on 2013-10-31 11:54:52


I use mpack.

mpack -s subject file [email protected]

Unfortunately mpack does not recognize '-' as an alias for stdin. But the following work, and can easily be wrapped in an (shell) alias or a script:

mpack -s subject /dev/stdin [email protected] < file

~ Answered on 2009-09-24 07:00:08


 echo 'These are contents of my mail' | mailx -s 'This is my email subject' -a /path/to/attachment_file.log [email protected]

~ Answered on 2015-05-22 09:29:59


I once wrote this function for ksh on Solaris (uses Perl for base64 encoding):

# usage: email_attachment to cc subject body attachment_filename
email_attachment() {
    boundary="_====_blah_====_$(date +%Y%m%d%H%M%S)_====_"
        print -- "To: $to"
        print -- "Cc: $cc"
        print -- "Subject: $subject"
        print -- "Content-Type: multipart/mixed; boundary=\"$boundary\""
        print -- "Mime-Version: 1.0"
        print -- ""
        print -- "This is a multi-part message in MIME format."
        print -- ""
        print -- "--$boundary"
        print -- "Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1"
        print -- ""
        print -- "$body"
        print -- ""
        if [[ -n "$filename" && -f "$filename" && -r "$filename" ]]; then
            print -- "--$boundary"
            print -- "Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64"
            print -- "Content-Type: application/octet-stream; name=$filename"
            print -- "Content-Disposition: attachment; filename=$filename"
            print -- ""
            print -- "$(perl -MMIME::Base64 -e 'open F, shift; @lines=<F>; close F; print MIME::Base64::encode(join(q{}, @lines))' $filename)"
            print -- ""
        print -- "--${boundary}--"
    } | /usr/lib/sendmail -oi -t

~ Answered on 2011-02-03 14:48:42


You can use mutt to send the email with attachment

mutt -s "Backup" -a mysqldbbackup.sql [email protected] < message.txt

~ Answered on 2008-08-20 03:09:39


Send a Plaintext body email with one plaintext attachment with mailx:

  /usr/bin/uuencode attachfile.txt myattachedfilename.txt; 
  /usr/bin/echo "Body of text"
) | mailx -s 'Subject' [email protected]

Below is the same command as above, without the newlines

( /usr/bin/uuencode /home/el/attachfile.txt myattachedfilename.txt; /usr/bin/echo "Body of text" ) | mailx -s 'Subject' [email protected]

Make sure you have a file /home/el/attachfile.txt defined with this contents:

Government discriminates against programmers with cruel/unusual 35 year prison
sentences for making the world's information free, while bankers that pilfer 
trillions in citizens assets through systematic inflation get the nod and 
walk free among us.

If you don't have uuencode read this:

On Linux, Send HTML body email with a PDF attachment with sendmail:

Make sure you have ksh installed: yum info ksh

Make sure you have sendmail installed and configured.

Make sure you have uuencode installed and available:

Make a new file called and put it in your home directory: /home/el

Put the following code in

export MAILFROM="[email protected]"
export MAILTO="[email protected]"
export SUBJECT="Test PDF for Email"
export BODY="/home/el/email_body.htm"
export ATTACH="/home/el/pdf-test.pdf"
export MAILPART=`uuidgen` ## Generates Unique ID
export MAILPART_BODY=`uuidgen` ## Generates Unique ID

 echo "From: $MAILFROM"
 echo "To: $MAILTO"
 echo "Subject: $SUBJECT"
 echo "MIME-Version: 1.0"
 echo "Content-Type: multipart/mixed; boundary=\"$MAILPART\""
 echo ""
 echo "--$MAILPART"
 echo "Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary=\"$MAILPART_BODY\""
 echo ""
 echo "--$MAILPART_BODY"
 echo "Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1"
 echo "You need to enable HTML option for email"
 echo "--$MAILPART_BODY"
 echo "Content-Type: text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1"
 echo "Content-Disposition: inline"
 cat $BODY
 echo "--$MAILPART_BODY--"

 echo "--$MAILPART"
 echo 'Content-Type: application/pdf; name="'$(basename $ATTACH)'"'
 echo "Content-Transfer-Encoding: uuencode"
 echo 'Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="'$(basename $ATTACH)'"'
 echo ""
 uuencode $ATTACH $(basename $ATTACH)
 echo "--$MAILPART--"
) | /usr/sbin/sendmail $MAILTO

Change the export variables on the top of to reflect your address and filenames.

Download a test pdf document and put it in /home/el called pdf-test.pdf

Make a file called /home/el/email_body.htm and put this line in it:

<html><body><b>this is some bold text</b></body></html>

Make sure the pdf file has sufficient 755 permissions.

Run the script ./

Check your email inbox, the text should be in HTML format and the pdf file automatically interpreted as a binary file. Take care not to use this function more than say 15 times in a day, even if you send the emails to yourself, spam filters in gmail can blacklist a domain spewing emails without giving you an option to let them through. And you'll find this no longer works, or it only lets through the attachment, or the email doesn't come through at all. If you have to do a lot of testing on this, spread them out over days or you'll be labelled a spammer and this function won't work any more.

~ Answered on 2013-01-08 11:25:24


There are several answers here suggesting mail or mailx so this is more of a background to help you interpret these in context.

Historical Notes

The origins of Unix mail go back into the mists of the early history of Bell Labs Unix™ (1969?), and we probably cannot hope to go into its full genealogy here. Suffice it to say that there are many programs which inherit code from or reimplement (or inherit code from a reimplementation of) mail and that there is no single code base which can be unambiguously identified as "the" mail.

However, one of the contenders to that position is certainly "Berkeley Mail" which was originally called Mail with an uppercase M in 2BSD (1978); but in 3BSD (1979), it replaced the lowercase mail command as well, leading to some new confusion. SVR3 (1986) included a derivative which was called mailx. The x was presumably added to make it unique and distinct; but this, too, has now been copied, reimplemented, and mutilated so that there is no single individual version which is definitive.

Back in the day, the de facto standard for sending binaries across electronic mail was uuencode. It still exists, but has numerous usability problems; if at all possible, you should send MIME attachments instead, unless you specifically strive to be able to communicate with the late 1980s.

MIME was introduced in the early 1990s to solve several problems with email, including support for various types of content other than plain text in a single character set which only really is suitable for a subset of English (and, we are told, Hawai'ian). This introduced support for multipart messages, internationalization, rich content types, etc, and quickly gained traction throughout the 1990s.

(The Heirloom mail/mailx history notes were most helpful when composing this, and are certainly worth a read if you're into that sort of thing.)

Current Offerings

As of 2018, Debian has three packages which include a mail or mailx command. (You can search for Provides: mailx.)

debian$ aptitude search ~Pmailx
i   bsd-mailx                       - simple mail user agent
p   heirloom-mailx                  - feature-rich BSD mail(1)
p   mailutils                       - GNU mailutils utilities for handling mail

(I'm not singling out Debian as a recommendation; it's what I use, so I am familiar with it; and it provides a means of distinguishing the various alternatives unambiguously by referring to their respective package names. It is obviously also the distro from which Ubuntu gets these packages.)

  • bsd-mailx is a relatively simple mailx which does not appear to support sending MIME attachments. See its manual page and note that this is the one you would expect to find on a *BSD system, including MacOS, by default.
  • heirloom-mailx is now being called s-nail and does support sending MIME attachments with -a. See its manual page and more generally the Heirloom project
  • mailutils aka GNU Mailutils includes a mail/mailx compatibility wrapper which does support sending MIME attachments with -A

With these concerns, if you need your code to be portable and can depend on a somewhat complex package, the simple way to portably send MIME attachments is to use mutt.

~ Answered on 2018-02-02 17:35:21


Another alternative - Swaks (Swiss Army Knife for SMTP).

swaks -tls \
    --to ${MAIL_TO} \
    --from ${MAIL_FROM} \
    --server ${MAIL_SERVER} \
    --auth LOGIN \
    --auth-user ${MAIL_USER} \
    --auth-password ${MAIL_PASSWORD} \
    --header "Subject: $MAIL_SUBJECT" \
    --header "Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8" \
    --body "$MESSAGE" \
    --attach mysqldbbackup.sql

~ Answered on 2017-09-05 09:57:15


metamail has the tool metasend

metasend -f mysqlbackup.sql.gz -t [email protected] -s Backup -m application/x-gzip -b

~ Answered on 2008-09-17 15:18:03


I used

echo "Start of Body" && uuencode log.cfg readme.txt | mail -s "subject" "[email protected]" 

and this worked well for me....

~ Answered on 2015-08-04 15:17:06


This is how I am doing with one large log file in CentOS:

MAIL_CMD="$(which mail)"
EMAIL"[email protected]"
LOGNAME="$(basename "$0")_$(date "+%Y%m%d_%H%M")"

if cd ${LOGDIR}; then
  /bin/tar -zcvf "${LOGDIR}/${LOGNAME}".tgz "${LOGDIR}/${LOGNAME}.log" > /dev/null 2>&1
  if [ -n "${MAIL_CMD}" ]; then
  # This works too. The message content will be taken from text file below
  # echo 'Hello!' >/root/scripts/
  # echo "Attachment" | ${MAIL_CMD} -s "${HOSTNAME} Aide report" -q /root/scripts/ -a ${LOGNAME}.tgz -S from=${WHOAMI}@${HOSTNAME} ${EMAIL}
    echo "Attachment" | ${MAIL_CMD} -s "${HOSTNAME} Aide report" -a "${LOGNAME}.tgz" -S from="${WHOAMI}@${HOSTNAME}" "${EMAIL}"
    /bin/rm "${LOGDIR}/${LOGNAME}.log"

~ Answered on 2015-09-04 13:31:29


I usually only use the mail command on RHEL. I have tried mailx and it is pretty efficient.

mailx -s "Sending Files" -a First_LocalConfig.conf -a
Second_LocalConfig.conf [email protected]

This is the content of my msg.


~ Answered on 2014-08-12 14:23:38


Mailutils makes this a piece of cake

echo "Body" | mail.mailutils -M -s "My Subject" -A attachment.pdf [email protected]
  • -A file attaches a file
  • -M enables MIME, so that you can have an attachment and plaintext body.

If not yet installed, run

sudo apt install mailutils

~ Answered on 2019-02-16 18:50:20


From source machine

mysqldump --defaults-extra-file=sql.cnf database | gzip | base64 | mail [email protected]

On Destination machine. Save the received mail body as db.sql.gz.b64; then..

base64 -D -i db.sql.gz.b64 | gzip -d | mysql --defaults-extra-file=sql.cnf

~ Answered on 2017-01-22 13:23:24


the shortest way for me is

file=filename_or_filepath;uuencode $file $file|mail -s "optional subject" email_address

so for your example it'll be

file=your_sql.log;gzip -c $file;uuencode ${file}.gz ${file}|mail -s "file with magnets" [email protected]

the good part is that I can recall it with Ctrl+r to send another file...

~ Answered on 2015-04-14 22:37:55


mailx does have a -a option now for attachments.

~ Answered on 2013-12-28 18:36:56


Not a method for sending email, but you can use an online Git server (e.g. Bitbucket or a similar service) for that.

This way, you can use git push commands, and all versions will be stored in a compressed and organized way.

~ Answered on 2014-06-29 19:05:14


Depending on your mail command options (check it with man mail) and version you could do

echo yourBody|mail -s yoursubject -A /your/attachment/file [email protected]

~ Answered on 2019-06-12 11:43:54


If the file is text, you can send it easiest in the body as:

sendmail [email protected] < message.txt

~ Answered on 2017-02-23 11:33:39


using mailx command

 echo "Message Body Here" | mailx -s "Subject Here" -a file_name [email protected]

using sendmail



`(echo "To: [email protected]"
  echo "Cc: [email protected]"
  echo "From: Application"
  echo "Subject: your subject"
  echo  your body
  uuencode $fileToAttach $fileToAttach
  )| eval /usr/sbin/sendmail -t `;

~ Answered on 2017-09-08 10:20:58


Just to add my 2 cents, I'd write my own PHP Script:

There are lots of ways to do the attachment in the examples on that page.

~ Answered on 2012-09-24 18:34:06


If mutt is not working or not installed,try this-



cd $FilePath

Rec_count=$(wc -l < $FileName)
if [ $Rec_count -gt 0 ]
(echo "The attachment contains $Message" ; uuencode $FileName $FileName.csv ) | mailx -s "$Message" $MailList

~ Answered on 2017-05-16 09:47:22

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