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1 <?xml version='1.0' encoding="UTF-8"?>
2 <!-- $Header: /var/cvsroot/gentoo/xml/htdocs/doc/en/guide-to-mutt.xml,v 1.20 2011/08/17 19:49:12 swift Exp $ -->
4 <!DOCTYPE guide SYSTEM "/dtd/guide.dtd">
6 <guide>
8 <title>QuickStart Guide to Mutt E-Mail</title>
10 <author title="Author">
11 <mail link="grobian@gentoo.org">Fabian Groffen</mail>
12 </author>
14 <abstract>
15 This guide shows you how to begin using the powerful command line e-mail
16 client mutt.
17 </abstract>
19 <!-- The content of this document is licensed under the CC-BY-SA license -->
20 <!-- See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5 -->
21 <license/>
23 <version>3</version>
24 <date>2011-08-18</date>
26 <chapter>
27 <title>The Mutt e-mail client</title>
28 <section>
29 <body>
31 <p>
32 If you're not a fan of e-mail clients with fancy graphical user interfaces, or
33 you just like to be able to quickly read some mail over an SSH connection, the
34 class of console-based mail clients might be for you.
35 </p>
37 <p>
38 Mutt is one of the current console-based mail clients that's still under active
39 development and has a vast crowd of active supporters (and users). It is
40 powerful, highly customisable, small and efficient.
41 </p>
43 <p>
44 While Mutt was originally designed to read mail from the local mbox mail spool
45 (e.g. <path>/var/spool/mail/</path>), nowadays it comes with full support for
46 Maildir stored folders, remote fetching from POP3 servers and complete
47 management of IMAP accounts. For a full description of what Mutt can do, please
48 read the Mutt manual and Mutt website at <uri>http://www.mutt.org/</uri>.
49 </p>
51 </body>
52 </section>
53 </chapter>
55 <chapter>
56 <title>Acquiring Mutt</title>
57 <section>
58 <body>
60 <p>
61 Starting your Mutt adventure simply requires you to emerge it.
62 Unfortunately, Mutt has a lots of options, which enable or disable certain
63 functionalities of Mutt. We now briefly discuss the most important USE-flags
64 that you may want to enable based on your intended usage of Mutt. Please note
65 that enabling most of them won't harm your Mutt, but may make it do more than an
66 experienced Mutt user would like.
67 </p>
69 <pre caption="Mutt's USE-flags">
70 % <i>emerge -pv mutt</i>
71 [ebuild N ] mail-client/mutt-1.5.21-r1 USE="gdbm gpg imap mbox nls nntp \
72 sidebar smime smtp ssl -berkdb -crypt -debug -doc -gnutls \
73 -idn -pop -qdbm -sasl -tokyocabinet"
74 </pre>
76 <p>
77 First off, for newcomers, the <c>imap</c> USE-flag is most probably the most
78 important one. Enabling it won't hurt anything, so if you're unsure what
79 account you're going to use Mutt with, just enable it. Most email providers,
80 even free ones such as GMail, use IMAP these days, for it is the most convenient
81 way to store email that is accessed from multiple clients at the same time
82 and/or different locations. Because IMAP keeps all mail at the server, Mutt
83 just downloads the messages that you want to view.
84 </p>
86 <p>
87 Often you happen to jump through a couple of messages a couple of times shortly
88 after each other, which would require to download the same message over and
89 over again. Since this simply is a waste, Mutt uses a so-called header cache
90 (hcache) to keep the most important bits of messages that it needs. This
91 hcache is backed by a db-library, of which four flavours exist: <c>gdbm</c>,
92 <c>berkdb</c>, <c>qdbm</c> and <c>tokyocabinet</c>. If you don't have any
93 preference yourself, pick gdbm or berkdb. Most likely you will have both
94 already installed on your system. Enabling the USE-flags for more than one
95 hcache backend will make Mutt choose one it likes best. It will always use
96 at most one.
97 </p>
99 <p>
100 While IMAP is important for reading mail, sending mail requires a mail server.
101 Mutt can talk to a mail server that exists on the local system, but often that's
102 not the case, or simply not a good solution for e.g. laptop users that often
103 travel around. Mutt comes with SMTP support which gets enabled by the <c>smtp</c>
104 USE-flag. Again, enabling it if you're not sure doesn't harm. Mutt's SMTP
105 support allows you just to send mail over a mail server of your choice; usually
106 the one that you are given by your email provider.
107 </p>
109 <p>
110 Both IMAP and SMTP mostly go over encrypted channels these days, hence if you
111 enabled any of both, it is wise to also enable either of the <c>ssl</c> or
112 <c>gnutls</c> USE-flags. Both just add the secure variants (imaps and smtps) to
113 Mutt's list of supported protocols using either OpenSSL's or GNUTLS'
114 implementation. If you don't have a strong preference for either, just go for
115 <c>ssl</c>. Most likely this is in your global USE already anyway. If you intend
116 to authenticate yourself when sending e-mail, be sure to also include
117 <c>sasl</c> in your USE-flags, since that's a prerequisite for that.
118 </p>
120 <p>
121 Last but not least, there is the <c>sidebar</c> USE-flag. It enables an
122 extension to Mutt that can show a navigation pane of available mailboxes on the
123 left hand side of the screen. While this is not a recommended feature for
124 absolute newcomers (it is nowhere mentioned in any official docs, since it
125 simply isn't official), more experienced users might like its functionality.
126 Luckily, just enabling the USE-flag doesn't make it visible at all, meaning you
127 don't even notice it's enabled.
128 </p>
130 </body>
131 </section>
132 </chapter>
134 <chapter>
135 <title>Configuring Mutt</title>
136 <section>
137 <body>
139 <p>
140 After you emerged mutt with your USE-flags of choice, the only necessary step is
141 to create a <path>.muttrc</path> file in your home directory. Muttrc's are to
142 be found in many places on the web and in Mutt's documentation. In
143 <path>/usr/share/doc/mutt-&lt;version&gt;/samples</path> you can find some
144 muttrc samples that are from the official distribution. We discuss a very
145 minimal <path>.muttrc</path> for an IMAP based account with SMTP mail delivery
146 below.
147 </p>
149 <pre caption="A .muttrc example file">
150 # character set on messages that we send
151 set send_charset="utf-8"
152 # if there is no character set given on incoming messages, it is probably windows
153 set assumed_charset="iso-8859-1"
155 # make sure Vim knows mutt is a mail client and that we compose an UTF-8 encoded message
156 set editor="vim -c 'set syntax=mail ft=mail enc=utf-8'"
158 # just scroll one line instead of full page
159 set menu_scroll=yes
161 # we want to see some MIME types inline, see below this code listing for explanation
162 auto_view application/msword
163 auto_view application/pdf
165 # make default search pattern to search in To, Cc and Subject
166 set simple_search="~f %s | ~C %s | ~s %s"
168 # threading preferences, sort by threads
169 set sort=threads
170 set strict_threads=yes
172 # show spam score (from SpamAssassin only) when reading a message
173 spam "X-Spam-Score: ([0-9\\.]+).*" "SA: %1"
174 set pager_format = " %C - %[%H:%M] %.20v, %s%* %?H? [%H] ?"
176 # do not show all headers, just a few
177 ignore *
178 unignore From To Cc Bcc Date Subject
179 # and in this order
180 unhdr_order *
181 hdr_order From: To: Cc: Bcc: Date: Subject:
183 # brighten up stuff with colours, for more colouring examples see:
184 # http://aperiodic.net/phil/configs/mutt/colors
185 color normal white black
186 color hdrdefault green default
187 color quoted green default
188 color quoted1 yellow default
189 color quoted2 red default
190 color signature cyan default
191 color indicator brightyellow red
192 color error brightred default
193 color status brightwhite blue
194 color tree brightmagenta black
195 color tilde blue default
196 color attachment brightyellow default
197 color markers brightred default
198 color message white black
199 color search brightwhite magenta
200 color bold brightyellow default
201 # if you don't like the black progress bar at the bottom of the screen,
202 # comment out the following line
203 color progress white black
205 # personality settings
206 set realname = "Andrew Dalziel"
207 set from = "andy@mail.server"
208 alternates "andrew@mail.server|andrew.dalziel@mail.server"
209 # this file must exist, and contains your signature, comment it out if
210 # you don't want a signature to be used
211 set signature = ~/.signature
213 # aliases (sort of address book)
214 source ~/.aliases
216 # IMAP connection settings
217 set mail_check=60
218 set imap_keepalive=300
220 # IMAP account settings
221 set folder=imaps://andy@imap.mail.server/
222 set spoolfile=imaps://andy@imap.mail.server/
223 set record=imaps://andy@imap.mail.server/Sent
224 set postponed=imaps://andy@imap.mail.server/Drafts
226 # use headercache for IMAP (make sure this is a directory for performance!)
227 set header_cache=/var/tmp/.mutt
229 # mailboxes we want to monitor for new mail
230 mailboxes "="
231 mailboxes "=Lists"
233 # mailing lists we are on (these are regexps!)
234 subscribe "gentoo-.*@gentoo\\.org"
236 # SMTP mailing configuration (for sending mail)
237 set smtp_url=smtp://mail.server/
238 </pre>
240 <note>
241 It is good practice to review all settings from the example above. There are
242 many more, and some preferences may actually not match yours. Keep that in mind
243 when you feel that Mutt at first doesn't really work the way you like.
244 </note>
246 <p>
247 The example <path>.muttrc</path> above sets up an IMAP account, uses an SMTP
248 server to send mail, stores its cache in <path>/var/tmp/.mutt</path>, reads the
249 known address aliases (think of it as an address book) from
250 <path>~/.aliases</path> and appends the signature from <path>~/.signature</path>
251 when composing new mail. For some IMAP servers it may be necessary to change the
252 spool, record and postponed directories, as the folders <path>Sent</path> and
253 <path>Drafts</path> may be under a folder called <path>INBOX</path>. Simply
254 trying this out with Mutt is the simplest way to figure this out.
255 </p>
257 <p>
258 Once your <path>.muttrc</path> is setup, you are ready to launch Mutt by just
259 running <c>mutt</c>. If you entered a valid IMAP server url, Mutt will prompt
260 you for your password and afterwards load all messages for you. Note that the
261 first time entering your mailbox may take a while if you have quite some
262 messages, since Mutt's header cache is still empty. If this succeeds you're in
263 your IMAP mailbox ready to go.
264 </p>
266 <p>
267 Navigation is intuitive, as is reading messages by just pressing the enter key
268 or space bar. Mutt is quite Vim alike in that it uses key strokes to perform
269 most of its actions. You best read Mutt's manual on the web to get yourself
270 known with all existing functions (or press ? in Mutt) and what key they are
271 bound to, or better, what key you like it to be bound to. Some essential keys
272 are <c>m</c> (for message) to start composing a new message, <c>q</c> for quit,
273 <c>r</c> for reply, <c>s</c> for save and <c>p</c> for print.
274 </p>
276 <p>
277 One of the features that Mutt has that is still not in today's most savvy email
278 clients is the ability to display attachments inline through some viewer. The
279 auto_view directive in the .muttrc file tells Mutt which attachments (based on
280 their MIME-type) it should view inline. To figure out how to do that, Mutt uses
281 mailcap files to lookup how to display a certain MIME-type. Usually the system
282 wide mailcap file isn't sufficient here, so you better start a
283 <path>~/.mailcap</path> file to put items in there for <c>copiousoutput</c> that
284 Mutt can display inline.
285 </p>
287 <p>
288 In the example <path>.muttrc</path> above <c>auto_view</c> is enabled for
289 <c>application/msword</c> and <c>application/pdf</c> files. These two show
290 the extreme usefulness of this capability, because it means meeting notes sent
291 as doc file now are perfectly fine readable without having to save the
292 attachment and open it in OpenOffice. Instead the text just shows up in the
293 message reader, that is, if you have a matching entry in your
294 <path>~/.mailcap</path> file.
295 </p>
297 <pre caption="Example .mailcap file">
298 application/msword; antiword '%s'; copiousoutput; description=Word Document;
299 nametemplate=%s.doc
300 application/pdf; pdftotext '%s' -; copiousoutput; description=PDF Document;
301 nametemplate=%s.pdf
302 </pre>
304 <p>
305 The above <path>.mailcap</path> example tells mutt what to do to "view"
306 <c>msword</c> and <c>pdf</c> files. For the former it should run a program
307 called <c>antiword</c> (emerge <c>app-text/antiword</c>), for the latter the
308 program <c>pdftotext</c> (emerge <c>app-text/poppler</c>). You can go wild with
309 these to for example display rendered HTML (give <c>app-text/vilistextum</c> a
310 try), render vcards, or show ASCII representation of attached images. All you
311 need to do is define how to call the program in your <path>.mailcap</path>, and
312 tell Mutt to try to view it inline using the <c>auto_view</c> directive.
313 </p>
315 </body>
316 </section>
317 </chapter>
319 <chapter>
320 <title>Conclusions</title>
321 <section>
322 <body>
324 <p>
325 Mutt is a very versatile console email client. If you like the concept, Mutt
326 can be altered to behave in nearly any way through its configuration. Search
327 the web to find others explaining how they did "it", or find one of the many
328 patches that exist to make Mutt do even more. Gentoo applies a couple of very
329 popular patches to Mutt, so make sure to check <c>mutt -v</c> if you want
330 something more to make sure it is not yet already at your disposal. While
331 learning Mutt is not necessarily easy, once it is in your fingers, it can make
332 your mail experience much faster and efficient than with other clients.
333 Searching for example is quite powerful if you know how to hit the right flags
334 and know which regular expression narrows your search down. Enjoy Mutting!
335 </p>
337 </body>
338 </section>
339 </chapter>
340 </guide>

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