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mutt notes

Posted by jpluimers on 2013/06/28

When the webmail doesn’t do what I want, I fall back on mutt on the Linux command line prompt.

It is an immensely strong and stable text based mail client, but – beyond the basics – has a steep learning curve.

In fact it is so stable, that the CVS repository rarely gets commits

So below a few notes that I used to clean up truckloads of mail.

  1. Read Real Programmers: Jump Start: Mutt — by hackers, for hackers. It is a very short introduction with the most powerful.
  2. Read My first mutt : Searching mail (the best article on My first mutt), and My first mutt : mutt overview. They why limit is far more useful than search, and the basic UI concept of mutt.
  3. The mutt documentation has a text based man page.
  4. But there is both a html manual and text manual
    (the devel doc branch has both html manual and text manual too).
  5. A lot of actions in mutt depends on patterns which are based on regular expressions.

For me the most powerful combination of steps is this:

  1. Limit the message view to a search pattern of messages you are looking for
  2. Tag the (groups of) messages you want to operate on
  3. Use the semicolon tag-prefix command to operate only on the tagged messages

A few more details are below.

Moving around: PgUp/PgDn/Start/End

Keys Z/z/=/*; See

The indexer page and patterns

Limit the view to mail from linked in that contains an opening square bracket [

As mutt is a bit picky about escaping special characters (not yet archived at the WayBack machine), you need to prepend the [ not with one, but two or three backslashes as this example shows:

~f linkedin ~s \\[
~f linkedin ~s \\\[

Some users need three backslashes per escape, but for me two work fine.

The above pattern is probably a bit to wide, as it matches [ anywhere in the subject.

I want to match messages coming from that have [number] at the start of the subject, which results in either of these two patterns:

~f ~s ^\\[([A-Za-z0-9\ ]+)\\]
~f ~s ^\\\[([A-Za-z0-9\ ]+)\\\]

The result was about a thousand messages per month, good for a big cleanup (:

This was good for about 100 messages per month:

~f linkedin ~s "^New comment"


One Response to “mutt notes”

  1. […] mutt notes (not yet archived at the WayBack machine) […]

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