Mastering Mutt : A Few Basic Commands

By | 2007/04/28

To update based on my earlier post concerning use of the Mutt email client I wanted to share some of the quick tips that I’ve learned.  Now, Mutt can be very complex and very granular in its configuration.  This is by no means a comprehensive overview of Mutt usage.  I mainly want to point out some of its basic uses, navigation and configuration and you can go from there.

Now, why in the world would I want to use a text-based email client?  It’s 2007 already.  We’re using Feisty with Beryl and can burn our windows into oblivion upon closing.  We can spin our cubes of virtual desktops until we’re motion sick.  Ohh, and let’s not forget that Mozilla just released the long awaited Thunderbird 2.0!  So, despite all this, why would I bother spending any time on the text based Mutt client?  One, because I can (isn’t that the driving reason behind half of what we do sometimes!) and two, because it can come in handy.  I’ve actually grown now to prefer it over Evolution or Thunderbird… but I’ll let you decide for yourself.

First of all, the thing that held me up, was not knowing how to access my account when I first opened Mutt.  No in-application config to create your inbox settings and no handy ‘wizard’ to walk you through.  So that led me to asking questions and doing a bit of reading.  Here are a few of the methods I found for accessing your mail accounts:

mutt -f protocol://username:password(optional)

mutt -f pops://christer.edw[email protected] (example gmail setup, replace with your user)

mutt -f imaps://[email protected] (example imap account access, user your own settings)

Again, these are examples and you’ll need to replace the sections with your own settings.  Account types that are supported, pop, pops, imap, imaps and local mail (ie; Maildir, /var/mail/user, etc).

Using this format, without the password, will prompt you for the password once you’ve connected to the server and you’ll see a listing of any email in your inbox.  Some of the basic commands are listed across the top of the screen within Mutt, and for more you can press ?.  Some of the basics:

d - delete selected message

m - compose message

h - toggle header detail

q - quit current message / quit mutt

r - reply to single user

g - reply to group (ie; mailing list)

u - undelete message tagged for deletion

v - view attachments (if email has attachment, of course)

s - save email or attachment

Again, I don’t mean to be comprehensive in the shortcut keys and usage of mutt, but those should get you around for the most part.

This’ll be enough for today, but I have plans for a second tutorial on some of the more useful settings within the .muttrc file.  Things such as GPG verification and signing, header settings, preferred editors, etc.

If you’d like to give mutt a try, maybe give some of the above commands a test run and shoot me an email for testing at christer DOT edwards AT ubuntu DOT com.

3 thoughts on “Mastering Mutt : A Few Basic Commands

  1. Kevin Mark

    Hi C,
    as a mutt user and reader of a few mailing lists, I use ‘g’ for mailing lists about 0.5% of the time, instead I use ‘l’, assuming that you have your ~/.mutt/muttrc correctly with the ‘lists’ option. Here is an example: ‘lists [email protected]
    ‘l’ replys to the list whereas ‘g’ replys to everyone.

  2. Chris Fox

    Great post, it’s in my bookmarks.

    One thing I’m wondering though, and it’d be great if you covered it in your upcoming post on .muttrc, is how you’ve configured mutt to send email.

    My (rather limited) googling seems to leave me even more confused, and suggests having to set my computer us as a fully-fledged mail server. Can I not just point mutt to the SMTP server my ISP provides?

  3. pramod

    hi, i am new user of ubuntu os,
    so i have no idea and working experience on obuntu operating system.i want to learn basics of obuntu 6.06 operating system with its commands. plz , give a simple understable documentation of ubuntu system , thanku.

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