This section is intended as a brief overview of how to use Mutt. There are many other features which are described elsewhere in the manual. There is even more information available in the Mutt FAQ and various web pages. See the Mutt Page for more details.
The keybindings described in this section are the defaults as distributed. Your local system administrator may have altered the defaults for your site. You can always type ``?'' in any menu to display the current bindings.
The first thing you need to do is invoke mutt, simply by typing mutt at the command line. There are various command-line options, see either the mutt man page or the reference.
Information is presented in menus, very similar to ELM. Here is a table showing the common keys used to navigate menus in Mutt.
j or Down next-entry move to the next entry k or Up previous-entry move to the previous entry z or PageDn page-down go to the next page Z or PageUp page-up go to the previous page = or Home first-entry jump to the first entry * or End last-entry jump to the last entry q quit exit the current menu ? help list all keybindings for the current menu
Mutt has a builtin line editor which is used as the primary way to input textual data such as email addresses or filenames. The keys used to move around while editing are very similar to those of Emacs.
^A or <Home> bol move to the start of the line ^B or <Left> backward-char move back one char ^D or <Delete> delete-char delete the char under the cursor ^E or <End> eol move to the end of the line ^F or <Right> forward-char move forward one char ^K kill-eol delete to the end of the line ^U kill-line delete entire line ^W kill-word kill the word in front of the cursor <Up> history-up recall previous string from history <Down> history-down recall next string from history <BackSpace> backspace kill the char in front of the cursor ^G n/a abort <Tab> n/a complete filename (only when prompting for a file) <Return> n/a finish editing
You can remap the editor functions using the bind command. For example, to make the Delete key delete the character in front of the cursor rather than under, you could use
bind editor <delete> backspace
Similar to many other mail clients, there are two modes in which mail is read in Mutt. The first is the index of messages in the mailbox, which is called the ``index'' in Mutt. The second mode is the display of the message contents. This is called the ``pager.''
The next few sections describe the functions provided in each of these modes.
c change to a different mailbox ESC c change to a folder in read-only mode C copy the current message to another mailbox ESC C decode a message and copy it to a folder ESC s decode a message and save it to a folder D delete messages matching a pattern d delete the current message F mark as important l show messages matching a pattern N mark message as new o change the current sort method O reverse sort the mailbox q save changes and exit s save-message t toggle the tag on a message ESC t toggle tag on entire message thread u undelete-message v view-attachments x abort changes and exit <Return> display-message <Tab> jump to the next new message @ show the author's full e-mail address $ save changes to mailbox / search ESC / search-reverse ^L clear and redraw the screen ^T tag messages matching a pattern ^U undelete messages matching a pattern
In addition to who sent the message and the subject, a short summary of the disposition of each message is printed beside the message number. Zero or more of the following ``flags'' may appear, which mean:
D message is deleted K contains a PGP public key M requires mailcap to view N message is new O message is old P message is PGP encrypted r message has been replied to S message is PGP signed ! message is flagged * message is tagged
Some of the status flags can be turned on or off using
Furthermore, the following flags reflect who the message is addressed to. They can be customized with the $to_chars variable.
+ message is to you and you only T message is to you, but also to or cc'ed to others C message is cc'ed to you F message is from you
By default, Mutt uses its builtin pager to display the body of messages. The pager is very similar to the Unix program less though not nearly as featureful.
<Return> go down one line <Space> display the next page (or next message if at the end of a message) - go back to the previous page n display the next message ? show keybindings / search for a regular expression (pattern) \ toggle search pattern coloring
In addition, many of the functions from the index are available in the pager, such as delete-message or copy-message (this is one advantage over using an external pager to view messages).
Also, the internal pager supports a couple other advanced features. For one, it will accept and translate the ``standard'' nroff sequences for bold and underline. These sequences are a series of either the letter, backspace (^H), the letter again for bold or the letter, backspace, ``_'' for denoting underline. Mutt will attempt to display these in bold and underline respectively if your terminal supports them. If not, you can use the bold and underline color objects to specify a color or mono attribute for them.
Additionally, the internal pager supports the ANSI escape sequences for character attributes. Mutt translates them into the correct color and character settings. The sequences Mutt supports are:
ESC [ Ps;Ps;Ps;...;Ps m where Ps = 0 All Attributes Off 1 Bold on 4 Underline on 5 Blink on 7 Reverse video on 3x Foreground color is x 4x Background color is x Colors are 0 black 1 red 2 green 3 yellow 4 blue 5 magenta 6 cyan 7 white
Mutt uses these attributes for handling text/enriched messages, and they can also be used by an external autoview script for highlighting purposes. Note: If you change the colors for your display, for example by changing the color associated with color2 for your xterm, then that color will be used instead of green.
When the mailbox is sorted by threads, there are a few additional functions available in the index and pager modes.
^D delete-thread delete all messages in the current thread ^U undelete-thread undelete all messages in the current thread ^N next-thread jump to the start of the next thread ^P previous-thread jump to the start of the previous thread ^R read-thread mark the current thread as read ESC d delete-subthread delete all messages in the current subthread ESC u undelete-subthread undelete all messages in the current subthread ESC n next-subthread jump to the start of the next subthread ESC p previous-subthread jump to the start of the previous subthread ESC r read-subthread mark the current subthread as read ESC t tag-thread toggle the tag on the current thread ESC v collapse-thread toggle collapse for the current thread ESC V collapse-all toggle collapse for all threads P parent-message jump to parent message in thread
Note: Collapsing a thread displays only the first message in the thread and hides the others. This is useful when threads contain so many messages that you can only see a handful of threads on the screen. See %M in $index_format. For example, you could use "%?M?(#%03M)&(%4l)?" in $index_format to optionally display the number of hidden messages if the thread is collapsed.
See also: $strict_threads.
Creates a new alias based upon the current message (or prompts for a new one). Once editing is complete, an alias command is added to the file specified by the $alias_file variable for future use. Note: Specifying an $alias_file does not add the aliases specified there-in, you must also source the file.
Toggles the weeding of message header fields specified by ignore commands.
This command (available in the ``index'' and ``pager'') allows you to edit the raw current message as it's present in the mail folder. After you have finished editing, the changed message will be appended to the current folder, and the original message will be marked for deletion.
This command is used to execute any command you would normally put in a configuration file. A common use is to check the settings of variables, or in conjunction with macros to change settings on the fly.
This command extracts PGP public keys from the current or tagged message(s) and adds them to your PGP public key ring.
This command wipes the PGP passphrase from memory. It is useful, if you misspelled the passphrase.
Reply to the current or tagged message(s) by extracting any addresses which
match the addresses given by the
lists or subscribe
commands, but also honor any
Mail-Followup-To header(s) if the
configuration variable is set. Using this when replying to messages posted
to mailing lists helps avoid duplicate copies being sent to the author of
the message you are replying to.
Asks for an external Unix command and pipes the current or tagged message(s) to it. The variables $pipe_decode, $pipe_split, $pipe_sep and $wait_key control the exact behaviour of this function.
Asks for an external Unix command and executes it. The $wait_key can be used to control whether Mutt will wait for a key to be pressed when the command returns (presumably to let the user read the output of the command), based on the return status of the named command.
The pager uses the $quote_regexp variable to detect quoted text when displaying the body of the message. This function toggles the display of the quoted material in the message. It is particularly useful when are interested in just the response and there is a large amount of quoted text in the way.
This function will go to the next line of non-quoted text which come after a line of quoted text in the internal pager.
The following bindings are available in the index for sending messages.
m compose compose a new message r reply reply to sender g group-reply reply to all recipients L list-reply reply to mailing list address f forward forward message b bounce bounce (remail) message ESC k mail-key mail a PGP public key to someone
Bouncing a message sends the message as is to the recipient you specify. Forwarding a message allows you to add comments or modify the message you are forwarding. These items are discussed in greater detail in the next chapter ``Forwarding and Bouncing Mail''.
Mutt will then enter the compose menu and prompt you for the recipients to place on the ``To:'' header field. Next, it will ask you for the ``Subject:'' field for the message, providing a default if you are replying to or forwarding a message. See also $askcc, $askbcc, $autoedit, and $fast_reply for changing how Mutt asks these questions.
Mutt will then automatically start your $editor on the message body. If the $edit_headers variable is set, the headers will be at the top of the message in your editor. Any messages you are replying to will be added in sort order to the message, with appropriate $attribution, $indent_string and $post_indent_string. When forwarding a message, if the $mime_forward variable is unset, a copy of the forwarded message will be included. If you have specified a $signature, it will be appended to the message.
Once you have finished editing the body of your mail message, you are returned to the compose menu. The following options are available:
a attach-file attach a file A attach-message attach message(s) to the message ESC k attach-key attach a PGP public key d edit-description edit description on attachment D detach-file detach a file T edit-to edit the To field c edit-cc edit the Cc field b edit-bcc edit the Bcc field y send-message send the message s edit-subject edit the Subject f edit-fcc specify an ``Fcc'' mailbox p pgp-menu select PGP options (``i'' version only) P postpone-message postpone this message until later q quit quit (abort) sending the message w write-fcc write the message to a folder i ispell check spelling (if available on your system) ^F forget-passphrase whipe PGP passphrase from memory
Note: The attach-message function will prompt you for a folder to attach messages from. You can now tag messages in that folder and they will be attached to the message you are sending. Note that certain operations like composing a new mail, replying, forwarding, etc. are not permitted when you are in that folder. The %r in $status_format will change to a 'A' to indicate that you are in attach-message mode.
When editing the header of your outgoing message, there are a couple of special features available.
If you specify
Mutt will pick up filename just as if you had used the edit-fcc function in the compose menu.
You can also attach files to your message by specifying
Attach: filename [ description ]
where filename is the file to attach and description is an optional string to use as the description of the attached file.
When replying to messages, if you remove the In-Reply-To: field from the header field, Mutt will not generate a References: field, which allows you to create a new message thread.
Also see edit_headers.
If you want to use PGP, you can specify
``E'' encrypts, ``S'' signs and ``S<id>'' signs with the given key, setting $pgp_sign_as permanently.
If you have told mutt to PGP encrypt a message, it will guide you through a key selection process when you try to send the message. Mutt will not ask you any questions about keys which have a certified user ID matching one of the message recipients' mail addresses. However, there may be situations in which there are several keys, weakly certified user ID fields, or where no matching keys can be found.
In these cases, you are dropped into a menu with a list of keys from
which you can select one. When you quit this menu, or mutt can't
find any matching keys, you are prompted for a user ID. You can, as
usually, abort this prompt using
^G. When you do so, mutt will
return to the compose screen.
Once you have successfully finished the key selection, the message will be encrypted using the selected public keys, and sent out.
Most fields of the entries in the key selection menu (see also $pgp_entry_format) have obvious meanings. But some explanations on the capabilities, flags, and validity fields are in order.
The flags sequence (%f) will expand to one of the following flags:
R The key has been revoked and can't be used. X The key is expired and can't be used. d You have marked the key as disabled. c There are unknown critical self-signature packets.
The capabilities field (%c) expands to a two-character sequence representing a key's capabilities. The first character gives the key's encryption capabilities: A minus sign (-) means that the key cannot be used for encryption. A dot (.) means that it's marked as a signature key in one of the user IDs, but may also be used for encryption. The letter e indicates that this key can be used for encryption.
The second character indicates the key's signing capabilities. Once again, a ``-'' implies ``not for signing'', ``.'' implies that the key is marked as an encryption key in one of the user-ids, and ``s'' denotes a key which can be used for signing.
Finally, the validity field (%t) indicates how well-certified a user-id is. A question mark (?) indicates undefined validity, a minus character (-) marks an untrusted association, a space character means a partially trusted association, and a plus character (+) indicates complete validity.
You may also have configured mutt to co-operate with Mixmaster, an anonymous remailer. Mixmaster permits you to send your messages anonymously using a chain of remailers.
To use it, you'll have to obey certain restrictions. Most
important, you cannot ues the
Bcc headers. To tell
Mutt to use mixmaster, you have to select a remailer chain, using
the mix function on the compose menu.
The chain selection screen is divided into two parts. In the (larger) upper part, you get a list of remailers you may use. In the lower part, you see the currently selected chain of remailers.
You can navigate in the chain using the
chain-next functions, which are by default bound to the left
and right arrows and to the
l keys (think vi
keyboard bindings). To insert a remailer at the current chain
position, use the
insert function. To append a remailer behind
the current chain position, use
You can also delete entries from the chain, using the corresponding
function. Finally, to abandon your changes, leave the menu, or
accept them pressing (by default) the
Note that different remailers do have different capabilities, indicated in the %c entry of the remailer menu lines (see $mix_entry_format). Most important is the ``middleman'' capability, indicated by a capital ``M'': This means that the remailer in question cannot be used as the final element of a chain, but will only forward messages to other mixmaster remailers. For details on the other capabilities, please have a look at the mixmaster documentation.
Bouncing and forwarding let you send an existing message to recipients that you specify. Bouncing a message uses the sendmail command to send a copy to alternative addresses as if they were the message's original recipients. Forwarding a message, on the other hand, allows you to modify the message before it is resent (for example, by adding your own comments).
The following keys are bound by default:
f forward forward message b bounce bounce (remail) message
Forwarding can be done by including the original message in the new message's body (surrounded by indicating lines) or including it as a MIME attachment, depending on the value of the $mime_forward variable. Decoding of attachments, like in the pager, can be controlled by the $forward_decode and $mime_forward_decode variables, respectively. The desired forwarding format may depend on the content, therefore $mime_forward is a quadoption which, for example, can be set to ``ask-no''.
The inclusion of headers is controlled by the current setting of the $weed variable, unless mime_forward is set.
Editing the message to forward follows the same procedure as sending or replying to a message does.
At times it is desirable to delay sending a message that you have already begun to compose. When the postpone-message function is used in the compose menu, the body of your message and attachments are stored in the mailbox specified by the $postponed variable. This means that you can recall the message even if you exit Mutt and then restart it at a later time.
Once a message is postponed, there are several ways to resume it. From the command line you can use the ``-p'' option, or if you compose a new message from the index or pager you will be prompted if postponed messages exist. If multiple messages are currently postponed, the postponed menu will pop up and you can select which message you would like to resume.
Note: If you postpone a reply to a message, the reply setting of the message is only updated when you actually finish the message and send it. Also, you must be in the same folder with the message you replied to for the status of the message to be updated.
See also the $postpone quad-option.