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Get started with Mutt

by Sukrit Dhandhania

Mutt is a text-based mail client along the lines of Pine or Elm. It’s known for being a fast and highly configurable mail client, and since it is text-based, it’s ideal for checking email quickly over SSH (Secure Shell). Click through to learn exactly how to use it…

Sukrit DhandhaniaLearn how to get to grips with this simple and fast command-line-based mail client…

Sukrit Dhandhania

Sukrit  has spent several years working professionally implementing several open source tools for companies. During this time he has evaluated, set up and maintained various virtualisation projects for these companies

Mutt, your mail server settings, POP/IMAP server address, username, password, etc

Mutt is a text-based mail client along the lines of Pine or Elm. Mutt is known for being a fast and highly configurable mail client, and since it is text-based, it’s ideal for checking email quickly over SSH (Secure Shell). It ships by default with most flavours of Linux and UNIX, and has recently been ported to Microsoft Windows, too. Mutt ships with support for all the popular email protocols, such as POP, IMAP, MIME and PGP/GPG. However, for certain advanced features, you can install modules written by either the Mutt development team or third parties.

As with just about everything natively UNIX or Linux, Mutt is a command-line application and relies heavily on keyboard shortcuts. Getting used to these shortcuts can make using Mutt a lot more productive than several popular graphical mail clients. The simplicity of the interface also makes it easy to port to devices and integrate into other applications and scripts. One of our favourite features of Mutt is that it does not include a text editor for you to compose your mails. It concentrates on what it’s supposed to do, which is handle your email, and lets you use the text editor of your choice to compose your mails. You can use a text editor such as Vim or Emacs to compose your mails. This means you do not need to learn the keyboard shortcuts for yet another application.

1. Install and config
As mentioned earlier, most flavours of Linux and UNIX ship with Mutt in their default installation. If you have somehow landed a Linux machine that does not have Mutt installed, you can install it using your distribution’s package manager. On Red Hat-based computers such a Fedora or Red Hat Enterprise Linux, you can run ‘# yum install mutt’ or ‘# up2date mutt’. If you are on a Debian-based distribution such as Ubuntu, you can use the command ‘# sudo apt-get install mutt’ to get Mutt installed. Alternatively you can compile Mutt from source. You can get the most recent and development builds from the Mutt project website.

2. Configuration
Once you have Mutt installed, you need to configure it to receive and deliver your emails correctly. The great thing about Mutt is that it is highly configurable. This can also be a drawback as you can mess up the settings. So we suggest you proceed with caution. Let’s begin by looking at making some basic configuration changes to the default settings so as to make sending and receiving mails work. We’ll take a look at how to make advanced configuration changes later.

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    • I must say, that this is a good article.

      I’m using Mutt now for longer time, but still think your article is very beginner-friendly.

      Will you think about an article like “Mutt Advanced” or “Mutt Magic”, showing us some more sophisticated stuff?

      Keep up the great work.

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    • navin

      Hi I am new to linux I have configured postfix mail server on rhel6 install mutt as client.

      Problem1 — I have not found .muttrc in any users home directory.

      problem 2– if I configured postfix as home_mailbox = /Maildir than how to configured mutt

      please provide me solution because I have been irreted.

    • Rick

      A useful and on the whole good article. However, in a Linux environment, I think it’s a mistake to say press Y to send until it is necessary to use capital Y. Why not write y or “y” or something like that? You had me confused for the first few examples, plus I thought your capital i was a pipe.

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    • Joshua O’Leary

      It is simply a capital because it is the default option.

    • John k

      How to Setting up Mutt Email Client with IMAP and SMTP for Receive and Send Email through Exchange Web Services EWS using DavMail

    • John Kim

      (1) You will have to create a new .muttrc file by yourself, and THEN write the contents in there.

    • James

      Thanks for the tutorial.
      I have followed your instructions on 2 machines, the Ubuntu machine works fine.
      The Raspbian machine (Raspberry PI) will not send email.
      I tried starting Mutt, then creating a new email message, I have tried creating the entire message from the command line.
      Neither way works.
      The config is identical on both machines.
      The .muttdebug file shows that the email was sent, but it never arrives.
      Both machines are using the same account credentials on the same server.

      help !