MU-FIND(1) General Commands Manual MU-FIND(1)
mu_find - find e-mail messages in the mu database.
mu find [options] <search expression>
mu find is the mu command for searching e-mail message that were stored earlier using mu index(1).
mu find starts a search for messages in the database that match some search pattern. For example:
$ mu find subject:snow from:john
would find all messages from John with 'snow' in the subject field, something like:
2009-03-05 17:57:33 EET Lucia <firstname.lastname@example.org> running in the snow
2009-03-05 18:38:24 EET Marius <email@example.com> Re: running in the snow
Note, this the default, plain-text output, which is the default, so you don't have to use --format=plain. For other types of output (such
as symlinks, XML or s-expressions), see the discussion in the OPTIONS-section below about --format.
The search pattern is taken as a command-line parameter. If the search parameter consists of multiple parts (as in the example) they are
treated as if there were a logical AND between them.
If you want to make your own constructions (using AND, OR, NOT etc., you have to put quotes around them so mu can consider them as a unit;
for example to find mails with oranges OR mandarins in the subject-field, you can use:
$ mu find 'subject:orange OR subject:mandarin'
mu relies on the Xapian database for its searching capabilities, so it offers all the search functionality that Xapian offers; for all the
One special feature of mu is that is does not distinguish between uppercase and lowercase, nor the accented or unaccented versions of char-
acters. All match. In general, mu tries to be 'eager' in matching, as filtering out unwanted results is usually preferrable over non match-
A wildcard search is a search where a * matches the last n character(s) in some string. The string must always start with one or more char-
acters before the wildcards. Since version 0.9.6, mu also supports wildcard searches for all fields except maildirs and paths. So, to get
all mails with a subject containing a word starting with com, you can use:
$ mu find 'subject:com*'
and get mails about computers, comments, compilation and so on. Note, when running from the command-line it's import to put the query in
quotes, otherwise the shell would interpret the '*'. It is important to remember that the '*' invokes the wildcard search only when used as
the rightmost character of a search term. Furthermore, it is not a regular expression.
In older versions of mu, queries were logged in <mu-home>/mu.log; however, since version 0.9, mu no longer does this.
The basic way to search a message is to type some words matching it, as you would do in an internet search engine. For example,
$ mu find monkey banana
will find all messages that contain both 'monkey' and 'banana' in either body or subject or one of the address-fields (to/from/cc).
As mentioned, matching is case-insensitive and accent-insensitive; thus
$ mu find Monkey BANANa
yields the same results as the example above.
mu also recognizes prefixes for specific fields in a messages; for example:
$ mu find subject:penguin
to find messages with have the word penguin in the subject field. You can abbreviate subject: to just s:. Here is the full table of the
search fields and their abbreviations:
cc,c Cc (carbon-copy) recipient(s)
bcc,h Bcc (blind-carbon-copy) recipient(s)
from,f Message sender
subject,s Message subject
to,t To: recipient(s)
prio,p Message priority ('low', 'normal' or 'high')
flag,g Message Flags
size,z Message size
embed,e Search inside embedded text parts (messages, attachments)
file,j Attachment filename
mime,y MIME-type of one or more message parts
tag,x Tag for the message (contents of the X-Label field)
For clarity, this man-page uses the longer versions.
The meaning of most of these fields should be clear, but some require some extra discusion.
First, the message flags field describes certain properties of the message, as listed in the following table:
d,draft Draft Message
n,new New message (in new/ Maildir)
p,passed Passed ('Handled')
t,thrashed Marked for deletion
a,attach Has attachment
z,signed Signed message
x,encrypted Encrypted message
Using this, we can search e.g. for all signed messages that have an attachment:
$ mu find flag:signed flag:attach
The message-priority has three possible values: low, normal or high. We can match them using prio: - for example, to get all high-priority
messages with a subject containing some bird:
$ mu find prio:high subject:nightingale
The Maildir field describes the directory path starting after the Maildir-base path, and before the /cur/ or /new/ part. So for example, if
there's a message with the file name ~/Maildir/lists/running/cur/1234.213:2,, you could find it (and all the other messages in the same
$ mu find maildir:/lists/running
Note the starting '/'. If you want to match mails in the 'root' maildir, you can do with a single '/':
$ mu find maildir:/
(and of course you can use the m: shortcut instead of maildir:)
The date: (or d:) search parameter is 'special' in the fact that it takes a range of dates. For now, these dates are in ISO 8601 format
(YYYYMMDDHHMM); you can leave out the right part, and mu will add the rest, depending on whether this is the beginning or end of the date
interval. For example, for the beginning of the interval "201012" would be interpreted as "20101201010000", or December 1, 2010 at 00:00,
while for the end of the interval, this would be interpreted as "20101231122359", or December 31, 2010 at 23:59.
To get all messages between (inclusive) the 5th of May 2009 and the 2nd of June 2010, you could use:
$ mu find date:20090505..20100602
Non-numeric characters are ignored, so the following is equivalent but more readable:
$ mu find date:2009-05-05..2010-06-02
Precision is up to the minute and 24-hour notation for times is used, so another example would be:
$ mu find date:2009-05-05/12:23..2010-06-02/17:18
mu also understand relative dates, in the form of a posiive number followed by h (hour), d (day), w (week), m (30 days) or y (365 days).
Some examples to explain this:
5h five hours in the past
2w two weeks in the past
3m three times 30 days in the past
1y 365 days in the past
Using this notation, you can for example match messages between two and three weeks old:
$ mu find date:3w..2w
There are some special keywords for dates, namely 'now', meaning the prsent moment and 'today' for the beginning of today. So to get all
messages sent or received today, you could use:
$ mu find date:today..now
The size or z allows you to match size ranges -- that is, match messages that have a byte-size within a certain range. Units (B (for
bytes), K (for 1000 bytes) and M (for 1000 * 1000 bytes) are supported). For example, to get all messages between 10Kb and 2Mb (assuming SI
units), you could use:
$ mu find size:10K..2M
Finally, you can match all messages using "":
$ mu find ""
Note, some of the important options are described in the mu(1) man-page and not here, as they apply to multiple mu-commands.
The find-command has various options that influence the way mu displays the results. If you don't specify anything, the defaults are
--fields="d f s", --sortfield=date and --reverse.
specifies a string that determines which fields are shown in the output. This string consists of a number of characters (such as 's'
for subject or 'f' for from), which will replace with the actual field in the output. Fields that are not known will be output as-
is, allowing for some simple formatting.
$ mu find subject:snow --fields "d f s"
would list the date, subject and sender of all messages with 'snow' in the their subject.
The table of replacement characters is superset of the list mentions for search parameters; the complete list:
t to: recipient
c cc: (carbon-copy) recipient
h Bcc: (blind carbon-copy, hidden) recipient
d Sent date of the message
f Message sender (from:)
g Message flags (flags)
l Full path to the message (location)
p Message priority (high, normal, low)
s Message subject
The message flags are the same ones we already saw in the message flags above. Thus, a message which is 'seen', has an attachment
and is signed would have 'asz' as its corresponding output string, while an encrypted new message would have 'nx'.
-s, --sortfield =<field> and -z,
--reverse specifies the field to sort the search results by, and the direction (i.e., 'reverse' means that the sort should be
reverted - Z-A). The following fields are supported:
cc,c Cc (carbon-copy) recipient(s)
bcc,h Bcc (blind-carbon-copy) recipient(s)
date,d message sent date
from,f message sender
msgid,i message id
prio,p message priority
subject,s message subject
Thus, for example, to sort messages by date, you could specify:
$ mu find fahrrad --fields "d f s" --sortfield=date --reverse
Note, if you specify a sortfield, by default, messages are sorted in reverse (descending) order (e.g., from lowest to highest). This
is usually a good choice, but for dates it may be more useful to sort in the opposite direction.
output a summary based upon the first lines of the message.
Number of lines to use for the summary. Default: 5.
normally, mu find does not include messages that are unreadable, typically do not have corresponding disk file, i.e., messages that
live only in the databases. With this option even such messages are included. Note, for --format=links, unreadable message are
ignore even when this option is set.
output results in the specified format.
The default is plain, i.e normal output with one line per message.
links outputs the results as a maildir with symbolic links to the found messages. This enables easy integration with mail-clients
(see below for more information). See --linksdir and --clearlinks below.
xml formats the search results as XML.
sexp formats the search results as an s-expression as used in Lisp programming environments.
xquery shows the Xapian query corresponding to your search terms. This is meant for for debugging purposes.
--linksdir =<dir> and -c, --clearlinks
output the results as a maildir with symbolic links to the found messages. This enables easy integration with mail-clients (see
below for more information). mu will create the maildir if it does not exist yet.
If you specify --clearlinks, all existing symlinks will be cleared from the target maildir; this allows for re-use of the same
directory. An alternative would be to delete the target directory before, but this has a big chance of accidentaly removing some-
thing that should not be removed.
$ mu find grolsch --linksdir=~/Maildir/search --clearlinks
will store links to found messages in ~/Maildir/search. If the directory does not exist yet, it will be created.
Note: when mu creates a Maildir for these links, it automatically inserts a .noindex file, to exclude the directory from mu index.
the --exec command causes the command to be executed on each matched message; for example, to see the raw text of all messages
matching 'milkshake', you could use:
$ mu find milkshake --exec='less'
which is roughly equivalent to:
$ mu find milkshake --fields="l" | xargs less
use a bookmarked search query. Using this option, a query from your bookmark file will be prepended to other search queries. See mu-
bookmarks(1) for the details of the bookmarks file.
show messages in 'threaded' format -- that is, with indentation and arrows showing the conversation threads in the list of matching
Messages in the threaded list are indented based on the depth in the discussion, and are prefix with a kind of arrow with thread-
related information about the message, as in the following table:
| | normal | orphan | duplicate |
| first child | `-> | `*> | `=> |
| other | |-> | |*> | |=> |
Here, the an 'orphan' is a message without a parent message (in the list of matches), and a duplicate is a message whose message-id
was already seen before.
The algorithm used for determining the threads is based on Jamie Zawinksy's description: http://www.jwz.org/doc/threading.html
Here are some simple examples of mu search queries; you can make many more complicated queries using various logical operators, parentheses
and so on, but in the author's experience, it's usually faster to find a message with a simple query just searching for some words.
Find all messages with both 'bee' and 'bird' (in any field)
$ mu find 'bee AND bird'
or shorter, because AND is implied:
$ mu find bee bird
Find all messages with either Frodo or Sam:
$ mu find 'Frodo OR Sam'
Find all messages with the 'wombat' as subject, and 'capibara' anywhere:
$ mu find subject:wombat capibara
Find all messages in the 'Archive' folder from Fred:
$ mu find from:fred maildir:/Archive
Find all unread messages with attachments:
$ mu find flag:attach flag:unread
Find all messages with PDF-attachments:
$ mu find mime:application/pdf
Find all messages with attached images:
$ mu find 'mime:image/*'
Note: the argument needs to be quoted, or the shell will interpret the '*' Note: the '*' wild card can only be used as the last
(rightmost) part of a search term.
Integrating mu find with mail clients
For mutt you can use the following in your muttrc; pressing the F8 key will start a search, and F9 will take you to the results.
# mutt macros for mu
macro index <F8> "<shell-escape>mu find --clearlinks --format=links --linksdir=~/Maildir/search "
macro index <F9> "<change-folder-readonly>~/Maildir/search"
"mu find results"
Sam B suggested the following on the mu-mailing list. First add the following to your Wanderlust configuraiton file:
:prog "/usr/local/bin/mu" ;; or wherever you've installed it
:args '("find" pattern "--fields" "l") :charset 'utf-8)
(setq elmo-search-default-engine 'mu)
;; for when you type "g" in folder or summary.
(setq wl-default-spec "[")
Now, you can search using the g key binding; you can also create permanent virtual folders when the messages matching some expres-
sion by adding something like the following to your folders file.
After restarting Wanderlust, the virtual folders should appear.
Another way to intergrate mu and wanderlust is shown below; the aforementioned method is recommended, but if that does not work for
some reason, the below can be an alternative.
(defvar mu-wl-mu-program "/usr/local/bin/mu")
(defvar mu-wl-search-folder "search")
(defun mu-wl-search ()
"search for messages with `mu', and jump to the results"
(let* ((muexpr (read-string "Find messages matching: "))
(sfldr (concat elmo-maildir-folder-path "/"
(cmdline (concat mu-wl-mu-program " find "
"--clearlinks --format=links --linksdir='" sfldr "' "
(rv (shell-command cmdline)))
((= rv 0) (message "Query succeeded"))
((= rv 2) (message "No matches found"))
(t (message "Error running query")))
(= rv 0)))
(defun mu-wl-search-and-goto ()
"search and jump to the folder with the results"
(concat "." mu-wl-search-folder)
'force-update nil nil t)
;; querying both in summary and folder
(define-key wl-summary-mode-map (kbd "Q") ;; => query
(define-key wl-folder-mode-map (kbd "Q") ;; => query
mu find returns 0 upon successful completion; if the search was performed, there needs to be a least one match. Anything else leads to a
non-zero return value, for example:
| code | meaning |
| 0 | ok |
| 1 | general error |
| 2 | no matches (for 'mu find') |
| 4 | database is corrupted |
mu find output is encoded according the locale for --format=plain (the default), and UTF-8 for all other formats (sexp, xml).
Please report bugs if you find them: http://code.google.com/p/mu0/issues/list If you have specific messages which are not matched cor-
rectly, please attach them (appropriately censored of course).
Dirk-Jan C. Binnema <firstname.lastname@example.org>
User Manuals May 2012 MU-FIND(1)