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15 Searching Through Messages

Earlier, the command F s (mh-search) was introduced which helps you find messages that lie buried in your folders (see Folders). This chapter covers this command in more detail. Several commands are used to compose the search criteria and to start searching. A couple of them can be found in the ‘Search’ menu.

C-c ?
Display cheat sheet for the MH-E commands (mh-help).
C-c C-c
Find messages using mh-search-program (mh-index-do-search).
C-c C-p
Find messages using pick (mh-pick-do-search).
C-c ?
Display cheat sheet for the MH-E commands (mh-help).
C-c C-f a
C-c C-f C-a
Move to ‘Mail-Reply-To:’ header field (mh-to-field).
C-c C-f b
C-c C-f C-b
Move to ‘Bcc:’ header field (mh-to-field).
C-c C-f c
C-c C-f C-c
Move to ‘Cc:’ header field (mh-to-field).
C-c C-f d
C-c C-f C-d
Move to ‘Dcc:’ header field (mh-to-field).
C-c C-f f
C-c C-f C-f
Move to ‘Fcc:’ header field (mh-to-field).
C-c C-f l
C-c C-f C-l
Move to ‘Mail-Followup-To:’ header field (mh-to-field).
C-c C-f m
C-c C-f C-m
Move to ‘From:’ header field (mh-to-field).
C-c C-f r
C-c C-f C-r
Move to ‘Reply-To:’ header field (mh-to-field).
C-c C-f s
C-c C-f C-s
Move to ‘Subject:’ header field (mh-to-field).
C-c C-f t
C-c C-f C-t
Move to ‘To:’ header field (mh-to-field).

Another few commands are available in the MH-Folder buffer resulting from a search.

<TAB>
Jump to the next folder marker (mh-index-next-folder).
S-<TAB>
Jump to the previous folder marker (mh-index-previous-folder).
v
Visit original folder from where the message at point was found (mh-index-visit-folder).

There is one option from the ‘mh-search’ customization group used in searching.

mh-search-program
Search program that MH-E shall use (default: ‘Auto-detect’).

The following hook is available.

mh-search-mode-hook
Hook run upon entry to mh-search-mode (default: nil).

The following face is available.

mh-search-folder
Folder heading face in MH-Folder buffers created by searches.

The command F s (mh-search-folder) helps you find messages in your entire corpus of mail. You can search for messages to or from a particular person or about a particular subject. In fact, you can also search for messages containing selected strings in any arbitrary header field or any string found within the messages.

Out of the box, MH-E uses pick to find messages. With a little extra effort, you can set an indexing program which rewards you with extremely quick results. The drawback is that sometimes the index does not contain the words you're looking for. You can still use pick in these situations.

You are prompted for the folder to search. This can be ‘all’ to search all folders. Note that the search works recursively on the listed folder.

Next, an MH-Search buffer appears where you can enter search criteria.

     From:
     To:
     Cc:
     Date:
     Subject:
     --------
     #
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     --:**  search-pattern   All L7     (MH-Search)---------------------------
     Type C-c C-c to search messages, C-c C-p to use pick, C-c ? for help
Search window

Edit this template by entering your search criteria in an appropriate header field that is already there, or create a new field yourself. If the string you're looking for could be anywhere in a message, then place the string underneath the row of dashes.

As an example, let's say that we want to find messages from Ginnean about horseback riding in the Kosciusko National Park (Australia) during January, 1994. Normally we would start with a broad search and narrow it down if necessary to produce a manageable amount of data, but we'll cut to the chase and create a fairly restrictive set of criteria as follows:

     From: ginnean
     To:
     Cc:
     Date: Jan 1994
     Subject:
     --------
     horse
     kosciusko

As with MH-Letter mode, MH-Search provides commands like C-c C-f C-t (mh-to-field) to help you fill in the blanks. See Editing Message.

If you find that you do the same thing over and over when editing the search template, you may wish to bind some shortcuts to keys. This can be done with the variable mh-search-mode-hook, which is called when F s is run on a new pattern.

To perform the search, type C-c C-c (mh-index-do-search). Sometimes you're searching for text that is either not indexed, or hasn't been indexed yet. In this case you can override the default method with the pick method by running the command C-c C-p (mh-pick-do-search).

The messages that are found are put in a temporary sub-folder of ‘+mhe-index’ and are displayed in an MH-Folder buffer. This buffer is special because it displays messages from multiple folders; each set of messages from a given folder has a heading with the folder name. The appearance of the heading can be modified by customizing the face mh-search-folder. You can jump back and forth between the headings using the commands <TAB> (mh-index-next-folder) and S-<TAB> (mh-index-previous-folder).

In addition, the command v (mh-index-visit-folder) can be used to visit the folder of the message at point. Initially, only the messages that matched the search criteria are displayed in the folder. While the temporary buffer has its own set of message numbers, the actual messages numbers are shown in the visited folder. Thus, the command v is useful to find the actual message number of an interesting message, or to view surrounding messages with the command F r mh-rescan-folder. See Folders.

Because this folder is temporary, you'll probably get in the habit of killing it when you're done with F k (mh-kill-folder). See Folders.

You can regenerate the results by running F s with a prefix argument.

Note: This command uses an ‘X-MHE-Checksum:’ header field to cache the MD5 checksum of a message. This means that if an incoming message already contains an ‘X-MHE-Checksum:’ field, that message might not be found by this command. The following procmail recipe avoids this problem by renaming the existing header field:

     :0 wf
     | formail -R "X-MHE-Checksum" "X-Old-MHE-Checksum"

See Limits, for an alternative interface to searching.

15.1 Configuring Indexed Searches

The command F s (mh-search) runs the command defined by the option mh-search-program. The default value is ‘Auto-detect’ which means that MH-E will automatically choose one of swish++, swish-e, mairix, namazu, pick and grep in that order. If, for example, you have both swish++ and mairix installed and you want to use mairix, then you can set this option to ‘mairix’.

The following sub-sections describe how to set up the various indexing programs to use with MH-E.

15.1.1 swish++

In the examples below, replace /home/user/Mail with the path to your MH directory.

First create the directory /home/user/Mail/.swish++. Then create the file /home/user/Mail/.swish++/swish++.conf with the following contents:

     IncludeMeta         Bcc Cc Comments Content-Description From Keywords
     IncludeMeta         Newsgroups Resent-To Subject To
     IncludeMeta         Message-Id References In-Reply-To
     IncludeFile         Mail    *
     IndexFile           /home/user/Mail/.swish++/swish++.index

Use the following command line to generate the swish index. Run this daily from cron:

     find /home/user/Mail -path /home/user/Mail/mhe-index -prune \
                          -o -path /home/user/Mail/.swish++ -prune \
                          -o -name "[0-9]*" -print \
         | index -c /home/user/Mail/.swish++/swish++.conf -

This command does not index the folders that hold the results of your searches in ‘+mhe-index’ since they tend to be ephemeral and the original messages are indexed anyway.

On some systems (Debian GNU/Linux, for example), use index++ instead of index.

15.1.2 swish

In the examples below, replace /home/user/Mail with the path to your MH directory.

First create the directory /home/user/Mail/.swish. Then create the file /home/user/Mail/.swish/config with the following contents:

     DefaultContents TXT*
     IndexDir /home/user/Mail
     IndexFile /home/user/Mail/.swish/index
     IndexName "Mail Index"
     IndexDescription "Mail Index"
     IndexPointer "http://nowhere"
     IndexAdmin "nobody"
     #MetaNames automatic
     IndexReport 3
     FollowSymLinks no
     UseStemming no
     IgnoreTotalWordCountWhenRanking yes
     WordCharacters abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789-
     BeginCharacters abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
     EndCharacters abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789
     IgnoreLimit 50 1000
     IndexComments 0
     FileRules filename contains \D
     FileRules pathname contains /home/user/Mail/.swish
     FileRules pathname contains /home/user/Mail/mhe-index
     FileRules filename is index

This configuration does not index the folders that hold the results of your searches in ‘+mhe-index’ since they tend to be ephemeral and the original messages are indexed anyway.

If there are any directories you would like to ignore, append lines like the following to config:

     FileRules pathname contains /home/user/Mail/scripts

Use the following command line to generate the swish index. Run this daily from cron:

     swish-e -c /home/user/Mail/.swish/config

15.1.3 mairix

In the examples below, replace /home/user/Mail with the path to your MH directory.

First create the directory /home/user/Mail/.mairix. Then create the file /home/user/Mail/.mairix/config with the following contents:

     base=/home/user/Mail
     
     # List of folders that should be indexed. 3 dots at the end means there
     # are subfolders within the folder
     mh=archive...:inbox:drafts:news:sent:trash
     
     vfolder_format=mh
     database=/home/user/Mail/.mairix/database

Use the following command line to generate the mairix index. Run this daily from cron:

     mairix -f /home/user/Mail/.mairix/config

15.1.4 namazu

In the examples below, replace /home/user/Mail with the path to your MH directory.

First create the directory /home/user/Mail/.namazu. Then create the file /home/user/Mail/.namazu/mknmzrc with the following contents:

     package conf;  # Don't remove this line!
     $ADDRESS = 'user@localhost';
     $ALLOW_FILE = "[0-9]*";
     $EXCLUDE_PATH = "^/home/user/Mail/(mhe-index|spam)";

This configuration does not index the folders that hold the results of your searches in ‘+mhe-index’ since they tend to be ephemeral and the original messages are indexed anyway.

Use the following command line to generate the namazu index. Run this daily from cron:

     mknmz -f /home/user/Mail/.namazu/mknmzrc -O /home/user/Mail/.namazu \
           -q /home/user/Mail

15.1.5 pick

This search method does not require any setup.

Read pick(1) or the section Finding Messages with pick in the MH book to find out more about how to enter the criteria.

15.1.6 grep

This search method does not require any setup.

Unlike the other search methods, this method does not use the MH-Search buffer. Instead, you simply enter a regular expression in the minibuffer. For help in constructing regular expressions, see your man page for grep.