mairix.el—Mairix interface for Emacs
Mairix is a tool for indexing and searching words in locally stored mail. It was written by Richard Curnow and is licensed under the GPL.
mairix.el is an interface to the mairix search engine. It allows you to
call mairix with a search term, easily create searches based on the
currently displayed mail, save regularly used searches in your
.emacs for future use and lets you call mairix for updating the
Copyright © 2008–2023 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with the Front-Cover Texts being “A GNU Manual”, and with the Back-Cover Texts as in (a) below. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled “GNU Free Documentation License”.
(a) The FSF’s Back-Cover Text is: “You have the freedom to copy and modify this GNU manual.”
Table of Contents
1 About mairix and mairix.el
Mairix is a tool for indexing and searching words in locally stored mail. It was written by Richard Curnow and is licensed under the GPL. Mairix comes with most popular GNU/Linux distributions, but it also runs under Windows (with Cygwin), macOS and Solaris. The website can be found at http://www.rpcurnow.force9.co.uk/mairix/index.html
Though mairix might not be as flexible as other search tools like swish++ or namazu, it has the prime advantage of being incredibly fast. On current systems, it can easily search through headers and message bodies of thousands and thousands of mails in well under a second. Building the database necessary for searching might take a minute or two, but only has to be done once fully. Afterwards, the updates are done incrementally and therefore are really fast, too. Additionally, mairix is very easy to set up.
Mairix presents the search results by either populating a virtual maildir/MH folder with symlinks which point to the “real” message files, or if mbox is used, it creates a new mbox file which contains copies of the found messages.
mairix.el is an interface to the mairix search engine. It allows
you to call mairix with a search term, easily create searches based on
the currently displayed mail, save regularly used searches in your
.emacs for future use and lets you call mairix for updating the
database. It also lets you easily create search queries using graphical
widgets, similar to a customization buffer.
mairix.el is only tested with mbox output together
with RMail, Gnus, or VM as the Emacs mail program. However, it should
also work with Maildir or MH, and it should be very easy to integrate
other Emacs mail programs into
(see Extending mairix.el).
If you use Gnus with maildir or MH, you should really use the native
Gnus back end
nnmairix instead, since it is more tightly
integrated into Gnus and has more features.
2 Configuring mairix
Setting up mairix is easy: simply create a .mairixrc file with (at least) the following entries:
# Your mail base folder base=~/Mail
This is the base folder for your mails. All the following directories, except the one for the database, are relative to this base folder.
mbox = ... your mbox files which should be indexed ... maildir= ... your maildir folders which should be indexed ... mh= ... your nnml/mh folders which should be indexed ...
Specify all your maildir/nnml folders and mbox files (relative to the
base directory!) you want to index with mairix. Use colons to separate
different files. See the man-page for
mairixrc for details.
mformat = mbox database = ... location of database file ...
mbox as the output format for the mairix search
results. Currently, this is the supported format by mairix.el, but
technically it should be possible to also use maildir or mh; it’s just
not tested (yet).
You should make sure that you don’t accidentally index the search
results produced by mairix. This can be done by pointing
mairix-file-path to a directory which is surely not indexed by mairix.
Another possibility is to use something like
omit = mairix*
in the .mairixrc file, and prefix every search file you use with “mairix”.
database = /home/user/.mairixdatabase
This specifies the name of the database file. Note that this is not
relative to the
See the man page for
mairixrc for details and further options,
especially regarding wildcard usage, which may be a little different
than you are used to.
Now simply call
mairix to create the index for the first time.
Note that this may take a few minutes, but every following index will do
the updates incrementally and hence is very fast.
3 Setting up the mairix interface
mairix.el in your Emacs search path and put
(require 'mairix) into your .emacs file. Then, use
M-x customize-group RET mairix RET to set your
preferences for mairix.el. The most important items are Mairix
File Path, Mairix Search File and Mairix Mail Program.
The latter specifies which mail program should be used to display the
mairix search results. Currently, RMail, Gnus with mbox files, and VM
are supported. If you use Gnus with maildir or mh, use the native
Gnus back end nnmairix instead.
If you use another Emacs mail program which is not yet supported by mairix.el, it is pretty easy to integrate it. See Extending mairix.el, on how to integrate it into mairix.el.
Now you should be ready to go. See Using mairix.el, for the available commands.
4 Using mairix.el
There are currently no default key bindings for mairix.el, since those
should depend on the used mail program and I personally do not use
RMail, so I wouldn’t know which key bindings are reasonable. I hope some
day this will change and
mairix.el will come with some good
key bindings for the different mail programs. Feel free to send me your
suggestions. Until then, define some bindings yourself. Here’s a quick
and dirty solution with global key definitions I currently use, which
might or might not collide with some other modes. Simply include them
in your .emacs and adapt to your needs:
(global-set-key (kbd "C-c C-o m") 'mairix-search) (global-set-key (kbd "C-c C-o w") 'mairix-widget-search) (global-set-key (kbd "C-c C-o u") 'mairix-update-database) (global-set-key (kbd "C-c C-o f") 'mairix-search-from-this-article) (global-set-key (kbd "C-c C-o t") 'mairix-search-thread-this-article) (global-set-key (kbd "C-c C-o b") 'mairix-widget-search-based-on-article) (global-set-key (kbd "C-c C-o s") 'mairix-save-search) (global-set-key (kbd "C-c C-o i") 'mairix-use-saved-search) (global-set-key (kbd "C-c C-o e") 'mairix-edit-saved-searches)
Here’s a description of the available interactive functions:
Call mairix with a search query. You will also be asked if you want to include whole threads. The results are saved by mairix in the default mail file, which is set through the variable
mairix-search-file, which again is prefixed by
mairix-file-path. The results will then be displayed with the chosen mail program. The command used to call mairix is specified by the variable
mairix-command, together with the options
mairix-search-options. The latter has the default -F for making searching faster.
Creates a mairix query using graphical widgets. Very handy if you’re not (yet) familiar with the mairix search syntax. Just call it to see how it works. You can then directly call mairix with the search term or save it for future use. Since mairix allows almost arbitrary combinations of search commands (like “tc” for “to or cc”), you might want to include some other fields. This can be easily done by modifying
Create a mairix query using graphical widgets, but based on the currently displayed article, i.e., the available fields will be filled with the current header values.
Search messages from sender of the current article. This is effectively a shortcut for calling
f:current_from. If used with a prefix, include whole threads of the found messages.
Search thread for the current article. This is effectively a shortcut for calling
m:msgidof the current article and enabled threads.
Save the last search for future use. You will have to specify a name for the search and will then be asked if you want to save your saved searches in your .emacs. If you answer with yes, the variable
mairix-saved-searcheswill be saved in the customize section of your .emacs. You can also do this later by using
Call mairix with a previously saved search. You will be asked for the name of the saved search (use TAB for completion).
Edit your current mairix searches. This is a simple major mode for editing the contents of the variable
mairix-saved-searches. You can edit and delete searches and save them in your .emacs. You can also use this mode to call mairix with one of the saved searches. Additionally, you can specify a file name for mairix to use for a certain search instead of the default one. This is useful if you want to open different searches at the same time, or if you want to regularly access certain searches without the need to call mairix.
Edit the variable
mairix-saved-searchesin a normal customization buffer. This function exists more or less for historic reasons, but maybe you like it.
Call mairix to update the database. Mairix will be called with the options
mairix-update-options; the default is -F and -Q to make updates as fast as possible. Note that by using these options, absolutely no integrity checking is done. If your database somehow gets corrupted, simply delete it and update. If
nil(the default), mairix will be called in a subprocess so Emacs will still be usable while the update is done.
5 Extending mairix.el
Your favorite Emacs mail program is not supported? Shame on me. But it is really easy to integrate other mail programs into mairix.el. Just do the following:
- Write a display function
Write a function that displays the mairix search results. This function will be called from
mairix.elwith the mail file/folder as the single argument. For example, the function
mairix-rmail-displayis currently used for RMail and
mairix-gnus-ephemeral-nndocis used for Gnus.
- Write a get-header function
Write a function that retrieves a header from the currently active mail. The single argument for this function is a string with the header name. For examples, see
mairix-gnus-fetch-fieldfor RMail and Gnus, respectively.
- Integrate the functions into mairix.el
Add your mail program to the defcustom of
mairix-mail-program. Then add the functions to
- Let me know...
...so that I can eventually integrate it into future versions of mairix.el.
And that’s it!
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