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7 Organizing Your Mail with Folders

This chapter discusses the things you can do with folders within MH-E. The commands in this chapter are also found in the ‘Folder’ and ‘Message’ menus.


Display cheat sheet for the MH-E commands (mh-help).


Repeat last output command (mh-refile-or-write-again).


Copy range to folder (mh-copy-msg).

F ?

Display cheat sheet for the commands of the current prefix in minibuffer (mh-prefix-help).

F '

Display ticked messages (mh-index-ticked-messages).

F c

Delete range from the ‘unseen’ sequence (mh-catchup).

F k

Remove folder (mh-kill-folder).

F l

List all folders (mh-list-folders).

F n

Display unseen messages (mh-index-new-messages).

F p

Pack folder (mh-pack-folder).

F q

Display messages in any sequence (mh-index-sequenced-messages).

F r

Rescan folder (mh-rescan-folder).

F s

Search your MH mail (mh-search).


Sort folder (mh-sort-folder).

F u

Undo all refiles and deletes in the current folder (mh-undo-folder).

F v

Visit folder (mh-visit-folder).


Refile (output) range into folder (mh-refile-msg).


Quit the current MH-E folder (mh-quit).


Toggle between MH-Folder and MH-Folder Show modes (mh-toggle-showing).


Undo pending deletes or refiles in range (mh-undo).


Process outstanding delete and refile requests (mh-execute-commands).

The ‘mh-folder’ customization group is used to tune these commands.


Folders searched for the ‘unseen’ sequence (default: Inbox).


Folders searched for mh-tick-seq (default: t).


The number of messages that indicates a large folder (default: 200).


On means to recenter the summary window (default: ‘off’).


On means that commands which operate on folders do so recursively (default: ‘off’).


Additional arguments for sortm (default: nil).

The following hooks are available.


Hook run by x after performing outstanding refile and delete requests (default: nil).


Hook run by x before performing outstanding refile and delete requests (default: nil).


Hook run by q before quitting MH-E (default: nil).


Hook run by mh-folder-mode when visiting a new folder (default: nil).


Abnormal hook run at the beginning of mh-kill-folder (default: 'mh-search-p).


Hook run by mh-pack-folder after renumbering the messages (default: nil).


Hook run by q after quitting MH-E (default: nil).


Hook run by o after marking each message for refiling (default: nil).

The following faces are available for customizing the appearance of the MH-Folder buffer. See Scan Line Formats.


Recipient face.


Body text face.


Current message number face.


Date face.


Deleted message face.


Re:’ face.


Message number face.


Refiled message face.


Fontification hint face in messages sent directly to us. The detection of messages sent to us is governed by the scan format mh-scan-format-nmh and regular expression mh-scan-sent-to-me-sender-regexp.


Sender face in messages sent directly to us. The detection of messages sent to us is governed by the scan format mh-scan-format-nmh and regular expression mh-scan-sent-to-me-sender-regexp.


Subject face.


Ticked message face.


To:’ face.

The hook mh-folder-mode-hook is called when visiting a new folder in MH-Folder mode. This could be used to set your own key bindings, for example:

(defvar my-mh-init-done nil
  "Non-nil when one-time MH-E settings made.")

(defun my-mh-folder-mode-hook ()
  "Hook to set key bindings in MH-Folder mode."
  (if (not my-mh-init-done)             ; only need to bind the keys once 
        (local-set-key "//" 'my-search-msg)
        (local-set-key "b" 'mh-burst-digest)    ; better use of b
        (setq my-mh-init-done t))))

(add-hook 'mh-folder-mode-hook 'my-mh-folder-mode-hook)

(defun my-search-msg ()
  "Search for a regexp in the current message."
  (interactive)                         ; user function
    (other-window 1)                    ; go to next window
    (isearch-forward-regexp)))          ; string search; hit return
                                        ;   when done

Create additional key bindings via mh-folder-mode-hook

MH-E has analogies for each of the MH folder and refile commands26. To refile a message in another folder, use the command o (mh-refile-msg) (mnemonic: “output”). You are prompted for the folder name (see Folder Selection). Note that this command can also be used to create folders. If you specify a folder that does not exist, you will be prompted to create it. The hook mh-refile-msg-hook is called after a message is marked to be refiled.

If you are refiling several messages into the same folder, you can use the command ! (mh-refile-or-write-again) to repeat the last refile or write (for the description of > (mh-write-msg-to-file), see Files and Pipes). You can use a range in either case (for example, C-u o 1 3 5-7 last:5 frombob RET, see Ranges).

If you’ve deleted a message or refiled it, but changed your mind, you can cancel the action before you’ve executed it. Use u (mh-undo) to undo a refile on or deletion of a single message. You can also undo refiles and deletes for messages that are found in a given range (see Ranges).

Alternatively, you can use F u (mh-undo-folder) to undo all refiles and deletes in the current folder.

If you’ve marked messages to be deleted or refiled and you want to go ahead and delete or refile the messages, use x (mh-execute-commands). Many MH-E commands that may affect the numbering of the messages (such as F r or F p) will ask if you want to process refiles or deletes first and then either run x for you or undo the pending refiles and deletes.

The command x runs mh-before-commands-processed-hook before the commands are processed and mh-after-commands-processed-hook after the commands are processed. Variables that are useful with the former hook include mh-delete-list and mh-refile-list which can be used to see which changes will be made to the current folder, mh-current-folder. Variables that are useful with the latter hook include mh-folders-changed, which lists which folders were affected by deletes and refiles. This list will always include the current folder mh-current-folder.

If you wish to copy a message to another folder, you can use the command c (mh-copy-msg) (see the -link argument to refile(1)). Like the command o, this command prompts you for the name of the target folder and you can specify a range (see Ranges). Note that unlike the command o, the copy takes place immediately. The original copy remains in the current folder.

The command t (mh-toggle-showing) switches between MH-Folder mode and MH-Folder Show mode27. MH-Folder mode turns off the associated show buffer so that you can perform operations on the messages quickly without reading them. This is an excellent way to prune out your junk mail or to refile a group of messages to another folder for later examination.

When you use t to toggle from MH-Folder Show mode to MH-Folder mode, the MH-Show buffer is hidden and the MH-Folder buffer is left alone. Setting mh-recenter-summary-flag to a non-nil value causes the toggle to display as many scan lines as possible, with the cursor at the middle. The effect of mh-recenter-summary-flag is rather useful, but it can be annoying on a slow network connection.

When you want to read the messages that you have refiled into folders, use the command F v (mh-visit-folder) to visit the folder. You are prompted for the folder name. The folder buffer will show just unseen messages if there are any; otherwise, it will show all the messages in the buffer as long there are fewer than mh-large-folder messages. If there are more, then you are prompted for a range of messages to scan. You can provide a prefix argument in order to specify a range of messages to show when you visit the folder (see Ranges). In this case, regions are not used to specify the range and mh-large-folder is ignored. Note that this command can also be used to create folders. If you specify a folder that does not exist, you will be prompted to create it.

If you forget where you’ve refiled your messages, you can find them using F s (mh-search). See Searching Through Messages.

If you use a program such as procmail to file your incoming mail automatically, you can display new, unseen, messages using the command F n (mh-index-new-messages). All messages in the ‘unseen’ sequence from the folders in mh-new-messages-folders are listed. However, this list of folders can be overridden with a prefix argument: with a prefix argument, enter a space-separated list of folders, or nothing to search all folders.

If you have ticked messages (see Using Sequences), you can display them using the command F ' (mh-index-ticked-messages). All messages in the ‘tick’ sequence from the folders in mh-ticked-messages-folders are listed. With a prefix argument, enter a space-separated list of folders, or nothing to search all folders.

You can display messages in any sequence with the command F q (mh-index-sequenced-messages). All messages from the folders in mh-new-messages-folders in the sequence you provide are listed. With a prefix argument, enter a space-separated list of folders at the prompt, or nothing to search all folders.

Set the options mh-new-messages-folders and mh-ticked-messages-folders to ‘Inbox’ to search the ‘+inbox’ folder or ‘All’ to search all of the top level folders. Otherwise, list the folders that should be searched with the ‘Choose Folders’ menu item. See mh-recursive-folders-flag.

Other commands you can perform on folders include: F l (mh-list-folders), to place a listing of all the folders in your mail directory in a buffer called *MH-E Folders* (see Miscellaneous Commands, Variables, and Buffers); F k (mh-kill-folder), to remove a folder; F S (mh-sort-folder), to sort the messages by date (see sortm(1) to see how to sort by other criteria); F p (mh-pack-folder), to pack a folder, removing gaps from the numbering sequence; and F r (mh-rescan-folder), to rescan the folder, which is useful to grab all messages in your ‘+inbox’ after processing your new mail for the first time. If you don’t want to rescan the entire folder, the commands F r or F p will accept a range (see Ranges).

The command F p runs mh-pack-folder-hook after renumbering the messages. A variable that is useful with this hook is mh-current-folder.

By default, operations on folders work only one level at a time. Set mh-recursive-folders-flag to non-nil to operate on all folders. This mostly means that you’ll be able to see all your folders when you press TAB when prompted for a folder name.

The hook mh-kill-folder-suppress-prompt-functions is an abnormal hook run at the beginning of the command k. The hook functions are called with no arguments and should return a non-nil value to suppress the normal prompt when you remove a folder. This is useful for folders that are easily regenerated. The default value of mh-search-p suppresses the prompt on folders generated by searching.


Use this hook with care. If there is a bug in your hook which returns t on ‘+inbox’ and you press k by accident in the +inbox folder, you will not be happy.

The option mh-sortm-args holds extra arguments to pass on to the command sortm28 when a prefix argument is used with F S. Normally default arguments to sortm are specified in the MH profile. This option may be used to provide an alternate view. For example, ‘'(\"-nolimit\" \"-textfield\" \"subject\")’ is a useful setting.

When you want to quit using MH-E and go back to editing, you can use the q (mh-quit) command. This buries the buffers of the current MH-E folder and restores the buffers that were present when you first ran M-x mh-rmail. It also removes any MH-E working buffers whose name begins with ‘ *mh-’ or *MH-E (see Miscellaneous Commands, Variables, and Buffers). You can later restore your MH-E session by selecting the ‘+inbox’ buffer or by running M-x mh-rmail again.

The two hooks mh-before-quit-hook and mh-quit-hook are called by q. The former one is called before the quit occurs, so you might use it to perform any MH-E operations; you could perform some query and abort the quit or call mh-execute-commands, for example. The latter is not run in an MH-E context, so you might use it to modify the window setup. If you find that q buries a lot of buffers that you would rather remove, you can use both mh-before-quit-hook and mh-quit-hook to accomplish that.

(defvar my-mh-folder-buffer-to-delete nil
  "Folder buffer that is being quit.")

(defun my-mh-before-quit-hook ()
  "Save folder buffer that is to be deleted."
  (setq my-mh-folder-buffer-to-delete (current-buffer)))

(defun my-mh-quit-hook ()
  "Kill folder buffer rather than just bury it."
  (set-buffer my-mh-folder-buffer-to-delete)
  (if (get-buffer mh-show-buffer)
      (kill-buffer mh-show-buffer))
  (kill-buffer (current-buffer)))

Kill MH-Folder buffer instead of burying it

You can use dired to manipulate the folders themselves. For example, I renamed my ‘+out’ folder to the more common ‘+outbox’ by running dired on my mail directory (M-x dired RET ~/Mail RET), moving my cursor to ‘out’ and using the command R (dired-do-rename).



See the sections Your Current Folder: folder and Moving and Linking Messages: refile in the MH book.


For you Emacs wizards, this is implemented as an Emacs minor mode.


See the section Sorting Messages: sortm in the MH book.

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