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grepmail - search mailboxes for mail matching a regular expression


grepmail [--help|--version] [-abBDFhHilLmrRuvVw] [-C <cache-file>]
[-j <status>] [-s <sizespec>] [-d <date-specification>]
[-X <signature-pattern>] [-Y <header-pattern>]
[[-e] <pattern>|-E <expr>|-f <pattern-file>] <files...>


grepmail looks for mail messages containing a pattern, and prints the resulting messages
on standard out.

By default grepmail looks in both header and body for the specified pattern.

When redirected to a file, the result is another mailbox, which can, in turn, be handled
by standard User Agents, such as elm, or even used as input for another instance of

At least one of -E, -e, -d, -s, or -u must be specified. The pattern is optional if -d,
-s, and/or -u is used. The -e flag is optional if there is no file whose name is the
pattern. The -E option can be used to specify complex search expressions involving
logical operators. (See below.)

If a mailbox can not be found, grepmail first searches the directory specified by the
MAILDIR environment variable (if one is defined), then searches the $HOME/mail,
$HOME/Mail, and $HOME/Mailbox directories.


Many of the options and arguments are analogous to those of grep.

The pattern to search for in the mail message. May be any Perl regular expression, but
should be quoted on the command line to protect against globbing (shell expansion). To
search for more than one pattern, use the form "(pattern1|pattern2|...)".

Note that complex pattern features such as "(?>...)" require that you use a version of
perl which supports them. You can use the pattern "()" to indicate that you do not want
to match anything. This is useful if you want to initialize the cache without printing
any output.

Mailboxes must be traditional, UNIX "/bin/mail" mailbox format. The mailboxes may be
compressed by gzip, or bzip2, in which case gunzip, or bzip2 must be installed on the

If no mailbox is specified, takes input from stdin, which can be compressed or not.
grepmail's behavior is undefined when ASCII and binary data is piped together as input.

Use arrival date instead of sent date.

Asserts that the pattern must match in the body of the email.

Print the body but with only minimal ('From ', 'From:', 'Subject:', 'Date:') headers.
This flag can be used with -H, in which case it will print only short headers and no
email bodies.

Specifies the location of the cache file. The default is $HOME/.grepmail-cache.

Enable debug mode, which prints diagnostic messages.

Date specifications must be of the form of:
- a date like "today", "yesterday", "5/18/93", "5 days ago", "5 weeks ago",
- OR "before", "after", or "since", followed by a date as defined above,
- OR "between <date> and <date>", where <date> is defined as above.

Simple date expressions will first be parsed by Date::Parse. If this fails, grepmail
will attempt to parse the date with Date::Manip, if the module is installed on the
system. Use an empty pattern (i.e. -d "") to find emails without a "Date: ..." line in
the header.

Date specifications without times are interpreted as having a time of midnight of that
day (which is the morning), except for "after" and "since" specifications, which are
interpreted as midnight of the following day. For example, "between today and tomorrow"
is the same as simply "today", and returns emails whose date has the current day. ("now"
is interpreted as "today".) The date specification "after July 5th" will return emails
whose date is midnight July 6th or later.

Specify a complex search expression using logical operators. The current syntax allows
the user to specify search expressions using Perl syntax. Three values can be used:
$email (the entire email message), $email_header (just the header), or $email_body (just
the body). A search is specified in the form "$email =~ /pattern/", and multiple
searches can be combined using "&&" and "||" for "and" and "or".

For example, the expression

$email_header =~ /^From: .*\@coppit.org/ && $email =~ /grepmail/i

will find all emails which originate from coppit.org (you must escape the "@" sign with
a backslash), and which contain the keyword "grepmail" anywhere in the message, in any

-E is incompatible with -b, -h, and -e. -i, -M, -S, and -Y have not yet been

NOTE: The syntax of search expressions may change in the future. In particular, support
for size, date, and other constraints may be added. The syntax may also be simplified in
order to make expression formation easier to use (and perhaps at the expense of reduced

Explicitly specify the search pattern. This is useful for specifying patterns that begin
with "-", which would otherwise be interpreted as a flag.

Obtain patterns from FILE, one per line. The empty file contains zero patterns, and
therefore matches nothing.

Force grepmail to process all files and streams as though they were mailboxes. (i.e.
Skip checks for non-mailbox ASCII files or binary files that don't look like they are
compressed using known schemes.)

Asserts that the pattern must match in the header of the email.

Print the header but not body of matching emails.

Make the search case-insensitive (by analogy to grep -i).

Asserts that the email "Status:" header must contain the given flags. Order and case are
not important, so use -j AR or -j ra to search for emails which have been read and

Output the names of files having an email matching the expression, (by analogy to grep

Follow symbolic links. (Implies -R)

Causes grepmail to ignore non-text MIME attachments. This removes false positives
resulting from binaries encoded as ASCII attachments.

Append "X-Mailfolder: <folder>" to all email headers, indicating which folder contained
the matched email.

Prefix each line with line number information. If multiple files are specified, the
filename will precede the line number. NOTE: When used in conjunction with -m, the
X-Mailfolder header has the same line number as the next (blank) line.

Quiet mode. Suppress the output of warning messages about non-mailbox files,
directories, etc.

Generate a report of the names of the files containing emails matching the expression,
along with a count of the number of matching emails.

Causes grepmail to recurse any directories encountered.

Return emails which match the size (in bytes) specified with this flag. Note that this
size includes the length of the header.

Size constraints must be of the form of:
- 12345: match size of exactly 12345
- <12345, <=12345, >12345, >=12345: match size less than, less than or equal,
greater than, or greater than or equal to 12345
- 10000-12345: match size between 10000 and 12345 inclusive

Ignore signatures. The signature consists of everything after a line consisting of "--

Output only unique emails, by analogy to sort -u. Grepmail determines email uniqueness
by the Message-ID header.

Invert the sense of the search, by analogy to grep -v. This results in the set of emails
printed being the complement of those that would be printed without the -v switch.

Print the version and exit.

Search for only those lines which contain the pattern as part of a word group. That is,
the start of the pattern must match the start of a word, and the end of the pattern must
match the end of a word. (Note that the start and end need not be for the same word.)

If you are familiar with Perl regular expressions, this flag simply puts a "\b" before
and after the search pattern.

Specify a regular expression for the signature separator. By default this pattern is
'^-- $'.

Specify a pattern which indicates specific headers to be searched. The search will
automatically treat headers which span multiple lines as one long line. This flag
implies -h.

In the style of procmail, special strings in the pattern will be expanded as follows:

If the regular expression contains "^TO:" it will be substituted by


which should match all headers with destination addresses.

If the regular expression contains "^FROM_DAEMON:" it will be substituted by

(^(Mailing-List:|Precedence:.*(junk|bulk|list)|To: Multiple recipients of |(((Resent-)?(From|Sender)|X-Envelope-From):|>?From )([^>]*[^(.%@a-z0-9])?(Post(ma?(st(e?r)?|n)|office)|(send)?Mail(er)?|daemon|m(mdf|ajordomo)|n?uucp|LIST(SERV|proc)|NETSERV|o(wner|ps)|r(e(quest|sponse)|oot)|b(ounce|bs\.smtp)|echo|mirror|s(erv(ices?|er)|mtp(error)?|ystem)|A(dmin(istrator)?|MMGR|utoanswer))(([^).!:a-z0-9][-_a-z0-9]*)?[%@>\t ][^<)]*(\(.*\).*)?)?

which should catch mails coming from most daemons.

If the regular expression contains "^FROM_MAILER:" it will be substituted by


(a stripped down version of "^FROM_DAEMON:"), which should catch mails coming from
most mailer-daemons.

So, to search for all emails to or from "Andy":

grepmail -Y '(^TO:|^From:)' Andy mailbox

Print a help message summarizing the usage.

All arguments following -- are treated as mail folders.


Count the number of emails. ("." matches every email.)

grepmail -r . sent-mail

Get all email between 2000 and 3000 bytes about books

grepmail books -s 2000-3000 sent-mail

Get all email that you mailed yesterday

grepmail -d yesterday sent-mail

Get all email that you mailed before the first thursday in June 1998 that pertains to
research (requires Date::Manip):

grepmail research -d "before 1st thursday in June 1998" sent-mail

Get all email that you mailed before the first of June 1998 that pertains to research:

grepmail research -d "before 6/1/98" sent-mail

Get all email you received since 8/20/98 that wasn't about research or your job, ignoring

grepmail -iv "(research|job)" -d "since 8/20/98" saved-mail

Get all email about mime but not about Netscape. Constrain the search to match the body,
since most headers contain the text "mime":

grepmail -b mime saved-mail | grepmail Netscape -v

Print a list of all mailboxes containing a message from Rodney. Constrain the search to
the headers, since quoted emails may match the pattern:

grepmail -hl "^From.*Rodney" saved-mail*

Find all emails with the text "Pilot" in both the header and the body:

grepmail -hb "Pilot" saved-mail*

Print a count of the number of messages about grepmail in all saved-mail mailboxes:

grepmail -br grepmail saved-mail*

Remove any duplicates from a mailbox:

grepmail -u saved-mail

Convert a Gnus mailbox to mbox format:

grepmail . gnus-mailbox-dir/* > mbox

Search for all emails to or from an address (taking into account wrapped headers and
different header names):

grepmail -Y '(^TO:|^From:)' [email protected] saved-mail

Find all emails from postmasters:

grepmail -Y '^FROM_MAILER:' . saved-mail

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