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mairix - index and search mail folders


mairix [ -v|--verbose ] [ -p|--purge ] [ -f|--rcfile mairixrc ] [ -F|--fast-index ] [
--force-hash-key-new-database hash ]

mairix [ -v|--verbose ] [ -f|--rcfile mairixrc ] [ -r|--raw-output ] [ -x|--excerpt-output
] [ -H|--force-hardlinks ] [ -o|--mfolder mfolder ] [ -a|--augment ] [ -t|--threads ]

mairix [ -h|--help ]

mairix [ -V|--version ]

mairix [ -d|--dump ]


mairix indexes and searches a collection of email messages. The folders containing the
messages for indexing are defined in the configuration file. The indexing stage produces
a database file. The database file provides rapid access to details of the indexed
messages during searching operations. A search normally produces a folder (so-called
mfolder) containing the matched messages. However, a raw mode (-r) exists which just
lists the matched messages instead.

It can operate with the following folder types

* maildir

* MH (compatible with the MH folder formats used by xmh, sylpheed, claws-mail, nnml
(Gnus) and evolution)

* mbox (including mboxes that have been compressed with gzip or bzip2)

If maildir or MH source folders are used, and a search outputs its matches to an mfolder
in maildir or MH format, symbolic links are used to reference the original messages inside
the mfolder. However, if mbox folders are involved, copies of messages are made instead.


mairix decides whether indexing or searching is required by looking for the presence of
any search-patterns on the command line.

Special modes
-h, --help
Show usage summary and exit

-V, --version
Show program version and exit

Dump the database's contents in human-readable form to stdout.

General options
-f mairixrc
--rcfile mairixrc
Specify an alternative configuration file to use. The default configuration file
is ~/.mairixrc.

-v, --verbose
Make the output more verbose

-Q, --no-integrity-checks
Normally mairix will do some internal integrity tests on the database. The -Q
option removes these checks, making mairix run faster, but it will be less likely
to detect internal problems if any bugs creep in.

The nochecks directive in the rc file has the same effect.

mairix locks its database file during any indexing or searching operation to
prevent multiple indexing runs interfering with each other, or an indexing run
interfering with search runs. The --unlock option removes the lockfile before
doing the requested indexing or searching operation. This is a convenient way of
cleaning up a stale lockfile if an earlier run crashed for some reason or was

Indexing options
-p, --purge
Cause stale (dead) messages to be purged from the database during an indexing run.
(Normally, stale messages are left in the database because of the additional cost
of compacting away the storage that they take up.)

-F, --fast-index
When processing maildir and MH folders, mairix normally compares the mtime and size
of each message against the values stored in the database. If they have changed,
the message will be rescanned. This check requires each message file to be
stat'ed. For large numbers of messages in these folder types, this can be a
sizeable overhead.

This option tells mairix to assume that when a message currently on-disc has a name
matching one already in the database, it should assume the message is unchanged.

A later indexing run without using this option will fix up any rescans that were
missed due to its use.

--force-hash-key-new-database hash
This option should only be used for debugging.
If a new database is created, hash is used as hash key, instead of a random hash.

Search options
-a, --augment
Append newly matches messages to the current mfolder instead of creating the
mfolder from scratch.

-t, --threads
As well as returning the matched messages, also return every message in the same
thread as one of the real matches.

-r, --raw-output
Instead of creating an mfolder containing the matched messages, just show their
paths on stdout.

-x, --excerpt-output
Instead of creating an mfolder containing the matched messages, display an excerpt
from their headers on stdout. The excerpt shows To, Cc, From, Subject and Date.

-H, --force-hardlinks
Instead of creating symbolic links, force the use of hardlinks. This helps mailers
such as alpine to realize that there are new mails in the search folder.

-o mfolder
--mfolder mfolder
Specify a temporary alternative path for the mfolder to use, overriding the mfolder
directive in the rc file.

mairix will refuse to output search results into any folder that appears to be
amongst those that are indexed. This is to prevent accidental deletion of emails.

Search patterns
Match word in the To: header.

Match word in the Cc: header.

Match word in the From: header.

Match word in the Subject: header.

Match word in the Message-ID: header.

Match word in the message body.

Message body is taken to mean any body part of type text/plain or text/html. For
text/html, text within meta tags is ignored. In particular, the URLs inside <A
HREF="..."> tags are not currently indexed. Non-text attachments are ignored. If
there's an attachment of type message/rfc822, this is parsed and the match is
performed on this sub-message too. If a hit occurs, the enclosing message is
treated as having a hit.

Match messages with Date: headers lying in the specific range.

Match messages whose size lies in the specified range. If the low-size argument is
omitted it defaults to zero. If the high-size argument is omitted it defaults to
infinite size.

For example, to match messages between 10kilobytes and 20kilobytes in size, the
following search term can be used:

mairix z:10k-20k

The suffix 'k' on a number means multiply by 1024, and the suffix 'M' on a number
means multiply by 1024*1024.

Match word occurring as the name of an attachment in the message. Since attachment
names are usually long, this option would usually be used in the substring form.

mairix n:mairix=

would match all messages which have attachments whose names contain the substring

The attachment name is determined from the name=xxx or filename=xxx qualifiers on
the Content-Type: and Content-Disposition: headers respectively.

Match messages with particular flag settings. The available flags are 's' meaning
seen, 'r' meaning replied, and 'f' meaning flagged. The flags are case-
insensitive. A flag letter may be prefixed by a '-' to negate its sense. Thus
mairix F:-s d:1w-
would match any unread message less than a week old, and

mairix F:f-r d:-1m

would match any flagged message older than a month which you haven't replied to

Note that the flag characters and their meanings agree with those used as the
suffix letters on message filenames in maildir folders.

Searching for a match amongst more than one part of a message
Multiple body parts may be grouped together, if a match in any of them is sought. Common
examples follow.

Match word in either the To: or Cc: headers (or both).

Match word in either the Subject: header or the message body (or both).

The a: search pattern is an abbreviation for tcf:; i.e. match the word in the To:, Cc: or
From: headers. ("a" stands for "address" in this case.)

Match words
The word argument to the search strings can take various forms.

Match messages not containing the word.

This matches if both the words are matched in the specified message part.

This matches if either of the words are matched in the specified message part.

Match any word containing substring as a substring

Match any word containing substring, allowing up to N errors in the match. For
example, if N is 1, a single error is allowed, where an error can be

* a missing letter

* an extra letter

* a different letter.

Match any word containing substring as a substring, with the requirement that
substring occurs at the beginning of the matched word.

Precedence matters
The binding order of the constructions is:

1. Individual command line arguments define separate conditions which are AND-ed

2. Within a single argument, the letters before the colon define which message parts
the expression applies to. If there is no colon, the expression applies to all the
headers listed earlier and the body.

3. After the colon, commas delineate separate disjuncts, which are OR-ed together.

4. Each disjunct may contain separate conjuncts, which are separated by plus signs.
These conditions are AND-ed together.

5. Each conjunct may start with a tilde to negate it, and may be followed by a slash
to indicate a substring match, optionally followed by an integer to define the
maximum number of errors allowed.

Date specification
This section describes the syntax used for specifying dates when searching using the `d:'

Dates are specified as a range. The start and end of the range can both be specified.
Alternatively, if the start is omitted, it is treated as being the beginning of time. If
the end is omitted, it is treated as the current time.

There are 4 basic formats:

Specify both start and end explicitly

Specify start, end is the current time

d:-end Specify end, start is 'a long time ago' (i.e. early enough to include any message).

Specify start and end implicitly, as the start and end of the period given.

The start and end can be specified either absolute or relative. A relative endpoint is
given as a number followed by a single letter defining the scaling:

lettershort forexamplemeaning
│d │ days │ 3d │ 3 days │
│w │ weeks │ 2w │ 2 weeks (14 days) │
│m │ months │ 5m │ 5 months (150 days) │
│y │ years │ 4y │ 4 years (4*365 days) │

Months are always treated as 30 days, and years as 365 days, for this purpose.

Absolute times can be specified in many forms. Some forms have different meanings when
they define a start date from that when they define an end date. Where a single
expression specifies both the start and end (i.e. where the argument to d: doesn't contain
a `-'), it will usually have different interpretations in the two cases.

In the examples below, suppose the current date is Sunday May 18th, 2003 (when I started
to write this material.)

│Example │ Start date │ End date │ Notes │
│d:20030301-20030425 │ March 1st, 2003 │ 25th April, 2003 │ │
│d:030301-030425 │ March 1st, 2003 │ April 25th, 2003 │ century assumed │
│d:mar1-apr25 │ March 1st, 2003 │ April 25th, 2003 │ │
│d:Mar1-Apr25 │ March 1st, 2003 │ April 25th, 2003 │ case insensitive │
│d:MAR1-APR25 │ March 1st, 2003 │ April 25th, 2003 │ case insensitive │
│d:1mar-25apr │ March 1st, 2003 │ April 25th, 2003 │ date and month in either order │
│d:2002 │ January 1st, 2002 │ December 31st, 2002 │ whole year │
│d:mar │ March 1st, 2003 │ March 31st, 2003 │ most recent March │
│d:oct │ October 1st, 2002 │ October 31st, 2002 │ most recent October │
│d:21oct-mar │ October 21st, 2002 │ March 31st, 2003 │ start before end │
│d:21apr-mar │ April 21st, 2002 │ March 31st, 2003 │ start before end │
│d:21apr- │ April 21st, 2003 │ May 18th, 2003 │ end omitted │
│d:-21apr │ January 1st, 1900 │ April 21st, 2003 │ start omitted │
│d:6w-2w │ April 6th, 2003 │ May 4th, 2003 │ both dates relative │
│d:21apr-1w │ April 21st, 2003 │ May 11th, 2003 │ one date relative │
│d:21apr-2y │ April 21st, 2001 │ May 11th, 2001 │ start before end │
│d:99-11 │ January 1st, 1999 │ May 11th, 2003 │ 2 digits are a day of the month │
│ │ │ │ if possible, otherwise a year │
│d:99oct-1oct │ October 1st, 1999 │ October 1st, 2002 │ end before now, single digit is │
│ │ │ │ a day of the month │
│d:99oct-01oct │ October 1st, 1999 │ October 31st, 2001 │ 2 digits starting with zero │
│ │ │ │ treated as a year │
│d:oct99-oct1 │ October 1st, 1999 │ October 1st, 2002 │ day and month in either order │
│d:oct99-oct01 │ October 1st, 1999 │ October 31st, 2001 │ year and month in either order │

The principles in the table work as follows.

· When the expression defines a period of more than a day (i.e. if a month or year is
specified), the earliest day in the period is taken when the start date is defined,
and the last day in the period if the end of the range is being defined.

· The end date is always taken to be on or before the current date.

· The start date is always taken to be on or before the end date.


If the match folder does not exist when running in search mode, it is automatically
created. For 'mformat=maildir' (the default), this should be all you need to do. If you
use 'mformat=mh', you may have to run some commands before your mailer will recognize the
folder. e.g. for mutt, you could do

mkdir -p /home/richard/Mail/mfolder
touch /home/richard/Mail/mfolder/.mh_sequences

which seems to work. Alternatively, within mutt, you could set MBOX_TYPE to in advance.

If you use Sylpheed, the best way seems to be to create the new folder from within
Sylpheed before letting mairix write into it.


Suppose my email address is <[email protected]>.

Either of the following will match all messages newer than 3 months from me with the word
'chrony' in the subject line:

mairix d:3m- f:richard+doesnt+exist s:chrony
mairix d:3m- f:[email protected] s:chrony

Suppose I don't mind a few spurious matches on the address, I want a wider date range, and
I suspect that some messages I replied to might have had the subject keyword spelt wrongly
(let's allow up to 2 errors):

mairix d:6m- f:richard s:chrony=2


mairix works exclusively in terms of words. The index that's built in indexing mode
contains a table of which words occur in which messages. Hence, the search capability is
based on finding messages that contain particular words. mairix defines a word as any
string of alphanumeric characters + underscore. Any whitespace, punctuation, hyphens etc
are treated as word boundaries.

mairix has special handling for the To:, Cc: and From: headers. Besides the normal word
scan, these headers are scanned a second time, where the characters '@', '-' and '.' are
also treated as word characters. This allows most (if not all) email addresses to appear
in the database as single words. So if you have a mail from [email protected], it will
match on both these searches

mairix f:foobar
mairix f:[email protected]

It should be clear by now that the searching cannot be used to find messages matching
general regular expressions. This has never been much of a limitation. Most searches are
for particular keywords that were in the messages, or details of the recipients, or the
approximate date.

It's also worth pointing out that there is no 'locality' information stored, so you can't
search for messages that have one words 'close' to some other word. For every message and
every word, there is a simple yes/no condition stored - whether the message contains the
word in a particular header or in the body. So far this has proved to be adequate.
mairix has a similar feel to using an Internet search engine.

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