Mutt Email Client - Install & Setup

Nimble Canine

Mutt, a text-based email client that's fast, powerful, light and easy to use (once you're familiar).

Mutt supports MIME, GPG, PGP and threading. It's wildly configurable and frugal with CPU and RAM.

Install Mutt

To install, do:

aptitude install mutt

To get Mutt running, create the following in your home directory:

mkdir -p ~/.mutt/cache/headers
mkdir ~/.mutt/cache/bodies
touch ~/.mutt/certificates

In a text editor, open ~/.muttrc file. Add your name and Gmail address.

Security first. Leave password field blank.  Mutt will prompt you, when needed.

Starting Mutt

At an XTerm or similar terminal type:


Mutt will launch and quiz you on SSL certificates from Google; press 'a' to accept.

Mutt opens your Gmail inbox.

Mutt starts in Gmail and displays the contents of your Inbox. Mutt highlights the last email you received, it will be at the top of the list.

Read and enjoy.

Moving The Mutt

Mutt is not very intuitive and may find it difficult to navigate emails, create new mail, reply to mail, and so on. So here are a few pointers to help you get started.

As you are new to Mutt you may

Some keystrokes to help use Mutt.

You can use the up / down arrow keys to move / view mail. Hitting enter will open mail to read. Hitting 'q' will back out, move up one level back to your 'Inbox'.

q - quit
q - back up one level

/ - search current folder
n - search for string
n - show next instance of search string

j - move down.
k - move up.

d - delete a message
y - archive one

t will mark a message
s will save one, or more

c - change directory

Gmail Specific 

gi - view your Inbox
ga to view All Mail
gd to view Drafts
gs to view Starred messages

And here are a few more that are particular to mutt:

To view messages outside your inbox, type c and either type ? to view a list of all your tags and folders, or prepend your tag with an equals sign. So, to view messages tagged 'work', you'd type c, then =work, then hit Return.

Similarly, to save a message to the 'work' folder—the equivalent of labeling in Gmail—type s, then =work, then hit Return. If you've used t to mark a bunch of messages, then saving will apply to all of them.

You'll notice that, for some of the above commands, mutt won't do anything right away, instead marking messages for later processing. Once you're sure you've made all the changes you want to, e.g., deleted the right message, hit the $ key and mutt will apply all your changes to your Gmail account.

Mutt is a little different to most email clients as Mutt does not have an in-built text editor. Mutt depends on an external program to type your text. You can set whichever text editor you prefer. When you finish writing your message, save the message in your text editor and exit. The message is passed to Mutt, like an obedient dog, duly passes on your email.

Sending email

Type m
Type email address
Type a subject
Type your message
Press 'y'
Message sent
Press 'q' to quit

To reply to an email in Mutt, scroll down to highlight and press 'r'. Mutt

You can also reply to an email you are reading by pressing 'r'. Mutt indicates who the email is 'To' on the status bar at the bottom

Replying to email

Type m
Type email address
Type a subject
Type your message
Press 'y'
Message sent
Press 'q' to quit