From ArchWiki

Notmuch is a mail indexer. Essentially, is a very thin front end on top of xapian. Much like Sup, it focuses on one thing: indexing your email messages. Notmuch can be used as an email reader, or simply as an indexer and search tool for other MUAs, like mutt.


Notmuch is written in C and an order of magnitude faster than sup-mail. Notmuch can be terminated during the indexing process, on the next run it will continue where it left off. Also like sup-mail, it does not provide a way to permanently delete unwanted email messages (however, see #Permanently delete emails). It does not fetch or send mails, nor does it store your email addresses, you will need to use programs like OfflineIMAP, msmtp and abook for those tasks.

Install the notmuch package. It provides python, vim, and emacs bindings.

First time Usage

After installation, you enter an interactive setup by running:

 notmuch setup

The program prompts you for the location of your maildir and your primary and secondary email addresses. You can also edit the configuration file directly which is created by default at $HOME/.notmuch-config.

Subsequent re-indexing of the mail directories is done with:

 notmuch new


There are a range of ways to use notmuch, including CLI, or with one of the Unix $EDITORS:


The default frontend for notmuch is Emacs. It is developed by the same people that develop notmuch.


There is a Vim interface available and included in the notmuch-vim package. To start it, type:

vim -c NotMuch


alot is a standalone CLI interface for notmuch, written in Python. It is available as alot and alot-gitAUR.

Alot uses mailcap for handling different kinds of files. This currently includes HTML mails, which means that you need to configure a ~/.mailcap file in order to view HTML mails. As minimum, put this line into your ~/.mailcap:

 text/html; w3m -dump -o -document_charset=%{charset} %s; nametemplate=%s.html; copiousoutput

This uses w3m, some other text based clients such as links or lynx can be used instead, although their arguments might differ.

More file handlers can be configured of course.


bower is another CLI interface, this one is written in Mercury. It is available as bower-mailAUR.


Neomutt - Another mutt fork which includes many feature patches, among them the Notmuch integration patch. Install the neomutt or the neomutt-gitAUR package.


Astroid is a graphical MUA and interface to notmuch written using C++ and GTK. It can be installed with astroid or astroid-gitAUR. The GUI is designed to be very fast, preview HTML and attachments, be navigable by keyboard. It is extensively configurable and you use your favorite editor either embedded or launch it externally. Check out the Tour to see how astroid can be used and for a description of the complete setup, or check out the README for more information.

Integrating with mutt

If you use mutt as your MUA, then notmuch is an excellent complementary tool to index and search your mail. The notmuch-mutt package provides a script to integrate notmuch with mutt.

After installing the notmuch-mutt package and configuring notmuch, the only thing left before using notmuch to search from mutt is adding keybindings to call the notmuch-mutt perl script from mutt. Adding the following to your .muttrc is what is recommended in notmuch contrib source:

macro index <F8> \
"<enter-command>set my_old_pipe_decode=\$pipe_decode my_old_wait_key=\$wait_key nopipe_decode nowait_key<enter>\
<shell-escape>notmuch-mutt -r --prompt search<enter>\
<change-folder-readonly>`echo ${XDG_CACHE_HOME:-$HOME/.cache}/notmuch/mutt/results`<enter>\
<enter-command>set pipe_decode=\$my_old_pipe_decode wait_key=\$my_old_wait_key<enter>" \
"notmuch: search mail"

macro index <F9> \
"<enter-command>set my_old_pipe_decode=\$pipe_decode my_old_wait_key=\$wait_key nopipe_decode nowait_key<enter>\
<pipe-message>notmuch-mutt -r thread<enter>\
<change-folder-readonly>`echo ${XDG_CACHE_HOME:-$HOME/.cache}/notmuch/mutt/results`<enter>\
<enter-command>set pipe_decode=\$my_old_pipe_decode wait_key=\$my_old_wait_key<enter>" \
"notmuch: reconstruct thread"

macro index <F6> \
"<enter-command>set my_old_pipe_decode=\$pipe_decode my_old_wait_key=\$wait_key nopipe_decode nowait_key<enter>\
<pipe-message>notmuch-mutt tag -- -inbox<enter>\
<enter-command>set pipe_decode=\$my_old_pipe_decode wait_key=\$my_old_wait_key<enter>" \
"notmuch: remove message from inbox"

The above uses F8 to search your inbox using notmuch, F9 to create threads from search results, and F6 to tag search results.

Integrating with NeoMutt

If you use neomutt, the notmuch-mutt package is not required. Instead, create a ~/.mailboxes with some basic (virtual) mailboxes. A virtual mailbox is not an actual folder, but the result of a notmuch query for a specific tag:

virtual-mailboxes "inbox" "notmuch://?query=tag:inbox"
virtual-mailboxes "archive" "notmuch://?query=tag:archive"
virtual-mailboxes "sent" "notmuch://?query=tag:sent"
virtual-mailboxes "newsletters" "notmuch://?query=tag:newsletters"

Next, make mutt aware of your virtual mailboxes by enabling virtual spoolfile and sourcing the latter:

set virtual_spoolfile=yes
set folder=notmuch-root-folder
source ~/.mailboxes

At this point, mutt will still list your mailboxes as empty, because your mails are not yet tagged and thus, notmuch querys are empty. To fill your virtual mailboxes, you need to initially tag the messages in your maildir. A very simple approach is to create a shell script like the following:

notmuch new
# retag all "new" messages "inbox" and "unread"
notmuch tag +inbox +unread -new -- tag:new
# tag all messages from "me" as sent and remove tags inbox and unread
notmuch tag -new -inbox +sent -- or
# tag newsletters, but dont show them in inbox
notmuch tag +newsletters +unread -new -- or subject:'newsletter*'

Make the shell script executable and run it:


For the above example to work, make sure that notmuch tags new messages as 'new':


Finally, your hook script needs to rerun on new mail arrival. If you use offlineimap to sync IMAP to a local maildir, create a post sync hook:

[Account myaccount]
postsynchook = ~/.scripts/

Some useful key bindings:

macro index A "<modify-labels>+archive -unread -inbox\\n" "Archive message"
macro index c "<change-vfolder>?" "Change to vfolder overview"
macro index \\\\ "<vfolder-from-query>" "Search mailbox"

Permanently delete emails

One choice is to maintain a tag of emails you wish to remove from your disk, for example, "killed". Then, you can combine the search for the tags with xargs to delete them permanently:

 notmuch search --output=files --format=text0 tag:killed | xargs -r0 rm
 notmuch new

By placing this into the pre-new hook for notmuch you can make sure you delete files before updating the database.

See also