mu-find - (unknown subject)

NAME  SYNOPSIS  DESCRIPTION  SEARCHING MAIL  FIND OPTIONS  -f, --fields=<fields>  -s, --sortfield=<field> and -z,--reverse  -n, --maxnum=<number>  --summary-len=<number>  --format=<plain|links|xquery|xml|sexp>  --linksdir=<dir> and -c, --clearlinks  --after=<timestamp>  --exec=<command>  -b, --bookmark=<bookmark>  -u, --skip-dups  -r, --include-related  -t, --threads  --muhome  COMMON OPTIONS  -d, --debug  -q, --quiet  --log-stderr  --nocolor  -V, --version  -h, --help  Integrating mu find with mail clients  mutt  Wanderlust  ENCODING  EXIT CODE  no matches found (2)  database schema mismatch (11)  failed to acquire lock (19)  REPORTING BUGS  AUTHOR  COPYRIGHT  SEE ALSO 


mu find - find e-mail messages in the mu database.


mu [common-options] find [options] <search expression>


mu find is the mu command for searching e-mail message that were stored earlier using mu index(1).


mu find starts a search for messages in the database that match some search pattern. The search patterns are described in detail in mu-query(7).

For example:

$ mu find subject:snow and date:2009..

would find all messages in 2009 with ’snow’ in the subject field, e.g:

2009-03-05 17:57:33 EET Lucia <[email protected]> running in the snow
2009-03-05 18:38:24 EET Marius <[email protected]> Re: running in the snow

Note, this the default, plain-text output, which is the default, so you don’t have to use --format=plain. For other types of output (such as symlinks, XML or s-expressions), see the discussion in the OPTIONS-section below about --format.

The search pattern is taken as a command-line parameter. If the search parameter consists of multiple parts (as in the example) they are treated as if there were a logical and between them.

For details on the possible queries, see mu-query(7).


Note, some of the important options are described in the *mu*(1) man-page and not here, as they apply to multiple mu-commands.

The find-command has various options that influence the way mu displays the results. If you don’t specify anything, the defaults are fields="d f s", −−sortfield=date and −−reverse.

-f, --fields=<fields>

specifies a string that determines which fields are shown in the output. This string consists of a number of characters (such as ’s’ for subject or ’f’ for from), which will replace with the actual field in the output. Fields that are not known will be output as-is, allowing for some simple formatting.

For example:

$ mu find subject:snow --fields "d f s"

lists the date, subject and sender of all messages with ’snow’ in the their subject.

The table of replacement characters is superset of the list mentions for search parameters, such as:

t *t*o: recipient
d Sent *d*ate of the message
f Message sender (*f*rom:)
g Message flags (fla*g*s)
l Full path to the message (*l*ocation)
s Message *s*ubject
i Message-*i*d
m *m*aildir

For the complate list, see mu-fields(1).

The message flags are described in mu-query(7). As an example, a message which is ’seen’, has an attachment and is signed would have ’asz’ as its corresponding output string, while an encrypted new message would have ’nx’.

-s, --sortfield=<field> and -z,--reverse

specify the field to sort the search results by and the direction (i.e.,

cc,c Cc (carbon-copy) recipient(s)
date,d Message sent date
from,f Message sender
maildir,m Maildir
msgid,i Message id
prio,p Nessage priority
subject,s Message subject
to,t To:-recipient(s)

For the complete list use can use the mu fields command; see mu-fields(1).

Thus, for example, to sort messages by date, you could specify:

$ mu find fahrrad --fields "d f s" --sortfield=date --reverse

Note, if you specify a sortfield, by default, messages are sorted in reverse (descending) order (e.g., from lowest to highest). This is usually a good choice, but for dates it may be more useful to sort in the opposite direction.

-n, --maxnum=<number>

If > 0, display maximally that number of entries. If not specified, all matching entries are displayed.


If > 0, use that number of lines of the message to provide a summary.


output results in the specified format:

The default is plain, i.e normal output with one line per message.

links outputs the results as a maildir with symbolic links to the found messages. This enables easy integration with mail-clients (see below for more information).

xml formats the search results as XML.

sexp formats the search results as an s-expression as used in Lisp programming environments.

xquery shows the Xapian query corresponding to your search terms. This is meant for for debugging purposes.

--linksdir=<dir> and -c, --clearlinks

when using −format=links, output the results as a maildir with symbolic links to the found messages. This enables easy integration with mail-clients (see below for more information). mu will create the maildir if it does not exist yet.

If you specify −−clearlinks, existing symlinks will be cleared from the target directories; this allows for re-use of the same maildir. However, this option will delete any symlink it finds, so be careful.

$ mu find grolsch --format=links --linksdir=˜/Maildir/search --clearlinks

stores links to found messages in ˜/Maildir/search. If the directory does not exist yet, it will be created. Note: when mu creates a Maildir for these links, it automatically inserts a .noindex file, to exclude the directory from mu index.


only show messages whose message files were last modified (mtime) after <timestamp>. <timestamp> is a UNIX time t value, the number of seconds since 1970-01-01 (in UTC).

From the command line, you can use the date command to get this value. For example, only consider messages modified (or created) in the last 5 minutes, you could specify

--after=‘date +%s --date=’5 min ago’‘

This is assuming the GNU date command.


the −−exec coption causes the command to be executed on each matched message; for example, to see the raw text of all messages matching ’milkshake’, you could use:

$ mu find milkshake --exec=’less’

which is roughly equivalent to:

$ mu find milkshake --fields="l" | xargs less

-b, --bookmark=<bookmark>

use a bookmarked search query. Using this option, a query from your bookmark file will be prepended to other search queries. See mu-bookmarks(5) for the details of the bookmarks file.

-u, --skip-dups

whenever there are multiple messages with the same message-id field, only show the first one. This is useful if you have copies of the same message, which is a common occurrence when using e.g. Gmail together with offlineimap.

-r, --include-related

include messages being referred to by the matched messages -- i.e.. include messages that are part of the same message thread as some matched messages. This is useful if you want Gmail-style ’conversations’.

-t, --threads

show messages in a ’threaded’ format -- that is, with indentation and arrows showing the conversation threads in the list of matching messages. When using this, sorting is chronological (by date), based on the newest message in a thread.

Messages in the threaded list are indented based on the depth in the discussion, and are prefix with a kind of arrow with thread-related information about the message, as in the following table:

| | normal | orphan | duplicate |
| first child | ‘-> | ‘*> | ‘=> |
| other | |-> | |*> | |=> |

Here, an ’orphan’ is a message without a parent message (in the list of matches), and a duplicate is a message whose message-id was already seen before; not this may not really be the same message, if the message-id was copied.

The algorithm used for determining the threads is based on Jamie Zawinksi’s description:


use a non-default directory to store and read the database, write the logs, etc. By default, mu uses the XDG Base Directory Specification (e.g. on GNU/Linux this defaults to ˜/.cache/mu and ˜/.config/mu). Earlier versions of mu defaulted to ˜/.mu, which now requires −−muhome=˜/.mu.

The environment variable MUHOME can be used as an alternative to −−muhome. The latter has precedence.


-d, --debug

makes mu generate extra debug information, useful for debugging the program itself. By default, debug information goes to the log file, ˜/.cache/mu/mu.log. It can safely be deleted when mu is not running. When running with --debug option, the log file can grow rather quickly. See the note on logging below.

-q, --quiet

causes mu not to output informational messages and progress information to standard output, but only to the log file. Error messages will still be sent to standard error. Note that mu index is much faster with --quiet, so it is recommended you use this option when using mu from scripts etc.


causes mu to not output log messages to standard error, in addition to sending them to the log file.


do not use ANSI colors. The environment variable NO_COLOR can be used as an alternative to −−nocolor.

-V, --version

prints mu version and copyright information.

-h, --help

lists the various command line options.

Integrating mu find with mail clients


For mutt you can use the following in your muttrc; pressing the F8 key will start a search, and F9 will take you to the results.

# mutt macros for mu
macro index <F8> "<shell-escape>mu find --clearlinks --format=links --linksdir=˜/Maildir/search " \

"mu find"

macro index <F9> "<change-folder-readonly>˜/Maildir/search" \

"mu find results"


Sam B suggested the following on the mu-mailing list. First add the following to your Wanderlust configuration file:

(require ’elmo-search)
’mu ’local-file
:prog "/usr/local/bin/mu" ;; or wherever you’ve installed it
:args ’("find" pattern "--fields" "l") :charset ’utf-8)

(setq elmo-search-default-engine ’mu)
;; for when you type "g" in folder or summary.
(setq wl-default-spec "[")

Now, you can search using the g key binding; you can also create permanent virtual folders when the messages matching some expression by adding something like the following to your folders file.

VFolders {
[]!mu "Today"
[size:1m..100m]!mu "Big"
[flag:unread]!mu "Unread"

After restarting Wanderlust, the virtual folders should appear.


mu find output is encoded according the locale for −−format=plain (the default), and UTF-8 for all other formats (sexp, xml).


This command returns 0 upon successful completion, or a non-zero exit code otherwise. Typical values are 2 (no matches found), 11 (database schema mismatch) and 12 (failed to acquire database lock).

no matches found (2)

Nothing matching found; try a different query

database schema mismatch (11)

You need to re-initialize mu, see mu-init(1)

failed to acquire lock (19)

Some other program has exclusive access to the mu (Xapian) database


Please report bugs at


Dirk-Jan C. Binnema <[email protected]>


This manpage is part of mu 1.10.8.

Copyright © 2022-2023 Dirk-Jan C. Binnema. License GPLv3+: GNU GPL version 3 or later This is free software: you are free to change and redistribute it. There is NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by law.


mu(1), mu-index(1), mu-query(7), mu-fields(1)

Updated 2024-01-29 - |