mairix - index and search mail folders
mairix [ -v|--verbose ] [ -p|--purge ] [ -f|--rcfile mairixrc ] [
mairix [ -v|--verbose ] [ -f|--rcfile mairixrc ] [ -r|--raw-output ] [
-x|--excerpt-output ] [ -o|--mfolder mfolder ] [ -a|--augment ] [
-t|--threads ] search-patterns
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
* MH (compatible with the MH folder formats used by xmh, sylpheed,
nnml (Gnus) and evolution)
* mbox (including mboxes that have been compressed with gzip or
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.
Show usage summary and exit
Show program version and exit
Dump the database’s contents in human-readable form to stdout.
Specify an alternative configuration file to use. The default
configuration file is ~/.mairixrc.
Make the output more verbose
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 intefering 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 aborted.
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 const of compacting away
the storage that they take up.)
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.
Append newly matches messages to the current mfolder instead of
creating the mfolder from scratch.
As well as returning the matched messages, also return every
message in the same thread as one of the real matches.
Instead of creating an mfolder containing the matched messages,
just show their paths on stdout.
Intead 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.
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.
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 10kbytes and 20kbytes in
size, the following search term can be used:
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. So
would match all messages which have attachments whose names
contain the substring mairix.
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 yet.
Note that the flag characters and their meanings agree with
those used as the suffix letters on message filenames in maildir
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
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
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
This matches if either of the words are matched in the specified
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
The binding order of the constructions is:
1. Individual command line arguments define separate conditions
which are AND-ed together
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
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
This section describes the syntax used for specifying dates when
searching using the ‘d:’ option.
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
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:
|letter | short for | example | meaning |
|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
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
· The start date is always taken to be on or before the end date.
SETTING UP THE MATCH FOLDER
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
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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@example.com 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
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
firstname.lastname@example.org, it will match on both these searches
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
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
Copyright (C) 2002-2006 Richard P. Curnow <email@example.com>
We need a plugin scheme to allow more types of attachment to be scanned