mu-cfind - Man Page

mu cfind is the mu command to find contacts in the mu database and export them for use in other programs.


mu [common-options] cfind [options] [<pattern>]


mu cfind is the mu command for finding contacts (name and e-mail address of people who were either an e-mail's sender or receiver). There are different output formats available, for importing the contacts into other programs.

Searching Contacts

When you index your messages (see mu index), mu creates a list of unique e-mail addresses found and the accompanying name, and caches this list. In case the same e-mail address is used with different names, the most recent non-empty name is used.

mu cfind starts a search for contacts that match a regular expression. For example:

$ mu cfind ''

would find all contacts with a gmail-address, while

$ mu cfind Mary

lists all contacts with Mary in either name or e-mail address.

If you do not specify a search expression, mu cfind returns the full list of contacts. Note, mu cfind uses a cache with the e-mail information, which is populated during the indexing process.

The regular expressions are basic case-insensitive PCRE, see pcre(3).

Cfind Options


sets the output format to the given value. The following are available:

plaindefault, simple list
mutt-aliasmutt alias-format
mutt-abmutt external address book format
wlwanderlust addressbook format
org-contactorg-mode org-contact format
bbdbBBDB format
csvcomma-separated values [1]
jsonJSON format

[1] CSV is not fully standardized, but *mu cfind follows some common practices: any double-quote is replaced by a double-double quote (thus, "hello" become ""hello"", and fields with commas are put in double-quotes. Normally, this should only apply to name fields.

--personal,-p only show addresses seen in messages where one of 'my' e-mail

addresses was seen in one of the address fields; this is to exclude addresses only seen in mailing-list messages. See the --my-address parameter to mu init.

--after=<timestamp> only show addresses last seen after

<timestamp>. <timestamp> is a UNIX timet 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 addresses last seen after 2020-06-01, you could specify

--after=`date +%s --date='2020-06-01'`


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.

Common Options

-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.

JSON Format

With --format=json, the matching contacts come out as a JSON array, e.g.,

    "email"         : "",
    "name"          : "Sybil Gerard",
    "display"       : "Sybil Gerard <>",
    "last-seen"     : 1075982687,
    "last-seen-iso" : "2004-02-05T14:04:47Z",
    "personal"      : false,
    "frequency"     : 14
    "email"         : "",
    "name"          : "Mallory, Edward",
    "display"       : "
    "last-seen"     : 1425991805,
    "last-seen-iso" : "2015-03-10T14:50:05Z",
    "personal"      : true,
    "frequency"     : 2

Each contact has the following fields:

emailthe email-address
namethe name (or none)
displaythe combination name and e-mail address for display purposes
last-seendate of most recent message with this contact (Unix time)
last-seen-isolast-seen represented as an ISO-8601 timestamp
personalwhether the email was seen in a message together with a personal address
frequencyapproximation of the number of times this contact was seen in messages

The JSON format is useful for further processing, e.g. using the jq(1) tool:

List display names, sorted by their last-seen date:

$ mu cfind --format=json --personal | jq -r '.[] | ."last-seen-iso" + " " + .display' | sort

Integration with Mutt

You can use mu cfind as an external address book server for mutt. For this to work, add the following to your muttrc:

set query_command = "mu cfind --format=mutt-ab '%s'"

Now, in mutt, you can search for e-mail addresses using the query-command, which is (by default) accessible by pressing Q.


mu cfind output is encoded according to the current locale except for --format=bbdb. This is hard-coded to UTF-8, and as such specified in the output-file, so emacs/bbdb can handle things correctly, without guessing.

Exit Code

This command returns 0 upon successful completion, or a non-zero exit code otherwise.




no matches found. Try a different query


database schema mismatch. You need to re-initialize mu, see mu-init(1)


failed to acquire lock. Some other program has exclusive access to the mu database


caught an exception

Reporting Bugs

Please report bugs at


Dirk-Jan C. Binnema <>

See Also

mu(1), mu-index(1), mu-find(1), pcre(3), jq(1)

Referenced By

mu(1), mu-index(1), mu-init(1).