mu-find - Man Page

find e-mail messages in the mu database.


mu find [options] <search expression>


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

Searching Mail

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  <> running in the snow
  2009-03-05 18:38:24 EET Marius <> 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"

would list 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       to: recipient
	d       Sent date of the message
	f       Message sender (from:)
	g       Message flags (flags)
	l       Full path to the message (location)
	s       Message subject
	i       Message-id
	m       maildir

For the complete, up-to-date 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 specifies the field to sort the search results by, and the direction (i.e., 'reverse' means that the sort should be reverted - Z-A). Examples include:

	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

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, all 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

will store 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.

--after=<timestamp> 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 command 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(1) for the details of the bookmarks file.

--skip-dups,-u whenever there are multiple messages with the

same name, 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.

--include-related,-r also 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'. Note, finding these related messages make searches slower.

-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:

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.

Return Value

mu find returns 0 upon successful completion; if the search was performed, there needs to be a least one match. Anything else leads to a non-zero return value, for example:

| code | meaning                        |
|    0 | ok                             |
|    1 | general error                  |
|    4 | no matches (for 'mu find')     |


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


Please report bugs if you find them: If you have specific messages which are not matched correctly, please attach them (appropriately censored if needed).


Dirk-Jan C. Binnema <>

See Also

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

Referenced By

mu(1), mu-bookmarks(5), mu-cfind(1), mu-easy(1), mu-help(1), mu-index(1), mu-query(7).

29 April 2022 User Manuals