aerc-tutorial - Man Page

tutorial for aerc(1)


Welcome to aerc! This tutorial will guide you through your first steps in using the client. This tutorial is a man page - you can read it again later with :help tutorial from aerc, or man aerc-tutorial from your terminal.

First, let's introduce some basic keybindings. For convention, we'll use <C-p> to represent Ctrl+p, which matches the convention used for writing keybindings for aerc.

<C-p>,  <C-n>

Cycles to the previous or next tab

Try using these now to switch between your message list and the tutorial. In your message list, we use vim-style keys to get around.

k,  j

Scrolls up and down between messages

<C-u>,  <C-d>

Scrolls half a page up or down

g,  G

Selects the first or last message, respectively

K,  J

Switches between folders in the sidebar


Opens the selected message

You can also search the selected folder with /, or filter with \ . When searching you can use n and p to jump to the next and previous result. Filtering hides any non-matching message.

The Message Viewer

Press <Enter> to open a message. By default, the message viewer will display your message using less(1). This should also have familiar, vim-like keybindings for scrolling around in your message.

Multipart messages (messages with attachments, or messages with several alternative formats) show a part selector on the bottom of the message viewer.

<C-k>,  <C-j>

Cycle between parts of a multipart message


Close the message viewer

To show HTML messages, uncomment the text/html filter in your aerc.conf file (which is probably in ~/.config/aerc/) and install its dependencies: w3m and dante-utils.

You can also do many tasks you could do in the message list from here, like replying to emails, deleting the email, or view the next and previous message (J and K).

Composing Messages

Return to the message list by pressing q to dismiss the message viewer. Once there, let's compose a message.


Compose a new message


Reply-all to a message


Reply-all to a message, and pre-fill the editor with a quoted version of the message being replied to


Reply to a message


Reply to a message, and pre-fill the editor with a quoted version of the message being replied to

For now, let's use C to compose a new message. The message composer will appear. You should see To, From, and Subject lines, as well as your $EDITOR. You can use <Tab> or <C-j> and <C-k> to cycle between these fields (tab won't cycle between fields once you enter the editor, but <C-j> and <C-k> will).

Let's send an email to yourself. Note that the To and From headers expect RFC 5322 addresses, e.g. John Doe <>, or simply <>. Separate multiple recipients with commas. Go ahead and fill out an email, then close the editor.

The message review screen is shown next. You have a chance now to revise the email before it's sent. Press y to send the email if it looks good.

Note: when using the terminal in the message view, you can summon aerc's ex command line by using <C-x>. : is sent to the editor.

Using the Terminal

aerc comes with an embedded terminal, which you've already used to view and edit emails. We can also use this for other purposes, such as referencing a git repository while reviewing a patch. From the message list, we can use the following keybindings to open a terminal:


Opens a new terminal tab, running your shell

$,  !

Prompts for a command to run, then opens a new terminal tab running that command


Prompts for a command to run, then pipes the selected email into that command and displays the result on a new terminal tab

Try pressing $ and entering top. You can also use the :cd command to change aerc's working directory, and the directory in which new terminals run. Use :pwd to see it again if you're not sure where you are.

Additional Notes


Every keybinding is ultimately bound to an aerc command. You can also summon the command line by pressing :, then entering one of these commands. See aerc(1) or :help for a full list of commands.

Message Filters

When displaying messages in the message viewer, aerc will pipe them through a message filter first. This allows you to decode messages in non-plaintext formats, add syntax highlighting, etc. aerc ships with a few default filters:

  • text/plain parts are piped through the colorize built-in filter which handles URL, quotes and diff coloring.
  • text/calendar is processed to be human readable text
  • text/html (disabled by default) can be uncommented to pipe through the built-in html filter.

Customizing Aerc

Aerc is highly customizable. Review aerc-config(5) (or use :help config) to learn more about how to add custom keybindings, install new message filters, change its appearance and behavior, and so on.


Originally created by Drew DeVault and maintained by Robin Jarry who is assisted by other open source contributors. For more information about aerc development, see

Referenced By