In order to run mutt independently from my mail provider I keep my mail synchronised between my machine and the server(s).
This is a somewhat different approach from both IMAP and POP3, because I neither have to decide to keep my mail exclusively offline (the POP3 approach) nor do I have to keep it on the server (the IMAP approach).
Instead there’s a full copy of all mails on the server and on my machine. The synchronisation is done based on message IDs, as provided by the Maildir standard.
Yes, that means that the mail is stored locally in Maildir folders.
Suppose you have two mail providers:
Private mail account (here: example.org)
Work (here: bigcompany.com)
You might want to keep your private mail on the server as long as it’s an active conversation, but after a conversation is done, it should be no longer on the server.
The work email however should always stay on the server and never be deleted from there.
For the actual synchronisation step we’ll be using isync.
On the local machine I’m using a folder structure like this:
local folder contains the offline emails that are no longer on the server,
bigcompany.org contain the folder structure as dictated by the respective mail server.
isync’s configuration is supposed to be stored at
It contains a set of IMAP accounts, named Store definitions (locations that contain email, like IMAP servers, Maildir folders), and Channel configurations that connect the stores and define the synchronisation behaviour.
Given the example above, the configuration file could look like this:
# mbsyncrc IMAPAccount private Host imap.example.org User baldrick PassCmd "echo -n $PW_PRIVATE" SSLType IMAPS CertificateFile /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt IMAPAccount work Host imap.bigcompany.com User email@example.com PassCmd "echo -n $PW_WORK" SSLType IMAPS CertificateFile /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt IMAPStore private-remote Account private IMAPStore work-remote Account work MaildirStore private-local Path ~/Mail/example.org Inbox ~/Mail/example.org/Inbox SubFolders verbatim MaildirStore work-local Path ~/Mail/bigcompany.com Inbox ~/Mail/bigcompany.com/Inbox SubFolders verbatim Channel work Master :work-remote: Slave :work-local: Create Slave SyncState * CopyArrivalDate yes Expunge Slave Channel private Master :private-remote: Slave :private-local: Create Slave SyncState * CopyArrivalDate yes Expunge Both
For details on what each options means, please see the manpage of mbsync.
As you can see there’s some weird stuff going on with the
PassCmd directive (which tells isync how to get the password when querying the account). In this case it pretty much tells isync to get the password from the environment variables
An alternative is to provide a program that prints out the password; for example if you are using pass:
If you just store your password separately in GPG encrypted files, you could also simply query GPG for the password:
IMAPAccount private PassCmd "gpg -o - --for-your-eyes-only -d ~/.passwords/private-mail.gpg 2>/dev/null"
As soon as your command becomes a bit more elaborate, it’s probably a good idea to wrap it in a shell script and put it in
Depending on what you have available when being asked for the password you could have the script first check if the password file is there and, if that’s not the case, use pinentry to ask the user for the password:
#!/bin/bash # ~/bin/getpassword.sh NAME=$1 if [ -e "$HOME/.passwords/$NAME.asc" ] then gpg -o - --for-your-eyes-only -d $HOME/.passwords/$NAME.asc 2> /dev/null else echo -e "SETDESC Please enter password for $NAME\nSETPROMPT Password:\nGETPIN" | \ pinentry | \ grep 'D ' | \ cut -c 3- - fi
Once you found a nice way to have isync prompt you for your password, you can try and pull (
-L) mails from all (
If this succeeded you should have all your mail in
Automatic Mail Fetching
All these password fetching solutions have one major disadvantage: everytime you trigger the email synchronisation (which still has to be done manually), the programm will either ask you for your password or query GPG which might again prompt for your PIN.
Instead I have a shell script running in the background (in a tmux) that synchronises automatically in intervals.
The shell script asks once for all passwords (or get’s them from the corresponding encrypted password files), keeps them in a variable and exports them for mbsync when they are required:
#!/bin/bash # ~/bin/syncmail.sh PRIVATEPWD=$(~/bin/getpassword.sh private-mail) WORKPWD=$(~/bin/getpassword.sh work-mail) if [ -z "$PRIVATEPWD" && -z "$WORKPWD" ] then echo "No passwords. Exiting." exit fi while [ true ] do echo -n "~" channels="" if [ -n "$PRIVATEPWD" ] then PWD_PRIVATE=$PRIVATEPWD export PWD_PRIVATE channels+=" private" fi if [ -n "$WORKPWD" ] then PWD_WORK=$WORKPWD export PWD_WORK channels+=" work" fi mbsync -q $channels result=$? unset PWD_PRIVATE unset PWD_WORK echo -en "\x8" if [ "$result" = "0" ] then echo -en "." else echo -en "!" fi # wait for 5m sleep 5m done
The script will put out a
~ when it is busy synchronising. The
~ will be replaced with a
. when the operation was successful or a
! if there was a problem. mbsync will be rather verbose with the output anyway though, so the
! will likely be drowned in other noise.
Keeping your passwords in a long living shell script is not safe. Especially if there may be other people connecting to this machine that have access to a debugger.