Trust me when I say this is the perfect setup, I've tried pretty much all of them. This setup is designed to align with myos as described in my last post that I recommend reading. Here's what you'll get:

Table 1: Summary of software involved in the myOS / email system.
Email Task Software Configuration Repository
Sending msmtp myOS-email
Receiving isync a.k.a mbsync myOS-email
Organising + Filtering notmuch myOS-email

However, that isn't enough to complete all your email tasks. You need to be able to view and compose emails too i.e. you need an mail user agent (a.k.a email client) that supports the above. To closer align with myOS / policy 1 GPG must also be setup so that you can sign, encrypt, and decrypt emails. Because GPG is used for more than just email I have not included it in the myOS / email system. Likewise, as I am going to use notmuch-emacs as my mail user agent, and that is part of the myOS /emacs system, it is configured independently. Details of my emacs configuration are left for later post.

Table 2: Software that utilizes the myOS / email system.
Email Task Software Configuration Repository
Viewing / Composing notmuch-emacs myOS-emacs
Encryption / Signing gpg myOS-distro

By not including the mail user agent and encryption software in the myOS / email system I have achieved another level of compartmentalisation. This reduces the scope of the configuration required making it more manageable. Also in this case it allows greater flexibility. Using myOS / email does not force you to use emacs as your email client – you may select one of your choice here. However, it isn't completely independent as I rely on GPG to encrypt/decrypt your email account credentials rather than doing the silly thing of storing them in plain text in a file.

Table 3: Software that the myOS / email system utilizes.
Email Task Software Configuration Repository
Credentials encryption gpg myOS-distro

In general, you have complete freedom over the software to complete tasks that utilizes the system (Table 2) but not the software that the system utilizes (Table 3). However, if you have any alternative software to complete the task, it becomes a matter of find+replace or aliasing – interesting… That's started a train of thought that I'll publish next.

myOS / email

Here's how it all works, and how to get up and running. As I am using Qubes and following myOS / policy 1 the scope of my email configuration dotfiles are reduced to a single email address. I no longer have to set up my email clients to deal with multiple email addresses making my life easier. My dotfiles now live in /etc/skel of my main TemplateVM qube. However, if you're not using Qubes you can still use this configuration but you would likely want to copy it directly to your home folder.

Before I go into all the dotfiles I will talk about what each piece of software is doing. Emails are downloaded using IMAP and mbsync into a Maildir stored in ~/Mail/<[email protected]>, you now have all your emails for offline reading and searching. Tagging, filtering, and searching is done using notmuch and it makes GMail look like a toy in comparison for these tasks. Finally, emails are sent asynchronously using msmtp, you can stage emails to be sent while offline.

The repository myOS-emacs has the most recent dotfiles and basic installation instructions for reference. I'll go over them in more detail here and give a quick example of how to get started with some basic tagging with notmuch. I will use setting up my personal GMail account for example, replace my email address with your own.

Clone the repo and from there it's two easy steps.

Step 1: Copy in the files and structure

Firstly, here is the file structure of the entire system configuration. This is what you will be copying into your home folder. All of the real files are stored in ~/Mail/config. Everything else is either a symbolic link or an empty folder. Scripts in ~/Mail/config/bin are machinery around msmtp to provide an mail queue (outbox).

├── .local
│   └── bin
│       ├── -> ../../Mail/config/bin/
│       ├── -> ../../Mail/config/bin/
│       └── -> ../../Mail/config/bin/
├── Mail
│   ├── [email protected]
│   ├── config
│   │   ├── bin
│   │   │   ├──
│   │   │   ├──
│   │   │   └──
│   │   ├── credentials.gpg
│   │   ├── mbsyncrc
│   │   ├── msmtprc
│   │   └── notmuch-config
│   ├── .msmtpqueue
│   └── .notmuch
├── .mbsyncrc -> Mail/config/mbsyncrc
├── .msmtprc -> Mail/config/msmtprc
├── .notmuch-config -> Mail/config/notmuch-config

Step 2: Edit the files in ~/Mail/config

There isn't much to edit, mostly standard email account things. Let's start with the trickier stuff.

Step 2a: ~/Mail/config/credentials.gpg (Optional, Recommended)

You can just type your password into the other config files in plain text. I recommend that you generate an encrypted file, it's quite easy with GPG. Make a temporary plain text file with your password in it, encrypt it, shred the temporary file.

$EDITOR mypass.txt
gpg -r "Your Name <[email protected]>" -e mypass.txt > credentials.gpg
shred -n 200 -z -u mypass.txt

Step 2b: ~/Mail/config/mbsyncrc

This file requires the most edits, it is about 50 lines long (including new lines). It controls how mbsync maps remote IMAP folders to the local Maildir. The following setup works wonderfully for GMail. I'm going to breakdown the file from the top. Starting with the basic account info:

IMAPaccount gmail
user [email protected]
PassCmd "gpg -q -d --no-tty ~/Mail/config/credentials.gpg"
CertificateFile /etc/ssl/certs/ca-bundle.crt

The first three lines are self explanatory change these to suit your email account. The PassCmd line is the command to decrypt the file you made above. It should simply return your password to stdout, test the command in your terminal. SSLType IMAPS is telling mbsync to connect to the server using SSL/TLS on the secure IMAP port 993. If your server doesn't support this you might want to try SSLType STARTTLS instead. The last line is to your systems default certificate file. The file above works for Fedora, on other distrobutions the path is likely the same but the filename might be ca-certificates.crt instead.

Next we define where our emails are remotely, and where we're going to keep them locally. These are called stores:

IMAPStore gmail-remote
account gmail

MaildirStore gmail-local
# trailing "/" is important
Path ~/Mail/[email protected]/
Inbox ~/Mail/[email protected]/Inbox

The only edits you will want to make here are changing my email address to your own, and perhaps any reference to gmail to be consistent with IMAPaccount defined above.

Next is the bulk of the file, it is the mapping between folder on the IMAP store (Master) and a folder in the local store (Slave). For GMail based accounts, it likely will require no more editing than making the names consistent with IMAPaccount. For other IMAP servers, you may need to edit the Master line to match the remote folder correctly.

Channel gmail-default
Master :gmail-remote:
Slave :gmail-local:
Patterns % "!Sent" "!Drafts" "!Trash"
Create Both
SyncState *
Expunge Both

Channel gmail-sent
Master :gmail-remote:"[Gmail]/Sent Mail"
Slave :gmail-local:Sent
Create Slave
SyncState *
Expunge Both

Channel gmail-drafts
Master :gmail-remote:"[Gmail]/Drafts"
Slave :gmail-local:Drafts
Create Slave
SyncState *
Expunge Both

Channel gmail-trash
Master :gmail-remote:"[Gmail]/Trash"
Slave :gmail-local:Trash
Create Slave
SyncState *
Expunge Both

The last part of the file, again you will only need to edit to be consistent with IMAPaccount.

Group gmail
Channel gmail-default
Channel gmail-sent
Channel gmail-drafts
Channel gmail-trash

Step 2c: ~/Mail/config/msmtprc

This file configures msmtp. There should be nothing in this file you shouldn't be able to work out if you have properly understood the above. Edit appropriately.

auth           on
tls            on
tls_trust_file /etc/ssl/certs/ca-bundle.crt
logfile        ~/Mail/config/.msmtp.log

account        gmail
port           587
from           [email protected]
user           [email protected]
passwordeval   "gpg -q -d --no-tty ~/Mail/config/credentials.gpg"

Step 2d: ~/Mail/config/notmuch-config

The last file to configure. You might need to edit path to reference your Linux username, name and primary_email of course, and finally gpg_path if you need. Something to note while here are the tags listed under new – these are applied to newly downloaded emails after running notmuch new.


name=Aqeel Akber
primary_email[email protected]






Now that you're all setup, download all your emails by typing the following:

mbsync -Va

After that is done, tag the newly downloaded emails:

notmuch new

When setting up your mail user agent use the following in place of sendmail:

~/.local/bin/ <just_like_sendmail>

The above sends emails immediately if it can ping Google's DNS server:

Otherwise, you can check the outbox queue at the command line with:


If you want to force trying to send mail now, run:


You probably would like to set up systemd timers or use cron to run the above commands periodically. Setting up your mail user agent is up to you, if you use spacemacs and can't wait to get started check out my layer myOS-spacemacs-pim.

A quick and dirty example highlighting why notmuch is awesome

Notmuch lets you search through your downloaded emails from the command line with powerful queries and tag them, see man notmuch tag for more info. Notmuch also supports running executables/scripts after particular actions using hooks, see man notmuch hooks. By using notmuch tag combined with a post-new hook written in python you can do some pretty awesome things really easily.

Try this, make a file at ~/Mail/.notmuch/hooks/post-new with the following in it and make the file executable with chmod +x. This is an example of a quick and dirty script that has served me quite well, especially the "learn from" filter which (dumbly) learns and mimics my behaviour. Before going fully down the rabbit hole with this, you might want lean how to back up and restore your tags database.

import subprocess

def nmtag(tag : str, query : str):
  """Apply tag to all results of a notmuch query"""
  tag = tag.split(" ")
  cmd =["notmuch", "tag"] +
                       tag + ["--", query])
  return cmd

accname = "gmail"
address = "[email protected]"

"""Start searching and tagging. When you're done with a particular subset of
emails, remove the new tag so that it doesn't appear in subsequent queries.
Working in this manner is simple but order matters.

# tag account name
tag = "+%s" % (accname)
query = "(to:%s OR from:%s) AND tag:new" % (address, address)
nmtag(tag, query)

# from one of my accounts is probably important
tag = "+inbox"
query = "(from:%s) AND tag:new" % address
nmtag(tag, query)

# unless it's sent mail
tag = "+sent -unread -inbox -new"
query = "(folder:%s/Sent) AND tag:new" % accname
nmtag(tag, query)

# tag things stored as drafts
tag = "+draft -inbox -unread -new"
query = "(folder:%s/Drafts) AND tag:new" % accname
nmtag(tag, query)

# also, if it's IMAP trash
tag = "+trash -inbox -unread -new"
query = "(folder:%s/Trash) AND tag:new"
nmtag(tag, query)


tag = "+calendar +filtering -inbox"
query = "(attachment:.ics) AND tag:new"
nmtag(tag, query)

# Find email addresses in the database that have been tagged with LEARNFROM at
# least 3 times. Tag new emails from these email addresses with the same tag.
LEARNFROM = ["vip", "human", "client"]
for t in LEARNFROM:
    tag = "+%s -inbox -new" % t
    prevfrom =["notmuch","address","tag:"+t], stdout=subprocess.PIPE)
    prevfrom = prevfrom.stdout.decode("utf-8").split("\n")
    prevfrom = filter(lambda x: len(x)>3, prevfrom)
    for f in prevfrom:
        query = "(from:%s) AND tag:new" % f
        nmtag(tag, query)

tag = "+social -inbox -new"
query = "(from:twitter) AND tag:new"
nmtag(tag, query)

tag = "+commerce -inbox -new"
query = "(subject:receipt OR subject:invoice OR subject:order OR subject:'ship*' OR subject:'deliv*' OR from:auspost OR from:ebay) AND tag:new"
nmtag(tag, query)

tag = "+ping -inbox -new"
query = "(from:'notif*' OR from:reply OR from:noreply OR from:donotreply OR subject:notification OR subject:reply) AND tag:new"
nmtag(tag, query)

tag = "-filtering -new"
query = "tag:filtering"
nmtag(tag, query)

tag = "+inbox -new"
query = "tag:new"
nmtag(tag, query)


Email is a fundamental part of myos, by introducing organisation by compartmentalisation with Qubes configuration of email is reduced to a single email account which simplifies the process. Further, by separating the task of viewing and composing emails from communication with the server and organising the emails has granted another level of flexibility. Software dependencies across myOS systems was briefly discussed which highlighted the possibility of aliasing software in configuration files to complete a task - this started a train of thought that will be the topic of the next blog post.

Installation and configuration of myOS-email was explained in detail. A notmuch tag + filtering script that learns and mimics your behaviour, and uses simple matching rules was given as an example highly effective method of organising mail with minimal effort.