This post is part of my notmuch of a journey series.
I love the way gmail uses labels and I loved using them in sup. notmuch has tags for the same purpose so I want to use them extensively, and to have most tags added automatically for me.
notmuch new mail workflow
There are several ways to do this, but the way I’ve done it is:
- offlineimap runs every X minutes
- the offlineimap
postsynchookis set to
notmuch new– so when the IMAP run is complete, notmuch is called
- notmuch new processes all the email it doesn’t know about, adding a set of tags to every new message
- notmuch then checks for the file
<maildir>/.notmuch/hooks/post-newand if it exists then it will run it
- in my case, the hook file calls
afew --new --tag
The tags added by
notmuch new are set in the notmuch config file, in the part that looks like:
So all new messages will have those tags added. Your
post-new hook can then run only against mail that is tagged “new”, making it nice and fast. And as the final step, the
post-new hooks should remove the “new” tag from all messages that have it, so that you don’t have to re-process them next time. A common idea is also to remove the “new” tag from messages that match filters you want to archive, and at the end of your filter list you replace the “new” tag with the “inbox” tag for any messages still tagged “new”.
You can do this with a basic shell script that calls the notmuch command line binary, as shown on the notmuch initial tagging page. However the command line binary only looks at a few headers (From, To, Cc, Subject, Date and message ID as far as I can tell). So I thought I’d look into:
afew is a python command that will run filters against a set of messages and generate tags. I can install it using pip. However, at the time of writing the documentation is not as useful as it could be. I ended up reading the code to work out what was going on.
One key bit of information is that the config files are stored in
~/.config/afew/config which meant I could search github for path:afew/config – which only brought up two hits when I just tried it, but that’s a start to see what others do. The most useful one I found was by pazz and you might also want to look at my afew config.
When you’re playing with afew, running
afew --help will get you started reasonably. And the command you want for the
post-new hook is:
afew --tag --new
Which will run against the new messages and run the tag filters.
I had to read the code to work out what some of the filters were, so here are my findings as a first stab at documenting them. Later I intend to improve the docs.
afew’s built in filters
The default filter set (if you don’t specify anything in the config) is:
[SpamFilter] [ClassifyingFilter] [KillThreadsFilter] [ListMailsFilter] [ArchiveSentMailsFilter] [InboxFilter]
These can be customised by specifying settings beneath them. The standard settings are:
message– text that will be displayed while running this filter if the verbosity is high enough.
query– the query to use against the messages, specified in standard notmuch format
tags– the tags to add to messages that match the query
tag_blacklist– if the message has one of these tags, don’t add
Note that most of the filters below set their own value for message, query and/or tags, and some ignore some of the above settings.
This looks for the header
X-Spam-Flag – if it finds it, the
spam tag is set. You can override the tag used for spam if you want.
The settings you can use are:
spam_tagis the tag used to identify spam. It defaults to “spam”
This is to do with learning what tags match what without explicit rules. I haven’t worked this one out fully, but the project README has some details on how to use it. If I work out more I’ll blog about and link to that from here.
If the new message has been added to a thread that has already been tagged “killed” then add the “killed” tag to this message. This allows for ignoring all replies to a particular thread.
This filter looks for the
List-Id header, and if it finds it, adds the list name as a tag, together with the tag “lists”.
Basically does what says it on the tin. Though more accurately, it looks for emails that are from one of your addresses and not to any of your addresses. It then adds the sent tag and removes the inbox tag.
This removes the new tags, and adds the “inbox” tag to any message that isn’t killed or spam.
This looks at which folder each email is in and uses that name as a tag for the email. So if you have a procmail or seive set up that puts emails in folders for you, this might be useful.
Adding your own filters to afew
You can modify filters, and define your own versions of the base Filter that allow you to tag messages in a similar way to the
notmuch tag command, using the settings above. Showing some sample configs is the easiest way to understand. The notmuch initial tagging page shows a sample config:
# immediately archive all messages from "me" notmuch tag -new -- tag:new and from:firstname.lastname@example.org # delete all messages from a spammer: notmuch tag +deleted -- tag:new and from:email@example.com # tag all message from notmuch mailing list notmuch tag +notmuch -- tag:new and to:firstname.lastname@example.org # finally, retag all "new" messages "inbox" and "unread" notmuch tag +inbox +unread -new -- tag:new
The equivalent in afew would be:
[ArchiveSentMailsFilter] [Filter.spamcom] message = Delete all messages from spammer query = from:email@example.com tags = deleted;-new [Filter.notmuch] message = Tag all messages from the notmuch mailing list query = to:firstname.lastname@example.org tags = notmuch [Filter.myinbox] message = My version of the inbox filter query = tag:new tags = inbox;unread;-new
Not that the queries do not include
tag:new because this is implied when afew is run with the
Here are a few more example filters from github dotfiles:
[Filter.1] query = 'email@example.com' tags = +sicsa message = sicsa [Filter.2] query = 'from:firstname.lastname@example.org OR from:GT Silber OR from:email@example.com' tags = +soc;+foo message = foosoc [Filter.3] query = 'folder:gmail/G+' tags = +G+ message = gmail spam # skip inbox [Filter.6] query = 'to:firstname.lastname@example.org AND (subject:emacs OR subject:elisp OR "(defun" OR "(setq" OR PATCH)' tags = -inbox;-new message = notmuch emacs stuff
If you need more powerful processing you can write filters that match regular expressions against any header in the email with the HeaderMatchingFilter, but more on that in a future blog post.