Frequently Asked Questions about getmail

4 April 2000

Charles Cazabon <getmail @>

Table of Contents

These are a few of the questions I get asked about installing, configuring, and using getmail.

1 Questions about getmail

1.1 What is getmail?

getmail is a POP3 mail retriever program, intended as a simple replacement for fetchmail. It is Copyright (C) 2000 by its author, Charles Cazabon, and licensed under the GNU General Public License version 2.

1.2 What are getmail's features?

1.3 Where can I get getmail?

The getmail homepage is at

1.4 How do I install and use getmail?

It's easy:

  1. Make sure that the Python interpreter is installed. See for details.
  2. Download getmail from its homepage.
  3. Extract the contents of the tar file (e.g. tar xzf getmail-version.tar.gz).
  4. Copy `' to somewhere in your path and make it executable (e.g. chmod 755
  5. Copy the startup helper script `getmail' to the same directory, making it executable as well.
  6. Create a `.getmail' directory in your home directory.
  7. Create a `.getmailrc' file in that directory. See the included files `example.getmailrc' and `USAGE' for its syntax.
  8. Run getmail.

1.5 How can I specify default options?

Use the `GETMAILOPTS' environment variable. Specify the options you want to be defaults just like you would on the commandline (i.e. separated by whitespace).

For example, if you use the bash shell, you can put the following in your `.bashrc' to make getmail default to verbose operation and deleting retrieved mail from the POP3 server:

export GETMAILOPTS="--verbose --delete"

1.6 What does this error message mean?

1.7 Is it safe to run more than one getmail at once?

Short answer: yes, mostly.

Long answer: there is one case where multiple getmail instances can collide and cause problems. If two or more instances are both retrieving mail from the same POP3 account on the same server, they can collide when writing to the `oldmail' file. However, as long as each instance of getmail has a different set of accounts to retrieve from, all is fine.

1.8 Does getmail need special (`root') privileges to run?

No. getmail only has to have write access to the destinations (`Maildir's or `mbox' files) that it tries to deliver to. This can be done with group-writable permissions rather than running getmail as `root'.

1.9 Can getmail retrieve mail from an IMAP server?

No. Maybe in the future.

1.10 Can getmail deliver by re-injecting messages via SMTP like fetchmail?

No. Maybe in the future.

But why do you want getmail to do this? If it's to take advantage of qmail-style extension addresses for delivery into different `Maildir's, just use a domain-mailbox setup, with multiple destinations:

[My mailbox]
account = popusername
host =
password = poppass
destination = /home/username/Maildir # default Maildir = /home/username/Mail/list1 = /home/username/Mail/list2

1.11 Why can't I read messages delivered to a Maildir from a domain mailbox?

If you're running getmail as `root' to deliver to a Maildir you wouldn't normally have write access to, then getmail is creating the message files in the Maildir with ownership `root:root'. The user who owns that Maildir will probably not be able to read those files.

To fix this, add `:username' to the end of the destination line in your `.getmailrc' file, and getmail will change the ownership of the message files it creates to match the system account of that name.

1.12 Can I leave whitespace in option values in the config file?

Yes, internal spaces are always okay. Leading and trailing whitespace is stripped by default. To preserve leading and trailing whitespace, quote the value with either single `'' or double `"' quotes.

password = ' a password with leading whitespace'

1.13 How do I make getmail be less verbose?

Well, you could avoid supplying the `--verbose' or `-v' options. If you've specified one of these in the environment variable `GETMAILOPTS' and want to override it on the commandline, use the `--quiet' or `-q' option.

1.14 How does getmail determine the recipient of a message in a domain mailbox?

getmail examines the headers messages retrieved from domain mailboxes. The algorithm works as follows:

getmail then compares each recipient found in this way to the list of user-supplied recognized email address destinations in the `.getmailrc' file. For each match found, the message is delivered to the stated destination `Maildir' or `mbox' file. Each non-match is delivered to the default destination for the domain mailbox.

1.15 How do I report a bug, or request a feature?

To report a bug, make a feature request, or get support with getmail, please send email to me at <getmail @>.

1.16 I have a question about getmail that isn't answered here...

Have you read the documentation? Have you looked at the `example.getmailrc' file? Then write to me, so you can get help, and so I can include your question in this FAQ. Additional questions about getmail should be sent to me at <getmail @>.

2 Other Questions

2.1 Do you have any other software available?

My other software (all GPL-licensed) is available at

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