NeoMutt – A User’s View

NeoMutt has many improvements over Mutt. Below is a list of all the differences between Mutt and NeoMutt.

This guide is correct as of Mutt-1.8.3 and NeoMutt-20170609. It is written for users of NeoMutt. If you’re a developer, see the Developer’s View.

Removed from NeoMutt

NeoMutt wants to remain compatible with Mutt, but it also wants to improve the user’s experience. To achieve this, NeoMutt has added many features to Mutt and removed very little.

NeoMutt is focusing on supporting modern architectures / OSs. These platforms are not supported:

  • AIX
  • SunOS
  • Ultrix


mutt_dotlock The only feature that has been removed from NeoMutt is mutt_dotlock. It was a primitive file-locking program which was needed when Mutt was young and network filesystems weren’t as reliable as they are now.

See also: List of NeoMutt features


Two obsolete variables have been removed from NeoMutt.

  • dotlock_program – Command is obsolete
  • smime_sign_opaque_command – Variable wasn’t used

There are 24 synonyms (aliases) for variables in NeoMutt These old names haven’t been in the documentation for over ten years.

Obsolete Name Correct Name
edit_hdrs edit_headers
envelope_from use_envelope_from
forw_decode forward_decode
forw_decrypt forward_decrypt
forw_format forward_format
forw_quote forward_quote
hdr_format index_format
indent_str indent_string
mime_fwd mime_forward
msg_format message_format
pgp_autoencrypt crypt_autoencrypt
pgp_autosign crypt_autosign
pgp_auto_traditional pgp_replyinline
pgp_create_traditional pgp_autoinline
pgp_replyencrypt crypt_replyencrypt
pgp_replysign crypt_replysign
pgp_replysignencrypted crypt_replysignencrypted
pgp_verify_sig crypt_verify_sig
post_indent_str post_indent_string
print_cmd print_command
smime_sign_as smime_default_key
xterm_icon ts_icon_format
xterm_set_titles ts_enabled
xterm_title ts_status_format

These synonyms are still accepted by NeoMutt, but they will soon be deprecated. First there will be an announcement; then warning messages in NeoMutt; then finally they will be removed.

Please update your config.


No functions have been removed from NeoMutt.


No commands have been removed from NeoMutt.


No colours have been removed from NeoMutt.


No translations have been removed from NeoMutt, however one undocumented menu option has been dropped from the crypto code. This won’t be noticed by the users, but will simplify translations.


NeoMutt has removed ca-bundle.crt from the contrib section. It’s now expected that the host system provides it.

Changed in NeoMutt

NeoMutt is moving forward and some things are getting changed.


These seven features have changed slightly – they were adopted by upstream Mutt!

Feature Description In NeoMutt In Mutt
Compressed Folders Read from/write to compressed mailboxes 2016-05-30 2016-12-04 (1.7.2)
Encrypt-to-Self Save a self-encrypted copy of emails 2016-07-23 2017-05-30 (1.8.3)
Kyoto Cabinet Kyoto Cabinet backend for the header cache 2016-10-02 2017-04-12 (1.8.1)
LMDB LMDB backend for the header cache 2016-07-23 2017-04-12 (1.8.1)
Sidebar Overview of mailboxes 2016-03-07 2016-07-06 (1.6.2)
TLS-SNI Negotiate with a server for a TLS/SSL certificate 2016-03-07 2017-04-12 (1.8.1)
Trash Folder Automatically move deleted emails to a trash bin 2016-03-07 2016-08-18 (1.7.0)

Mutt now supports the same six header-cache backends, but there is one important difference. Mutt can only compile-in one backend: NeoMutt can have several backends. This allows distros to offer their users a choice.


If you have upgraded from a very old version of NeoMutt, it might be necessary to update some of your sidebar config. The names were changed to better match NeoMutt’s other variables.

Old Name New Name
sidebar_delim sidebar_divider_char
sidebar_folderindent sidebar_folder_indent
sidebar_indentstr sidebar_indent_string
sidebar_newmail_only sidebar_new_mail_only
sidebar_shortpath sidebar_short_path
sidebar_sort sidebar_sort_method


These very old sidebar functions were also renamed.

Old Name New Name
sidebar-scroll-down sidebar-page-down
sidebar-scroll-up sidebar-page-up


No commands have been changed in NeoMutt.


No colours have been changed in NeoMutt.


The translation files have all been unified:

  • Converted to UTF-8
  • Standard headers

NeoMutt has updated translations of:

  • German
  • Slovak
  • Spanish


No user contributions have been changed in NeoMutt.

Added to NeoMutt

Now the fun bit: all the things that NeoMutt has, that Mutt doesn’t.


These are the major features of NeoMutt.

Feature Description Since Status
Attach Headers Color Color attachment headers using regexp, just like mail bodies 2016-09-10 stable
Compose to Sender Send new mail to the sender of the current mail 2016-10-02 stable
Conditional Dates Use rules to choose date format 2016-03-07 stable
Fmemopen Replace some temporary files with memory buffers 2016-03-07 disabled
Forgotten Attachment Alert user when they forget to attach a file to an outgoing email 2016-09-10 stable
Global Hooks Define actions to run globally within Mutt 2016-08-08 stable
Ifdef Conditional config options 2016-03-07 stable
Index Color Custom rules for theming the email index 2016-03-07 stable
Initials Expando Expando for author’s initials 2016-03-07 stable
Keywords Labels/Tagging for emails 2016-05-30 stable
Limit Current Thread Focus on one Email Thread 2016-03-28 stable
Multiple FCC Save multiple copies of outgoing mail 2016-08-08 stable
Nested If Allow complex nested conditions in format strings 2016-03-07 stable
New Mail Execute a command upon the receipt of new mail 2016-07-23 stable
NNTP Talk to a Usenet news server 2016-05-30 stable
Notmuch Email search engine 2016-03-17 stable
Progress Bar Show a visual progress bar on slow operations 2016-03-07 stable
Quasi-Delete Mark emails that should be hidden, but not deleted 2016-03-07 stable
Reply With X-Original-To Direct reply to email using X-Original-To header 2016-09-10 stable
Sensible Browser Make the file browser behave 2016-09-10 stable
Skip Quoted Leave some context visible 2016-03-28 stable
Status Color Custom rules for theming the status bar 2016-03-07 stable

Here are some other/smaller features/changes:

Feature Desription
Lua Basic Lua Scripting
DNS Faster DNS lookups (getdnsdomainname())
Purge Command to bypass the trash folder
Interrupt Allow the user to interrupt slow IO operations
Rename Attachment Allow the user to rename attachments
Bind Warnings Create source warnings for binding aliases
Relative Ranges Extend the m pattern to allow relative ranges


NeoMutt has some extra hooks:

Hook Run…
startup before opening the first folder
shutdown just before exiting NeoMutt
timeout at least every $timeout seconds
new-mail when new mail arrives

Command Line

NeoMutt has some extra command line options:

Command Line Option Used by Description
-B Lua batch mode
-g NNTP server
-G NNTP group
-DS or -D -S General conceal sensitive / secret options

The output of mutt -v has been tidied and coloured to make it easier to read. It also lists the header-cache backends available.

There are some changes that affect config files.

Finally, if NeoMutt is compiled with debug support, then the log file can be enabled whilst within NeoMutt.

set debug_level = 2
set debug_file = ~/neomutt.log


Variable Owner / Description
collapse_all Collapse threads when entering folder
debug_file Dynamically set the log file
debug_level Dynamically set the log level
empty_subject Configure a subject replacement
flag_chars Configurable flag chars in index
forward_references Set ‘In-Reply-To:’, ‘References:’
from_chars Abbreviates for ‘From’ field in index
header_cache_backend Which hcache backend should be used
show_multipart_alternative How are multi-part emails displayed
abort_noattach Forgotten Attachment
attach_keyword Forgotten Attachment
keywords_legacy Keywords
keywords_standard Keywords
xlabel_delimiter Keywords
new_mail_command New Mail
ask_follow_up NNTP
ask_x_comment_to NNTP
catchup_newsgroup NNTP
followup_to_poster NNTP
group_index_format NNTP
inews NNTP
mime_subject NNTP
news_cache_dir NNTP
newsgroups_charset NNTP
newsrc NNTP
news_server NNTP
nntp_authenticators NNTP
nntp_context NNTP
nntp_listgroup NNTP
nntp_load_description NNTP
nntp_pass NNTP
nntp_poll NNTP
nntp_user NNTP
post_moderated NNTP
save_unsubscribed NNTP
show_new_news NNTP
show_only_unread NNTP
x_comment_to NNTP
nm_db_limit Notmuch
nm_default_uri Notmuch
nm_exclude_tags Notmuch
nm_hidden_tags Notmuch
nm_open_timeout Notmuch
nm_query_type Notmuch
nm_query_window_current_position Notmuch
nm_query_window_current_search Notmuch
nm_query_window_duration Notmuch
nm_query_window_timebase Notmuch
nm_record Notmuch
nm_record_tags Notmuch
nm_unread_tag Notmuch
vfolder_format Notmuch
virtual_spoolfile Notmuch
reply_with_xorig Reply With X-Original-To
sidebar_on_right Sidebar
skip_quoted_offset Skip Quoted


Index Menu

Function Feature
compose-to-sender Compose to Sender
limit-current-thread Limit Current Thread
catchup NNTP
change-newsgroup NNTP
change-newsgroup-readonly NNTP
followup-message NNTP
forward-to-group NNTP
get-children NNTP
get-message NNTP
get-parent NNTP
post-message NNTP
reconstruct-thread NNTP
toggle-read NNTP
change-vfolder Notmuch
entire-thread Notmuch
modify-labels Notmuch
modify-labels-then-hide Notmuch
sidebar-toggle-virtual Notmuch
vfolder-from-query Notmuch
vfolder-window-backward Notmuch
vfolder-window-forward Notmuch
quasi-delete Quasi-Delete
purge-thread Trash

Pager Menu

Function Feature
compose-to-sender Compose to Sender
change-newsgroup NNTP
change-newsgroup-readonly NNTP
followup-message NNTP
forward-to-group NNTP
post-message NNTP
reconstruct-thread NNTP
change-vfolder Notmuch
entire-thread Notmuch
modify-labels Notmuch
modify-labels-then-hide Notmuch
sidebar-toggle-virtual Notmuch
vfolder-from-query Notmuch
quasi-delete Quasi-Delete
purge-thread Trash

Attach Menu

Function Feature
followup-message NNTP
forward-to-group NNTP

Compose Menu

Function Feature
attach-news-message NNTP
edit-followup-to NNTP
edit-newsgroups NNTP
edit-x-comment-to NNTP

Browser Menu

Function Feature
catchup NNTP
goto-folder Sensible Browser
reload-active NNTP
subscribe-pattern NNTP
uncatchup NNTP
unsubscribe-pattern NNTP


Command Feature
shutdown-hook Global Hooks
startup-hook Global Hooks
timeout-hook Global Hooks
finish Ifdef
ifdef Ifdef
ifndef Ifdef
lua Lua Scripting
lua-source Lua Scripting
tag-formats Notmuch
tag-transforms Notmuch
unvirtual-mailboxes Notmuch
virtual-mailboxes Notmuch

Format Strings

Some of NeoMutt’s formatting strings have extra expandos.

index_format, forward_format, message_format, pager_format:

Expando Description
%G transformed notmuch tags
%g message labels (e.g. notmuch tags)
%I initials of author
%K the list to which the letter was sent (if any; otherwise: empty)
%q newsgroup name (if compiled with NNTP support)
%W name of organization of author (“Organization:” field)
%x “X-Comment-To:” field (if present and compiled with NNTP support)
%zs message status flags
%zc message crypto flags
%zt message tag flags

The group_index_format is used to display lists of newsgroups:

Expando Description
%C current newsgroup number
%d description of newsgroup (becomes from server)
%f newsgroup name
%M if newsgroup not allowed for direct post (moderated for example)
%N N if newsgroup is new, u if unsubscribed, blank otherwise
%n number of new articles in newsgroup
%s number of unread articles in newsgroup

The vfolder_format is used to display list of virtual mailboxes:

Expando Description
%C current file number
%d date/time folder was last modified
%D date/time folder was last modified using $date_format
%f filename (“/” is appended for dirs, “@” to symlinks and “*” to exe files)
%F file permissions
%g group name (or numeric gid, if missing)
%l number of hard links
%m number of messages in the mailbox
%n number of unread messages in the mailbox
%N N if mailbox has new mail, blank otherwise
%s size in bytes
%t “*” if the file is tagged, blank otherwise
%u owner name (or numeric uid, if missing)


Colour Feature
attach_headers Attach Headers Color
index_author Index Color
index_collapsed Index Color
index_date Index Color
index_flags Index Color
index_label Index Color
index_number Index Color
index_size Index Color
index_subject Index Color
index_tag Index Color
index_tags Index Color
progress Progress Bar
sidebar_ordinary Sidebar


Lots of new code comments have been added to aid the work of the translator.

NeoMutt has a new translation of:

  • English (British)


This is a list of user contributions to NeoMutt.

Name Description
Header Cache Benchmark Script to test the speed of the header cache
Keybase Keybase Integration
Useful programs List of useful programs interacting with Mutt
Vi Keys Easy and clean Vi-keys for Mutt
Vim Syntax Vim Syntax File

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