(Sender) Profiles with Mutt

This document discusses the idea of grouping parameters into profiles and using them with the Mutt email client.

What is a profile?

The profile concept is a form of customizing software to meet the user's preferences. Simply, a profile is a group of parameters or user settings.

Even though this document focuses on sender profiles, profiles in general are not restricted to sending email or even the Mutt email client. As a matter of fact the profile concept can be applied to customizing any desired desired property/ies provided that the particular software includes a mechanism for profiles to be used.

An example of the profile concept is the Netscape WWW-browser and its "User Profiles" that allow several users to use the same browser software in a same computer. However, whereas Netscape's User Profiles are predefined, profiles with Mutt are not restricted in any way. In fact, a profile with Mutt is only a way to think of groups of parameters in muttrc, not a builtin feature or mechanism. Profile examples could be different color-schemes or sender profiles, described next.

What is a sender profile?

A sender profile is a collection of sender-oriented parameters. A simple example would be the address to send replies to or perhaps the signature containing your contact information etc. An advanced sender profile could contain the PGP signing key to be used when sending emails, the filename for writing a copy of the sent message, a specialized header to be used for automatically filtering incoming email or even the address where the message is sent from.

So what. Are they any useful for me? you may ask. The sender profiles are useful for anyone who needs or wants to send email with different sender charateristics. If you have multiple jobs or positions like IT administrator, webmaster etc. the benefits are obvious. But sender profiles can be useful for others too: For instance, do you think it is really necessary to have a company signature in an email addressed to your girlfriend ;-)

Creating a profile

First of all, you need to have Mutt working and configured properly. If you are using PGP, make sure it is working as well.

Secondly, you need to define which parameters you want to include in your profile. Consult the Mutt manual if/when needed... Save these settings in a separate file and remove/ comment out from the muttrc file. (Note! the status_format was wrapped for convenience. It's all one big line)

A simple example:

# Mutt sender profile: default

# Signature file
set signature='~/.signature' 

# Customized headers
unmy_hdr *                      # remove all extra headers first.

my_hdr From: Your Name <your.name@some.domain>
my_hdr Reply-To: Your Name <your.name@some.domain>

# Include the profile name in the status line
set status_format="-%r-Mutt: %f [Msgs:%?M?%M/?%m%?n? New:%n?%?o? Old:%o?%?d? Del:%d?%?F? 
Flag:%F?%?t? Tag:%t?%?p? Post:%p?%?b? Inc:%b? %?l? %l?]---(%s/%S)-default-%>-(%P)---"

Another profile to be used together with the previous one:

# Mutt sender profile: personal

# Signature file
set signature='~/.signature-personal' 

# Customized headers
unmy_hdr *                      # remove all extra headers first.

my_hdr From: Your Name <your.name@some.other.domain>
my_hdr Reply-To: Your Name <your.name@some.other.domain>

# Include the profile name in the status line
set status_format="-%r-Mutt: %f [Msgs:%?M?%M/?%m%?n? New:%n?%?o? Old:%o?%?d? Del:%d?%?F? 
Flag:%F?%?t? Tag:%t?%?p? Post:%p?%?b? Inc:%b? %?l? %l?]---(%s/%S)-personal-%>-(%P)---"

A more complex example:

# Mutt sender profile: default
# From, Reply-To, Fcc, Pgp sign-key, attribution, signature etc.
#
# The following definitions are used by muttprofile
# NAME: name for your profile
# DESC: description for you profile, optional

set locale=""                   # system default locale ("C")
set signature='~/.signature'    # signature file
set indent_string="> "          # Quoting mails with this string.
set attribution='On %{%a, %d %b %Y}, %n wrote:\n'
set post_indent_string=""       # Footer (after quotes, before signature).
set status_format="-%r-Mutt: %f [Msgs:%?M?%M/?%m%?n? New:%n?%?o? Old:%o?%?d? Del:%d?%?F? 
Flag:%F?%?t? Tag:%t?%?p? Post:%p?%?b? Inc:%b? %?l? %l?]---(%s/%S)-default-%>-(%P)---"

# Pretty Good Privacy (PGP):
set pgp_sign_as="0x00000000"    # UserID/KeyID for signing

# Customized headers
unmy_hdr *                      # remove all extra headers first.

my_hdr From: Your Name <your.name@some.domain>
my_hdr Reply-To: Your Name <your.name@some.domain>
#my_hdr Bcc: username@domain.com
#my_hdr Organization: org

set nopgp_autoencrypt           # Default (no enc)
set nopgp_autosign              # Default (sign)

fcc-hook . "=sent"              # the file to copy sent messages

Important!

All sender profiles should contain the same parameters or commands, even if their values would be the same! This is to avoid problems when switching between profiles. If you load a profile, and after that, another one with only partially same parameters, the values for the parameters that were not included in the new profile, would not be affected. For instance in the examples above, the unmy_hdr command is given to ensure customized headers are reseted for the new profile. BTW: the same can be true for send-hooks as well.

Once you are ready, save the profiles in separate files. The filename doesn't matter, but a logical place would be under the mutt directory (~/.mutt).

Using profiles

In order to use your new profiles, you need to load one right before you start a new message. This can be done easily with some Mutt macros.

Macros

The macro definitions go to your muttrc file. First you need to load a default profile.

# default
source ~/.mutt/profile.default

# macros to invoke a profile
macro   index   <F10>    ":source ~/.mutt/profile.default\n" "Load default profile"
macro   index   <F11>    ":source ~/.mutt/profile.personal\n" "Load profile: personal"

These settings will allow you to load the default profile by pressing <F10>-key and personal profile with <F11>. If you set the status_format parameter in the profile, you can get the name of the active profile in the status line.

You can also make macros like this:

macro   index   <F10>    ":source ~/.mutt/profile.default\nm" "New message with default profile"
macro   index   <F11>    ":source ~/.mutt/profile.default\n^fm" "New message with default profile (forget-passphrase)"

These settings allow you to load a profile, (forget PGP passphrase) and start a new message all in one key.

Using muttprofile

Muttprofile is a small utility to help choosing the profile. Once set up, you can assing only one macro to call muttprofile, load the chosen profile and start a new message.

# default
source ~/.mutt/profile.default

# macro to invoke muttprofile, load the chosen profile and start a new message
macro	index	<F10>	"!muttprofile\n:source ~/.mutt/profile.active\nm" "New message with profile"
Please see the muttprofile page for more examples, details of operation and download.

Profiles and send-hooks

Send-hooks are one of the very powerful features of Mutt. With send-hooks you can make settings that will be applied when a message is sent to certain address/es.

Sender profiles can also be used with send-hooks. Adding something like this in your muttrc makes sure the profile "personal" is loaded every time you are sending a message to your girlfriend.

send-hook (my.girlfriend@some.domain)$ \
        "source ~/.mutt/profile.personal\n"

This is very handy with mailing lists:

# mutt-users mailing list
send-hook (mutt-users)$ \
        "source ~/.mutt/profile.mutt\n"

PGP passphrase

Mutt has a feature that it remembers the passphrase for the PGP signing key for a certain period of time (pgp_timeout) after it has been used once. If you load another profile with another signing key, you will get a "bad passphrase" error when trying to send a message. In order to avoid that, you need to "forget" the passphrase before sending a message. The easiest way to do this is by first pressing "^f" (defaul keybinding for the mutt command forget-passphrase) and then trying again.

At least when writing this, there is no (easy) way to automatically determine when it would be necessary to forget the passphrase. However, I have noticed that in practice this is not such a big problem. Pressing "^f" and trying again works really fine. Note also that automatic passphrase forgetting is not necessarily a blessing: if you frequently switch between profiles, you might not want to type passphrase every time you send a signed message.

Notes

The settings described in this document, have been tested only with Mutt versions 1.0i, 1.1.11i and 1.2i on Linux 2.2.x (RedHat 6.x).

Acknowledgments

The people in the mutt-users mailing list gave me valuable help with the profiles and mutt configuration. Special thanks to Charles Curley and Matti Airas for encouragement.

Martti Rahkila's Mutt Resources


URL: http://www.iki.fi/martti.rahkila/mutt/profiles.html
Last update: 2000-05-15
Author: Martti Rahkila