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1 Read me first

Mew is a user interface for text messages, multimedia messages (MIME), news articles and security functionality including PGP, S/MIME, SSH, and SSL. Also, Mew can work with the recent search services.

Mew is an acronym for "Messaging in the Emacs World". You should spell it with the first letter capitalized and pronounce it as it is (i.e. the meow of cats). When the author started programming it, he chose a cute word from his English dictionary. Thus, Mew.

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1.1 Mew’s features

The features of Mew 6.9 are as follows:

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1.2 Supported Emacs versions

Please use Emacs 26.1 or later. Mew doesn’t support earlier versions nor XEmacs.

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1.3 Modes

Mew has the following seven modes:

Summary mode

A mode to list and select messages.

Virtual mode

A mode to list messages selected with a specific condition from one or more folders. This is similar to Summary mode. This mode is categorized to Selection or Thread.

Message mode

A mode to display the content of a message.

Draft mode

A mode to prepare a message to be sent, answered, and forwarded.

Header mode

A mode to edit the header of a message and to send it.

Edit mode

A mode to edit a message to generate another new message.

Addrbook mode

A mode to register an entry to the address book (Addrbook).

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1.4 Folder convention

With Mew’s terminology, a place where messages are deliver is called ’mailbox’. There are three kinds of mailbox: local, POP server, IMAP server, and NNTP server.

A box which contains messages used by Mew is called "folder". The name of a folder is in the format that "proto" is followed by a string, where "proto" is one sign letter. For example, the proto of "+inbox" is "+".

Mew’s folders are categorized to two types: "local folder" and "remote folder".

A local folder is a folder which is *original* and is created the computer on which Mew is running. Also, messages stored in the folder are *original*. (So, if you remove them, you cannot revive them.)

The proto of a local folder is "+". We summarize special local folders as follows:


The first local folder to store messages which you fetch from your local mailbox or your POP server. To refile messages, what you do is to move the messages from "+inbox" to other folders.


A local folder where messages, which you have not completed yet, are stored.


A local folder where e-mail messages to be sent are stored. The messages in "+queue" will be eventually sent by SMTP.


A local folder where NetNews message to be sent are stored. The messages in "+postq" will be eventually sent by NNTP.

A remote folder is a COPY whose original is on a server side. A message in a remote folder is a cache which is copied from the server.

Here are a list of available proto of remote folders:


Folders on an IMAP servers. Example: "%inbox"


The folder on a POP server. Example: "$inbox" (Since there is only one folder in a POP server, "$inbox" is the only folder whose name starts with "$".)


Newsgroups of NetNews. Example: "-fj.mail.reader.mew"

If you use several servers, there are multiple sets of remote folders. You can specify several servers by using "case". For more information about the "case", see Changing receiving/sending behavior. To specify a remote folder corresponding to a "case", you should write "case:folder". You can omit "case:" if a case is "default".

A combination of "case" and proto organizes a world to which a message belongs. A message can move within its world. To make it easy to search received messages afterward, they should be moved to proper folders. To know how to refile received messages, see Happy refiling.

You cannot move a message in the "$" world because there is only one folder, "$inbox". You cannot move a message in the "-" world either since messages in the "-" world are not yours.

If you want to move a message from one world to another, you should COPY it. Its destination is restricted to a local folder. This method is described in Getting messages.

If you make a list of folders, you can use the completion functionality for folders. To know how to make a list of folders, please refer to Updating status.

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1.5 Configuration

To execute Mew, the followings are necessary either in the site configuration file or in your "~/.emacs".

(autoload 'mew "mew" nil t)
(autoload 'mew-send "mew" nil t)

;; Optional setup (Read Mail menu):
(setq read-mail-command 'mew)

;; Optional setup (e.g. C-xm for sending a message):
(autoload 'mew-user-agent-compose "mew" nil t)
(if (boundp 'mail-user-agent)
    (setq mail-user-agent 'mew-user-agent))
(if (fboundp 'define-mail-user-agent)

If you are using Emacs with the –unibyte option or the EMACS_UNIBYTE environment variable for Latin-1, put the following into your "~/.emacs".

(set-language-environment "Latin-1")
(set-input-method "latin-1-prefix") ;; or "latin-1-postfix"

If you use the following configuration for Latin-1, please remove it. This is an obsolete handling of Latin-1 that can cause Mew to function incorrectly.

(standard-display-european 1)

When booting, Mew reads the file "~/.mew.el". All Mew configurations should be written in this file.

To configure your e-mail address, the followings are necessary.

;; (setq mew-name "your name") ;; (user-full-name)
;; (setq mew-user "user name of e-mail address") ;; (user-login-name)
(setq mew-mail-domain "domain of e-mail address")

To send e-mail messages by SMTP, the following is necessary.

(setq mew-smtp-server "your SMTP server")  ;; if not localhost

If you want to use POP to receive e-mail messages, the followings are necessary.

;; (setq mew-pop-user "your POP account")  ;; (user-login-name)
(setq mew-pop-server "your POP server")    ;; if not localhost

If you want to use a local mailbox to receive e-mail messages, the followings are necessary.

;; To use local mailbox "mbox" or "maildir" instead of POP
(setq mew-mailbox-type 'mbox)
(setq mew-mbox-command "incm")
(setq mew-mbox-command-arg "-u -d /path/to/mbox")
;; If /path/to/mbox is a file, it means "mbox".
;; If /path/to/mbox is a directory, it means "maildir".

If you want to use IMAP to receive e-mail messages, the followings are necessary.

(setq mew-proto "%")
;; (setq mew-imap-user "your IMAP account")  ;; (user-login-name)
(setq mew-imap-server "your IMAP server")    ;; if not localhost

To read and/or write articles of NetNews, the followings are necessary.

;; (setq mew-nntp-user "your NNTP account")
(setq mew-nntp-server "your NNTP server")

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1.6 Password

When fetching/sending messages or using PGP or S/MIME, you may be required to input your password. Before you type your password, check carefully to see if either the following conditions is satisfied:

If neither of these conditions are satisfied, do not input a password. Your password could be accessed without your knowledge.

If you get sick of inputting your password from time to time, please use one of two password-cache mechanisms.

  1. Storing passwords in memory temporarily. Not writing them to a file.
  2. Storing passwords in memory while Mew is running. When Mew/Emacs quits, Mew encrypts the passwords and writes them to a file.

To use Feature 1., configure as follows:

(setq mew-use-cached-passwd t)

To use Feature 2., install GnuPG first. GnuPG version 1.x and 2.1.23 or later are supported for this feature. If you use GnuPG 2.1.23 or later, put the following to "~/.gnupg/gpg.conf":

auto-key-locate local

Then, configure as follows:

(setq mew-use-master-passwd t)

If both variables are ‘t’, the feature 2. is used.

Feature 1.: Any passwords including POP and PGP are cached in memory. While a password is cached, you can omit to input the password. The cached password will expire after a certain period (20 minutes by default). However, its timer is cleared (reset to 20 minutes) if the password is used internally.

Feature 2: When Mew boots, Mew asks you to input a master password. Mew decrypts encrypted passwords in a file and caches them in memory. For instance, if you have already typed POP password, it is to be stored in memory. Thus, when the POP password is required, you can omit to input it. If you use a master password at the first time, you are asked to input it twice. When Mew boots, you might type a wrong master password. In this case, if you enabled Feature 1., it is used. Otherwise, no password-cache mechanisms is used.

If you want to change the master password, type ‘C-cC-m’ in Summary mode.

Cached passwords in memory are not encrypted. So, if you use either Feature 1. or Feature 2., you should take care so that nobody can touch your Emacs. If you leave your PC and an Emacs expert happens to check your configuration, your passwords could be stolen.

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1.7 Starting

To start Mew, you can choose one of the following:

M-x mew

Execute Mew first unless Mew is running. And retrieve arrived messages or just visit to the default folder.

proto’ is determined by ‘mew-proto’ and the "case" (see Changing receiving/sending behavior).

If ‘proto’ is ‘+’ (i.e. a local folder), a mailbox is determined according to ‘mew-mailbox-type’ (see Getting messages). Otherwise (i.e. a remote folder), an appropriate protocol to retrieve messages is chosen according to ‘proto’.

If ‘mew-auto-get’ is ‘t’, arrived messages are asynchronously fetched and listed up in Summary mode.

mew-auto-get’ is ‘nil’, just visit to the folder determined by ‘proto’.

C-uM-x mew

Perform ‘M-x mew’ with ‘mew-auto-get’ reversed.

M-x mew-send

Enter Draft mode for message composing.


Enter Draft mode for message composing if ‘mail-user-agent’ is configured.

When Mew is executed on Emacs, two cute cats appear on the cover page.

For the methods of quitting Mew, please refer to Give me a break.

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