This manual was last updated 9 April 2016 for version 1.2.6 of mpop.
Copyright (C) 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 Martin Lambers
Copying and distribution of this file, with or without modification, are permitted in any medium without royalty provided the copyright notice and this notice are preserved. These files are offered as-is, without any warranty.
|• Introduction:||Basic concepts.|
|• Configuration file:||Configuration file commands.|
|• Invocation:||Command line options.|
|• Transport Layer Security:||How to use TLS/SSL.|
|• Authentication:||How to use authentication.|
|• Mail retrieval mode:||How to retrieve mail.|
|• Server information mode:||How to obtain information about a POP3 server.|
|• Filtering:||How to filter mails.|
|• Examples:||Usage examples.|
mpop is a POP3 client.
In its default mode of operation, it retrieves mails from one or more POP3 mailboxes, optionally does some filtering, and delivers them through a mail delivery agent (MDA), to a maildir folder, or to an mbox file. Mails that were successfully delivered before will not be retrieved a second time, even if errors occur or mpop is terminated in the middle of a session.
The best way to start is probably to have a look at the Examples section. See Examples.
In addition to the mail retrieval mode, mpop can be used in server information mode. In this mode, mpop prints as much information as it can get about a given POP3 server (greeting, supported features, login delay, maximum mail size, …).
Normally, a configuration file contains information about which POP3 server to use and how to use it, but all settings can also be configured on the command line.
POP3 server information is organized in accounts. Each account describes one POP3 server: host name, authentication settings, TLS settings, and so on. Each configuration file can define multiple accounts.
Supported features include:
The default configuration file is
~/.mpoprc. Settings in this file can
be changed by command line options.
A configuration file is a simple text file. Empty lines and comment lines (first non-blank character is ’#’) are ignored. Every other line must contain a command and may contain an argument to that command. The argument may be enclosed in double quotes (").
If a file name starts with the tilde (~), this tilde will be replaced by
If a command accepts the argument ‘on’, it also accepts an empty argument and treats that as if it was ‘on’.
Commands are organized in accounts. Each account starts with the ‘account’ command and defines the settings for one POP3 account.
Set defaults. The following commands will set default values for all following account definitions.
Start a new account definition with the given name. The current default values
are filled in (see defaults).
If a colon and a list of previously defined accounts is given after the account name, the new account, with the filled in default values, will inherit all settings from the accounts in the list.
The POP3 server to retrieve mails from. The argument may be a host name or a network address. Every account definition must contain this command.
The port that the POP3 server listens on. The default is 110 ("pop3"), unless TLS without STARTTLS is used, in which case it is 995 ("pop3s").
Set or unset a network timeout, in seconds. The default is 180 seconds. The argument ‘off’ means that no timeout will be set, which means that the operating system default will be used.
Enable or disable POP3 pipelining. You should never need to change the default setting, which is ‘auto’: mpop enables pipelining for POP3 servers that advertise this capability, and disables it for all other servers. Pipelining can speed up a POP3 session substantially.
Use a SOCKS proxy. All network traffic will go through this proxy host, including DNS queries, except for a DNS query that might be necessary to resolve the proxy host name itself (this can be avoided by using an IP address as proxy host name). An empty argument disables proxy usage. The supported SOCKS protocol version is 5. If you plan to use this with Tor, see also Using mpop with Tor.
Set the port number for the proxy host. An empty ‘number’ argument resets this to the default port, which is 1080 ("socks").
Choose an authentication method. The default argument ‘on’ chooses a method automatically. Accepted methods are ‘user’, ‘apop’, ‘plain’, ‘scram-sha-1’, ‘cram-md5’, ‘gssapi’, ‘digest-md5’, ‘external’, ‘login’, and ‘ntlm’.
Set the user name for authentication. An empty argument unsets the user name.
Set the password for authentication. An empty argument unsets the password. Consider using the ‘passwordeval’ command or a key ring instead of this command, to avoid storing plain text passwords in the configuration file.
Set the password for authentication to the output (stdout) of the command eval. This can be used e.g. to decrypt password files on the fly or to query key rings, and thus to avoid storing plain text passwords.
Set a domain for the ‘ntlm’ authentication method. This is obsolete.
See Transport Layer Security.
Enable or disable TLS (also known as SSL) for secured connections. You also need ‘tls_trust_file’ or ‘tls_fingerprint’, and for some servers you may need to disable ‘tls_starttls’.
Choose the TLS variant: start TLS from within the session (‘on’, default), or tunnel the session through TLS (‘off’).
Activate server certificate verification using a list of truted Certification Authorities (CAs). The file must be in PEM format. Some systems provide a system-wide default file, e.g. /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt on Debian-based systems with the ‘ca-certificates’ package. An empty argument disables this. You should also use ‘tls_crl_file’.
Set a certificate revocation list (CRL) file for TLS, to check for revoked certificates. An empty argument disables this.
Set the fingerprint of a single certificate to accept for TLS. This certificate
will be trusted regardless of its contents. The fingerprint should be of type SHA256,
but can for backwards compatibility also be of type SHA1 or MD5 (please avoid this).
The format should be
Use ‘--serverinfo --tls --tls-certcheck=off --tls-fingerprint=’
to get the server certificate fingerprint.
Send a client certificate to the server (use this together with ‘tls_cert_file’). The file must contain the private key of a certificate in PEM format. An empty argument disables this feature.
Send a client certificate to the server (use this together with ‘tls_key_file’). The file must contain a certificate in PEM format. An empty argument disables this feature.
Enable or disable checks of the server certificate.
WARNING: When the checks are disabled, TLS sessions will be vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks!
Set or unset the minimum number of Diffie-Hellman (DH) prime bits accepted for TLS sessions. The default is set by the TLS library and can be selected by using an empty argument to this command. Only lower the default (for example to 512 bits) if there is no other way to make TLS work with the remote server.
Set the priorities for TLS sessions. The default is set by the TLS library and can be selected by using an empty argument to this command. See the GnuTLS documentation of the ‘gnutls_priority_init’ function for a description of the priorities string.
See Mail retrieval mode.
How to deliver messages received from this account.
%Fin the command will be replaced with the envelope from address of the current message (or MAILER-DAEMON if none is found). Note that this address is guaranteed to contain only letters
0-9, and any of
.@_-+/, even though that is only a subset of what is theoretically allowed in a mail address. Other characters, including those interpreted by the shell, are replaced with
_. Nevertheless, you should put
%Finto single quotes:
delivery mda "/usr/bin/procmail -f '%F' -d $USER"for the procmail MDA.
delivery mda "/usr/sbin/sendmail -oi -oem -f '%F' -- $USER"to let your MTA handle the mail.
delivery mda /usr/local/bin/msmtp --host=localhost --from='%F' -- $USER@`hostname`.`dnsdomainname`"to pass the mail to your MTA via SMTP.
fcntl(2). mpop uses the MBOXRD mbox format variant; see the documentation of the mbox format.
If the delivery method needs to parse the mail headers for an envelope from
address (the mda method if the command contains
%F, and the mbox method),
then it needs to create a temporary file to store the mail headers (but not the
$TMPDIR in Environment.
The file to store UIDLs in. These are needed to identify new messages.
%U in the filename will be replaced by the username of the current
%H in the filename will be replaced by the hostname of the
current account. If the filename contains directories that do not exist, mpop
will create them. mpop locks this file for exclusive access when accessing the
associated POP3 account.
The default value is
~/.mpop_uidls/%U_at_%H. You can also use a single
UIDLS file for multiple accounts, but then you cannot poll more than one of
these accounts at the same time.
By default, mpop processes only new messages (new messages are those that were not already successfully retrieved in an earlier session). If this option is turned off, mpop will process all messages.
Keep all mails on the POP3 server, never delete them. The default behavior is to delete mails that have been successfully delivered or filtered by kill filters.
Mails larger than the given size will be deleted, not downloaded (unless the
keep command is used, in which case they will just be skipped). The size
argument must be zero or greater. If it is followed by a ’k’ or an ’m’, the
size is measured in kibibytes/mebibytes instead of bytes. Note that some POP3
servers report slightly incorrect sizes for mails. See Filtering.
When ‘killsize’ is set to 0 and ‘keep’ is set to on, then all mails are marked as retrieved, but no mail gets deleted from the server. This can be used to synchronize the UID list on the client to the UID list on the server.
Mails larger than the given size will be skipped (not downloaded). The size argument must be zero or greater. If it is followed by a ’k’ or an ’m’, the size is measured in kibibytes/mebibytes instead of bytes. Note that some POP3 servers report slightly incorrect sizes for mails. See Filtering.
Set a filter which will decide whether to retrieve, skip, or delete each mail
by investigating the mail’s headers. The POP3 server must support the POP3 TOP
command for this to work; see Server information mode. An empty argument
All occurences of
%F in the command will be replaced with the envelope
from address of the current message (or MAILER-DAEMON if none is found).
Note that this address is guaranteed to contain only letters
0-9, and any of
.@_-+/, even though that is
only a subset of what is theoretically allowed in a mail address. Other
characters, including those interpreted by the shell, are replaced with
_. Nevertheless, you should put
%F into single quotes:
All occurences of
%S in the command will be replaced with the size of
the current mail as reported by the POP3 server.
The mail headers (plus the blank line separating the headers from the body) will be piped to the command. Based on the return code, mpop decides what to do with the mail:
Return codes greater than or equal to 3 mean that an error occurred. The
sysexits.h error codes may be used to give information about the kind of
the error, but this is not necessary. See Filtering.
Enable or disable adding a Received header. By default, mpop prepends a Received header to the mail during delivery. This is required by the RFCs if the mail is subsequently further delivered e.g. via SMTP.
mpop [option…] [--] [account…]
mpop [option…] --serverinfo [account…]
mpop is usually run with one or more accounts as parameters. If no account
is provided, an account named ‘default’ is used if it exist. Alternatively,
mpop -a will use all accounts defined in the configuration file.
This can be automated by running mpop from
The standard exit codes from
sysexits.h are used.
The default user configuration file.
Default directory to store UIDLs files in.
netrc file contains login information. Before prompting for a
password, msmtp will search it in ~/.netrc and SYSCONFDIR/netrc.
These variables override the user’s login name.
$LOGNAME is only used if
$USER is unset. The user’s login name is used for
Directory to create temporary files in. If this is unset, a system specific
default directory is used.
Options override configuration file settings. The following options are accepted:
Print version information, including information about the libraries used.
Print the configuration settings that would be used, but do not take further action. An asterisk (’*’) will be printed instead of the password.
Print lots of debugging information, including the whole conversation with the
server. Be careful with this option: the (potentially dangerous) output
will not be sanitized, and your password may get printed in an easily decodable
This option implies --half-quiet, because the debugging output would otherwise interfere with the progress output.
Print information about the POP3 server and exit. This includes information about supported features (pipelining, authentication methods, TOP command, …), about parameters (time for which mails will not be deleted, minimum time between logins, …), and about the TLS certificate (if TLS is active). See Server information mode.
Most options in this category correspond to a configuration file command. Please refer to Configuration file for detailed information.
Use the given file instead of
~/.mpoprc as the configuration file.
Use this server with settings from the command line; do not use any configuration file data. This option disables loading of the configuration file. You cannot use both this option and account names on the command line.
Set the port number. See port.
Set or unset a network timeout, in seconds. See timeout.
Enable or disable POP3 pipelining. See pipelining.
Set or unset a SOCKS proxy to use. See proxy_host.
Set or unset a port number for the proxy host. See proxy_port.
Enable or disable the Received header. See received_header.
Set the authentication method to automatic (with ‘on’) or manually choose an authentication method. See auth.
Set or unset the user name for authentication. See user.
Evaluate password for authentication. See passwordeval.
Enable or disable TLS/SSL. See tls.
Enable or disable STARTTLS for TLS. See tls_starttls.
Set or unset a trust file for TLS. See tls_trust_file.
Set or unset a certificate revocation list (CRL) file for TLS. See tls_crl_file.
Set ot unset the fingerprint of a trusted TLS certificate. See tls_fingerprint.
Set or unset a key file for TLS. See tls_key_file.
Set or unset a cert file for TLS. See tls_cert_file.
Enable or disable server certificate checks for TLS. See tls_certcheck.
Set or unset minimum bit size of the Diffie-Hellman (DH) prime. See tls_min_dh_prime_bits.
Set or unset TLS priorities. See tls_priorities.
Do not print status or progress information.
Print status but not progress information.
Query all accounts in the configuration file.
Authenticate only; do not retrieve mail. Useful for SMTP-after-POP.
Print number and size of mails in each account only; do not retrieve mail.
Process only new messages. See only_new.
Do not delete mails from POP3 servers, regardless of other options or settings. See keep.
Set or unset kill size. See killsize.
Set or unset skip size. See skipsize.
Set a filter which will decide whether to retrieve, skip, or delete each mail by investigating the mail’s headers. See filter.
How to deliver messages received from this account. See delivery. Note that a comma is used instead of a blank to separate the method from its arguments.
File to store UIDLs in. See uidls_file.
Transport Layer Security (TLS) "… provides communications privacy over the Internet. The protocol allows client/server applications to communicate in a way that is designed to prevent eavesdropping, tampering, or message forgery" (quote from RFC2246).
A server can use TLS in one of two modes:
The first mode is the default, but you can switch to the second mode by disabling tls_starttls.
When TLS is started, the server sends a certificate to identify itself. To verify the server identity, a client program is expected to check that the certificate is formally correct and that it was issued by a Certificate Authority (CA) that the user trusts. (There can also be certificate chains with intermediate CAs.)
The list of trusted CAs is specified using the tls_trust_file command. Usually there is some system-wide default file available, e.g. /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt on Debian-based systems, but you can also choose to select the trusted CAs yourself.
One practical problem with this approach is that the client program should also check if the server certificate has been revoked for some reason, using a Certificate Revocation List (CRL). A CRL file can be specified using the tls_crl_file command, but getting the relevant CRL files and keeping them up to date is not straightforward. You are basically on your own.
A much more serious and fundamental problem is is that you need to trust CAs. Like any other organization, a CA can be incompetent, malicious, subverted by bad people, or forced by government agencies to compromise end users without telling them. All of these things happened and continue to happen worldwide. The idea to have central organizations that have to be trusted for your communication to be secure is fundamentally broken.
Instead of putting trust in a CA, you can choose to trust only a single certificate for the server you want to connect to. For that purpose, specify the certificate fingerprint with tls_fingerprint. This makes sure that no man-in-the-middle can fake the identity of the server by presenting you a fraudulent certificate issued by some CA that happens to be in your trust list. However, you have to update the fingerprint whenever the server certificate changes, and you have to make sure that the change is legitimate each time, e.g. when the old certificate expired. This is inconvenient, but it’s the price to pay.
Information about a server certificate can be obtained with ‘--serverinfo --tls --tls-certcheck=off’. This includes the issuer CA of the certificate (so you can trust that CA via ‘tls_trust_file’), and the fingerprint of the certificate (so you can trust that particular certificate via ‘tls_fingerprint’). See Server information mode.
TLS also allows the server to verify the identity of the client. For this purpose, the client has to present a certificate issued by a CA that the server trusts. To present that certificate, the client also needs the matching key file. You can set the certificate and key files using tls_cert_file and tls_key_file. This mechanism can also be used to authenticate users, so that traditional user / password authentication is not necessary anymore. See the EXTERNAL mechanism in Authentication.
If you need to fine tune TLS parameters, have a look at the tls_priorities and tls_min_dh_prime_bits commands.
POP3 servers require a client to authenticate before retrieving mail.
Usually a user name and a password are used for authentication. The user name specified in the configuration file with the user command. There are five different methods to specify the password:
$ secret-tool store --label=mpop \ host pop.freemail.example \ service pop3 \ user joe.smith
On Mac OS X, use the Keychain Access GUI application.
The ‘account name’ is same as the user name. The
‘keychain item name’ is
matches the ‘host’ argument.
It is recommended to use method 1 or 2.
Multiple authentication methods exist. Most servers support only some of them. Historically, sophisticated methods were developed to protect passwords from being sent unencrypted to the server, but nowadays everybody needs Transport Layer Security anyway, so the simple methods suffice since the whole session is protected. A suitable authentication method is chosen automatically, and when TLS is disabled for some reason, only methods that avoid sending clear text passwords are considered.
The following user / password methods are supported:
There are currently two authentication methods that are not based on user / password information and have to be chosen manually:
It depends on the underlying authentication library and its version whether a particular method is supported or not. Use --version to find out which methods are supported by your version.
In this mode, mpop retrieves mail from one or more POP3 servers. It delivers each of them using the method that was given with the delivery command or --delivery option.
While retrieving the mail, mpop displays approximate progress information, which can be turned off with the --half-quiet or --quiet options.
If the delivery succeeded, the mail is deleted from the POP3 server by default. The keep command and --keep option prevent the deletion of mails. Some POP3 servers will delete mails without any user interaction. See EXPIRE in Server information mode. Mpop can do nothing about that.
If you do not want to download certain mails, but skip them or delete them directly, you can do filtering based on the mail headers. See Filtering.
If you just want to know if you have new mails (and how many), use the --status-only option.
If you just want to authenticate to the POP3 server, but do not want to look at your mails, use the --auth-only option. This can be useful for sending mail through SMTP servers that require SMTP-after-POP (aka POP-before-SMTP).
Before mpop delivers a mail, it prepends a Received header to it. This is necessary for example if the delivery method transmits the mail to an SMTP server, but can be disabled with the received_header command. Mpop does not change the contents of the mail in any other way.
In server information mode, mpop prints as much information about the POP3 server as it can get and then exits.
The POP3 features that can be detected are:
[LOGIN-DELAY]: The login delay period hast not yet expired.
[IN-USE]: Authentication succeeded but the mailbox is currently in use, possibly by another POP3 session.
[LOGIN-DELAY]: The login delay period hast not yet expired.
[IN-USE]: Authentication succeeded but the mailbox is currently in use, possibly by another POP3 session.
[SYS/TEMP]: Temporary system failure; try again later.
[SYS/PERM]: Permanent system failure; ask the administrator.
[AUTH]: Incorrect user name or password or some other problem with the user’s credentials.
If TLS is activated for server information mode, the following information will be printed about the POP3 server’s TLS certificate (if available):
There are three filtering commands available. They will be executed in the following order:
If a filtering command applies to a mail, the remaining filters will not be executed.
The POP3 server must support the POP3 TOP command (Server information mode) for filtering with a filter command: It is used to read the mail headers (plus the blank line separating the header from the body) and pipe them to the filter command.
Note that, if the filter decides that the mail should be retrieved, the complete mail has to be downloaded, including the headers, so the headers will be downloaded twice. This is because there’s no way in POP3 to download just the mail body. Sometimes this overhead surpasses the savings of the filtering.
The filter command looks at the mail headers and signals with its exit code what mpop should do with the mail:
Return codes greater than or equal to 3 mean that an error occurred.
sysexits.h error codes may be used to give information about the kind
of the error, but this is optional.
Since the filter command will be passed to a shell, you can use all shell command constructs in addition to just calling a script or program. This allows flexible filter constructs. See Filtering with SpamAssassin.
Some POP3 servers count end-of-line characters as two bytes (CRLF) instead of one (LF), so that the size of a mail as reported by the POP3 server is slightly larger than the actual size. The filters use the size values reported by the POP3 server since they cannot know the actual size in advance. Thus you cannot rely on exact size filtering.
|• A configuration file:|
|• Filtering with SpamAssassin:|
|• Using mpop with Tor:|
# Example for a user configuration file ~/.mpoprc # # This file focusses on TLS, authentication, and the mail delivery method. # Features not used here include mail filtering, timeouts, SOCKS proxies, # TLS parameters, and more. # Set default values for all following accounts. defaults # Always use TLS. tls on # Set a list of trusted CAs for TLS. You can use a system-wide default file, # as in this example, or download the root certificate of your CA and use that. tls_trust_file /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt # Additionally, you should use the tls_crl_file command to check for revoked # certificates, but unfortunately getting revocation lists and keeping them # up to date is not straightforward. #tls_crl_file ~/.tls-crls # Deliver mail to an MBOX mail file: delivery mbox ~/Mail/inbox # Deliver mail to a maildir folder: #delivery maildir ~/Mail/incoming # Deliver mail via procmail: #delivery mda "/usr/bin/procmail -f '%F' -d $USER" # Deliver mail via the local SMTP server: #delivery mda "/usr/bin/msmtp --host=localhost --from='%F' -- $USER" # Deliver mail to an Exchange pickup directory: #delivery exchange c:\exchange\pickup # A freemail service account freemail # Host name of the POP3 server host pop.freemail.example # As an alternative to tls_trust_file/tls_crl_file, you can use tls_fingerprint # to pin a single certificate. You have to update the fingerprint when the # server certificate changes, but an attacker cannot trick you into accepting # a fraudulent certificate. Get the fingerprint with # $ mpop --serverinfo --tls --tls-certcheck=off --host=pop.freemail.example tls_fingerprint 00:11:22:33:44:55:66:77:88:99:AA:BB:CC:DD:EE:FF:00:11:22:33 # Authentication. The password is given using one of five methods, see below. user joe.smith # Password method 1: Add the password to the system keyring, and let mpop get # it automatically. To set the keyring password using Gnome's libsecret: # $ secret-tool store --label=mpop \ # host pop.freemail.example \ # service pop3 \ # user joe.smith # Password method 2: Store the password in an encrypted file, and tell mpop # which command to use to decrypt it. This is usually used with GnuPG, as in # this example. Usually gpg-agent will ask once for the decryption password. passwordeval gpg2 --no-tty -q -d ~/.mpop-password.gpg # Password method 3: Store the password directly in this file. Usually it is not # a good idea to store passwords in plain text files. If you do it anyway, at # least make sure that this file can only be read by yourself. #password secret123 # Password method 4: Store the password in ~/.netrc. This method is probably not # relevant anymore. # Password method 5: Do not specify a password. Mpop will then prompt you for # it. This means you need to be able to type into a terminal when mpop runs. # A second mail box at the same freemail service account freemail2 : freemail user joey # The POP3 server of your ISP account isp host mail.isp.example auth on user 12345 # Your ISP runs SpamAssassin, so test each mail for the "X-Spam-Status: Yes" # header, and delete all mails with this header before downloading them. filter if [ "`grep "^X-Spam-Status: Yes"`" ]; then exit 1; else exit 0; fi # Set a default account account default : freemail
Use the following to delete all mails that SpamAssassin classifies as spam:
filter "/path/to/spamc -c > /dev/null"
Since no message body is passed to SpamAssassin, you should disable all body-specific tests in the SpamAssassin configuration file; for example set use_bayes 0.
If your mail provider runs SpamAssassin for you, you just have to check for the result. The following script can do that when used as an mpop filter:
#!/bin/sh if [ "`grep "^X-Spam-Status: Yes"`" ]; then exit 1 # kill this message else exit 0 # proceed normally fi
Since the filter command is passed to a shell, all shell constructs are usable, so you can also use this directly:
filter if [ "`grep "^X-Spam-Status: Yes"`" ]; then exit 1; else exit 0; fi
Use the following settings:
proxy_host 127.0.0.1 proxy_port 9050 tls on
Use an IP address as proxy host name, so that mpop does not leak a DNS query
when resolving it.
TLS is required to prevent exit hosts from reading your POP3 session. You also need tls_trust_file or tls_fingerprint to check the server identity.