inside the mind of a linux admin

Debian/Ubuntu Mailutils and Maildir

When setting up Maildir in Debian 5.0 or Ubuntu 10.x, getting the generic mail applications working correctly can be extremely tricky. When you type “mail” in a default/stock installation, it is attempting to read mbox data and will not read your “Maildir”. Annoying, since the stock configuration for mail delivery in most mail servers is now Maildir.

First, Install the ‘mailutils’ package, not the bsd mailx package.

apt-get install mailutils

Do not touch the mailutils /etc/mail.rc file; there are some promising looking variables here like mailbox-type but these do not do what is desired. When the MAIL environment variable is set correctly mailutils will automatically detect the maildir box type.

Do not touch /etc/login.defs; the promising looking lines in here are deprecated.

Edit files in /etc/pam.d, changing the lines as shown (assuming ~/Maildir as the selected location):

login: default login shells
session optional dir=~/Maildir standard

su: set up for proper MAIL when using su; nopen does not show ‘new mail’ message
session optional dir=~/Maildir nopen

sshd: set up MAIL properly when logging in with ssh; this line probably has a noenv by default which needs removed to set this properly
session optional dir=~/Maildir standard

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  • ssuchi on Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Many thanks, good tip after hours of searching…

    For working with mutt without annoying questions you will have to add

    set mbox_type=Maildir
    set folder=~/Mail

    in /etc/Mutrc

  • neosapien on Thursday, March 10, 2011

    man….I spent 2 days trying to fix this very problem. This is exactly the second time in my life I have felt compelled to thank somebody via comment. Worked like a charm. Can’t thank you enough!

  • Phil on Wednesday, December 10, 2014

    Went here from AskUbuntu, really useful guide. Thanks!

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