Category Archives: imap

Geek: How to use offlineimap and the dovecot mail server to read your Gmail in Emacs efficiently

2015-12-24: Updated with config changes now that I’m back to using Gnus+dovecot+offlineimap+Gmail
2014-04-09: This post is from 2008. =) I think I used dovecot+offlineimap because Gnus and maildir weren’t getting along properly and directly connecting with IMAP to Gmail’s server was slow, but things have probably changed a fair bit since then. I eventually moved to using the Gmail web interface for most things, but I still miss my Gnus setup!
  1. Make sure you’ve set up Postfix or some other mail server that can send mail.
  2. Install dovecot (IMAP server) and offlineimap (IMAP synchronization). You can probably find binaries for your distribution.
  3. Edit /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-mail.conf and set the following:
    mail_location = maildir:~/Maildir:LAYOUT=fs
  4. Use the instructions from to set up GPG-encrypted passwords. (optional)
  5. Put the following in ~/.offlineimaprc, changing the details as needed.
    accounts = SachaGmail
    pythonfile = ~/bin/
    [Account SachaGmail]
    localrepository = Local
    remoterepository = Gmail
    status_backend = sqlite
    [Repository Local]
    type = Maildir
    localfolders = ~/Maildir
    [Repository Gmail]
    type = Gmail
    maxconnections = 2
    remoteuser = [email protected]
    realdelete = no
    folderfilter = lambda foldername: foldername in ['INBOX', '[Gmail]/All Mail', '[Gmail]/Sent Mail', '[Gmail].Starred', '[Gmail].Drafts', '[Gmail].Important']
    nametrans = lambda folder: re.sub('^INBOX$', '[Gmail].Inbox', folder)
    sslcacertfile = /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt
    remotepasseval = mailpasswd("gmail")

    If you feel comfortable specifying your password in your ~/.offlineimaprc, you can do so by changing remotepasseval to remotepass. If so, you don’t need the pythonfile line.

  6. chmod go-rwx ~/.offlineimaprc for a little bit of safety.
  7. Type offlineimap to start synchronizing.
  8. While that’s synchronizing, use something like this as your ~/.gnus:
    (setq gnus-select-method
          '(nnimap "Mail"
    	       (nnimap-address "localhost")
    	       (nnimap-stream network)
    	       (nnimap-authenticator login)))
    (setq user-mail-address "[email protected]")
    (setq gnus-ignored-from-addresses "youruser")
  9. Start Emacs. Start Gnus with M-x gnus. If you don’t see the INBOX group, press ^ (gnus-group-enter-server-mode), open nnimap:Mail, move your cursor to the INBOX, and either press RET to go into the group or press u (gnus-browse-unsubscribe-current-group) to toggle the subscription status until you’re subscribed to the group. Then it should show up on the group screen (M-x gnus).

Hope that helps. Have fun!