notmuch-search-terms - syntax for notmuch queries
[option ...] <search-term
>] [--] [< search-term
[option ...] <search-term
[option ...] <search-term
> ... -<tag
Several notmuch commands accept a common syntax for search terms.
The search terms can consist of free-form text (and quoted phrases) which will
match all messages that contain all of the given terms/phrases in the body,
the subject, or any of the sender or recipient headers.
As a special case, a search string consisting of exactly a single asterisk
("*") will match all messages.
In addition to free text, the following prefixes can be used to force terms to
match against specific portions of an email, (where <brackets> indicate
- tag:<tag> (or is:<tag>)
- path:<directory-path> or
prefix is used to match the name or address of the sender of an
prefix is used to match the names or addresses of any recipient
of an email message, (whether To, Cc, or Bcc).
Any term prefixed with subject:
will match only text from the subject of
an email. Searching for a phrase in the subject is supported by including
quotation marks around the phrase, immediately following subject:
If notmuch is built with Xapian Field Processors
(see below) the
prefix can be also used to restrict the
results to those whose from/subject value matches a regular expression (see
) delimited with //.
notmuch search 'from:/bob@.*[.]example[.]com/'
prefix can be used to search for specific filenames (or
extensions) of attachments to email messages.
prefix will be used to match text from the content-types of
MIME parts within email messages (as specified by the sender).
valid tag values include inbox
by default for new messages added by notmuch new
as any other tag values added manually with notmuch tag
, message ID values are the literal contents of the Message-ID:
header of email messages, but without the '<', '>' delimiters.
prefix can be used with the thread ID values that are
generated internally by notmuch (and do not appear in email messages). These
thread ID values can be seen in the first column of output from notmuch
prefix searches for email messages that are in particular
directories within the mail store. The directory must be specified relative to
the top-level maildir (and without the leading slash). By default,
matches messages in the specified directory only. The
"/**" suffix can be used to match messages in the specified
directory and all its subdirectories recursively. path:""
matches messages in the root of the mail store and, likewise, path:**
matches all messages.
prefix searches for email messages by maildir or MH folder.
For MH-style folders, this is equivalent to path:
. For maildir, this
includes messages in the "new" and "cur" subdirectories.
The exact syntax for maildir folders depends on your mail configuration. For
matches the inbox folder (which is the
root in maildir++), other folder names always start with ".", and
nested folders are separated by "."s, such as
. For "file system" maildir, the
inbox is typically folder:INBOX
and nested folders are separated by
slashes, such as folder:classes/topology
will find a message if any
that message is in the specific directory/folder.
prefix can be used to restrict the results to only messages
within a particular time range (based on the Date: header) with a range syntax
See DATE AND TIME SEARCH
below for details on the range expression, and
supported syntax for <since> and <until> date and time
The time range can also be specified using timestamps with a syntax of:
Each timestamp is a number representing the number of seconds since 1970-01-01
prefix can be used to restrict the result by the database
revision number of when messages were last modified (tags were added/removed
or filenames changed). This is usually used in conjunction with the
argument to notmuch search
to find messages that have
changed since an earlier query.
prefix allows queries to refer to previously saved queries
added with notmuch-config(1)
. Named queries are only available if
notmuch is built with Xapian Field Processors
prefix searches for messages with a particular
<key>=<value> property pair. Properties are used internally by
notmuch (and extensions) to add metadata to messages. A given key can be
present on a given message with several different values.
In addition to individual terms, multiple terms can be combined with Boolean
operators ( and
, and xor
). Each term in
the query will be implicitly connected by a logical AND if no explicit
operator is provided (except that terms with a common prefix will be
implicitly combined with OR). The shorthand '-<term>' can be used for
'not <term>' but unfortunately this does not work at the start of an
expression. Parentheses can also be used to control the combination of the
Boolean operators, but will have to be protected from interpretation by the
shell, (such as by putting quotation marks around any parenthesized
In addition to the standard boolean operators, Xapian provides several operators
specific to text searching.
notmuch search term1 NEAR term2
will return results where term1 is within 10 words of term2. The threshold can
be set like this:
notmuch search term1 NEAR/2 term2
notmuch search term1 ADJ term2
will return results where term1 is within 10 words of term2, but in the same
order as in the query. The threshold can be set the same as with NEAR:
notmuch search term1 ADJ/7 term2
in notmuch means that these searches
notmuch search detailed
notmuch search details
notmuch search detail
will all return identical results, because Xapian first "reduces" the
term to the common stem (here 'detail') and then performs the search.
There are two ways to turn this off: a search for a capitalized word will be
performed unstemmed, so that one can search for "John" and not get
results for "Johnson"; phrase searches are also unstemmed (see below
for details). Stemming is currently only supported for English. Searches for
words in other languages will be performed unstemmed.
It is possible to use a trailing '*' as a wildcard. A search for 'wildc*' will
match 'wildcard', 'wildcat', etc.
Xapian (and hence notmuch) prefixes are either boolean
, supporting exact
matches like " tag:inbox
" or probabilistic
a more flexible term
based searching. Certain special
are processed by notmuch in a way not stricly fitting either of Xapian's built
in styles. The prefixes currently supported by notmuch are as follows.
- tag:, id:, thread:, folder:,
- to:, attachment:, mimetype:
- from:, query:, subject:
In general Xapian distinguishes between lists of terms and phrases
Phrases are indicated by double quotes (but beware you probably need to
protect those from your shell) and insist that those unstemmed words occur in
that order. One useful, but initially surprising feature is that the following
are equivalant ways to write the same phrase.
- "a list of words"
Both parenthesised lists of terms and quoted phrases are ok with probabilisitic
prefixes such as to:
, and subject:
. In particular
is equivalent to
subject:pizza and subject:free
Both of these will match a subject "Free Delicious Pizza" while
notmuch understands a variety of standard and natural ways of expressing dates
and times, both in absolute terms ("2012-10-24") and in relative
terms ("yesterday"). Any number of relative terms can be combined
("1 hour 25 minutes") and an absolute date/time can be combined with
relative terms to further adjust it. A non-exhaustive description of the
syntax supported for absolute and relative terms is given below.
The above expression restricts the results to only messages from <since>
to <until>, based on the Date: header.
<since> and <until> can describe imprecise times, such as
"yesterday". In this case, <since> is taken as the earliest
time it could describe (the beginning of yesterday) and <until> is taken
as the latest time it could describe (the end of yesterday). Similarly,
date:january..february matches from the beginning of January to the end of
date:<expr>..! can be used as a shorthand for
date:<expr>..<expr>. The expansion takes place before
interpretation, and thus, for example, date:monday..! matches from the
beginning of Monday until the end of Monday. With Xapian Field
support (see below), non-range date queries such as
date:yesterday will work, but otherwise will give unexpected results; if in
doubt use date:yesterday..!
Currently, we do not support spaces in range expressions. You can replace the
spaces with '_', or (in most cases) '-', or (in some cases) leave the spaces
out altogether. Examples in this man page use spaces for clarity.
Open-ended ranges are supported (since Xapian 1.2.1), i.e. it's possible to
specify date:..<until> or date:<since>.. to not limit the start or
end time, respectively. Pre-1.2.1 Xapian does not report an error on open
ended ranges, but it does not work as expected either.
[N|number] (years|months|weeks|days|hours|hrs|minutes|mins|seconds|secs) [...]
All refer to past, can be repeated and will be accumulated.
Units can be abbreviated to any length, with the otherwise ambiguous single m
being m for minutes and M for months.
Number can also be written out one, two, ..., ten, dozen, hundred. Additionally,
the unit may be preceded by "last" or "this" (e.g.,
"last week" or "this month").
When combined with absolute date and time, the relative date and time
specification will be relative from the specified absolute date and time.
Examples: 5M2d, two weeks
- H[H]:MM[:SS] [(am|a.m.|pm|p.m.)]
- H[H] (am|a.m.|pm|p.m.)
- Examples: 17:05, 5pm
- D[D][(st|nd|rd|th)] Mon[thname] [YYYY]
- Mon[thname] D[D][(st|nd|rd|th)] [YYYY]
Month names can be abbreviated at three or more characters.
Weekday names can be abbreviated at three or more characters.
Examples: 2012-07-31, 31-07-2012, 7/31/2012, August 3
Some time zone codes, e.g. UTC, EET.
Certain optional features of the notmuch query processor rely on the presence of
the Xapian field processor API. You can determine if your notmuch was built
against a sufficiently recent version of Xapian by running
% notmuch config get built_with.field_processor
Currently the following features require field processor support:
- non-range date queries, e.g. "date:today"
- named queries e.g. "query:my_special_query"
- regular expression searches, e.g.
Carl Worth and many others
2009-2017, Carl Worth and many others