getmail documentation

This is the documentation for getmail version 6.

getmail is Copyright © 1998-2019 by Charles Cazabon <charlesc-getmail @>
and © 2020 by Roland Puntaier <roland.puntaier @>

getmail is licensed under the GNU General Public License version 2 (only).

Table of Contents


getmail is a mail retriever designed to allow you to get your mail from one or more mail accounts on various mail servers to your local machine for reading with a minimum of fuss. getmail is designed to be secure, flexible, reliable, and easy-to-use. getmail is designed to replace other mail retrievers such as fetchmail.

getmail version 6 includes the following features:


getmail version 6 requires Python version 3 or later. If you have only an earlier version of Python available, you can install the latest version without disturbing your current version, or use getmail version 5.* from the original getmail author.

getmail 6 requires that servers uniquely identify the messages they provide (via the UIDL command) to getmail for full functionality. Certain very old or broken POP3 servers may not be capable of this or may not implement the UIDL command at all, and limited support is available for such servers via the BrokenUIDLPOP3Retriever and BrokenUIDLPOP3SSLRetriever retriever classes.

Obtaining getmail

Download getmail 6 from the official website main page at .

Installing getmail

For the impatient

Installing getmail is very easy; just download the tarball distribution, unpack it, change into the directory it unpacks into, and run this command:

$ python install

That's all there is to it. 99.9% of users don't need a special package/port/etc. If you'd like more details on install options, keep reading.

Full installation instructions

Once you have downloaded or otherwise obtained getmail, unpack it. On GNU-ish Unix-like systems, this means:

$ tar xzf getmail-version.tar.gz

On Macintosh systems, use a Zip-type archiver program to unpack the tarball.

On SystemV-like Unix systems, you may instead need to break this down into two steps:

$ gunzip getmail-version.tar.gz
$ tar xf getmail-version.tar

Then, change into the extracted getmail directory and start the build process. The easiest installation method is to use the included Python distutils script to build and install getmail directly. Alternatively, you can build a binary package (i.e., an RPM or similar managed software package) for your system from the source package and install the resulting package, but the Python distutils support for this is spotty at present.

Installing directly from the source

To build and install directly from the included source, follow these steps.

$ cd getmail-version
$ python build

When that completes in a few seconds, become root and then install the software. You can install in the default location, or specify an alternate location to install the software, or specify alternate directories for only part of the package.

Installing in the default location

To install in the default location, become user root and install with the following commands:

$ su
enter root password
# python install

This will, by default, install files into subdirectories under the directory prefix, which is the directory that your Python installation was configured to install under (typically /usr/local/ or /usr/, but other values are sometimes used):

You can see a list of the default installation locations by running:

# python install --show-default-install-dirs

Installing under an alternate prefix directory

You can specify an alternate prefix directory by supplying the --prefix option to the install command, like this:

# python install --prefix=path

This will install the various parts of the package in subdirectories like in the default installation (see the section Installing in the default location above), but under your specified prefix directory. These alternate installations allow you to install the software without root privileges (say, by installing under $HOME/). Note, however, that the getmailcore package will not be in the default Python module search path if you do this; see the section Installing the getmailcore package in a non-standard location if you use this option.

Installing parts of the package to alternate directories

If you only want to change the directory for some of the components, use the following options:

For example, if your Python installation is located under /usr/ because it was installed as part of your OS, but you would like the getmail scripts installed into /usr/local/bin/ instead of /usr/bin/, while still letting the getmailcore package be installed under /usr/lib/python-python-version/site-packages/, and the documentation and man pages under /usr/doc/ and /usr/man/ you could use this command to install:

# python --install-scripts=/usr/local/bin/

If you also wanted to locate the documentation and man pages under /usr/local/ but still install the getmailcore package in the default /usr/lib/python-python-version/site-packages/, you would instead use this command to install:

# python --install-scripts=/usr/local/bin/ --install-data=/usr/local/

Installing the getmailcore package in a non-standard location

Note: if you use one of the above methods to install the getmailcore package into a directory other than the default, the four scripts (getmail, getmail_fetch, getmail_maildir, and getmail_mbox) will almost certainly be unable to locate the required files from the getmailcore package, because they will not be in a directory in the standard Python module search path. You will need to do one of the following to make those files available to the scripts:

Building a binary package from the source

To build a binary package from the included source, run the following command from inside the unpacked getmail source.

$ cd getmail-version
$ python bdist --format=package-format

The useful allowed values for package-format are:

Ideally, if you use this method, it will result in a "built distribution" binary package in a subdirectory named dist which can then be installed using the appropriate system-specific tool. If you have problems with this process, please do not ask me for assistance; ask your OS vendor or the comp.lang.python newsgroup. The install-directory-from-source process above is the only one I can support, and it should work on all platforms.