Removing mutt's send delay

I originally used mutt's built-in SMTP MTA. However, there is a considerable pause after hitting send. This can be disabled by using an external MTA with set sendmail_wait=-1 in muttrc.

However, if I use msmtp as the MTA, then there is no notification of errors (although msmtp does write to logfile as specified in ~/.msmtprc).

Attempt to get notifications

From the command line, I can trigger a command when msmtp fails.

</tmp/tosend msmtp -a default [email protected] --read-envelope-from || echo failed

Conceivably, I could mail a failure notification to my local *nix mail. However, this doesn't seem to work in mutt, if I set the following in muttrc.

set sendmail = "/usr/bin/msmtp || date >> /tmp/msmtp.fail"

This causes all email to fail to send silently, with the following error in msmtp's logfile.

Nov 05 10:53:09 host=mail.bar.com tls=on auth=on [email protected] [email protected] recipients=||,date,>>,/tmp/msmtp.fail,[email protected] smtpstatus=501 smtpmsg='501 #5.1.1 bad address ' errormsg='recipient address >> not accepted by the server' exitcode=EX_DATAERR

Obviously, mutt is parsing the extra parts of the command as recipients.


Is there a way to get notifications of sent emails that fail, while sending in the background? I'm not tied to msmtp necessarily.

3 Answers 3


Write yourself a tiny shell script to use as a "sendmail" value. Eg configure ~/.muttrc with

set sendmail = /home/yourid/bin/mymuttsendmail

and in mymuttsendmail put something like

tmp=$(mktemp /tmp/mymutt.XXXXXX)
cat >$tmp
( if ! msg=$(msmtp "$@" <$tmp 2>&1)
  then zenity --error --text "$msg"
  rm $tmp
) &
exit 0

and chmod +x this file. Remember this script will be called with the recipients as extra args, which we pass to msmtp with "$@", and the mail will be on stdin, which we copy immediately into a temporary file to then give to msmtp. Any error messages are captured in variable msg and if the return code is a failure you can run a popup dialog like zenity, for example.

  • Interesting solution! (+1) However, I feel like exim may be more robust, so I'll persist with working that out. I'll revisit your answer if I give up with exim.
    – Sparhawk
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 22:46
  • Hmm, this doesn't seem to work. The sent mail is severely garbled. It seems to strip off most headers, and the body is absent. I retried with vanilla msmtp as $sendmail, and that worked fine.
    – Sparhawk
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 6:04
  • I think I know what might be happening. I've edited the script to capture the mail first into a temporary file, then run msmtp in the background.
    – meuh
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 7:24
  • Thanks, this works perfectly now. (I suppose that was related to the "open attachment in external program" issue, where the file was deleted/truncated before fully opening?)
    – Sparhawk
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 9:57
  • 1
    Yes, I was being a bit naive in assuming the file behind stdin would be left intact by mutt when, as it sees it, the sending process has ended.
    – meuh
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 10:03

Have you considered using a better nullmailer, msmtp is about as minimalist as it gets? or even a full MTA like exim or postfix (they're not very difficult to configure)?

There's a list of other nullmailer options at http://linuxmafia.com/faq/Mail/nullmailers.html

  • Thanks for the link. I'm more than happy to use a different MTA (as per the question), and I've got exim installed anyway. However, do you know which (if any) would provide some kind of feedback or trigger a script on errors?
    – Sparhawk
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 2:52
  • a real MTA will bounce the message back to the sender if there was any error. btw, why even bother with msmtp if you have exim installed?
    – cas
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 3:20
  • Thanks. I'm testing eximnow… which is ridiculously confusing to set up (at least in Arch). I used msmtp because I followed the first few suggestions that I found for mutt. Also, after more investigation, exim requires the password stored in plaintext, and must be configured system-wide, instead of msmtp's user-level configuration.
    – Sparhawk
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 5:10
  • And I just can't work exim out… New question asked here.
    – Sparhawk
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 12:10

meuh's answer was very helpful. Here's a simpler version of mymuttsendmail. Replace username with your username in the following code so it can email you locally in case there's an error. The variable $? stores the exit code of msmtp, and uses local mail to email you if there's an error sending your email. Just remember to set sendmail_wait=-1.

/usr/bin/msmtp "$@" 2>&1
if (($VAL))
    # message not sent
    echo "Error sending mail to $@, exit code $VAL" | mail -s 'ERROR' username

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