Needle in a Haystack

Searching Many Mailboxes

If you need to look into more than one mailbox, there are two ways to do it. The easiest way is to copy all of mailboxes manually into a new mailbox with any email client and run the script only on the new folder. The other method is to call the script inside a loop from another script, which could look more or less like this:

for MAILBOX in mailbox1 mailbox2... $MAILBOX $MAILBOX-target

This is also the way to go when, for whatever reason, you need to know the mailbox from which an attachment came.

Searching Just a Few Messages

If you are sure that the attachment(s) you are looking for are somewhere inside a specific thread, or from a specific person, processing a whole mailbox to extract them would be a waste of time. As in the previous case, you can copy only those specific messages into a new mailbox and launch the script on it. Although still overkill, this method works with any email client.

A more efficient solution, instead, is to tag all those messages and tell your email client to find and save all the attachments they contain, all by themselves. A StackExchange post shows you how to write a Mutt macro that does this [4].

Extracting Attachments On Arrival

Sometimes it is useful to have all email attachments extracted and saved to a dedicated folder automatically, the moment each email arrives. This is possible by configuring the procmail tool (explained in detail online [5]).

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