19.3.3. Fetchmail

Fetchmail is an MTA which retrieves email from remote servers and delivers it to the local MTA. Many users appreciate the ability to separate the process of downloading their messages located on a remote server from the process of reading and organizing their email in an MUA. Designed with the needs of dial-up users in mind, Fetchmail connects and quickly downloads all of the email messages to the mail spool file using any number of protocols, including POP3 and IMAP. It can even forward email messages to an SMTP server, if necessary.

Note

In order to use Fetchmail, first ensure the fetchmail package is installed on your system by running, as root:
~]# yum install fetchmail
For more information on installing packages with Yum, see Section 8.2.4, “Installing Packages”.
Fetchmail is configured for each user through the use of a .fetchmailrc file in the user's home directory. If it does not already exist, create the .fetchmailrc file in your home directory
Using preferences in the .fetchmailrc file, Fetchmail checks for email on a remote server and downloads it. It then delivers it to port 25 on the local machine, using the local MTA to place the email in the correct user's spool file. If Procmail is available, it is launched to filter the email and place it in a mailbox so that it can be read by an MUA.

19.3.3.1. Fetchmail Configuration Options

Although it is possible to pass all necessary options on the command line to check for email on a remote server when executing Fetchmail, using a .fetchmailrc file is much easier. Place any desired configuration options in the .fetchmailrc file for those options to be used each time the fetchmail command is issued. It is possible to override these at the time Fetchmail is run by specifying that option on the command line.
A user's .fetchmailrc file contains three classes of configuration options:
  • global options — Gives Fetchmail instructions that control the operation of the program or provide settings for every connection that checks for email.
  • server options — Specifies necessary information about the server being polled, such as the host name, as well as preferences for specific email servers, such as the port to check or number of seconds to wait before timing out. These options affect every user using that server.
  • user options — Contains information, such as user name and password, necessary to authenticate and check for email using a specified email server.
Global options appear at the top of the .fetchmailrc file, followed by one or more server options, each of which designate a different email server that Fetchmail should check. User options follow server options for each user account checking that email server. Like server options, multiple user options may be specified for use with a particular server as well as to check multiple email accounts on the same server.
Server options are called into service in the .fetchmailrc file by the use of a special option verb, poll or skip, that precedes any of the server information. The poll action tells Fetchmail to use this server option when it is run, which checks for email using the specified user options. Any server options after a skip action, however, are not checked unless this server's host name is specified when Fetchmail is invoked. The skip option is useful when testing configurations in the .fetchmailrc file because it only checks skipped servers when specifically invoked, and does not affect any currently working configurations.
The following is an example of a .fetchmailrc file:
set postmaster "user1"
set bouncemail

poll pop.domain.com proto pop3
    user 'user1' there with password 'secret' is user1 here

poll mail.domain2.com
    user 'user5' there with password 'secret2' is user1 here
    user 'user7' there with password 'secret3' is user1 here
In this example, the global options specify that the user is sent email as a last resort (postmaster option) and all email errors are sent to the postmaster instead of the sender (bouncemail option). The set action tells Fetchmail that this line contains a global option. Then, two email servers are specified, one set to check using POP3, the other for trying various protocols to find one that works. Two users are checked using the second server option, but all email found for any user is sent to user1's mail spool. This allows multiple mailboxes to be checked on multiple servers, while appearing in a single MUA inbox. Each user's specific information begins with the user action.

Note

Users are not required to place their password in the .fetchmailrc file. Omitting the with password '<password>' section causes Fetchmail to ask for a password when it is launched.
Fetchmail has numerous global, server, and local options. Many of these options are rarely used or only apply to very specific situations. The fetchmail man page explains each option in detail, but the most common ones are listed in the following three sections.