Unixbhaskar's Blog

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How to get over Mutt's saga of "Unknown variables"

I have wrote an article about Mutt here . Now I have changed the system and trying to build it to different system and I am getting this errors:

bhaskar@GentooLinux_15:01:02_Tue Dec 06:~> mutt
Error in /home/bhaskar/.muttrc, line 12: imap_user: unknown variable
Error in /home/bhaskar/.muttrc, line 13: imap_pass: unknown variable
Error in /home/bhaskar/.muttrc, line 45: message_cachedir: unknown variable
Error in /home/bhaskar/.muttrc, line 58: smtp_url: unknown variable
Error in /home/bhaskar/.muttrc, line 59: smtp_pass: unknown variable
Error in /home/bhaskar/.muttrc, line 60: too few arguments

Pretty ordinary!! so..I was bemused for sometime then discover that when I pull in Mutt on Gentoo it failed to activate those flags and hence causing problem, here is the evidence of lacking those facilities:

bhaskar@GentooLinux_15:22:37_Tue Dec 06:~> mutt -v
Mutt 1.5.21 (2010-09-15, Gentoo 1.5.21-r1)
Copyright (C) 1996-2009 Michael R. Elkins and others.
Mutt comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY; for details type `mutt -vv'.
Mutt is free software, and you are welcome to redistribute it
under certain conditions; type `mutt -vv' for details.

System: Linux 3.0.6-gentoo (i686)
ncurses: ncurses 5.9.20110404 (compiled with 5.9)
hcache backend: GDBM version 1.8.3. 10/15/2002 (built Aug 2 2011 22:18:59)
Compile options:
To contact the developers, please mail to .
To report a bug, please visit

patch-1.5.4.lpr.collapse_flagged Lukas P. Ruf

The minus(-) prepended variables are not I need to activate them,which is causing trouble.

Now I need to reinstall mutt with all those here we go :

First I have to set some use flags in /etc/portage/package.use/mutt.use file:

mail-client/mutt imap smtp pop gnutls mbox gpg smime sasl

And off I go to fetch Mutt one more time with those flags enable:

bhaskar@GentooLinux_15:35:56_Tue Dec 06:~> sudo emerge -av mutt

These are the packages that would be merged, in order:

Calculating dependencies... done!
[ebuild R ] mail-client/mutt-1.5.21-r1 USE="berkdb crypt gdbm gnutls* gpg* imap* mbox* nls pop* sasl* smime* smtp* ssl -debug -doc -idn -nntp -qdbm -sidebar -tokyocabinet" 0 kB

Total: 1 package (1 reinstall), Size of downloads: 0 kB

Would you like to merge these packages? [Yes/No] y

Look at the asterix appended values,which is exactly I did mentioned in the mutt.use file.

Now I can access Mutt without problem :)

Hope this will help.



  1. I know your post was old (2011), but it certainly helped me. I'd just installed mutt on my Gentoo installation and never gave the USE flags a thought at the time. I sure did a few days later when I had time to do my mutt configuration and had all the unknown variable errors!

    Thanks...a google search brought me to your blog!

  2. Thanks! I knew there was something missing....

  3. How can i activate those variables on mac OSX ? any help regards mac ?

    1. I have no hands on experience on Mac ...failed to tell you what to do...probably you might seek some mac user help.

  4. 5 years later, this still helps!

    I now have one more ressource/thing to check while trying to make software work: compilation flags.

    Thank you!