Jun 2, 2016 - Setup offlineimap within cygwin


Install offlineimap

Offlineimap is easy to install since it is a simple package to select from within cygwin's setup.exe.

  • offlineimap (6.5.5-1)

Test via offlineimap --version if you installed it correctly. This should reveal just the version number.

Configure offlineimap

To configure offlineimap, you must create a .offlineimaprc file within your home directory. Within that file you configure your email accounts, settings and so on.

The easiest way would be, to put your login credentials right into that file. But I rather disadvice you to do so. I therefore will present you an example, where your password is stored encrypted with GnuPG on your disc.

The following configuration is my gmail config:

accounts = gmail
maxsyncaccounts = 1
ui = ttyui
pythonfile = ~/bin/offlineimap-helper.py
socktimeout = 90
expunge = yes

[Account gmail]
localrepository = gmaillocal
remoterepository = gmailremote

[Repository gmaillocal]
type = Maildir
localfolders = ~/Mail/gmail

[Repository gmailremote]
type = Gmail
remoteuser = frosch03@gmail.com
remotepasseval = mailpasswd("gmail")
ssl = yes
sslcacertfile = /usr/ssl/certs/ca-bundle.crt
auth_mechanisms = GSSAPI, CRAM-MD5, PLAIN, LOGIN
maxconnections = 2
idlefolders = ['INBOX']

As you could see, there is one account configured within the general section, called gmail. Then there is a Account gmail section, that further defines the the names for a local and a remote section. The local section then defines the type to be of maildir and where the maildir is located.

Within the Repository gmailremote section, all parameters for accessing your gmail repository are defined. Your mails will be stored with the ~/Mail/gmail folder. If it isn't existing yet, create it via mkdir -p ~/Mail/gmail.

As you could see, instead of a password, the function mailpasswd is called. It is called with the parameter "gmail", which corresponds to the filename (omitting the ending), that contains the encrypted password.

The function itself is defined within offlineimap-helper.py and that file is loaded by the general sections pythonfile variable.

If you don't have a ~/bin/ folder, create it with mkdir ~/bin. Now go ahead and create the offlineimap-helper.py file within ~/bin/ with the following content:

import os
import subprocess

def mailpasswd(acct):
  acct = os.path.basename(acct)
  path = "/home/frosch03/.passwd/%s.gpg" % acct
  args = ["gpg", "--use-agent", "--quiet", "--batch", "-d", path]
      return subprocess.check_output(args).strip()
  except subprocess.Multiprocessors:
      return ""

def prime_gpg_agent():
  ret = False
  i = 1
  while not ret:
    ret = (mailpasswd("prime") == "prime")
    if i > 2:
      from offlineimap.ui import getglobalui
      sys.stderr.write("Error reading in passwords. Terminating.\n")
    i += 1
  return ret


This file contains the short python function, that retrieves the password from the .gpg file. It contains another function prime_gpg_agent. The function is called at the end of the file, so once offlineimap-helper.py is parsed, a dummy retrieve run is performed. The priming function should retrieve the string "prime" from prime.gpg, if everything is setup correctly.

Create an encrypted file with your password

GnuPG is simply installed via cygwin's setup.exe. Just select

  • gnupg (1.4.20-1)

If it is installed correctly, gpg --version should return the correct version information.

If you have no gpg key pair yet, you need to create a new one. This is done by gpg --gen-key. Select your desired settings - I tend to select the highest possible - and then enter your data.

ATTENTION: Until now we only have GnuPG 1.4.x within cgywin, which comes without a GnuPG Agent. The only way is to use a gpg key without a passphrase. In any case, this is not recomendet, as your private key is not secured and therefore could be used by any user that has local access to it. If you are willing to take the risk, in going ahead with a gpg-key without a passphrase, follow the next steps.

Once the key is generated, you are able to create the encrypted files.

You should store the password files within a folder at your home directory, named .passwd. Create that folder with mkdir ~/.passwd. Now create the file ~/.passwd/prime.gpg within emacs, enter the string "prime" (without the quotes) and store the file again. A dialog should ask you for the recipients for the encryption. Mark your own key and confirm the dialog.

After that, you have to provide your password file, so open the ~/.passwd/gmail.gpg file within emacs and immediately store it (do not enter your password right now). Again, a dialog should ask you for the recipients for the encryption. Mark your own key again and confirm the dialog.

Check if the created file is encrypted. If so, open the ~/.passwd/gmail.gpg file once again, enter now your password and store it. You might again enter the key.

Try out your setup

If all the previous steps are done correctly, a call of offlineimap should start downloading your mails into the configured maildir. This might initially take a longer time.

Read on: how to compile mu/mu4e within cygwin