eMail query-command to use vCards in mutt and Vim
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eMail query-command to use vCards in mutt and Vim.

What does it do?

This scripts parses all vCards in the directory given with -d and prints them either in a format that is usable as $query_command in mutt, or in a format usable for a completion-function (completefunc) in vim.

The first non-option argument is interpreted as a pattern to filter the resulting lines.

As parsing can take some time, the results are cached in ~/.cache/*.vcs_query (the first part is a hash of the path to the directory you used as argument for -d; this way each directory gets its own cache).

Table of Content

  1. Requirements
  2. Installation
  3. CLI synopsis
  4. Mutt
    1. Configuration
    2. Output Format
  5. Vim
    1. Configuration
    2. Output Format
  6. Limitations
  7. Credits


To use you will need at least:

  1. Python 3 (tested with Python 3.6.6)

    • linux-distributions usually package this with names like python3
  2. Python vobject library (tested with vobject

    • linux-distributions usually packages this with names like python-vobject, or python3-vobject (you'll have to make sure they package it in a form so that the Python 3 interpreter can use it)
    • alternatively you can use pip to install this (again, make sure you use the pip version that corresponds to Python 3), e.g.: pip3 install --user vobject


Simply put into an arbitrary directory listed in your $PATH environment variable. You don't need to put it into any of the default system directories like /bin, or /usr/bin; as a user you can put it into ~/bin, and add that directory to your $PATH environment variable (you probably want to use your shell's rc-file, like ~/.bashrc for bash, look into your shell's manual for more information on that); this way you don't need to be root in order to install the script.

CLI synopsis

usage: [-h] [--version] -d VCARD_DIR [-a] [-n] [-r]
                    [-m {mutt,vim}]

Query vCard Files for EMail Addresses

positional arguments:
  PATTERN               only those lines that contain PATTERN will bedisplayed

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  --version             show program's version number and exit
  -d VCARD_DIR, --vcard-dir VCARD_DIR
                        specify directory containing vCards (can be given
                        multiple times)
  -a, --all-addresses   display all addresses stored for a contact
  -n, --sort-names      sort the result according to the contact name (the
                        default is to sort according to mail-address first)
  -r, --regex           interpret PATTERN as regular expression (syntax:
  -m {mutt,vim}, --mode {mutt,vim}
                        select output-mode (default: mutt)



To use, instead of the aliases defined in your .muttrc, put something like this in your .muttrc:

set query_command=" -d ~/.local/share/contacts -a -n %s"

For more options, or what these options mean, run --help, or look above into the synopsis.

Here is the corresponding documentation of the mutt-project: documentation, configuration reference. More tools like this one can be found in the mutt wiki: here.

Output Format

With --mode mutt (or simply not specifying any mode, as this is the default) the output will be formatted like this:, see
<eMail-Adr #1>\t<Name #1>\t<Description #1>
<eMail-Adr #2>\t<Name #2>\t<Description #2>
<eMail-Adr #N>\t<Name #N>\t<Description #N>

The mapping between the vCard specification (RFC 6350) and the output fields is as follows:

Output-Field vCard Type
eMail-Adr EMAIL
Name FN
Description NOTE

Each line in the output will always only contain a single eMail-Address (this is a requirement by mutt). If multiple eMails are stored in a single vCard, the option -a/--all-addresses (synopsis) can be used to print a line for each stored eMail (Name and Description will be the same in each of those lines).

Because mutt requires exactly one line per contact, we mangle the NOTE type of the vCard so that the Description field will not contain any line breaks.



The configuration for Vim is slightly more involved, as there is no predefined interface for completing eMail-Addresses. But it is straight-forward to write a completion-function and use that as user-defined completion for files that have the filetype mail, patch, and whatever other filetype you'd enter eMail-Addresses regularly.

If you don't care for any more details, here is a chunk of code that does exactly this. If you paste that into your vimrc, and adapt the g:vcs_dir variable (near to the top, be aware that the \ is necessary for line-continuation), it should just work. Use the keybinding for User defined completion (per default Ctrl-X Ctrl-U) to trigger the completion.

" mail address completion {{{
    let g:vcs_query = ""
    let g:vcf_options = "-a -n"
    let g:vcs_dir = [ "~/Documents/Contacts/Work",
                    \ "~/Documents/Contacts/Personal"]

    fun! CompleteMail(findstart, base)
        if a:findstart
            " guess the start of the address
            let line = getline('.')
            let pos = col('.') - 1  " character to look at
            let start = -3          " start of the search-term
                                    " return -3 if we never find it
            let delimiter = '[,:]'
            while pos >= 0
                " Stop when encountering a delimiter
                if line[pos] =~ delimiter

                " For everything that is not a whitespace-
                " character remeber the postion as possible
                " start of the search-term
                if line[pos] !~ '\s'
                    let start = pos

                " Count everything that is not a delimiter
                let pos -= 1
            return start
            " Don't return all addresses, this is probably too much
            if len(a:base) <= 0
                return []

            let res = systemlist(
                \ g:vcs_query
                \ . " -d " . join(g:vcs_dir, " -d ")
                \ . " " . g:vcf_options
                \ . " -m vim "
                \ . shellescape(a:base))
            return res[1:]

    if has("autocmd")
        autocmd Filetype mail,gitsendemail,patch,gitcommit
            \ setlocal completefunc=CompleteMail
" }}}

What this does is, it creates a function CompleteMail() that is called via the hook for User defined completion: completefunc. But only for buffers that have the Filetype set to either mail, gitsendemail, patch, or gitcommit (the list is near the bottom of the code).

This might conflict with other plugins you use. Its hard to tell, without knowing all plugins you use, and how they are implemented. So, you'll have to figure this out yourself.

The function CompleteMail() itself will try to figure out where the eMail-Address you want to type starts, then pass that to to figure out the rest, and finally return a (possibly empty) list of found addresses back to vim.

Figuring out the start of the address is not exact in every possible case. It'll try to jump spaces to make it possible to narrow down the search, this makes it somewhat error-prone if used in normal sentences, or other spots, where there is no clear delimiter for when to stop the "scoping". It is oriented to work with the usual spots in files, where you'd write eMail-Addresses: address-lines, such as To:, Cc:, Signed-off-by:. It will search backwards from the cursor-position and stop at :, ,, or line-start; this is then passed to as PATTERN.

Output Format

With --mode vim the output will be formatted like this:, see
<Name #1> \<<eMail-Adr #1>\>
<Name #2> \<<eMail-Adr #2>\>
<Name #N> \<<eMail-Adr #N>\>

The mapping between the vCard specification is the same as for mutt, as is the fact that it will only print one eMail-Address per contact, unless you pass -a/--all-addresses as option (synopsis).

The names will be encoded according to RFC 2047, if they contain any characters that are not printable as US-ASCII. NOTE: this is not true while matching your input on the found vCards, only when the matching contacts are printed; this is so the PATTERN doesn't need to be encoded in the same way as in RFC 2047 (ideally you'll never notice the fact that this is done this way).


Some know limitation either on the script, or on the provided data:


  • Martin Sander (aka. marvinthepa): idea, design, and initial implementation
  • Benjamin Block (aka. mageta): Python 3 conversion, cleanups, some more options