Simple Email Sending on Linux

You have a script and you want to send an email, or worse, someone else has a program and they are sending an email. Many programs expect something that is sendmail compatible to available on your system, e.g. cron scripts.

Rather than install a mail transfer agent and/or mail delivery agent and/or mail user agent, and god knows what other pieces that make up a proper mailbox, we can install something that just sends emails.

$ sudo pacman -S msmtp msmtp-mta

msmtp is the small program that does the sending and msmtp-mta provides sendmail compatibility at /usr/bin/sendmail. The program requires a working internet connection as it cannot queue emails. That’s how simple it is.

We can use a 3rd party SMTP server such as SendGrid or Gmail with the configuration at /etc/msmtprc (0640 root:mail):

aliases /etc/aliases
port 587
tls on
tls_trust_file /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt
syslog on

account sendgrid
auth on
user apikey
auto_from on

account default : sendgrid

There are a few tweaks to including enabling logging, automatically setting a FROM email that is user@maildomain.tld, using the SendGrid account to send emails by default if one is not otherwise specified, and finally setting up some aliases.

We’ll set up a default alias in /etc/aliases (0640 root:mail):


Add yourself to mail: gpasswd -a <YOU> mail (check with id).

We can test it with (the default alias will be mapped to the real recipient email address defined earlier):

$ printf "Subject: Hello World\n\Or rather just me.\n" | msmtp default

Also, mail default works as an alternative.


  • We are using the mail group to avoid leaking our plaintext password from the configuration file. We can also use ~/.msmtprc if we need to isolate sending accounts from other users/applications.
  • We just printf because echo doesn’t seem to new-line properly.
  • We set the subject, but we should also set To: properly.
  • Not sure how to get it to work with SendGrid’s domain white-listing, but it doesn’t really matter if you’re just emailing yourself.
  • mail has a terrible UX as I cannot do anything more than set a subject, when really it should be immediately obvious how to write the body of the email rather than just the subject.

The Arch Linux Wiki has more details!

Take a look or leave any comments over at GitHub.