Using Fetchmail

A prototypical chain of mail delivery uses SMTP from the sender through to the recipient’s mail server, and optionally uses POP or IMAP from the final mail server to the user’s desktop system. Sometimes, though, it’s desirable to use POP or IMAP earlier in the chain. For such situations, a program called Fetchmail comes to the rescue; this program enables you to pull mail from a POP or IMAP server and inject it into your local mail queue; from there it can be delivered to the same or another computer.

Before installing and using Fetchmail, you should understand precisely why it exists and how it can be used. Although it’s a popular and useful tool, it’s not for everybody, so attempting to use it unnecessarily can be a waste of time. If you’re sure you want to use it, you must understand Fetchmail’s configuration file format. Once it’s configured, you can use it, which involves running it as a daemon, running it at scheduled times, or running it as part of a larger task.

The Role of Fetchmail

If you own or work for a small business, you might contract with an outside company to host your domain. This domain hosting ISP runs a server that houses your web pages and probably provides another server that can receive your domain’s email. Typically, domain hosting ISPs allow you to connect to their email servers with POP or IMAP to retrieve your mail. You might be content to read your mail more or less directly like this, in which case you don’t need to run any email server ...

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