maildir - directory for incoming mail messages


       maildir  is  a  structure for directories of incoming mail
       messages.  It solves the reliability problems that  plague
       mbox files and mh folders.


       A machine may crash while it is delivering a message.  For
       both mbox files and mh folders this means that the message
       will  be silently truncated.  Even worse: for mbox format,
       if the message is truncated in the middle of  a  line,  it
       will  be  silently  joined  to the next message.  The mail
       transport agent will try again later to deliver  the  mes-
       sage,  but  it  is  unacceptable  that a corrupted message
       should show up at all.  In maildir, every message is guar-
       anteed complete upon delivery.

       A  machine may have two programs simultaneously delivering
       mail to the same user.  The mbox and  mh  formats  require
       the programs to update a single central file.  If the pro-
       grams do not use some locking mechanism, the central  file
       will  be corrupted.  There are several mbox and mh locking
       mechanisms, none of which work portably and reliably.   In
       contrast,  in  maildir, no locks are ever necessary.  Dif-
       ferent delivery processes never touch the same file.

       A user may try to delete messages from his mailbox at  the
       same  moment that the machine delivers a new message.  For
       mbox and mh formats, the user's mail-reading program  must
       know  what  locking  mechanism  the mail-delivery programs
       use.  In contrast, in maildir, any delivered  message  can
       be safely updated or deleted by a mail-reading program.

       Many sites use Sun's Network Failure System (NFS), presum-
       ably because the operating system vendor  does  not  offer
       anything else.  NFS exacerbates all of the above problems.
       Some NFS implementations don't provide any reliable  lock-
       ing  mechanism.  With mbox and mh formats, if two machines
       deliver mail to the same user, or if  a  user  reads  mail
       anywhere  except  the delivery machine, the user's mail is
       at risk.  maildir works without trouble over NFS.


       A directory in maildir format  has  three  subdirectories,
       all on the same filesystem: tmp, new, and cur.

       Each  file  in new is a newly delivered mail message.  The
       modification time of the file is the delivery date of  the
       message.   The message is delivered without an extra UUCP-
       style From_ line, without any >From quoting,  and  without
       an  extra  blank line at the end.  The message is probably

       Files  in cur are just like files in new.  The big differ-
       ence is that files in cur are no  longer  new  mail:  they
       have been seen by the user's mail-reading program.


       The  tmp directory is used to ensure reliable delivery, as
       discussed here.

       A program delivers a mail message in six steps.  First, it
       chdir()s to the maildir directory.  Second, it stat()s the
       name tmp/, where time is the number  of  sec-
       onds since the beginning of 1970 GMT, pid is the program's
       process ID, and host is the host name.  Third,  if  stat()
       returned  anything  other  than ENOENT, the program sleeps
       for two seconds, updates time, and tries the stat() again,
       a  limited  number  of times.  Fourth, the program creates
       tmp/  Fifth, the program NFS-writes the mes-
       sage  to the file.  Sixth, the program link()s the file to
       new/  At that instant the message  has  been
       successfully delivered.

       The  delivery program is required to start a 24-hour timer
       before creating tmp/, and to abort the deliv-
       ery  if the timer expires.  Upon error, timeout, or normal
       completion, the delivery program may attempt  to  unlink()

       NFS-writing  means  (1)  as  usual, checking the number of
       bytes returned from each write() call; (2) calling fsync()
       and  checking  its  return  value; (3) calling close() and
       checking its return value.  (Standard NFS  implementations
       handle  fsync()  incorrectly but make up for it by abusing


       A mail reader operates as follows.

       It looks through the new directory for new messages.   Say
       there is a new message, new/  The reader may
       freely display the contents of  new/,  delete
       new/,    or   rename   new/   as
       cur/  The meaning of info is up to  the
       mail reader.

       The reader is also expected to look through the tmp direc-
       tory and to clean up any old files found there.  A file in
       tmp  may  be safely removed if it has not been accessed in
       36 hours.


       Mail readers supporting maildir use the  MAILDIR  environ-


       mbox(5), qmail-alias(8)