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NAME

       mbox - Format for mail message storage.

DESCRIPTION

       This document describes the format traditionally used by Unix hosts to store mail messages
       locally.  mbox files typically reside in the system's mail spool, under various  names  in
       users' Mail directories, and under the name mbox in users' home directories.

       An  mbox  is  a text file containing an arbitrary number of e-mail messages.  Each message
       consists of a postmark, followed by an  e-mail  message  formatted  according  to  RFC822,
       RFC2822.  The  file  format  is line-oriented. Lines are separated by line feed characters
       (ASCII 10).

       A postmark line consists of the four characters "From", followed  by  a  space  character,
       followed by the message's envelope sender address, followed by whitespace, and followed by
       a time stamp. This line is often called From_ line.

       The sender address is expected to be addr-spec as defined in RFC2822 3.4.1.  The  date  is
       expected  to  be date-time as output by asctime(3).  For compatibility reasons with legacy
       software, two-digit years greater than or equal to 70 should be interpreted as  the  years
       1970+,  while  two-digit  years less than 70 should be interpreted as the years 2000-2069.
       Software reading files in this format  should  also  be  prepared  to  accept  non-numeric
       timezone information such as "CET DST" for Central European Time, daylight saving time.

       Example:

        >From example@example.com Fri Jun 23 02:56:55 2000

       In  order  to avoid misinterpretation of lines in message bodies which begin with the four
       characters "From", followed by a space character, the mail delivery agent must  quote  any
       occurrence of "From " at the start of a body line.

       There are two different quoting schemes, the first (MBOXO) only quotes plain "From " lines
       in the body by prepending a '>' to the line;  the  second  (MBOXRD)  also  quotes  already
       quoted  "From  "  lines by prepending a '>' (i.e. ">From ", ">>From ", ...). The later has
       the advantage that lines like

        >From the command line you can use the '-p' option

       aren't dequoted wrongly as a MBOXRD-MDA would turn the line into

        >>From the command line you can use the '-p' option

       before storing it. Besides MBOXO and MBOXRD there is also MBOXCL which  is  MBOXO  with  a
       "Content-Length:"-field  with  the  number  of  bytes in the message body; some MUAs (like
       mutt(1)) do automatically transform MBOXO mailboxes into MBOXCL ones when ever they  write
       them back as MBOXCL can be read by any MBOXO-MUA without any problems.

       If  the  modification-time  (usually  determined  via  stat(2)) of a nonempty mbox file is
       greater than the access-time the file has new mail. Many MUAs place a  Status:  header  in
       each message to indicate which messages have already been read.

LOCKING

       Since  mbox  files  are  frequently  accessed by multiple programs in parallel, mbox files
       should generally not be accessed without locking.

       Three different locking mechanisms (and combinations thereof) are in general use:

       ·      fcntl(2) locking is mostly used on recent, POSIX-compliant  systems.  Use  of  this
              locking  method is, in particular, advisable if mbox files are accessed through the
              Network File System (NFS), since it seems the only way to reliably  invalidate  NFS
              clients' caches.

       ·      flock(2) locking is mostly used on BSD-based systems.

       ·      Dotlocking  is  used  on  all kinds of systems. In order to lock an mbox file named
              folder, an application first creates a temporary file with a  unique  name  in  the
              directory  in  which  the  folder  resides.  The  application then tries to use the
              link(2) system call to create a hard link named folder.lock to the temporary  file.
              The  success  of  the  link(2)  system  call  should be additionally verified using
              stat(2) calls. If the link has succeeded, the mail folder is considered  dotlocked.
              The temporary file can then safely be unlinked.

              In order to release the lock, an application just unlinks the folder.lock file.

       If  multiple  methods  are combined, implementors should make sure to use the non-blocking
       variants of the fcntl(2) and flock(2) system calls in order to avoid deadlocks.

       If multiple methods are combined, an mbox  file  must  not  be  considered  to  have  been
       successfully  locked before all individual locks were obtained. When one of the individual
       locking methods fails, an application should release all locks it  acquired  successfully,
       and restart the entire locking procedure from the beginning, after a suitable delay.

       The  locking mechanism used on a particular system is a matter of local policy, and should
       be consistently used by all applications installed on the system which access mbox  files.
       Failure to do so may result in loss of e-mail data, and in corrupted mbox files.

FILES

       /var/spool/mail/$LOGNAME
              $LOGNAME's incoming mail folder.

       $HOME/mbox
              user's archived mail messages, in his $HOME directory.

       $HOME/Mail/
              A  directory  in  user's $HOME directory which is commonly used to hold mbox format
              folders.

SEE ALSO

       mutt(1), fcntl(2), flock(2), link(2), stat(2), asctime(3),  maildir(5),  mmdf(5),  RFC822,
       RFC976, RFC2822

AUTHOR

       Thomas Roessler <roessler@does-not-exist.org>, Urs Janssen <urs@tin.org>

HISTORY

       The mbox format occurred in Version 6 AT&T Unix.
       A variant of this format was documented in RFC976.