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Work with email and mailbox by IMAP

Project description

Work with email and mailbox by IMAP:

  • Parsed email message attributes
  • Query builder for searching emails
  • Work with emails in folders (copy, delete, flag, move, seen)
  • Work with mailbox folders (list, set, get, create, exists, rename, delete, status)
  • No dependencies
Python version 3.3+
License Apache-2.0
EMAIL RFC Internet Message Format -


$ pip install imap_tools



from imap_tools import MailBox, AND

# get list of email subjects from INBOX folder
with MailBox('').login('', 'password') as mailbox:
    subjects = [msg.subject for msg in mailbox.fetch()]

# get list of email subjects from INBOX folder - equivalent verbose version
mailbox = MailBox('')
mailbox.login('', 'password', initial_folder='INBOX')  # or mailbox.folder.set instead 3d arg
subjects = [msg.subject for msg in mailbox.fetch(AND(all=True))]

MailBox(BaseMailBox), MailBoxUnencrypted(BaseMailBox) - for create mailbox instance.

BaseMailBox.login, MailBox.xoauth2 - authentication functions

BaseMailBox.fetch - email message generator, first searches email nums by criteria, then fetch and yields Message:

  • criteria = ‘ALL’, message search criteria, query builder
  • charset = ‘US-ASCII’, indicates charset of the strings that appear in the search criteria. See rfc2978
  • limit = None, limit on the number of read emails, useful for actions with a large number of messages, like “move”
  • miss_defect = True, miss emails with defects
  • miss_no_uid = True, miss emails without uid
  • mark_seen = True, mark emails as seen on fetch
  • reverse = False, in order from the larger date to the smaller
  • headers_only = False, get only email headers (without text, html, attachments)
  • bulk = False, False - fetch each message separately per N commands - low memory consumption, slow; True - fetch all messages per 1 command - high memory consumption, fast

BaseMailBox.<action> - copy, move, delete, flag, seen

BaseMailBox.folder - folder manager - search mailbox for matching message numbers (this is not uids) - imaplib.IMAP4/IMAP4_SSL client instance.

Email attributes

Message and Attachment public attributes are cached by functools.lru_cache

for msg in mailbox.fetch():  # iter: imap_tools.Message
    msg.uid          # str or None: '123'
    msg.subject      # str: 'some subject 你 привет'
    msg.from_        # str: 'Sender.Bartö'           # tuple: ('', '', )           # tuple: ('', )
    msg.bcc          # tuple: ('', )
    msg.reply_to     # tuple: ('', )         # datetime.datetime: 1900-1-1 for unparsed, may be naive or with tzinfo
    msg.date_str     # str: original date - 'Tue, 03 Jan 2017 22:26:59 +0500'
    msg.text         # str: 'Hello 你 Привет'
    msg.html         # str: '<b>Hello 你 Привет</b>'
    msg.flags        # tuple: ('SEEN', 'FLAGGED', 'ENCRYPTED')
    msg.headers      # dict: {'Received': ('from', 'from'), 'AntiVirus': ('Clean',)}
    msg.size_rfc822  # int: 20664
    msg.size         # int: 20377

    for att in msg.attachments:  # list: imap_tools.Attachment
        att.filename             # str: 'cat.jpg'
        att.payload              # bytes: b'\xff\xd8\xff\xe0\'
        att.content_id           # str: ''
        att.content_type         # str: 'image/jpeg'
        att.content_disposition  # str: 'inline'
        att.part                 # email.message.Message: original object
        att.size                 # int: 17361

    msg.obj              # email.message.Message: original object
    msg.from_values      # dict or None: {'email': '', 'name': 'Ya 你', 'full': 'Ya 你 <>'}
    msg.to_values        # tuple: ({'email': '', 'name': '', 'full': ''},)
    msg.cc_values        # tuple: ({'email': '', 'name': '', 'full': ''},)
    msg.bcc_values       # tuple: ({'email': '', 'name': '', 'full': ''},)
    msg.reply_to_values  # tuple: ({'email': '', 'name': '', 'full': ''},)

Search criteria

This chapter about “criteria” and “charset” arguments of MailBox.fetch.

You can use 3 approaches to build search criteria:

from imap_tools import AND, OR, NOT

mailbox.fetch(AND(subject='weather'))  # query, the str-like object
mailbox.fetch('TEXT "hello"')          # str
mailbox.fetch(b'TEXT "\xd1\x8f"')      # bytes, *charset arg is ignored

The “charset” is argument used for encode criteria to this encoding. You can pass criteria as bytes in desired encoding - charset will be ignored.

Query builder implements all search logic described in rfc3501. See query examples.

Class Alias Usage Arguments
AND A combines keys by logical “AND” condition Search keys (see below) | str
OR O combines keys by logical “OR” condition Search keys (see below) | str
NOT N invert the result of a logical expression AND/OR instances | str
Header H for search by headers name: str, value: str
from imap_tools import A, AND, OR, NOT
A(text='hello', new=True)  # '(TEXT "hello" NEW)'
# OR
OR(text='hello',, 3, 15))  # '(OR TEXT "hello" ON 15-Mar-2000)'
NOT(text='hello', new=True)  # 'NOT (TEXT "hello" NEW)'
# complex
A(OR(from_='', text='"the text"'), NOT(OR(A(answered=False), A(new=True))), to='')
# encoding
mailbox.fetch(A(subject='привет'), charset='utf8')
# python note: you can't do: A(text='two', NOT(subject='one'))
A(NOT(subject='one'), text='two')  # use kwargs after logic classes (args)

Search key table. Key types marked with * can accepts a sequence of values like list, tuple, set or generator.

Key Types Results Description
answered bool ANSWERED|UNANSWERED with|without the Answered flag
seen bool SEEN|UNSEEN with|without the Seen flag
flagged bool FLAGGED|UNFLAGGED with|without the Flagged flag
draft bool DRAFT|UNDRAFT with|without the Draft flag
deleted bool DELETED|UNDELETED with|without the Deleted flag
keyword str* KEYWORD KEY with the specified keyword flag
no_keyword str* UNKEYWORD KEY without the specified keyword flag
from_ str* FROM “” contain specified str in envelope struct’s FROM field
to str* TO “” contain specified str in envelope struct’s TO field
subject str* SUBJECT “hello” contain specified str in envelope struct’s SUBJECT field
body str* BODY “some_key” contain specified str in body of the message
text str* TEXT “some_key” contain specified str in header or body of the message
bcc str* BCC “” contain specified str in envelope struct’s BCC field
cc str* CC “” contain specified str in envelope struct’s CC field
date* ON 15-Mar-2000 internal date is within specified date
date_gte* SINCE 15-Mar-2000 internal date is within or later than the specified date
date_lt* BEFORE 15-Mar-2000 internal date is earlier than the specified date
sent_date* SENTON 15-Mar-2000 rfc2822 Date: header is within the specified date
sent_date_gte* SENTSINCE 15-Mar-2000 rfc2822 Date: header is within or later than the specified date
sent_date_lt* SENTBEFORE 1-Mar-2000 rfc2822 Date: header is earlier than the specified date
size_gt int >= 0 LARGER 1024 rfc2822 size larger than specified number of octets
size_lt int >= 0 SMALLER 512 rfc2822 size smaller than specified number of octets
new True NEW have the Recent flag set but not the Seen flag
old True OLD do not have the Recent flag set
recent True RECENT have the Recent flag set
all True ALL all, criteria by default
uid iter(str)|str UID 1,2,17 corresponding to the specified unique identifier set
header H(str, str)* HEADER “A-Spam” “5.8” have a header that contains the specified str in the text
gmail_label str* X-GM-LABELS “label1” have this gmail label.

Server side search notes:

  • For string search keys a message matches if the string is a substring of the field. The matching is case-insensitive.
  • When searching by dates - email’s time and timezone are disregarding.

Actions with emails in folder

First of all read about uid at rfc3501.

You can use 2 approaches to perform these operations:

  • “in bulk” - Perform IMAP operation for message set per 1 command
  • “by one” - Perform IMAP operation for each message separately per N commands

MailBox.fetch generator instance passed as the first argument to any action will be implicitly converted to uid list.

For actions with a large number of messages imap command may be too large and will cause an exception, use ‘limit’ argument for fetch in this case.

with MailBox('').login('', 'pwd', initial_folder='INBOX') as mailbox:

    # COPY all messages from current folder to folder1, *by one
    for msg in mailbox.fetch():
        res = mailbox.copy(msg.uid, 'INBOX/folder1')

    # MOVE all messages from current folder to folder2, *in bulk (implicit creation of uid list)
    mailbox.move(mailbox.fetch(), 'INBOX/folder2')

    # DELETE all messages from current folder, *in bulk (explicit creation of uid list)
    mailbox.delete([msg.uid for msg in mailbox.fetch()])

    # FLAG unseen messages in current folder as Answered and Flagged, *in bulk.
    flags = (imap_tools.MailMessageFlags.ANSWERED, imap_tools.MailMessageFlags.FLAGGED)
    mailbox.flag(mailbox.fetch(AND(seen=False)), flags, True)

    # SEEN: mark all messages sent at 05.03.2007 in current folder as unseen, *in bulk
    mailbox.seen(mailbox.fetch("SENTON 05-Mar-2007"), False)

Actions with mailbox folders

with MailBox('').login('', 'pwd') as mailbox:
    # LIST
    for folder_info in mailbox.folder.list('INBOX'):
        print(folder_info)  # {'name': 'INBOX|cats', 'delim': '|', 'flags': ('\\Unmarked', '\\HasChildren')}
    # SET
    # GET
    current_folder = mailbox.folder.get()
    # CREATE
    # EXISTS
    is_exists = mailbox.folder.exists('folder1')
    # RENAME
    mailbox.folder.rename('folder1', 'folder2')
    # DELETE
    # STATUS
    folder_status = mailbox.folder.status('some_folder')
    print(folder_status)  # {'MESSAGES': 41, 'RECENT': 0, 'UIDNEXT': 11996, 'UIDVALIDITY': 1, 'UNSEEN': 5}


Custom lib exceptions here:

Release notes

History of important changes: release_notes.rst


If you found a bug or have a question, please let me know - create merge request or issue.


  • Excessive low level of imaplib library.
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