MIME-tools  5.510
About: MIME-tools are Perl modules for parsing (and creating!) MIME entities.
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MIME-tools Documentation

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    MIME-tools requires MIME::Base64 and MIME::QuotedPrint.  It will work
    with versions as old as 2.20, but some tests (when you do "make test")
    will fail for MIME::QuotedPrint older than 3.03.

    MIME-tools - modules for parsing (and creating!) MIME entities

    Here's some pretty basic code for parsing a MIME message, and outputting
    its decoded components to a given directory:

        use MIME::Parser;

        ### Create parser, and set some parsing options:
        my $parser = new MIME::Parser;

        ### Parse input:
        $entity = $parser->parse(\*STDIN) or die "parse failed\n";

        ### Take a look at the top-level entity (and any parts it has):

    Here's some code which composes and sends a MIME message containing
    three parts: a text file, an attached GIF, and some more text:

        use MIME::Entity;

        ### Create the top-level, and set up the mail headers:
        $top = MIME::Entity->build(Type    =>"multipart/mixed",
                                   From    => "me\@myhost.com",
                                   To      => "you\@yourhost.com",
                                   Subject => "Hello, nurse!");

        ### Part #1: a simple text document:

        ### Part #2: a GIF file:
        $top->attach(Path        => "./docs/mime-sm.gif",
                     Type        => "image/gif",
                     Encoding    => "base64");

        ### Part #3: some literal text:

        ### Send it:
        open MAIL, "| /usr/lib/sendmail -t -oi -oem" or die "open: $!";
        close MAIL;

    For more examples, look at the scripts in the examples directory of the
    MIME-tools distribution.

    MIME-tools is a collection of Perl5 MIME:: modules for parsing,
    decoding, *and generating* single- or multipart (even nested multipart)
    MIME messages. (Yes, kids, that means you can send messages with
    attached GIF files).

    You will need the following installed on your system:

            IPC::Open2              (optional)
            IO::Scalar, ...         from the IO-stringy distribution
            Mail::Internet, ...     from the MailTools distribution.

    See the Makefile.PL in your distribution for the most-comprehensive list
    of prerequisite modules and their version numbers.

  Overview of the classes

    Here are the classes you'll generally be dealing with directly:

        (START HERE)            results() .-----------------.
              \                 .-------->| MIME::          |
               .-----------.   /          | Parser::Results |
               | MIME::    |--'           `-----------------'
               | Parser    |--.           .-----------------.
               `-----------'   \ filer()  | MIME::          |
                  | parse()     `-------->| Parser::Filer   |
                  | gives you             `-----------------'
                  | a...                                  | output_path() 
                  |                                       | determines
                  |                                       | path() of...
                  |    head()       .--------.            |
                  |    returns...   | MIME:: | get()      |
                  V       .-------->| Head   | etc...     |
               .--------./          `--------'            |
         .---> | MIME:: |                                 |
         `-----| Entity |           .--------.            |
       parts() `--------'\          | MIME:: |           /
       returns            `-------->| Body   |<---------'
       sub-entities    bodyhandle() `--------'
       (if any)        returns...       | open()
                                        | returns...
                                    .--------. read()
                                    | IO::   | getline()
                                    | Handle | print()
                                    `--------' etc...

    To illustrate, parsing works this way:

    *   The "parser" parses the MIME stream. A parser is an instance of
        `MIME::Parser'. You hand it an input stream (like a filehandle) to
        parse a message from: if the parse is successful, the result is an

    *   A parsed message is represented by an "entity". An entity is an instance
        of `MIME::Entity' (a subclass of `Mail::Internet'). If the message
        had "parts" (e.g., attachments), then those parts are "entities" as
        well, contained inside the top-level entity. Each entity has a
        "head" and a "body".

    *   The entity's "head" contains information about the message. A "head" is
        an instance of `MIME::Head' (a subclass of `Mail::Header'). It
        contains information from the message header: content type, sender,
        subject line, etc.

    *   The entity's "body" knows where the message data is. You can ask to
        "open" this data source for *reading* or *writing*, and you will get
        back an "I/O handle".

    *   You can open() a "body" and get an "I/O handle" to read/write message
        data. This handle is an object that is basically like an IO::Handle
        or a FileHandle... it can be any class, so long as it supports a
        small, standard set of methods for reading from or writing to the
        underlying data source.

    A typical multipart message containing two parts -- a textual greeting
    and an "attached" GIF file -- would be a tree of MIME::Entity objects,
    each of which would have its own MIME::Head. Like this:

        | MIME:: | Content-type: multipart/mixed
        | Entity | Subject: Happy Samhaine!
            parts |
                  |   .--------.
                  |---| MIME:: | Content-type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
                  |   | Entity | Content-transfer-encoding: 7bit
                  |   `--------'
                  |   .--------.
                  |---| MIME:: | Content-type: image/gif
                      | Entity | Content-transfer-encoding: base64
                      `--------' Content-disposition: inline;

  Parsing messages

    You usually start by creating an instance of MIME::Parser and setting up
    certain parsing parameters: what directory to save extracted files to,
    how to name the files, etc.

    You then give that instance a readable filehandle on which waits a MIME
    message. If all goes well, you will get back a MIME::Entity object (a
    subclass of Mail::Internet), which consists of...

    *   A MIME::Head (a subclass of Mail::Header) which holds the MIME header

    *   A MIME::Body, which is a object that knows where the body data is. You
        ask this object to "open" itself for reading, and it will hand you
        back an "I/O handle" for reading the data: this is a FileHandle-like
        object, and could be of any class, so long as it conforms to a
        subset of the IO::Handle interface.

    If the original message was a multipart document, the MIME::Entity
    object will have a non-empty list of "parts", each of which is in turn a
    MIME::Entity (which might also be a multipart entity, etc, etc...).

    Internally, the parser (in MIME::Parser) asks for instances of
    MIME::Decoder whenever it needs to decode an encoded file. MIME::Decoder
    has a mapping from supported encodings (e.g., 'base64') to classes whose
    instances can decode them. You can add to this mapping to try out
    new/experiment encodings. You can also use MIME::Decoder by itself.

  Composing messages

    All message composition is done via the MIME::Entity class. For single-
    part messages, you can use the MIME::Entity/build constructor to create
    MIME entities very easily.

    For multipart messages, you can start by creating a top-level
    `multipart' entity with MIME::Entity::build(), and then use the similar
    MIME::Entity::attach() method to attach parts to that message. *Please
    note:* what most people think of as "a text message with an attached GIF
    file" is *really* a multipart message with 2 parts: the first being the
    text message, and the second being the GIF file.

    When building MIME a entity, you'll have to provide two very important
    pieces of information: the *content type* and the *content transfer
    encoding*. The type is usually easy, as it is directly determined by the
    file format; e.g., an HTML file is `text/html'. The encoding, however,
    is trickier... for example, some HTML files are `7bit'-compliant, but
    others might have very long lines and would need to be sent `quoted-
    printable' for reliability.

    See the section on encoding/decoding for more details, as well as the
    section on "A MIME PRIMER".

  Sending email

    Since MIME::Entity inherits directly from Mail::Internet, you can use
    the normal Mail::Internet mechanisms to send email. For example,


  Encoding/decoding support

    The MIME::Decoder class can be used to *encode* as well; this is done
    when printing MIME entities. All the standard encodings are supported
    (see the section on "A MIME PRIMER" for details):

        Encoding:        | Normally used when message contents are:
        7bit             | 7-bit data with under 1000 chars/line, or multipart.
        8bit             | 8-bit data with under 1000 chars/line.
        binary           | 8-bit data with some long lines (or no line breaks).
        quoted-printable | Text files with some 8-bit chars (e.g., Latin-1 text).
        base64           | Binary files.

    Which encoding you choose for a given document depends largely on (1)
    what you know about the document's contents (text vs binary), and (2)
    whether you need the resulting message to have a reliable encoding for
    7-bit Internet email transport.

    In general, only `quoted-printable' and `base64' guarantee reliable
    transport of all data; the other three "no-encoding" encodings simply
    pass the data through, and are only reliable if that data is 7bit ASCII
    with under 1000 characters per line, and has no conflicts with the
    multipart boundaries.

    I've considered making it so that the content-type and encoding can be
    automatically inferred from the file's path, but that seems to be asking
    for trouble... or at least, for Mail::Cap...


    MIME-tools is a large and complex toolkit which tries to deal with a
    wide variety of external input. It's sometimes helpful to see what's
    really going on behind the scenes. There are several kinds of messages
    logged by the toolkit itself:

    Debug messages
        These are printed directly to the STDERR, with a prefix of `"MIME-
        tools: debug"'.

        Debug message are only logged if you have turned the debugging entry
        elsewhere in this document on in the MIME::Tools configuration.

    Warning messages
        These are logged by the standard Perl warn() mechanism to indicate
        an unusual situation. They all have a prefix of `"MIME-tools:

        Warning messages are only logged if `$^W' is set true and
        MIME::Tools is not configured to be the quiet entry elsewhere in
        this document .

    Error messages
        These are logged by the standard Perl warn() mechanism to indicate
        that something actually failed. They all have a prefix of `"MIME-
        tools: error"'.

        Error messages are only logged if `$^W' is set true and MIME::Tools
        is not configured to be the quiet entry elsewhere in this document .

    Usage messages
        Unlike "typical" warnings above, which warn about problems
        processing data, usage-warnings are for alerting developers of
        deprecated methods and suspicious invocations.

        Usage messages are currently only logged if `$^W' is set true and
        MIME::Tools is not configured to be the quiet entry elsewhere in
        this document .

    When a MIME::Parser (or one of its internal helper classes) wants to
    report a message, it generally does so by recording the message to the
    MIME::Parser::Results object immediately before invoking the appropriate
    function above. That means each parsing run has its own trace-log which
    can be examined for problems.

  Configuring the toolkit

    If you want to tweak the way this toolkit works (for example, to turn on
    debugging), use the routines in the MIME::Tools module.

        Turn debugging on or off. Default is false (off).


        Turn the reporting of warning/error messages on or off. Default is
        true, meaning that these message are silenced.


        Return the toolkit version.

             print MIME::Tools->version, "\n";

  Take a look at the examples

    The MIME-Tools distribution comes with an "examples" directory. The
    scripts in there are basically just tossed-together, but they'll give
    you some ideas of how to use the parser.

  Run with warnings enabled

    *Always* run your Perl script with `-w'. If you see a warning about a
    deprecated method, change your code ASAP. This will ease upgrades

  Avoid non-standard encodings

    Don't try to MIME-encode using the non-standard MIME encodings. It's
    just not a good practice if you want people to be able to read your

  Plan for thrown exceptions

    For example, if your mail-handling code absolutely must not die, then
    perform mail parsing like this:

        $entity = eval { $parser->parse(\*INPUT) };

    Parsing is a complex process, and some components may throw exceptions
    if seriously-bad things happen. Since "seriously-bad" is in the eye of
    the beholder, you're better off *catching* possible exceptions instead
    of asking me to propagate `undef' up the stack. Use of exceptions in
    reusable modules is one of those religious issues we're never all going
    to agree upon; thankfully, that's what `eval{}' is good for.

  Check the parser results for warnings/errors

    As of 5.3xx, the parser tries extremely hard to give you a MIME::Entity.
    If there were any problems, it logs warnings/errors to the underlying
    "results" object (see the MIME::Parser::Results manpage). Look at that
    object after each parse. Print out the warnings and errors, *especially*
    if messages don't parse the way you thought they would.

  Don't plan on printing exactly what you parsed!

    *Parsing is a (slightly) lossy operation.* Because of things like
    ambiguities in base64-encoding, the following is *not* going to spit out
    its input unchanged in all cases:

        $entity = $parser->parse(\*STDIN);

    If you're using MIME::Tools to process email, remember to save the data
    you parse if you want to send it on unchanged. This is vital for things
    like PGP-signed email.

  Understand how international characters are represented

    The MIME standard allows for text strings in headers to contain
    characters from any character set, by using special sequences which look
    like this:


    To be consistent with the existing Mail::Field classes, MIME::Tools does
    *not* automatically unencode these strings, since doing so would lose
    the character-set information and interfere with the parsing of fields
    (see the "decode_headers" entry in the MIME::Parser manpage for a full
    explanation). That means you should be prepared to deal with these
    encoded strings.

    The most common question then is, how do I decode these encoded strings?
    The answer depends on what you want to decode them *to*: ASCII, Latin1,
    UTF-8, etc. Be aware that your "target" representation may not support
    all possible character sets you might encounter; for example, Latin1
    (ISO-8859-1) has no way of representing Big5 (Chinese) characters. A
    common practice is to represent "untranslateable" characters as "?"s, or
    to ignore them completely.

    To unencode the strings into some of the more-popular Western byte
    representations (e.g., Latin1, Latin2, etc.), you can use the decoders
    in MIME::WordDecoder (see the MIME::WordDecoder manpage). The simplest
    way is by using `unmime()', a function wrapped around your "default"
    decoder, as follows:

        use MIME::WordDecoder;    
        $subject = unmime $entity->head->get('subject');

    One place this *is* done automatically is in extracting the recommended
    filename for a part while parsing. That's why you should start by
    setting up the best "default" decoder if the default target of Latin1
    isn't to your liking.

  Fuzzing of CRLF and newline on input

    RFC-1521 dictates that MIME streams have lines terminated by CRLF
    (`"\r\n"'). However, it is extremely likely that folks will want to
    parse MIME streams where each line ends in the local newline character
    `"\n"' instead.

    An attempt has been made to allow the parser to handle both CRLF and
    newline-terminated input.

  Fuzzing of CRLF and newline when decoding

    The `"7bit"' and `"8bit"' decoders will decode both a `"\n"' and a
    `"\r\n"' end-of-line sequence into a `"\n"'.

    The `"binary"' decoder (default if no encoding specified) still outputs
    stuff verbatim... so a MIME message with CRLFs and no explicit encoding
    will be output as a text file that, on many systems, will have an
    annoying ^M at the end of each line... *but this is as it should be*.

  Fuzzing of CRLF and newline when encoding/composing

    All encoders currently output the end-of-line sequence as a `"\n"', with
    the assumption that the local mail agent will perform the conversion
    from newline to CRLF when sending the mail. However, there probably
    should be an option to output CRLF as per RFC-1521.

  Inability to handle multipart boundaries with embedded newlines

    Let's get something straight: this is an evil, EVIL practice. If your
    mailer creates multipart boundary strings that contain newlines, give it
    two weeks notice and find another one. If your mail robot receives MIME
    mail like this, regard it as syntactically incorrect, which it is.

  Ignoring non-header headers

    People like to hand the parser raw messages straight from POP3 or from a
    mailbox. There is often predictable non-header information in front of
    the real headers; e.g., the initial "From" line in the following

        From - Wed Mar 22 02:13:18 2000
        Return-Path: <eryq@zeegee.com>
        Subject: Hello

    The parser simply ignores such stuff quietly. Perhaps it shouldn't, but
    most people seem to want that behavior.

  Fuzzing of empty multipart preambles

    Please note that there is currently an ambiguity in the way preambles
    are parsed in. The following message fragments *both* are regarded as
    having an empty preamble (where `\n' indicates a newline character):

         Content-type: multipart/mixed; boundary="xyz"\n
         Subject: This message (#1) has an empty preamble\n
         Content-type: multipart/mixed; boundary="xyz"\n
         Subject: This message (#2) also has an empty preamble\n

    In both cases, the *first* completely-empty line (after the "Subject")
    marks the end of the header.

    But we should clearly ignore the *second* empty line in message #2,
    since it fills the role of *"the newline which is only there to make
    sure that the boundary is at the beginning of a line"*. Such newlines
    are *never* part of the content preceding the boundary; thus, there is
    no preamble "content" in message #2.

    However, it seems clear that message #1 *also* has no preamble
    "content", and is in fact merely a compact representation of an empty

  Use of a temp file during parsing

    *Why not do everything in core?* Although the amount of core available
    on even a modest home system continues to grow, the size of attachments
    continues to grow with it. I wanted to make sure that even users with
    small systems could deal with decoding multi-megabyte sounds and movie
    files. That means not being core-bound.

    As of the released 5.3xx, MIME::Parser gets by with only one temp file
    open per parser. This temp file provides a sort of infinite scratch
    space for dealing with the current message part. It's fast and
    lightweight, but you should know about it anyway.

  Why do I assume that MIME objects are email objects?

    Achim Bohnet once pointed out that MIME headers do nothing more than
    store a collection of attributes, and thus could be represented as
    objects which don't inherit from Mail::Header.

    I agree in principle, but RFC-1521 says otherwise. RFC-1521 [MIME]
    headers are a syntactic subset of RFC-822 [email] headers. Perhaps a
    better name for these modules would have been RFC1521:: instead of
    MIME::, but we're a little beyond that stage now.

    When I originally wrote these modules for the CPAN, I agonized for a
    long time about whether or not they really should subclass from
    Mail::Internet (then at version 1.17). Thanks to Graham Barr, who
    graciously evolved MailTools 1.06 to be more MIME-friendly, unification
    was achieved at MIME-tools release 2.0. The benefits in reuse alone have
    been substantial.

    So you need to parse (or create) MIME, but you're not quite up on the
    specifics? No problem...


    Here are some definitions adapted from RFC-1521 explaining the
    terminology we use; each is accompanied by the equivalent in MIME::
    module terms...

        An "attachment" is common slang for any part of a multipart message
        -- except, perhaps, for the first part, which normally carries a
        user message describing the attachments that follow (e.g.: "Hey
        dude, here's that GIF file I promised you.").

        In our system, an attachment is just a MIME::Entity under the top-
        level entity, probably one of its parts.

        The "body" of an entity is that portion of the entity which follows
        the header and which contains the real message content. For example,
        if your MIME message has a GIF file attachment, then the body of
        that attachment is the base64-encoded GIF file itself.

        A body is represented by an instance of MIME::Body. You get the body
        of an entity by sending it a bodyhandle() message.

    body part
        One of the parts of the body of a multipart /entity. A body part has
        a /header and a /body, so it makes sense to speak about the body of
        a body part.

        Since a body part is just a kind of entity, it's represented by an
        instance of MIME::Entity.

        An "entity" means either a /message or a /body part. All entities
        have a /header and a /body.

        An entity is represented by an instance of MIME::Entity. There are
        instance methods for recovering the header (a MIME::Head) and the
        body (a MIME::Body).

        This is the top portion of the MIME message, which contains the
        "Content-type", "Content-transfer-encoding", etc. Every MIME entity
        has a header, represented by an instance of MIME::Head. You get the
        header of an entity by sending it a head() message.

        A "message" generally means the complete (or "top-level") message
        being transferred on a network.

        There currently is no explicit package for "messages"; under MIME::,
        messages are streams of data which may be read in from files or
        filehandles. You can think of the MIME::Entity returned by the
        MIME::Parser as representing the full message.

  Content types

    This indicates what kind of data is in the MIME message, usually as
    *majortype/minortype*. The standard major types are shown below. A more-
    comprehensive listing may be found in RFC-2046.

        Data which does not fit in any of the other categories, particularly
        data to be processed by some type of application program.
        `application/octet-stream', `application/gzip',

        Audio data. `audio/basic'...

        Graphics data. `image/gif', `image/jpeg'...

        A message, usually another mail or MIME message. `message/rfc822'...

        A message containing other messages. `multipart/mixed',

        Textual data, meant for humans to read. `text/plain', `text/html'...

        Video or video+audio data. `video/mpeg'...

  Content transfer encodings

    This is how the message body is packaged up for safe transit. There are
    the 5 major MIME encodings. A more-comprehensive listing may be found in

        No encoding is done at all. This label simply asserts that no 8-bit
        characters are present, and that lines do not exceed 1000 characters
        in length (including the CRLF).

        No encoding is done at all. This label simply asserts that the
        message might contain 8-bit characters, and that lines do not exceed
        1000 characters in length (including the CRLF).

        No encoding is done at all. This label simply asserts that the
        message might contain 8-bit characters, and that lines may exceed
        1000 characters in length. Such messages are the *least* likely to
        get through mail gateways.

        A standard encoding, which maps arbitrary binary data to the 7bit
        domain. Like "uuencode", but very well-defined. This is how you
        should send essentially binary information (tar files, GIFs, JPEGs,

        A standard encoding, which maps arbitrary line-oriented data to the
        7bit domain. Useful for encoding messages which are textual in
        nature, yet which contain non-ASCII characters (e.g., Latin-1,
        Latin-2, or any other 8-bit alphabet).

    Eryq (eryq@zeegee.com), ZeeGee Software Inc (http://www.zeegee.com).
    Dianne Skoll (dianne@skoll.ca)

    Copyright (c) 1998, 1999 by ZeeGee Software Inc (www.zeegee.com).
    Copyright (c) 2004 by Roaring Penguin Software Inc (www.roaringpenguin.com)
    Copyright (c) 2022 by Dianne Skoll

    All rights reserved. This program is free software; you can redistribute
    it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself. See the COPYING
    file in the distribution for details.


    Please file bug reports via rt.cpan.org.

    MIME-tools was created by:

        ___  _ _ _   _  ___ _
       / _ \| '_| | | |/ _ ' /    Eryq, (eryq@zeegee.com)
      |  __/| | | |_| | |_| |     President, ZeeGee Software Inc.
       \___||_|  \__, |\__, |__   http://www.zeegee.com/
                 |___/    |___/

    Released as MIME-parser (1.0): 28 April 1996. Released as MIME-tools
    (2.0): Halloween 1996. Released as MIME-tools (4.0): Christmas 1997.
    Released as MIME-tools (5.0): Mother's Day 2000.

    MIME-tools is currently maintained by Dianne Skoll <dfs@roaringoenguin.com>

    This kit would not have been possible but for the direct contributions
    of the following:

        Gisle Aas             The MIME encoding/decoding modules.
        Laurent Amon          Bug reports and suggestions.
        Graham Barr           The new MailTools.
        Achim Bohnet          Numerous good suggestions, including the I/O model.
        Kent Boortz           Initial code for RFC-1522-decoding of MIME headers.
        Andreas Koenig        Numerous good ideas, tons of beta testing,
                                and help with CPAN-friendly packaging.
        Igor Starovoitov      Bug reports and suggestions.
        Jason L Tibbitts III  Bug reports, suggestions, patches.

    Not to mention the Accidental Beta Test Team, whose bug reports (and
    comments) have been invaluable in improving the whole:

        Phil Abercrombie
        Mike Blazer
        Brandon Browning
        Kurt Freytag
        Steve Kilbane
        Jake Morrison
        Rolf Nelson
        Joel Noble
        Michael W. Normandin
        Tim Pierce
        Andrew Pimlott
        Dragomir R. Radev
        Nickolay Saukh
        Russell Sutherland
        Larry Virden

    Please forgive me if I've accidentally left you out. Better yet, email
    me, and I'll put you in.

    Search CPAN for MIME::tools.

    Users of this toolkit may wish to read the documentation of Mail::Header
    and Mail::Internet.

    The MIME format is documented in RFCs 1521-1522, and more recently in
    RFCs 2045-2049.

    The MIME header format is an outgrowth of the mail header format
    documented in RFC 822.