Network Working Group
Internet Draft: Sieve -- IMAP flag Extension                 A. Melnikov
Document: draft-ietf-sieve-imapflags-05.txt                Isode Limited
Expires: November 2006                                          May 2006

            SIEVE Email Filtering: IMAP flag Extension

Status of this memo

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   Recent discussions have shown that it is desirable to set different
   IMAP (RFC 3501) flags on message delivery.  This can be done, for
   example, by a Sieve interpreter that works as a part of a Mail
   Delivery Agent.

   This document describes an extension to the Sieve mail filtering
   language for setting IMAP flags. The extension allows to set both
   IMAP system flags and IMAP keywords.

0. Meta-information on this draft

   This information is intended to facilitate discussion.  It will be
   removed when this document leaves the Internet-Draft stage.

0.1. Discussion

   This draft defines an extension to the Sieve mail filtering
   language (RFC 3028) being discussed on the MTA Filters
   mailing list at <>. Subscription requests
   can be sent to <> (send an email
   message with the word "subscribe" in the body). More information on
   the mailing list along with a WWW archive of back messages is
   available at <>.

0.2. Changes from the version submitted to the Sieve mailing list

   1. Added addflag and removeflag actions

   2. Changed the semantics of setflag (setflag is not additive any

   3. Corrected section "Interaction with Other Sieve Actions".
      Removed incorrect reference to the forward action as to an
      action that prohibits setflag.

   4. Added paragraph about the mutual order of "fileinto"/"keep" and
      "setflag"/"addflag"/"removeflag" actions.

0.3. Changes from the revision 00

   1. Corrected Capability Identifier section (Section 2)

   2. Corrected "Interaction with Other Sieve Actions" section
      (Section 4)

   3. Examples were updated to be compatible with Sieve-07 draft

   4. Added "mark" and "unmark" actions

0.4. Changes from the revision 01

   1. Some language fixes based on Tony Hansen comments

   2. Clarified that the extension allows to set both IMAP System
      Flags and Keywords

0.5. Changes from the revision 02

   1. BugFix: all backslashes must be escaped

   2. Added extended example and more detailed description of
      "addflag"/"removeflag" additivity.

   3. Minor example bugfixes

0.6. Changes from the revision 03

   1. Added second way to specify flags to be set (via optional tagged
      arguments). [Tim Showalter]

   2. Rules for using Reject with imapflags relaxed. [Randall Gellens]

   3. Removed ABNF section completely, added syntax description to
      action definition. [Tim Showalter]

   4. Cleaned up the example. [Ken Murchison]

   5. Added FM (Flag Manupulation) acronym.

   6. Clarified "mark"/"unmark" bahavior. [Randall Gellens]

0.7. Changes from the revision 04

   1. "Interaction with Other Sieve Actions" was simplified based on
      comments from Tim Showalter.  Added sentence saying that
      imapflags doesn't change an implicit keep.

   2. Several editorial comments from Tim Showalter.

0.8. Changes from the revision 05

   1. Updated copyright, author address, section numbers and references.

   2. Added dependency on Sieve "variables" extension.

   3. Several editorial comments from Matthew Elvey.

   4. Removed "mark" and "unmark" actions.

   5. Added "hasflag" test.

   6. Dropped ":globalflags"

   7. An invalid flag name doesn't cause a script execution failure
      anymore, as imapflags now depends on variables and a variable
      can have an arbitrary value.

0.9. Changes from the revision 06 (draft-ietf-sieve-imapflags-00.txt)

   1. Updated boilerplate and references.

   2. Fixed capability string in the extended example.

   3. Improved implementation using macros (section 6).

0.10. Changes from draft-ietf-sieve-imapflags-00.txt

   1. Added back the internal variable, made the variable parameter
      to all actions optional.

   2. Some editorial suggestions from Mark E. Mallett.

   3. Updated boilerplate once again.

0.11. Changes from draft-ietf-sieve-imapflags-01.txt

   1. Clarified that if "variables" is not available, then usage of
      the explicit variable parameter causes a runtime error.

   2. Clarified handling of spaces, in particular that leading/
      trailing spaces in a flag variable are to be ignored.

   3. Clarified that the extension can't be used to set the \Recent

   4. Made the variable list parameter to hasflag test optional, for
      consistency with all actions.

   5. Dropped the "Implementation Notes" section.

   6. Fixed an error in section 5: when the :flags tagged argument is
      not specified, the correct behavior is to use flags from the
      internal variable.

   7. Other minor editorial changes.

0.12. Changes from draft-ietf-sieve-imapflags-02.txt

   1. Changed "Syntax:" label to "Usage:".

   2. Updated the Introduction section to mention that hasflag also has
      an optional parameter.

   3. Clarified that a failure to store flags for a message is not
      a runtime error.

   4. Minor editorial nits from Philip.

   5. Addressed ID nits.

0.13. Changes from draft-ietf-sieve-imapflags-03.txt

   1. Minor editorial changes from Ken.

   2. Added IANA Considerations section.

   3. Clarified "hasflag" behaviour with :matches, :contains, etc.

   4. Added optional comparator field to "hasflag" test, for
      consistency with other extensions.

   5. Clarified interaction of hasflag with the relational extension.

0.14. Changes from draft-ietf-sieve-imapflags-04.txt

   1. Extended an example in section 4.

   2. Fixed several typos.

   3. Changed some examples to show that some parameters are optional

   4. Addressed comments raised during IESG evaluation, in particular:

      Clarified that space is used as delimiter between flag names.

      Described capabilities provided by the extension as they are
      visible to end users.

1. Introduction

   This is an extension to the Sieve language defined by [SIEVE] for
   setting [IMAP] flags. It adds a new tagged argument to "keep" and
   "fileinto" that describes the list of flags that have to be set
   when the message is delivered to the specified mailbox. It also
   adds several actions to help manipulate list of flags and a test
   to check if a flag belongs to a list.

   From user's prospective this extension provides several
   capabilities. First, it allows manipulation of sets of IMAP flags.
   Second, it gives ability to associate a set of IMAP flags with
   a message that is delivered to a mailstore using the keep/fileinto
   actions. Third, it maintains an internal variable. The internal
   variable contains the default flags that will be associated with
   a message that is delivered using the keep, implicit keep or fileinto
   actions, when the :flags tagged argument is not specified.
   When the Sieve [VARIABLES] extension is also supported by the Sieve
   engine, it enables support for multiple variables containing sets
   of IMAP flags.

   The capability string associated with extension defined in this
   document is "imap4flags". All conformant implementations MUST
   implement all Sieve actions (Setflag, Addflag, Removeflag),
   the hasflag test and the :flags tagged argument described in this

   The "imap4flags" extension can be used with or without the
   "variables" extension [VARIABLES]. When the "variables" extension
   is enabled in a script using <require "variables">, the script can
   use explicit variable names in setflag/addflag/removeflag actions
   and hasflag test. See also section 3 for more details. When the
   "variables" extension is not enabled the explicit variable name
   parameter to setflag/addflag/removeflag/hasflag MUST NOT be used
   and MUST cause an error according to [SIEVE].

2. Conventions used.

   Conventions for notations are as in [SIEVE] section 1.1, including
   use of "Usage:" label for the definition of action and tagged
   arguments syntax.

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119.

2.1. General requirements for flag handling

   The following notes apply to processing of Addflag/Removeflag/Setflag
   actions, hasflag test and :flags tagged argument.

   A Sieve interpreter MUST ignore empty strings (i.e. "") in a
   list-of-flags parameter.

   A string containing a space-separated list of flag names is
   equivalent to a string list consisting of the flags. This requirement
   is to simplify amalgamation of multiple flag lists.

   The Sieve interpreter SHOULD check the list of flags for validity as
   described by [IMAP] ABNF. In particular according to [IMAP] non-ASCII
   characters are not allowed in flag names. However spaces MUST be
   always allowed as delimiters in strings representing a list of flags.
   In such strings multiple spaces between flag names MUST be treated as
   a single space character, leading and trailing spaces MUST be

   If a flag validity check fails the flag MUST be ignored.

   Note that it is not possible to use this extension to set or clear
   the \Recent flag or any other special system flag which is not
   settable in [IMAP]. Any such flags MUST be ignored if included in
   a flag list.

3. Actions

   All actions described in this specification (setflag, addflag,
   removeflag) operate on string variables that contain a set of [IMAP]
   flags. On variable substitution a set of flags is represented as
   a string containing space-separated list of flag names.

   Any of setflag/addflag/removeflag action MAY alter the flag list in
   any way that leaves its semantics as a set of case-insensitive words
   unaltered. For example, it may reorder the flags, alter the case of
   the letters in them, or add or remove duplicates or extraneous
   spaces. Scripts MUST NOT make assumptions about the ordering of
   flags in lists or the preservation of their case.

   Note that the parameter specifying a variable name to setflag/
   addflag/removeflag actions and the hasflag test is optional. If the
   parameter is not specified the actions operate on the internal
   variable, which has the empty value when the script starts execution.
   If the SIEVE interpreter doesn't support the "variables" extension
   [VARIABLES], the presence of the variable name parameter will cause
   a runtime error [SIEVE].

   The "addflag" action adds flags to an existing set. The "removeflag"
   action removes flags from an existing set. The "setflag" action
   replaces an existing set of flags with a new set.  The "set" action
   defined in [VARIABLES] can be used to replace an existing set of
   flags with a new set as well. However it should be noted that the
   "set" action can't perform any flag reordering, duplicate
   elimination, etc.

   The :flags tagged argument to "keep" and "fileinto"
   actions is used to associate a set of flags
   with the current message. If the :flags tagged argument is not
   specified with those 2 actions, the current value of the internal
   variable is used instead. The value of the internal variable
   also applies to the implicit keep.

   Note that when keep/fileinto is used multiple times in a script and
   duplicate message elimination is performed (as described in Section
   2.10.3 of [SIEVE]), the last flag list value MUST win.

3.1. Setflag Action

   Usage:   setflag [<variablename: string>]
            <list-of-flags: string-list>

   Setflag is used for setting [IMAP] system flags or keywords.
   Setflag replaces any previously set flags.

   Example:  if size :over 500K {
                 setflag "\\Deleted";

   A more substantial example is:

        if header :contains "from" "" {
            setflag "flagvar" "\\Flagged";
            fileinto :flags "${flagvar}" "INBOX.From Boss";

3.2. Addflag action

   Usage:   addflag [<variablename: string>]
            <list-of-flags: string-list>

   Addflag is used to add flags to a list of [IMAP] flags. It doesn't
   replace any previously set flags. This means that multiple
   occurrences of addflag are treated additively.

   The following examples demonstrate requirements described in 2.1.
   The following two actions

      addflag "flagvar" "\\Deleted";
      addflag "flagvar" "\\Answered";

   produce the same result as the single action

      addflag "flagvar" ["\\Deleted", "\\Answered"];


      addflag "flagvar" "\\Deleted \\Answered";


      addflag "flagvar" "\\Answered   \\Deleted";

3.3. Removeflag Action

   Usage:   removeflag [<variablename: string>]
            <list-of-flags: string-list>

   Removeflag is used to remove flags from a list of [IMAP] flags.
   Removeflag clears flags previously set by "set"/"addflag". Calling
   removeflag with a flag that wasn't set before is not an error and
   is ignored. Note, that if an implementation doesn't perform automatic
   duplicate elimination, it MUST remove all occurences of the flags
   specified in the second parameter to removeflag. Empty strings in the
   list-of-flags MUST be ignored. Also note, that flag names are
   case-insensitive, as described in [IMAP].
   Multiple removeflag actions are treated additively.

        if header :contains "Disposition-Notification-To"
           "" {
            addflag "flagvar" "$MDNRequired";
        if header :contains "from" "" {
            removeflag "flagvar" "$MDNRequired";
            fileinto :flags "${flagvar}" "INBOX.imap-list";

4.  Test hasflag

   Usage: hasflag [MATCH-TYPE] [COMPARATOR]
          [<variable-list: string-list>]
          <list-of-flags: string-list>

   The "hasflag" test evaluates to true if any of the variables matches
   any flag name.  The type of match defaults to ":is".
   If the list of variables is omitted, value of the internal variable
   is used instead.

   The default comparator is "i;ascii-casemap", which is the same
   case-insensitive comparison as defined for IMAP flags by [IMAP].

   The "relational" extension [RELATIONAL] adds a match type called
   ":count".  The :count of a variable returns the number of distinct
   flags in it.  The count of a list of variables is the sum of the
   counts of the member variables.

     If the internal variable has the value "A B", the following test

      hasflag :is "b A"

     evaluates to true. The above test can be also written as

      hasflag ["b","A"]

     If the variable "MyVar" has value "NonJunk Junk gnus-forward
     $Forwarded NotJunk JunkRecorded $Junk $NotJunk", the following
     tests evaluate to true:

      hasflag :contains "MyVar" "Junk"
      hasflag :contains "MyVar" "forward"
      hasflag :contains "MyVar" ["label", "forward"]
      hasflag :contains "MyVar" ["junk", "forward"]

     Note that the last of these tests can be rewritten

      hasflag :contains "MyVar" "junk forward"


      hasflag :contains "MyVar" "forward junk"

     However the last two forms are not recommended.

     And the following tests will evaluate to false:

      hasflag :contains "MyVar" "label"

      hasflag :contains "MyVar" ["label1", "label2"]

     If the variable "MyFlags" has the value "A B", the following test

       hasflag :count "ge" :comparator "i;ascii-numeric"
               "MyFlags" "2"

     evaluates to true, as the variable contains 2 distinct flags.

5. Tagged argument :flags

   This specification adds a new optional tagged argument ":flags" that
   alter the behavior of actions "keep" and "fileinto".

   The :flags tagged argument specifies that the flags provided in the
   subsequent argument should be set when fileinto/keep delivers the
   message to the target mailbox/user's main mailbox. If the :flags
   tagged argument is not specified, "keep" or "fileinto" will use
   the current value of the internal variable when delivering message
   to the target mailbox.

   Usage:   ":flags" <list-of-flags: string-list>

   The copy of the message filed into mailbox will have only flags
   listed after the ":flags" tagged argument.

   The Sieve interpreter MUST ignore all flags that it can't store
   permanently. This means that the interpreter MUST NOT treat failure
   to store any flag as a runtime failure to execute the Sieve
   script. For example, if the mailbox "INBOX.From Boss" can't store any
   flags, then

     fileinto :flags "\\Deleted" "INBOX.From Boss";


     fileinto "INBOX.From Boss";

   are equivalent.

   This document doesn't dictate how the Sieve interpreter will set
   the [IMAP] flags. In particular, the Sieve interpreter may work as
   an IMAP client, or may have direct access to the mailstore.

6. Interaction with Other Sieve Actions

   This extension works only on the message that is currently being
   processed by Sieve, it doesn't affect another message generated
   as a side effect of any action or any other message already in
   the mailstore.

   The extension described in this document doesn't change the implicit
   keep (see section 2.10.2 of [SIEVE]).

7. Security Considerations

   Security considerations are discussed in the [IMAP], [SIEVE] and

   This extension intentionally doesn't allow setting [IMAP] flags on
   an arbitrary message in the [IMAP] message store.

   It is believed that this extension doesn't introduce any additional
   security concerns.

8. IANA Considerations

   The following template specifies the IANA registration of the
   variables Sieve extension specified in this document:

   Subject: Registration of new Sieve extension

   Capability name: imap4flags
   Capability keyword: imap4flags
   Capability arguments: N/A
   Standards Track/IESG-approved experimental RFC number:
           this RFC
   Person and email address to contact for further information:
           Alexey Melnikov

   This information should be added to the list of sieve extensions
   given on

9. Extended example

   # Example Sieve Filter
   # Declare any optional features or extension used by the script
   require ["fileinto", "imap4flags", "variables"];

   # Move large messages to a special mailbox
   if size :over 1M
           addflag "MyFlags" "Big";
           if header :is "From" ""
   # The message will be marked as "\Flagged Big" when filed into
   # mailbox "Big messages"
                      addflag "MyFlags" "\\Flagged";
           fileinto :flags "${MyFlags}" "Big messages";

   if header :is "From" ""
           addflag "MyFlags" ["\\Answered", "$MDNSent"];
   # If the message is bigger than 1Mb it will be marked as
   # "Big \Answered $MDNSent" when filed into mailbox "grandma".
   # If the message is shorter than 1Mb it will be marked as
   # "\Answered $MDNSent"
           fileinto :flags "${MyFlags}" "GrandMa";

   # Handle messages from known mailing lists
   # Move messages from IETF filter discussion list to filter folder
   if header :is "Sender" ""
           set "MyFlags" "\\Flagged $Work";
   # Message will have both "\Flagged" and $Work flags
           keep :flags "${MyFlags}";

   # Keep all messages to or from people in my company
   elsif anyof address :domain :is ["From", "To"] ""
           keep :flags "${MyFlags}"; # keep in "Inbox" folder
   # Try and catch unsolicited email.  If a message is not to me,
   # or it contains a subject known to be spam, file it away.
   elsif anyof (not address :all :contains
                  ["To", "Cc"] "",
                header :matches "subject"
                  ["*make*money*fast*", "*university*dipl*mas*"])
           remove "MyFlags" "\\Flagged";
           fileinto :flags "${MyFlags}" "spam";
           # Move all other external mail to "personal"
           # folder.
           fileinto :flags "${MyFlags}" "personal";

10.  Acknowledgments

    This document has been revised in part based on comments and
    discussions which took place on and off the Sieve mailing list.

    The help of those who took the time to review the draft and make
    suggestions is appreciated, especially that of Tim Showalter,
    Barry Leiba, Randall Gellens, Ken Murchison, Cyrus Daboo,
    Matthew Elvey, Jutta Degener, Ned Freed, Marc Mutz, Nigel Swinson,
    Kjetil Torgrim Homme, Mark E. Mallett, Dave Cridland,
    Arnt Gulbrandsen, Philip Guenther, Rob Austein, Sam Hartman,
    Eric Gray and Cullen Jennings.

    Special thanks to Tony Hansen and David Lamb for helping me
    better explain the concept.

11. Author's Address

    Alexey Melnikov
    Isode Limited

    5 Castle Business Village
    Hampton, Middlesex
    United Kingdom, TW12 2BX


12.  Normative References

    [SIEVE] Guenther, P. and T. Showalter, "Sieve: An Email Filtering
    Language", work in progress, I-D draft-ietf-sieve-3028bis.

    [KEYWORDS] Bradner, S., "Keywords for use in RFCs to Indicate
    Requirement Levels", Harvard University, RFC 2119, March 1997.

    4rev1", University of Washington, RFC 3501, March 2003.

    [VARIABLES] Homme, K. T., "Sieve -- Variables Extension", University
    of Oslo, work in progress, draft-ietf-sieve-variables-XX.txt

    [RELATIONAL] Leiba, B. and Segmuller, W., "Sieve Extension:
    Relational Tests", Work in Progress, draft-ietf-sieve-3431bis-XX.txt

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