Store documents in IMAP folders

Shuvam Misra shuvam.misra at
Sun Sep 12 23:26:03 EDT 2010

> I am wondering if it would be possible to use mailboxes as document repositories (in addition to emails) and how it could be done.
> Should the document be wrapped in a MIME envelop before being uploaded ?
> Any software that would actually do that?

We too have felt that IMAP would be a good document repository
or a general-purpose "object store". For one, it keeps data in a
non-proprietary format (more "proprietary" than file systems but much more
open than proprietary document management systems). Secondly, it supports
better access controls than most file systems that I know of (e.g. you
can insert a message in a folder without getting delete rights, etc)
Thirdly, an IMAP system offers a higher-level set of primitive ops than
a file system, thus allowing easier development of tools for replication,
change control, etc. Doing the same things with a file system backend may
need messing with kernel code and/or more confusion about "transaction
boundaries". For instance, it's a good thing (in this context) that the
IMAP protocol does not allow me to write a hundred bytes into the middle
of an email message -- this gives me clear hooks to know when a message
is updated as a whole, unlike a file in a file system.

I am of course not suggesting that an IMAP server be used as replacement
for all file systems. I was only thinking of its use as an authoritative
document repository, for archival, controlled access and infrequent
changes. A file system will always be needed for less-controlled data
access and high frequency updates.

AFAIK, Kolab uses IMAP folders to store non-email content, like contacts
and calendar entries. I could be wrong, and our friends from Kolab AG
can tell us more.


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