Converting MBX to MBOX formats

Doug Palmer doug at
Mon Feb 18 16:17:32 EST 2002

On 2002.02.18 15:32 Brett Worth wrote:

> > It's a binary format used by pine and IMAP. It essentially contains the
> > straight text mail messages, with a CRLF convention, but surrounded by
> > header information containing message length etc. information, to allow
> > quick searches and lookups.
> Doug,
> Are you sure about that?  I use pine and I never see binary in my
> mailboxes.  I thought they were good old mbox.  Or are you talking about
> PC-PINE?  Maybe that's different.

It seems to be the recommended format. Although I would imagine that it
would default to mbox format under unix for compatibility.

The mbx format seems to be superior for mailboxes with 1000s of messages in
them (Hello IMAP!).

> > It's undocumented as a format. The author informs me that he likes to
> keep
> > it that way so that people access it through the IMAP API.
> !!!!!!!YIKES!!!!!!!!!

Kind of my reaction too. But ... 

The author points out that the file format is not eactly a secret. But the
file locking is rather tricky and, so, rather than try and be compatible
with a load of slightly different implementations when he makes changes, he
prefers to encourage the use of the IMAP c-client libraries. I'd have
preferred to see a formalised locking specification, but it's not my
decision to make and I'm inclined to respect his.

Doug Palmer   doug at

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