Using Folders

A folder must be opened before accessing its messages. Only one folder can be opened at a time. Opening a second folder automatically closes the first folder. When opening a folder, the SMAP server's response indicates how many messages there are in the folder. The messages are numbered consecutively, from 1 to the message count returned by the OPEN command.

New messages can be added to the folder while it is open. Other application can also remove or modify existing messages, while the folder is opened. There are two mechanisms by which the SMAP client is notified about these changes.

The SMAP client explicitly requests to be notified about any other changes by issuing either the NOOP or the EXPUNGE command. The server's response to the client includes notification of any messages that were added, modified, or removed from the server.

The NOOP and EXPUNGE commands work like all other commands: the server does the requested action, and replies accordingly. The second mechanism uses the IDLE command, which works a little differently. The server's initial reply includes any changes to the folder's contents, as with NOOP and EXPUNGE, but the story doesn't end there. The client's next command, after IDLE, must be the RESUME command. Until the server receives the RESUME, the server may immediately notify the client any time the folder's contents change. SMAP servers that are not capable of immediate notification of this type should periodically poll the folder for changes, until they get a RESUME.

When the client is waiting for user input it should issue the IDLE command, so that it knows about any changes to the folder made by other applications, and react immediately. The client issues a RESUME when it finally has something to do. This can be a result of user input, or caused by a change to the folder's contents (when new mail arrives, for example, the client may want to automatically download its headers).


Messages in the folder are always consecutively numbered, starting with message #1. The messages are renumbered after removing a message; and new messages are added at the end. For example: a folder has five messages, numbered 1 through 5. The third message is removed, and messages #4 and #5 become messages #3 and #4, respectively. When two more messages are added to the folder, they become messages #5 and message #6.


The client may send the RESUME command at the same time the server is sending a message to the client concerning some changes to the folder that just occured. The SMAP client should always wait and process any remaining folder content notification changes, until it receives that status reply for RESUME.

Opening a folder

C: OPEN "Saved Mail" 2002
S: * EXISTS 17
S: +OK Folder opened

The OPEN command opens a folder. If another folder is already opened, the other folder is closed. The other folder is closed automatically, whether or not the OPEN command ultimately succeeds.

The whitespace-delimited words after OPEN specify the folder to open. If it's a valid folder, the server response includes a "* EXISTS" single line reply.

SMAP servers are encouraged to offer concurrent access to the same folder to multiple application. SMAP servers that are unable to do so should reject the OPEN command if the folder is already opened by someone else.

C: SOPEN "28378jhaskdjk9@localhost" "Saved Mail" 2002
S: * SNAPSHOTEXISTS "28378jhaskdjk9@localhost"
S: * EXPUNGE 10-13
S: * EXISTS 25
S: +OK Folder opened

The SOPEN command enables folder snapshots, and opens a previously folder snapshot. A folder snapshot is a saved, or cached, copy of the folder's contents. Both the SMAP client and the SMAP server maintain synchronizes cached copies, or snapshots, of the folder's contents. This includes the list of messages in the folder, and the message state flags. Normally, after opening a folder the SMAP client needs to download the entire list of messages, and their states, from the server. Restoring a previously snapshot eliminates that step.

The first whitespace-delimited word after SOPEN is a snapshot identifier, as returned by a * SNAPSHOT message (see NOOP). The remaining words specify the name of the folder, as in OPEN.

The server responds with a * SNAPSHOTEXISTS message, with a copy of the snapshot identifier, followed by zero or more * EXPUNGE, * FETCH msgnum FLAGS, and * EXISTS message that reflect any changes to the folder's contents that occured since the snapshot was made. When the final +OK is received, the folder's contents are brough up to date, and the SMAP client should issue a NOOP command to make an updated snapshot.

If the server is unable to find the requested snapshot, it should respond just like to the OPEN command, with a single * EXISTS message. If the client does not receive a * SNAPSHOTEXISTS message, the client will conclude that the requested snapshot is not available. This is not an error condition. The requested snapshot might be too old, and the server decided that it should be removed by now.

A client that wants to use snapshots, but does not have a saved snapshot, should use the SOPEN command with an empty string for a snapshot identifier. This is because the server would not normally make snapshots if the client used the OPEN command to open a folder. The server responds to an SOPEN with an empty identifier in the same way as to an OPEN command, but enable and make snapshots.

Closing a folder

S: +OK Folder closed

The CLOSE command closes the currently-opened folder. This command should always succeed, and should ideally do nothing if no folder is currently open.

SMAP servers that do not support concurrent access to the same folder, by multiple applications, should release the folder so that other applications can open it.

The NOOP command

S: * EXPUNGE 10-13 17
S: * EXISTS 32
S: +OK Ok.
S: * SNAPSHOT "89238yu90doi923@localhost"
C: +OK Ok.

NOOP polls the server for any changes made to the folder's contents by other applications. The server's response includes 0 or more single line replies before NOOP's status reply.

The single line replies may be sent in any order, and the SMAP client should process each single line reply individually, based on its current understanding of the folder's contents, which is taken into account when processing the next single line reply.

The * EXPUNGE single line reply lists messages that have been removed from the folder. The remaining words enumerate the removed message numbers. a-b indicates messages #a through #b, inclusive, and the entire list must be sorted in strict numerically increasing order, with no overlaps. This message indicates that the specified messages have been removed, and the remaining messages were renumbered by shifting over to fill in the gaps.


Some time may elapse before a server receives a NOOP, after a message is removed by some other application. Since the client will not be aware of the removed message, the server must handle client commands as if the message was not yet removed. For example, after message #13 is removed, message #14 now becomes message #13. Until the server receives a NOOP, it should be aware that client's FETCH and STORE commands that reference message #14 really reference message #13. The server must process these commands accordingly, until the server receives a NOOP, and notifies the client.


Excessively long lists of expunged messages may result in multiple * EXPUNGE messages, instead of a single, huge * EXPUNGE.

The * EXISTS message indicates that new messages were added to the folder, and specifies the new number of messages now in the folder.

The * FETCH message indicates that an existing message attribute was changed. The next word specifies the number of the changed message, and the remaining word provide the new message attributes. See the description of the FETCH command for more information.

The server creates snapshots of the folder's index when the folder was opened with the SOPEN command. If the NOOP command did not report any changes to the folder's contents, the server sends a * SNAPSHOT, followed by a single word that specifies the saved snapshot's identifier. The format of the snapshot's identifier is defined by the server, and the client should treat it as an opaque text string.

A client issues the NOOP command when it wants the server to save the folder's snapshot. If the server comes back with other messages that report changes to the folder, the client should issue another NOOP, and try again.

When the server finds no changes to the folder, and no changes at all since the previous NOOP that returned a snapshot, the server does not need to make a second, identical snapshot. A client may not receive any response to a NOOP; neither a list of folder's changes, nor a * SNAPSHOT message. This indicates that the folder's contents have not changed since the last snapshot. The client should already know this; but if not, that's how the server will remind it.


The server is not required to keep saved snapshots indefinitely. A server does not need to save more than two snapshots per session. After making snapshots A and B, after processing a request to make a third snapshot, C, the server may delete snapshot A.

The server cannot delete snapshot B, because the client may crash or be disconnected before it receives the server's acknowledgement of creating snapshot C, and the next time the client reopens the same folder it will specify snapshot B to the SOPEN command. If a client opens a folder using SOPEN, but does not name either A or B, (or C), the server may conclude that another client is opening the same folder, and should not remove any of the saved snapshots, unless they are very old.

The EXPUNGE command

S: * EXPUNGE 7 9 11
S: +OK Ok.

The EXPUNGE command is similar NOOP, except that EXPUNGE also removes messages from the folder, and the server's response to EXPUNGE includes the removed messages. The response also includes any additional messages removed by other applications, and any other changes to the folder's contents.

Message numbers to remove should follow the EXPUNGE command, as whitespace-delimited words. An EXPUNGE without an explicit message list is the same as an EXPUNGE that lists all messages that have the DELETED flag set.

The IDLE/RESUME command

S: +OK Idling...

[ ... some time passes ... ]

S: +OK Resumed...

The SMAP client sends the IDLE command to inform the server that client wants to know about any changes to the folder's contents immediately, without waiting for a NOOP or EXPUNGE. If the folder already had some changed made by another process, the server will notify the client immediately after the status reply.

The next command sent by the client (at some later time) must be the RESUME command. RESUME indicates that the client is no longer interested in receiving folder updates, and the server should wait until another NOOP, EXPUNGE, or IDLE before notifying the client about any changes to the folder's contents.

The client must be aware that the folder's contents might be changed after it sends a RESUME and before the server receives it. In this case the client might receive additional single line replies before the server responds to the RESUME. The client must still properly process single line replies, until it receives the server's status reply to the RESUME.