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mmdf - Man Page

Multi-channel Memorandum Distribution Facility mailbox format


This document describes the MMDF mailbox format used by some MTAs and MUAs (i.e. scomail(1)) to store mail messages locally.

An MMDF mailbox is a text file containing an arbitrary number of e-mail messages. Each message consists of a postmark, followed by an e-mail message formatted according to RFC5322, followed by a postmark. The file format is line-oriented. Lines are separated by line feed characters (ASCII 10). A postmark line consists of the four characters "^A^A^A^A" (Control-A; ASCII 1).

Example of a MMDF mailbox holding two mails:
From: example@example.com
To: example@example.org
Subject: test

From what I learned about the MMDF-format:
From: example@example.com
To: example@example.org
Subject: test 2


In contrast to most other single file mailbox formats like MBOXO and MBOXRD (see mbox(5) and RFC4155) there is no need to quote/dequote "From "-lines in MMDF mailboxes as such lines have no special meaning in this format.

If the modification-time (usually determined via stat(2)) of a nonempty mailbox file is greater than the access-time the file has new mail. Many MUAs place a Status: header in each message to indicate which messages have already been read.


Since MMDF files are frequently accessed by multiple programs in parallel, MMDF files should generally not be accessed without locking.

Three different locking mechanisms (and combinations thereof) are in general use:

If multiple methods are combined, implementers should make sure to use the non-blocking variants of the fcntl(2) and flock(2) system calls in order to avoid deadlocks.

If multiple methods are combined, an MMDF file must not be considered to have been successfully locked before all individual locks were obtained. When one of the individual locking methods fails, an application should release all locks it acquired successfully, and restart the entire locking procedure from the beginning, after a suitable delay.

The locking mechanism used on a particular system is a matter of local policy, and should be consistently used by all applications installed on the system which access MMDF files. Failure to do so may result in loss of e-mail data, and in corrupted MMDF files.

Conforming to

MMDF is not part of any currently supported standard.


MMDF was developed at the University of Delaware by Dave Crocker.

See Also

scomail(1), fcntl(2), flock(2), link(2), stat(2), mbox(5), RFC4155, RFC5322


Urs Janssen <urs@tin.org>

Referenced By

mbox(5), mbox_neomutt(5), mutt(1), tin(1), tin(5).

November 5th, 2013 Unix User Manuals