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MIME and IMAP protocols

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MIME(Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension)

  • For identifying the type of data contained in a file based on its extension,Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension, a standard system is used.

  • A D V E R T I S E M E N T
  • To send binary files across the Internet as attachments to e-mail messages,MIME protocol is used and it is an Internet protocol.

  • This includes graphics, video, sound and photos files, and formatted text documents.

Common MIME Data Types

Although the top-level MIME media types correspond to basic concepts that all users would understand, not all subtypes fall under the obvious media category and those that are associated with specific application software, for instance, may be classified as application types rather than text, image, or audio, despite being widely available over the Internet. Often these data types require a browser plug-in before their contents will be correctly processed when visiting a Web site, or the client browser might ask you to specify which application is associated with file extension or that subtype.

The following table describe most common MIME text types:

MIME Type File Extensions Common Format Name Description
text/plain txt Text US ASCII text with no format tags
text/html .html, .htm HyperText Markup Language Defines World Wide Web pages
application/rtf .rtf Rich Text Format Vendor-independent word processing file type with some formatting capabilities
postscript ps, .ai, .eps PostScript Print and display format
application/pdf pdf Portable Document Adobe's PDF Format used by Acrobat for platform-independent display and printing

New Header Fields in MIME

    MIME defines the following new header fields:

    1. MIME-Version, which uses a version number to declare that a message conforms to MIME standard.

    2. Content-Type, which can be used to specify the subtype and type of data in the body of a message and to fully specify the encoding of such data. It includes also a subtype option. The seven Content-types specified are:

      1. Text - to represent textual information in a number of character sets.
      2. Image - for transmitting still image (picture) data.
      3. Audio - for transmitting audio or voice data.
      4. Video - for transmitting video or moving image data.
      5. Message - for encapsulating a mail message.
      6. Multipart - to combine several body parts, possibly of different types of data, into a single message.
      7. Application - to transmit application data or binary data.
    3. Content-Transfer-Encoding, which specifies how the data is encoded to allow it to pass through mail transports having data or character set limitations.

    4. Content-ID (optional), which enables labeling bodies, thus allowing one body to reference another.

    5. Content-Description (optional), which enables associating descriptive information with a body.

IMAP(Internet Message Access Protocol)

  • A protocol allowing a client to manipulate and access electronic mail messages on a server and it permits manipulation of remote message folders (mailboxes), in a way that is functionally equivalent to local mailboxes.

  • IMAP includes operations for creating,deleting, and renaming mailboxes; checking for new messages; permanently removing messages; searching; and selective fetching of message attributes, texts, and portions thereof. It does not specify a means of posting mail; this function is handled by a mail transfer protocol such as SMTP.

  • IMAP Basics - What it is, and what it can do.

    For anyone who has a requirement to access multiple separate mail accounts that reside on different machines, access to email becomes problematic and many mail systems use the tried and tested POP3 protocol. POP3 client applications download the mail from the server, and store it on the client computer. Most clients store mail in their own format, making it inaccessible by other mail programs, and most machines which run POP3 clients are desktops, which are rarely on 24/7, further reducing access to the mail once it has been downloaded.

    The IMAP protocol attempts to remedy some of these problems and the strength of IMAP lies in online and disconnected operation. Unlike POP3, mail is not copied from the server and then deleted - instead, IMAP clients manipulate the mail on the server, and permit access to remote, server hosted mailboxes as though they were local resources.


    • An IMAP mail system has a number of immediate advantages for users which are given below:-

    • As all mail is stored on the server and changing mail client becomes the work of seconds - all that is required is to configure a new IMAP client with the IMAP account details.

    • An IMAP client can easily be configured to view the multiple mailboxes in physically separate servers.

    • Multiple IMAP clients can be used by each user and this makes implementing a webmail solution for roaming users a simple task.

    • IMAP maintains the message status flags on the server for read, answered, etc.

    • IMAP allows the idea of shared folders and this makes it easier to implement generic email accounts for an organisation, and then allow multiple users to access those accounts.

    • Many implementations also allow server side filtering of mail and this can be an extremely useful feature when users are accessing their mailboxes through different email clients.

    Comparing IMAP and POP

    Points POP IMAP
    What does it stand for? Post Office Protocol Internet Message Access Protocol
    Which protocol would suit me best?

    If you access mail using only one computer e.g. your office PC or a laptop.

    If you want to access your mail from multiple computers or locations.

    Which mail programs can I use?

    All mail programs or clients have POP capability

    Many mail programs now have some IMAP capability but you will generally need to use the latest version of one of the more popular programs such as Netscape Messenger, Eudora or Outlook Express to ensure that you can use full IMAP features. You will also be able to access your mail via a web page using any web browser.

    Some Common Tasks:    
    Check for incoming mail

    By default, incoming messages are transferred to your local machine when you check your incoming mail. Only new messages are available if you connect to the server using a PC other than your normal one. You are connected to the server only for the transfer of messages.

    By default, incoming messages stay on the server when you check your mail - only headers are transferred with full messages only downloaded when selected for reading. All your messages are always available no matter where or how you connect to the server. You remain connected to the server whilst you deal with mail but some clients allow for off-line working.

    Read and respond to mail

    Reading and responding to messages is done on your local machine.

    You can read and respond to messages directly on the server but you can also read and respond to messages on your local machine, after downloading for offline working (depending on client). When you reconnect, your mailboxes are resynchronised to reflect the changes you have made.

    Create mailboxes for storing messages

    Creating mailboxes can be done only on your local machine.

    You can create mailboxes directly on the server. By default, an Inbox is automatically created on the server when you begin using IMAP. The Inbox functions as the master mailbox (or folder) as well as the mailbox for incoming messages. All other mailboxes, including a trash box, need to be created within the Inbox.

    Move messages in and out of mailboxes

    You can move messages in and out of mailboxes only on your local machine.

    You can move messages in and out of mailboxes on the server and on your local machine.

    Transfer messages from local machine to server and vice versa

    You cannot transfer any messages from your local machine to the server. Messages are automatically transferred from the server to your local machine when you check your incoming mail.

    You can transfer individual messages from mailboxes on your local machine into mailboxes on the server and vice versa.

    Delete selected messages on the server

    When using some clients (e.g. Eudora), if you specified to leave messages on the server, you can delete individual messages left there.

    You can delete individual messages and groups of messages directly on the server as well as on your local machine.

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    Keywords: MIME and IMAP protocols, yahoo mail imap, imap mail server, outlook express imap, imap mail servers, imap email account, imap e mail, setting up imap, mime e mail, set up imap, mime rfc

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