The Mail Kit provides Internet e-mail messaging services. These services include:

An assortment of global C functions are provided by the Mail Kit to configure the mail daemon and process base-64 data. See "The Mail Daemon" for information on how to use these functions.

Outgoing mail messages are constructed and sent using the BMailMessage class.

Mail Message Files

Every mail message is stored in an individual file with attached attributes that describe the message in detail; you can query the file system to obtain information about the sender, subject, and receiver of the message, among other things. See "Querying Mail Messages" below for more detailed information and an example program.

Every message the user writes is saved in a file until it's sent by the mail daemon (and may or may not be deleted after being sent). Likewise, messages that the mail daemon has retrieved are also stored in files on a local disk.

The process of sending a mail message works something like this:

After sending outgoing messages, the mail daemon will also check to see if any incoming mail is waiting to be retrieved. If there is, it proceeds something like this:

Querying Mail Messages

The Mail Kit takes full advantage of the BeOS attribute and query system. Each message received is parsed by the mail daemon and important information about it is converted into a defined collection of attributes attached to the file. This makes it extremely easy to create applications that search for messages meeting specific parameters. In an example to follow shortly, we'll create a program that lists all unread messages.

Once the mail daemon has received a message and saved it to disk, any application can query the file system to locate messages that meet certain parameters, then read the attributes and message content to present information about that message to the user.

The following attributes are provided by the Mail Kit:

ConstantAttribute NameDescription
B_MAIL_ATTR_NAMEMAIL:nameName of the mail file.

Is a string that identifies the status of the message. Possible values are:

"Error"An error occurred trying to send the message.
"New"The message has not been read yet.
"Pending"The message has not been sent yet.
"Read"The message has been read.
"Sent"The message has been sent.
B_MAIL_ATTR_PRIOIRITYMAIL:priority"Priority" field value.
B_MAIL_ATTR_TOMAIL:toThe primary recipient's e-mail address; contained within the "To" header of the message.
B_MAIL_ATTR_CCMAIL:ccThe addresses to whom the message is carbon copied; contained within the "Cc" header of the message.
B_MAIL_ATTR_FROMMAIL:fromThe sender's e-mail address; contained within the "From" header of the message.
B_MAIL_ATTR_SUBJECTMAIL:subjectString containing the subject of the message; contained within the "Subject" header of the message.
B_MAIL_ATTR_REPLYMAIL:replyThe sender's reply-to address; contained within the "Reply-to" header of the message.
B_MAIL_ATTR_WHENMAIL:whenBeOS time field (B_TIME_TYPE) when the message was sent; contained within the "When" header of the message.
B_MAIL_ATTR_FLAGSMAIL:flags32-bit integer (int32) flags which can be any combination of the following values:
B_MAIL_PENDINGMessage is waiting to be sent.
B_MAIL_SENTMessage has been sent.
B_MAIL_SAVEMail will be saved after being sent.
B_MAIL_ATTR_RECIPIENTSMAIL:recipientsList of all recipients of the message (primary, cc, and bcc), but is only valid for outgoing messages (this attribute doesn't exist on incoming messages).
B_MAIL_ATTR_MIMEMAIL:mimeA string that defines the version number of the MIME specification used to transmit any enclosures attached to the file. This attribute is only present if the file has one or more enclosures.
B_MAIL_ATTR_HEADERMAIL:header_lengthAn int32 value containing the length of the message header.
B_MAIL_ATTR_CONTENTMAIL:content_lengthAn int32 value containing the length of the message content.

The following attributes are indexed:

The headers, the contents of the messag,e and the enclosures (in base-64 encoded form) can all be found in the file itself and can be read using a BFile object. See "The Storage Kit" in the for further information on reading files.

Queries and Mail Messages

Now that you know what attributes are available on mail message files, and which attributes are indexed, you can consider all the clever things you can use them for. Let's look at an example program that, from a Terminal window, lets you see a list of the unread mail you have.

void main(void)
   BQuery query;
   BNode node;
   BVolume vol;
   BVolumeRoster vroster;
   entry_ref ref;
   char buf[256];
   int32 message_count = 0;


The program begins by establishing needed variables, then using a BVolumeRoster to set the query's search volume to the boot disk. This is covered in more detail in the Storage Kit chapter.

   if (query.SetPredicate("MAIL:status = New") != B_OK) {
      printf("Error: can't set query predicate.n");

Then the query is configured to search for new mail. New messages can be identified by the B_MAIL_ATTR_STATUS attribute (called "MAIL:status") having a string value of "New". If an error occurs, the program prints an error end returns.

   if (query.Fetch() != B_OK) {
      printf("Error: new mail query failed.n");

The query is told to fetch. Again, if this fails, an error message is displayed and the program returns.

   while (query.GetNextRef(&ref) == B_OK) {
      message_count++;      // Increment message counter

The loop scanning through the fetched new messages begins by incrementing the counter of new messages received.

      if (node.SetTo(&ref) != B_OK) {
         printf("Error: error scanning new messages.n");

Then a BNode is set to reference the message file. If this fails, the program displays an error message and quits.

      buf[0] = '0';      // If error, use empty string
      node.ReadAttr(B_MAIL_ATTR_FROM, B_STRING_TYPE, 0,
                    buf, 255);
      buf[20] = '0';      // Truncate to 20 characters
      printf("%3d From: %-20s", message_count, buf);

The buffer we're using the receive the attribute values is initialized to an empty string, then we call BNode's ReadAttr() function to read the B_MAIL_ATTR_FROM attribute into the buffer. We then truncate the read string to 20 characters for display purposes (to make it fit into the table we're outputting) and print the message number and sender information.

      buf[0] = '0';      // If error, use empty string
      node.ReadAttr(B_MAIL_ATTR_SUBJECT, B_STRING_TYPE, 0, buf, 255);
      buf[40] = '0';      // Truncate to 40 characters
      printf(" Sub: %sn", buf);

The buffer is reset to an empty string and the B_MAIL_ATTR_SUBJECT attribute is read into it. This string is truncated to 40 characters, then printed.

This loop continues until no more new messages are found; this is detected when GetNextRef() returns an error.

   if (message_count) {
      printf("%d new messages.n", message_count);
   else {
      printf("No new messages.n");

Finally, the number of new messages is printed. If there aren't any messages, we very politely print "No new messages." rather than "0 new messages," for a little added panache.

This simple example demonstrates how you can use the attributes provided by the Mail Kit to create mail message reading applications. The message body and attachments are stored within the file itself, and can be read using the functions described in the BFile section in The Storage Kit chapter

The E-mail File Type

The mail daemon ensures, when it's first launched at system boot time, that the BeOS File Type database includes an entry for e-mail files. E-mail files have the MIME string "text/x-email", which is represented by the constant B_MAIL_TYPE.

The E-mail entry in the File Type database includes a list of the attributes on which you can search. You can look up this information using the BMimeType class's GetAttrInfo() function:

BMimeType mime;
BMessage message;


After running this code, the message contains the description of the attributes available on e-mail files. The message has three useful arrays of items:

Message ItemDescription
attr:public_nameThe user-readable name of the attribute.
attr:nameThe attribute name used for BNode and fs_attr_* calls.
attr:typeThe type of data the attribute contains.

You can examine the items in each of these arrays in the message to get useful information about the attributes you can reference on the e-mail files. For example:

printf("Public name: %sn", FindString("attr:public_name", 1));
printf("Name: %sn", FindString("attr:name", 1));

This code will print the public name and the attribute name of the second attribute registered in the File Type database entry for e-mail files. In the current implementation of the Mail Kit, this would print:

Public name: Subject
Name: MAIL:subject

The number of (and order of) attributes in the database entry might change in the future—and that's where the File Type database comes in handy. If, a year from now, Be adds more attributes to e-mail files, your File Type database-savvy application won't have to be updated to support them.

At this time, the File Type database has attribute information records for each of the following attributes:

You can obtain information on these attributes, their formats, and their user-readable names by looping through the arrays in the message until the BMessage:Find…() function returns NULL or B_BAD_INDEX.

For more information on the BMimeType class and the File Type database, see BMimeType in The Storage Kit.

Creative Commons License
Legal Notice
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non commercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.