Zlib plugin

Zlib plugin can be used to read compressed mbox, maildir or dbox files. It can also be used to write (via IMAP, LDA <lda> and/or LMTP Server) compressed messages to dbox <dbox_mbox_format> or Maildir mailboxes. Zlib plugin supports compression and decompression using the following libraries:

  • zlib/gzip

  • bzlib/bzip2

  • liblzma/xz (v2.2.9+ reading, v2.2.9-v2.3.13 writing)

  • liblz4/lz4 (v2.2.11+)

  • Zstandard (2.3.12+)

Configuration:

# Enable zlib plugin globally for reading/writing:
mail_plugins = $mail_plugins zlib

# Enable these only if you want compression while saving:
plugin {
  zlib_save = gz
  zlib_save_level = 6
}

The zlib_save setting selects the compression algorithm (currently supported values are: gz, bz2, lz4, zstd) to use when saving a new mail. The zlib_save_level setting sets the compression level used.

You can use per-algorithm compression levels, and defaults. Prior to v2.3.15, the compression level must be an integer in the range 1 to 9 regardless of the algorithm selected. The default level is 6. These values may not make sense with compression algorithms other than gz and bz2. For example, zstd supports levels from -1 to 22 in latest Zstandard version.

Changed in version 2.3.15.

mbox

Compressed mbox files can be accessed only as read-only. The compression is detected based on the file name, so your compressed mboxes should end with .gz or .bz2 extension. There is no support for compression during saving.

dbox

Mails can be stored as compressed. Existing uncompressed mails can’t currently be directly compressed (or vice versa). You could, however, use dsync to copy all mails to another location (which saves them compressed) and then replace the original location with the new compressed location. You can do this by treating the operation the same as if you were migrating from one mailbox format to another (see the dsync page examples).

Maildir

When this plugin is loaded Dovecot can read both compressed and uncompressed files from Maildir. The files within a Maildir can use any supported compression algorithm (e.g., some can be compressed uzing gzip, while others are compressed using zstd). The algorithm is detected by reading the first few bytes from the file and figuring out if it’s a valid gzip or bzip2 header. The file name doesn’t matter.

To avoid IMAP clients attempting to exploit security holes in the compression algorithm libraries (e.g., bzlib) by writing specially crafted mails using IMAP’s APPEND command, Dovecot will not allow clients to save mails that are detected as compressed.

All mails must have , S=<size> in their filename where <size> contains the original uncompressed mail size, otherwise there will be problems with quota calculation as well as other potential random failures. Note that if the filename doesn’t contain the , S=<size> before compression, adding it afterwards changes the base filename and thus the message UID. The safest thing to do is simply to not compress such files.

You should also preserve the file’s mtime so INTERNALDATE doesn’t change.

If you want to use dsync to convert to a compressed Maildir you may need -o maildir_copy_with_hardlinks=no (this is set to yes by default and will prevent compression).

Compression

You’ll probably want to use some cronjob to compress old mails. However note that to avoid seeing duplicate mails in rare race conditions you’ll have to use the included maildirlock utility. The idea is to:

  1. Find the mails you want to compress in a single maildir.

  • Skip files that don’t have, S=<size> in the filename.

  1. Compress the mails to tmp/

  • Update the compressed files’ mtimes to be the same as they were in the original files (e.g. touch command)

  1. Run maildirlock <path> <timeout>. It writes PID to stdout, save it.

  • <path> is path to the directory containing Maildir’s dovecot-uidlist (the control directory, if it’s separate)

  • <timeout> specifies how long to wait for the lock before failing.

  1. If maildirlock grabbed the lock successfully (exit code 0) you can continue.

  2. For each mail you compressed:

  1. Verify that it still exists where you last saw it.

  2. If it doesn’t exist, delete the compressed file. Its flags may have been

    changed or it may have been expunged. This happens rarely, so just let the next run handle it.

  3. f the file does exist, rename() (mv) the compressed file over the

    original file.

Dovecot can now read the file, but to avoid compressing it again on the next run, you’ll probably want to rename it again to include e.g. a Z flag in the file name to mark that it was compressed (e.g. 1223212411.M907959P17184.host,S=3271:2,SZ).

Remember that the Maildir specifications require that the flags are sorted by their ASCII value, although Dovecot itself doesn’t care about that.

Unlock the maildir by sending a TERM signal to the maildirlock process (killing the PID it wrote to stdout).