[plug] Maildir vs mbox

James Devenish devenish at guild.uwa.edu.au
Thu Apr 1 18:25:10 WST 2004

In message <406BB546.20000 at jensz.id.au>
on Thu, Apr 01, 2004 at 02:23:03PM +0800, Ben Jensz wrote:
> I'm just curious as to what people think the cons / pros are of the two 
> mail storage formats?

Needless to say, the best performers are usually those that employ some
kind of index, and that is not part of either Maildir or mbox per se.
For remote IMAP/POP users, I imagine Craig's recommendation of Maildir
(or derivates) is the best advice. For direct mailbox access, though,
mbox does have its advantages. Various marginal (but commonplace) issues
keep me tied to mbox, but apart from that I find that my mailboxes are
slower with Maildir under ext3. Therefore, I use Maildir for mailboxes
that contain very large messages or benefit greatly from the removal of
the locking requirement. However, archiving old mail is easier with
Maildir. With a Maildir, it's trivial to have a script that shifts files
from a current folder to an archive folder without interfering with
anything. For mbox, the same task requires locking the mbox and parsing
it and rewriting it, etc.

In message <1080802016.13025.5.camel at bucket.localnet>
on Thu, Apr 01, 2004 at 02:46:57PM +0800, Craig Ringer wrote:
> This is why mbox is _bad_. Corruption etc also tends to trash the entire
> mailbox, rather than one message.

Interestingly, when I have encountered this, it seems to have been due
to bugs in parsing more than anything else. However, I do recall a
period of incidents at the Guild where certain Microsoft e-mail would
cause the delivery system (sendmail, procmail -- or perhaps it was some
munging performed by the POP daemon) to concatenate messages together.
In that case, the practical solution was to tell the staff member to ask
her friend (the sender of the e-mail) to stop forwarding jokes via
e-mail :-)

In message <1080802016.13025.5.camel at bucket.localnet>
on Thu, Apr 01, 2004 at 02:46:57PM +0800, Craig Ringer wrote:
> I've been hearing a lot about dovecot lately. Is it new, or just
> "recently risen to prominence"?

A good explanation for "risen to prominence" has already be given, but
just for interest's sake, I note that UWA moved to dovecot for student
IMAP last year, for reasons including speed, and I think it has stuck
with it. /But/ they did encounter a bug. That is my nice way of
describing the situation. (Bernard would know a lot more about
this than me.)

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