Object-oriented IMAP for PHP






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1.19.0 2023-11-20 14:41 UTC


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A PHP IMAP library to read and process e-mails over IMAP protocol, built with robust Object-Oriented architecture.

This library requires PHP >= 8.2 with IMAP, iconv and Multibyte String extensions installed.


The recommended way to install the IMAP library is through Composer:

$ composer require ddeboer/imap

This command requires you to have Composer installed globally, as explained in the installation chapter of the Composer documentation.


Connect and Authenticate

use Ddeboer\Imap\Server;

$server = new Server('imap.gmail.com');

// $connection is instance of \Ddeboer\Imap\Connection
$connection = $server->authenticate('my_username', 'my_password');

You can specify port, flags and parameters to the server:

$server = new Server(
    $hostname, // required
    $port,     // defaults to '993'
    $flags,    // defaults to '/imap/ssl/validate-cert'


Retrieve mailboxes (also known as mail folders) from the mail server and iterate over them:

$mailboxes = $connection->getMailboxes();

foreach ($mailboxes as $mailbox) {
    // Skip container-only mailboxes
    // @see https://secure.php.net/manual/en/function.imap-getmailboxes.php
    if ($mailbox->getAttributes() & \LATT_NOSELECT) {

    // $mailbox is instance of \Ddeboer\Imap\Mailbox
    printf('Mailbox "%s" has %s messages', $mailbox->getName(), $mailbox->count());

Or retrieve a specific mailbox:

$mailbox = $connection->getMailbox('INBOX');

Delete a mailbox:


You can bulk set, or clear, any flag of mailbox messages (by UIDs):

$mailbox->setFlag('\\Seen \\Flagged', ['1:5', '7', '9']);
$mailbox->setFlag('\\Seen', '1,3,5,6:8');

$mailbox->clearFlag('\\Flagged', '1,3');

WARNING You must retrieve new Message instances in case of bulk modify flags to refresh the single Messages flags.


Retrieve messages (e-mails) from a mailbox and iterate over them:

$messages = $mailbox->getMessages();

foreach ($messages as $message) {
    // $message is instance of \Ddeboer\Imap\Message

To insert a new message (that just has been sent) into the Sent mailbox and flag it as seen:

$mailbox = $connection->getMailbox('Sent');
$mailbox->addMessage($messageMIME, '\\Seen');

Note that the message should be a string at MIME format (as described in the RFC2045).

Searching for Messages

use Ddeboer\Imap\SearchExpression;
use Ddeboer\Imap\Search\Email\To;
use Ddeboer\Imap\Search\Text\Body;

$search = new SearchExpression();
$search->addCondition(new To('me@here.com'));
$search->addCondition(new Body('contents'));

$messages = $mailbox->getMessages($search);

WARNING We are currently unable to have both spaces and double-quotes escaped together. Only spaces are currently escaped correctly. You can use Ddeboer\Imap\Search\RawExpression to write the complete search condition by yourself.

Messages can also be retrieved sorted as per imap_sort function:

$today = new DateTimeImmutable();
$thirtyDaysAgo = $today->sub(new DateInterval('P30D'));

$messages = $mailbox->getMessages(
    new Ddeboer\Imap\Search\Date\Since($thirtyDaysAgo),
    \SORTDATE, // Sort criteria
    true // Descending order

Unknown search criterion: OR

Note that PHP imap library relies on the c-client library available at https://www.washington.edu/imap/ which doesn't fully support some IMAP4 search criteria like OR. If you want those unsupported criteria, you need to manually patch the latest version (imap-2007f of 23-Jul-2011 at the time of this commit) and recompile PHP onto your patched c-client library.

By the way most of the common search criteria are available and functioning, browse them in ./src/Search.


  1. https://stackoverflow.com/questions/36356715/imap-search-unknown-search-criterion-or
  2. imap-2007f.tar.gz: ./src/c-client/mail.c and ./docs/internal.txt

Message Properties and Operations

Get message number and unique message id in the form <...>:


Get other message properties:

$message->getFrom();    // Message\EmailAddress
$message->getTo();      // array of Message\EmailAddress
$message->getDate();    // DateTimeImmutable

Get message headers as a \Ddeboer\Imap\Message\Headers object:


Get message body as HTML or plain text (only first part):

$message->getBodyHtml();    // Content of text/html part, if present
$message->getBodyText();    // Content of text/plain part, if present

Get complete body (all parts):

$body = $message->getCompleteBodyHtml();    // Content of text/html part, if present
if ($body === null) { // If body is null, there are no HTML parts, so let's try getting the text body
    $body = $message->getCompleteBodyText();    // Content of text/plain part, if present

Reading the message body keeps the message as unseen. If you want to mark the message as seen:


Or you can set, or clear, any flag:

$message->setFlag('\\Seen \\Flagged');

Move a message to another mailbox:

$mailbox = $connection->getMailbox('another-mailbox');

Deleting messages:


Message Attachments

Get message attachments (both inline and attached) and iterate over them:

$attachments = $message->getAttachments();

foreach ($attachments as $attachment) {
    // $attachment is instance of \Ddeboer\Imap\Message\Attachment

Download a message attachment to a local file:

// getDecodedContent() decodes the attachment’s contents automatically:
    '/my/local/dir/' . $attachment->getFilename(),

Embedded Messages

Check if attachment is embedded message and get it:

$attachments = $message->getAttachments();

foreach ($attachments as $attachment) {
    if ($attachment->isEmbeddedMessage()) {
        $embeddedMessage = $attachment->getEmbeddedMessage();
        // $embeddedMessage is instance of \Ddeboer\Imap\Message\EmbeddedMessage

An EmbeddedMessage has the same API as a normal Message, apart from flags and operations like copy, move or delete.


The IMAP extension provides the imap_timeout function to adjust the timeout seconds for various operations.

However the extension's implementation doesn't link the functionality to a specific context or connection, instead they are global. So in order to not affect functionalities outside this library, we had to choose whether wrap every imap_* call around an optional user-provided timeout or leave this task to the user.

Because of the heterogeneous world of IMAP servers and the high complexity burden cost for such a little gain of the former, we chose the latter.

Mock the library

Mockability is granted by interfaces present for each API. Dig into MockabilityTest for an example of a mocked workflow.

Contributing: run the build locally

Docker is needed to run the build on your computer.

First command you need to run is make start-imap-server, which starts an IMAP server locally.

Then the local build can be triggered with a bare make.

When you finish the development, stop the local IMAP server with make stop-imap-server.