Easy-to-use, Pythonic and complete IMAP client library

imap, client, email, mail, imap-client, python, python-2, python-3
pip install IMAPClient==3.0.1



IMAPClient is an easy-to-use, Pythonic and complete IMAP client library.


  • Arguments and return values are natural Python types.
  • IMAP server responses are fully parsed and readily usable.
  • IMAP unique message IDs (UIDs) are handled transparently. There is no need to call different methods to use UIDs.
  • Escaping for internationalised mailbox names is transparently handled. Unicode mailbox names may be passed as input wherever a folder name is accepted.
  • Time zones are transparently handled including when the server and client are in different zones.
  • Convenience methods are provided for commonly used functionality.
  • Exceptions are raised when errors occur.

Python versions 2.6, 2.7, 3.3 and 3.4 are officially supported.

The current stable version of IMAPClient is 1.0.0. It is licensed under the New BSD License.

Why IMAPClient?

You may ask: "why create another IMAP client library for Python? Doesn't the Python standard library already have imaplib?".

The problem with imaplib is that it's very low-level. It expects string values where lists or tuples would be more appropriate and returns server responses almost unparsed. As IMAP server responses can be quite complex this means everyone using imaplib ends up writing their own flimsy parsing routines which break easily.

Also, imaplib doesn't make good use of exceptions. This means you need to check the return value of each call to imaplib to see if what you just did was successful.

IMAPClient actually uses imaplib internally. This may change at some point in the future.

Installing IMAPClient

IMAPClient is listed on the PyPI (Python Package Index). To install via PyPI use the pip or easy_install tools:

pip install imapclient

easy_install IMAPClient

The source distributions of all IMAPClient versions are available at Alternatively you can also use the PyPI page at

To install from source run:

python install

The project is packaged using Distribute (mostly compatible with setuptools) and all the usual installation options are available. See for more info.


IMAPClient's manual is available at

The NEWS file also has useful information.

The HTML manual can also be found at doc/html in the source distribution. The Sphinx source is at doc/src. If Sphinx is installed, the documentation can be rebuilt using:

python build_sphinx

See imapclient/examples/ for a sample of how to use IMAPClient. If the IMAPClient was installed from PyPI, the examples subdirectory can be found under the imapclient package installation directory.

Current Status

IMAPClient is currently under development but it is unlikely that the existing API will change in backwards-incompatible ways. Changes planned for the near future will only add extra functionality to the API.

You should feel confident using IMAPClient for production purposes. Any problems found will be fixed quickly once reported.

The project's home page is (this currently redirects to the IMAPClient Bitbucket site). Details about upcoming versions and planned features/fixes can be found in the issue tracker on Bitbucket. The maintainer also blogs about IMAPClient news. Those articles can be found here.


In order to clearly communicate version compatibility, IMAPClient will strictly adhere to the Semantic Versioning scheme from version 1.0 onwards.

Mailing List

The IMAPClient mailing list can be used to ask IMAPClient related questions and report bugs.

Working on IMAPClient

The HACKING.rst document contains information for those interested in improving IMAPClient and contributing back to the project.

IMAP Servers

IMAPClient is heavily tested against Dovecot, Gmail, (who use a modified Cyrus implementation), Office365 and Yahoo. Access to accounts on other IMAP servers/services for testing would be greatly appreciated.

Interactive Console

This script connects an IMAPClient instance using the command line args given and starts an interactive session. This is useful for exploring the IMAPClient API and testing things out, avoiding the steps required to set up an IMAPClient instance.

The IPython shell is used if it is installed. Otherwise the code.interact() function from the standard library is used.

The interactive console functionality can be accessed running the script in the root of the source tree or by invoking the interact module like this:

python -m imapclient.interact ...

"Live" Tests

IMAPClient includes a series of functional tests which exercise it against a live IMAP account. It is useful for ensuring compatibility with a given IMAP server implementation.

The livetest functionality can also be accessed like this:

python -m imapclient.livetest ...

Alternatively you can run the script included with the source distribution.

Use the --help option to see usage.

WARNING: The operations used by livetest are destructive and could cause unintended loss of data. That said, as of version 0.9, livetest limits its activity to a folder it creates and subfolders of that folder. It should be safe to use with any IMAP account but please don't run livetest against a truly important IMAP account.

Please send the output of to the mailing list if it fails to run successfully against a particular IMAP server. Reports of successful runs are also welcome. Please include the type and version of the IMAP server, if known.