Flexible access to Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail in PHP

Photo by Poppalina

I've been a heavy user of the php-imap extension, but last year I was driven to reimplement the protocol in native PHP by its limitations. Because it was a compiled extension implementing a thin wrapper on top of the standard UW IMAP library, any changes meant working in C code and propagating them through several API layers. A couple of problems in particular forced me to resort to my own implementation:

– Yahoo uses a strange variant of IMAP on their basic accounts, where you need to send an extra undocumented command before you can login.

– Accessing message headers only gives you the first recipient of an email, and getting any more requires a full message download. This is a design decision by the library, not a limitation of the protocol, and severely slowed down access to the information Mailana needed.

I've now open-sourced my code as HandmadeIMAP. I chose the name to reflect the hand-crafted and somewhat idiosyncratic nature of the project. It's all pulled from production code, so while it works for my purposes it isn't particularly pretty, only implements the parts I need and focuses on supporting Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail. On the plus side, it's been used pretty heavily and works well for my purposes, so hopefully it will prove useful to you too.

I'm also hoping to use it as a testing-ground for Gmail's new oAuth extension to IMAP that makes it possible to give mailbox access without handing over your password. Because new commands can easily be inserted, it should be possible to follow the new specification once the correct tokens have been received, but I will let you know how that progresses.

To give it a try for yourself, just download the code and run the test script, eg:

php handmadeimaptest.php -u youremail@gmail.com -p yourpasswordhere -a list -d

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