.qmail delivery filtering by adress and subject

My goal was simple, to filter incoming emails by subject and to address (on a catch-all address…) in the server and move the matches to a specific folder instead of the normal delivery. I’m running a Qmail+Vpopmail system, and these directions should be valid for similar setups.

Probably i could do this with Procmail or Maildrop, but it seemed all so complicated to do just a simple one time task that i opted in for the fun route, doing it myself… for a recurrent email filtering task, multiple accounts, customization, any kind of heavy email filtering i strongly suggest to stop here and go read about Procmail or Maildrop.

Still here? Good. First, add a .qmail (see dot.qmail man) in the user Maildir folder that you want to setup a filter:

| /home/vpopmail/domains/domain.com/user/filter

Save it and take care with the permissions, vpopmail user should be able to read it. What we are doing here is really simple, in the first line we pipe incoming emails trough filter, and according to filter exit code qmail execute (or not) the second line and proceed with the normal delivery.

Now setup the filter itself, it’s written in dirty and messy PHP but it gets the job done. Also it depends on PEAR Mail_mimeDecode, so go ahed and install it:

pear install Mail_mimeDecode

Now the filter script itself, it must be customized to your needs:

#! /usr/local/bin/php

 * invoked by .qmail files
 * | /path/to/this/script
 * parses email to address and subject against target strings
 * if BOTH are matched email is saved in $save_matched_dir
 * and qmail is instructed to ignore further .qmail lines

$max_bytes        = 262144;            // mail size > 256Kb is not scanned
$to_address       = 'to@domain.com';   // to address filter
$subjects         = array('subject 1',
                          'match this subject',
                          'other subject');
$save_matched_dir = '/home/vpopmail/domains/domain.com/save-matched-emails/';

 * 0 - Success (go to next .qmail line)
 * 99 - Success and abort (do not execute next lines)
 * 100 - permanent error (bounce)
 * 111 - soft error (retry later)

try {
  function decodeHeader($input) {
    // Remove white space between encoded-words
    $input = preg_replace('/(=\?[^?]+\?(q|b)\?[^?]*\?=)(\s)+=\?/i', '\1=?',

    // For each encoded-word...
    while (preg_match('/(=\?([^?]+)\?(q|b)\?([^?]*)\?=)/i', $input, $matches)) {

      $encoded  = $matches[1];
      $charset  = $matches[2];
      $encoding = $matches[3];
      $text     = $matches[4];
      switch (strtolower($encoding)) {
        case 'b':
          $text = base64_decode($text);

        case 'q':
          $text = str_replace('_', ' ', $text);
          preg_match_all('/=([a-f0-9]{2})/i', $text, $matches);
          foreach($matches[1] as $value)
            $text = str_replace('='.$value, chr(hexdec($value)), $text);

      $input = str_replace($encoded, $text, $input);

    if (! isset($charset))
      $charset = 'ASCII';

    $input = strtolower(
               preg_replace('/[^a-z ]/i', 
    return $input;

  $mail  = '';
  $bytes = 0;

  $fr = fopen("php://stdin", "r");
  while (!feof($fr)) {
    $mail .= fread($fr, 1024);
    $bytes += 1024;
    if ($bytes > $max_bytes) {

  require_once 'Mail/mimeDecode.php';
  $decoder   = new Mail_mimeDecode($mail);
  $structure = $decoder->decode(array('decode_headers' => true));

  // check from address
  $patt = '/[a-z0-9]+([_\\.-][a-z0-9]+)*@([a-z0-9]+([\.-][a-z0-9]+)*)+\\.[a-z]{2,}/i';
             $structure->headers['to'], $matches);
  if (isset($matches[0]) && $matches[0] == $to_address) {
    // check subject
    $structure->headers['subject'] = decodeHeader($structure->headers['subject']);

    foreach ($subjects as $subject) {
       if (strpos($structure->headers['subject'], $subject) !== false) {
         $fw = fopen($save_matched_dir.
                     rand(1000, 99999).
                     ':2', 'w');
         fwrite($fw, $mail);
         // exit(0);
} catch (Exception $e) {

// default, continue normal processing


save, add the php hash bang, mark it executable and vpopmail owned. Also, the $save_matched_dir is not created and should already be present in your system.

Thats it. After this setup you should start seeing a steady flow of matched emails being saved in the matched directory and not delivered in your Inbox. As usually this works like a charm to me but can work incredible bad for you, so use at your own peril.