18.1.3. email.generator: Generating MIME documents

One of the most common tasks is to generate the flat text of the email message represented by a message object structure. You will need to do this if you want to send your message via the smtplib module or the nntplib module, or print the message on the console. Taking a message object structure and producing a flat text document is the job of the Generator class.

Again, as with the email.parser module, you aren’t limited to the functionality of the bundled generator; you could write one from scratch yourself. However the bundled generator knows how to generate most email in a standards-compliant way, should handle MIME and non-MIME email messages just fine, and is designed so that the transformation from flat text, to a message structure via the Parser class, and back to flat text, is idempotent (the input is identical to the output) [1]. On the other hand, using the Generator on a Message constructed by program may result in changes to the Message object as defaults are filled in.

Here are the public methods of the Generator class, imported from the email.generator module:

class email.generator.Generator(outfp[, mangle_from_[, maxheaderlen]])

The constructor for the Generator class takes a file-like object called outfp for an argument. outfp must support the write() method and be usable as the output file in a Python extended print statement.

Optional mangle_from_ is a flag that, when True, puts a > character in front of any line in the body that starts exactly as From, i.e. From followed by a space at the beginning of the line. This is the only guaranteed portable way to avoid having such lines be mistaken for a Unix mailbox format envelope header separator (see WHY THE CONTENT-LENGTH FORMAT IS BAD for details). mangle_from_ defaults to True, but you might want to set this to False if you are not writing Unix mailbox format files.

Optional maxheaderlen specifies the longest length for a non-continued header. When a header line is longer than maxheaderlen (in characters, with tabs expanded to 8 spaces), the header will be split as defined in the Header class. Set to zero to disable header wrapping. The default is 78, as recommended (but not required) by RFC 2822.

The other public Generator methods are:

flatten(msg[, unixfrom])

Print the textual representation of the message object structure rooted at msg to the output file specified when the Generator instance was created. Subparts are visited depth-first and the resulting text will be properly MIME encoded.

Optional unixfrom is a flag that forces the printing of the envelope header delimiter before the first RFC 2822 header of the root message object. If the root object has no envelope header, a standard one is crafted. By default, this is set to False to inhibit the printing of the envelope delimiter.

Note that for subparts, no envelope header is ever printed.

New in version 2.2.2.


Return an independent clone of this Generator instance with the exact same options.

New in version 2.2.2.


Write the string s to the underlying file object, i.e. outfp passed to Generator’s constructor. This provides just enough file-like API for Generator instances to be used in extended print statements.

As a convenience, see the methods Message.as_string() and str(aMessage), a.k.a. Message.__str__(), which simplify the generation of a formatted string representation of a message object. For more detail, see email.message.

The email.generator module also provides a derived class, called DecodedGenerator which is like the Generator base class, except that non-text parts are substituted with a format string representing the part.

class email.generator.DecodedGenerator(outfp[, mangle_from_[, maxheaderlen[, fmt]]])

This class, derived from Generator walks through all the subparts of a message. If the subpart is of main type text, then it prints the decoded payload of the subpart. Optional _mangle_from_ and maxheaderlen are as with the Generator base class.

If the subpart is not of main type text, optional fmt is a format string that is used instead of the message payload. fmt is expanded with the following keywords, %(keyword)s format:

  • type – Full MIME type of the non-text part
  • maintype – Main MIME type of the non-text part
  • subtype – Sub-MIME type of the non-text part
  • filename – Filename of the non-text part
  • description – Description associated with the non-text part
  • encoding – Content transfer encoding of the non-text part

The default value for fmt is None, meaning

[Non-text (%(type)s) part of message omitted, filename %(filename)s]

New in version 2.2.2.

Changed in version 2.5: The previously deprecated method __call__() was removed.


[1]This statement assumes that you use the appropriate setting for the unixfrom argument, and that you set maxheaderlen=0 (which will preserve whatever the input line lengths were). It is also not strictly true, since in many cases runs of whitespace in headers are collapsed into single blanks. The latter is a bug that will eventually be fixed.