7.1.2 Parsing email messages

Message object structures can be created in one of two ways: they can be created from whole cloth by instantiating Message objects and stringing them together via attach() and set_payload() calls, or they can be created by parsing a flat text representation of the email message.

The email package provides a standard parser that understands most email document structures, including MIME documents. You can pass the parser a string or a file object, and the parser will return to you the root Message instance of the object structure. For simple, non-MIME messages the payload of this root object will likely be a string containing the text of the message. For MIME messages, the root object will return True from its is_multipart() method, and the subparts can be accessed via the get_payload() and walk() methods.

There are actually two parser interfaces available for use, the classic Parser API and the incremental FeedParser API. The classic Parser API is fine if you have the entire text of the message in memory as a string, or if the entire message lives in a file on the file system. FeedParser is more appropriate for when you're reading the message from a stream which might block waiting for more input (e.g. reading an email message from a socket). The FeedParser can consume and parse the message incrementally, and only returns the root object when you close the parser7.1.

Note that the parser can be extended in limited ways, and of course you can implement your own parser completely from scratch. There is no magical connection between the email package's bundled parser and the Message class, so your custom parser can create message object trees any way it finds necessary.


... parser7.1
As of email package version 3.0, introduced in Python 2.4, the classic Parser was re-implemented in terms of the FeedParser, so the semantics and results are identical between the two parsers.

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