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Email Services: Filter and Sort with Sieve

Filtering email will prevent you from having an Inbox with 700 messages all clamoring for your attention. Using a tool like Sieve, you can have your work emails sorted into a Work folder, spam emails automatically deleted, and personal emails sorted into a Personal folder for you to look at when you have time. This lab will let you practice how to install and configure Sieve to filter emails.

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Path Info

Clock icon Beginner
Clock icon 10m
Clock icon Sep 18, 2020

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Table of Contents

  1. Challenge

    Install and configure Sieve

    Our first step is to edit:

    vim /etc/dovecot/conf.d/15-lda.conf

    Find the protocol lda section and ensure it looks like this:

    protocol lda {
      # Space separated list of plugins to load (default is global mail_plugins).
      mail_plugins = sieve

    Now configure postfix:

    vim /etc/postfix/ 

    Find the mailbox_command setting and set it to use the dovecot specific delivery binary:

    mailbox_command = /usr/libexec/dovecot/deliver

    Install Sieve:

    yum install dovecot-pigeonhole -y
    vim /etc/dovecot/conf.d/90-plugin.conf

    Set the plugin up like so:

    plugin {
      # setting_name = value
        sieve_dir = ~/sieve
        sieve_global_dir = /home/sieve
        sieve_max_script_size = 1M

    Now we need to edit dovecot's config again:

    vim /etc/dovecot/dovecot.conf

    The protocols line should include the sieve plugin:

    protocols = imap sieve

    Edit the 20-managesieve.conf file and uncomment the following lines:

    vim /etc/dovecot/conf.d/20-managesieve.conf
    service managesieve-login {
      inet_listener sieve {
        port = 4190

    Now we can build our Sieve script:

    vim /home/test_user/.dovecot.sieve

    Your script should look something like this:

    require "fileinto";
    if header :contains "Subject" "WORK" {
            fileinto "Work";

    Restart postfix and dovecot:

    systemctl restart postfix
    systemctl restart dovecot

    Sieve is configured!

  2. Challenge

    Test your Sieve script

    1. To test your sieve script, you should send a test email.
    telnet localhost 25
    Trying ::1...
    Connected to localhost.
    Escape character is '^]'.
    220 ESMTP Postfix
    ehlo localhost
    250-SIZE 10240000
    250 DSN
    mail from: [email protected]
    250 2.1.0 Ok
    rcpt to: [email protected]
    250 2.1.5 Ok
    354 End data with <CR><LF>.<CR><LF>
    Subject: WORK
    250 2.0.0 Ok: queued as 3CA4197CBF
    1. Once sent, copy the message ID (the number after "queued as" above) and use it to grep the mail log:
    [root@server1 test_user]# grep 3CA4197CBF /var/log/maillog
    Jun  8 06:22:53 server1 postfix/smtpd[12092]: 3CA4197CBF: client=localhost[::1]
    Jun  8 06:22:59 server1 postfix/cleanup[12096]: 3CA4197CBF: message-id=<[email protected]>
    Jun  8 06:22:59 server1 postfix/qmgr[1670]: 3CA4197CBF: from=<[email protected]>, size=323, nrcpt=1 (queue active)
    Jun  8 06:22:59 server1 dovecot: lda(test_user): sieve: msgid=<[email protected]>: stored mail into mailbox 'Work'
    Jun  8 06:22:59 server1 postfix/local[12097]: 3CA4197CBF: to=<[email protected]>, relay=local, delay=16, delays=16/0.01/0/0.08, dsn=2.0.0, status=sent (delivered to command: /usr/libexec/dovecot/deliver)
    Jun  8 06:22:59 server1 postfix/qmgr[1670]: 3CA4197CBF: removed

    As you can see, the 4th line indicates that Sieve sorted the email into the correct folder. Congratulations!

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