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Manual Reference Pages  -  SIEVE-TEST (1)


sieve-test - Sieve script tester for the Dovecot secure IMAP server


Debug Support


sieve-test [-c] [-d dump-file] [-e] [-f envelope-sender] [-l mail-location] [-m default-mailbox] [-r recipient-address] [-S script-file] [-t] [-x "extension extension ..."] script-file mail-file


The sieve-test command is part of the Sieve implementation for the Dovecot secure IMAP server. Sieve (RFC 5228) is a simple and highly extensible language for filtering e-mail messages. It can be implemented for any type of mail access protocol, mail architecture and operating system. The language cannot execute external programs and in its basic form it does not provide the means to cause infinite loops, making it suitable for running securely on mail servers where mail users have no permission run arbitrary programs.

Using the sieve-test command, the execution of Sieve scripts can be tested. This evaluates the script for the provided message, yielding a set of Sieve actions. Unless the -e option is specified, it does not actually execute these actions, meaning that it does not store or forward the message anywere. In stead, it prints a detailed list of what actions would normally take place. Note that, even when -e is specified, no messages are ever transmitted to remote SMTP recipients. The outgoing messages are printed to stdout in stead.

This is a very useful tool to debug the execution of Sieve scripts. It can be used to verify newly installed scripts for the intended behaviour and it can provide more detailed information about script execution problems that are reported by the Sieve plugin.

The command has two mandatory arguments: the script-file argument, which specifies the script to (compile and) execute, and the mail-file argument, which specifies the file containing the e-mail message to filter.

Note that this tool looks for a pre-compiled binary file with a .svbin extension and with basename and path identical to the specified script. Use the -c option to disable this behavior by forcing the script to be compiled into a new binary.


-c Force compilation. By default, the compiled binary is stored on disk. When this binary is found during the next execution of sieve-test and its modification time is more recent than the script file, it is used and the script is not compiled again. This option forces the script to be compiled, thus ignoring any present binary. Refer to sievec(1) for more information about Sieve compilation.
-d dump-file
  Causes a dump of the generated code to be written to the specified file. This is identical to the dump produced by sieved(1). Using ’-’ as filename causes the dump to be written to stdout.
-e Turns on true execution of the set of actions that results from running the script. In combination with the -l parameter, the actual delivery of messages can be tested. Note that this will not transmit any messages to remote SMTP recipients. Such actions only print the outgoing message to stdout.
-f envelope-sender
  The envelope sender or return path. This is what Sieve’s envelope test will compare to when the "from" envelope part is requested. Also, this is where response messages are sent to.
-l mail-location
  The location of the user’s mail store. The syntax of this option’s mail-location parameter is identical to what is used for the mail_location setting in the Dovecot config file. This parameter is typically used in combination with -e to test the actual delivery of messages. If -l is omitted when -e is specified, mail store actions like fileinto and keep are skipped.
-m default-mailbox
  The mailbox where the keep action stores the message. This is "INBOX" by default.
-r recipient-address
  The envelope recipient address. This is what Sieve’s envelope test will compare to when the "to" envelope part is requested. Some tests and actions will also use this as the owner’s e-mail address.
-S script-file
  Specify additional scripts to be executed before the main script. Multiple -S arguments are allowed and the specified scripts are executed sequentially in the order specified at the command line.
-t Enable simple trace debugging; prints all encountered byte code instructions to stdout. This is currently only intelligible for developers.
-x "extension extension ..."
  Set the available extensions. The parameter is a space-separated list of the active extensions. By prepending the extension identifiers with + or -, extensions can be included or excluded relative to the default set of extensions. If no extensions have a + or - prefix, only those extensions that are explicitly listed will be enabled. Unknown extensions are ignored and a warning is produced. By default, all supported extensions are available, except for deprecated extensions or those that are still under development.

For example -x "+imapflags -enotify" will enable the deprecated imapflags extension along with all extensions that are available by default, except for the enotify extension.


To improve script debugging, the Sieve command line tools such as sieve-test support a custom Sieve language extension called ’vnd.dovecot.debug’. It adds the debug_print command that allows printing debug messages to stdout.


require "vnd.dovecot.debug";

if header :contains "subject" "hello" {

debug_print "Subject header contains hello!";


Other tools like sievec and sieved also recognize the vnd.dovecot.debug extension. In contrast, the actual Sieve plugin for the Dovecot LDA does not allow the use of the debug extension. So, keep in mind that scripts and compiled binaries that refer to de debug extension will fail to be run by the Sieve plugin itself.

Note that it is not necessary to enable nor possible to disable the availability of the debug extension with the -x option.


The Sieve implementation for Dovecot was written by Stephan Bosch <>.

Dovecot was written by Timo Sirainen <>.


sievec(1), sieved(1)

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