RFC 2822 is the base standard that describes the format of email messages. It derives from the older RFC 822 standard which came into widespread use at a time when most email was composed of ASCII characters only. RFC 2822 is a specification written assuming email contains only 7-bit ASCII characters.
Of course, as email has been deployed worldwide, it has become internationalized, such that language specific character sets can now be used in email messages. The base standard still requires email messages to be transfered using only 7-bit ASCII characters, so a slew of RFCs have been written describing how to encode email containing non-ASCII characters into RFC 2822-compliant format. These RFCs include RFC 2045, RFC 2046, RFC 2047, and RFC 2231. The email package supports these standards in its email.Header and email.Charset modules.
If you want to include non-ASCII characters in your email headers, say in the Subject: or To: fields, you should use the Header class and assign the field in the Message object to an instance of Header instead of using a string for the header value. For example:
>>> from email.Message import Message >>> from email.Header import Header >>> msg = Message() >>> h = Header('p\xf6stal', 'iso-8859-1') >>> msg['Subject'] = h >>> print msg.as_string() Subject: =?iso-8859-1?q?p=F6stal?=
Notice here how we wanted the Subject: field to contain a non-ASCII character? We did this by creating a Header instance and passing in the character set that the byte string was encoded in. When the subsequent Message instance was flattened, the Subject: field was properly RFC 2047 encoded. MIME-aware mail readers would show this header using the embedded ISO-8859-1 character.
New in version 2.2.2.
Here is the Header class description:
Optional s is the initial header value. If
default), the initial header value is not set. You can later append
to the header with append() method calls. s may be a
byte string or a Unicode string, but see the append()
documentation for semantics.
Optional charset serves two purposes: it has the same meaning as
the charset argument to the append() method. It also
sets the default character set for all subsequent append()
calls that omit the charset argument. If charset is not
provided in the constructor (the default), the
character set is used both as s's initial charset and as the
default for subsequent append() calls.
The maximum line length can be specified explicit via
maxlinelen. For splitting the first line to a shorter value (to
account for the field header which isn't included in s,
e.g. Subject:) pass in the name of the field in
header_name. The default maxlinelen is 76, and the
default value for header_name is
None, meaning it is not
taken into account for the first line of a long, split header.
Optional continuation_ws must be RFC 2822-compliant folding whitespace, and is usually either a space or a hard tab character. This character will be prepended to continuation lines.
Optional charset, if given, should be a Charset instance
(see email.Charset) or the name of a character set, which
will be converted to a Charset instance. A value of
None (the default) means that the charset given in the
constructor is used.
s may be a byte string or a Unicode string. If it is a byte
isinstance(s, str) is true), then
charset is the encoding of that byte string, and a
UnicodeError will be raised if the string cannot be
decoded with that character set.
If s is a Unicode string, then charset is a hint
specifying the character set of the characters in the string. In this
case, when producing an RFC 2822-compliant header using RFC 2047
rules, the Unicode string will be encoded using the following charsets
us-ascii, the charset hint,
first character set to not provoke a UnicodeError is used.
The Header class also provides a number of methods to support standard operators and built-in functions.
The email.Header module also provides the following convenient functions.
This function returns a list of
(decoded_string, charset) pairs
containing each of the decoded parts of the header. charset is
None for non-encoded parts of the header, otherwise a lower
case string containing the name of the character set specified in the
Here's an example:
>>> from email.Header import decode_header >>> decode_header('=?iso-8859-1?q?p=F6stal?=') [('p\\xf6stal', 'iso-8859-1')]
decode_header() takes a header value string and returns a
sequence of pairs of the format
(decoded_string, charset) where
charset is the name of the character set.
This function takes one of those sequence of pairs and returns a Header instance. Optional maxlinelen, header_name, and continuation_ws are as in the Header constructor.
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