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Writing Haraka Plugins

All aspects of receiving an email in Haraka are controlled via plugins, to the extent that no mail will even be received unless you have a minimum of a 'rcpt' plugin and a 'queue' plugin.

The 'rcpt' plugin is used to determine if a particular recipient should be allowed to be relayed or received for. The 'queue' plugin queue's the email somewhere - perhaps to disk, or perhaps to an onward SMTP server.

Anatomy of a Plugin

Plugins in Haraka are simply Javascript files in the plugins/ directory.

To enable a plugin, simply add its name to config/plugins.

In order to hook into the "rcpt" event, simply create a method in exports to hook it:

exports.hook_rcpt = function (next, connection, params) {
    // email address is in params[0]
    // do something with the address... then call:

We've introduced a couple of new concepts here, so let's go through them:

  • next - we need to call this when we are done processing or Haraka will hang.
  • exports - the plugin acts as an object (with access to "this" if you need it) but methods go directly into exports.

The next() method is the most critical thing here - since Haraka is an event based SMTP server, we may need to go off and fetch network information before we can return a result. We can do that asynchronously and simply run next() when we are done, which allows Haraka to go on processing other clients while we fetch our information.

See "The Next Function" below for more details.


Plugins inherit all the logging methods of logger.js, which are:

  • logprotocol
  • logdebug
  • loginfo
  • lognotice
  • logwarn
  • logerror
  • logcrit
  • logalert
  • logemerg

It should also be noted that if plugins throw an exception directly when in a hook the exception will be caught and generate a logcrit level error. However they will not be caught quite as gracefully if you are in async code within your plugin. Use error codes for that, log the error, and run your next() function appropriately.

Multiple Hooks

You can hook the same event multipe times, to do that provide a register() method and hook it:

exports.register = function() {
    this.register_hook('queue', 'try_queue_my_way');
    this.register_hook('queue', 'try_queue_highway');

Then when the earlier hook calls next() (without parameters) it continues on to the next hook you registered to try that one.

The Next Function

The next() function takes two optional parameters: code and msg

The code is one of the below listed return values. The msg corresponds with the string to send to the client in case of a failure. Use an Array if you need to send back a multi-line response. The msg should NOT contain the code number

  • that is taken care of by the Haraka internals.

Return Values

These constants are compiled into your plugin when it is loaded, you do not need to define them:

  • CONT

    Continue and let other plugins handle this particular hook. This is the default if no parameters are given.

  • DENY

    Reject the mail with a 5xx error.


    Reject the mail with a 4xx error.


    Reject the mail with a 5xx error and immediately disconnect.


    Simply immediately disconnect

  • OK

    Required by rcpt and queue plugins if we are to allow the email to be accepted, or the queue was successful, respectively.

    This also has a special meaning when used on deny hook. Returning OK on the deny hook will override the result to CONT.

    Once a plugin calls next(OK) no further plugins on the same hook will run after it.


    This is a special return value that is currently only available on the unrecognized_command hook. It instructs Haraka to run a different plugin hook instead of responding normally. The msg argument is required and must be set to the name of the hook that is to be run.

Available Hooks

These are just the name of the hook, with any parameter sent to it:

  • init_master - called when the main (master) process is started
  • init_child - called whenever a child process is started when using multiple "nodes"
  • lookup_rdns - called to look up the rDNS - return the rDNS via next(OK, rdns)
  • connect - called after we got rDNS
  • capabilities - called to get the ESMTP capabilities (such as STARTTLS)
  • unrecognized_command - called when the remote end sends a command we don't recognise
  • disconnect - called upon disconnect
  • helo (hostname)
  • ehlo (hostname)
  • quit
  • vrfy
  • noop
  • rset
  • mail ([from, esmtp_params])
  • rcpt ([to, esmtp_params])
  • rcpt_ok (to)
  • data - called at the DATA command
  • data_post - called at the end-of-data marker
  • max_data_exceeded - called if the message is bigger than connection.max_bytes
  • queue - called to queue the mail
  • queue_outbound - called to queue the mail when connection.relaying is set
  • queue_ok - called when a mail has been queued successfully
  • reset_transaction - called before the transaction is reset (via RSET, or MAIL)
  • deny - called if a plugin returns one of DENY, DENYSOFT or DENYDISCONNECT
  • get_mx (hmail, domain) - called when sending outbound mail to lookup the MX record
  • bounce (hmail, err) - called when sending outbound mail if the mail would bounce
  • delivered (hmail, [host, ip, response, delay]) - callen when outbound mail is delivered to the destination
  • send_email (hmail) - called when outbound is about to be sent

The rcpt hook is slightly special. If we have a plugin (prior to rcpt) that sets the connection.relaying = true flag, then we do not need any rcpt hooks, or if we do, none of them need call next(OK). However if connection.relaying remains false (as is the default - you don't want an open relay!), then one rcpt plugin MUST return next(OK) or your sender will receive the error message "I cannot deliver for that user". The most obvious choice for this activity is the rcpt_to.in_host_list plugin, which lists the domains for which you wish to receive email.

If a rcpt plugin DOES call next(OK) then the rcpt_ok hook is run. This is primarily used by the queue/smtp_proxy plugin which needs to run after all rcpt hooks.

Sharing State

There are several cases where you might need to share information between plugins. This is done using notes - there are three types available:

  • server.notes

    Available in all plugins. This is created at PID start-up and is shared amongst all plugins on the same PID and listener. Typical uses for notes at this level would be to share database connections between multiple plugins or connection pools etc.

  • connection.notes

    Available on any hook that passes 'connection' as a function parameter. This is shared amongst all plugins for a single connection and is destroyed after the client disconnects. Typical uses for notes at this level would be to store information about the connected client e.g. rDNS names, HELO/EHLO, white/black list status etc.

  • connection.transaction.notes

    Available on any hook that passes 'connection' as a function parameter between hook_mail and hook_data_post. This is shared amongst all plugins for this transaction (e.g. MAIL FROM through until a message is received or the connection is reset). Typical uses for notes at this level would be to store information on things like greylisting which uses client, sender and recipient information etc.

All of these notes are simply a Javascript object underneath - so you use them like a simple key/value store e.g.

connection.transaction.notes.test = 'testing';

Further Reading

Now you want to read about the Connection object.

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