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Network Working Group R. Troost Request for Comments: 2183 New Century Systems Updates: 1806 S. Dorner Category: Standards Track QUALCOMM Incorporated

                                                      K. Moore, Editor
                                               University of Tennessee
                                                           August 1997
             Communicating Presentation Information in
                         Internet Messages:
                The Content-Disposition Header Field

Status of this Memo

 This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
 Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
 improvements.  Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
 Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
 and status of this protocol.  Distribution of this memo is unlimited.


 This memo provides a mechanism whereby messages conforming to the
 MIME specifications [RFC 2045, RFC 2046, RFC 2047, RFC 2048, RFC
 2049] can convey presentational information.  It specifies the
 "Content-Disposition" header field, which is optional and valid for
 any MIME entity ("message" or "body part").  Two values for this
 header field are described in this memo; one for the ordinary linear
 presentation of the body part, and another to facilitate the use of
 mail to transfer files.  It is expected that more values will be
 defined in the future, and procedures are defined for extending this
  set of values.
 This document is intended as an extension to MIME.  As such, the
 reader is assumed to be familiar with the MIME specifications, and
 [RFC 822].  The information presented herein supplements but does not
 replace that found in those documents.
 This document is a revision to the Experimental protocol defined in
 RFC 1806.  As compared to RFC 1806, this document contains minor
 editorial updates, adds new parameters needed to support the File
 Transfer Body Part, and references a separate specification for the
 handling of non-ASCII and/or very long parameter values.

Troost, et. al. Standards Track [Page 1] RFC 2183 Content-Disposition August 1997

1. Introduction

 MIME specifies a standard format for encapsulating multiple pieces of
 data into a single Internet message. That document does not address
 the issue of presentation styles; it provides a framework for the
 interchange of message content, but leaves presentation issues solely
 in the hands of mail user agent (MUA) implementors.
 Two common ways of presenting multipart electronic messages are as a
 main document with a list of separate attachments, and as a single
 document with the various parts expanded (displayed) inline. The
 display of an attachment is generally construed to require positive
 action on the part of the recipient, while inline message components
 are displayed automatically when the message is viewed. A mechanism
 is needed to allow the sender to transmit this sort of presentational
 information to the recipient; the Content-Disposition header provides
 this mechanism, allowing each component of a message to be tagged
 with an indication of its desired presentation semantics.
 Tagging messages in this manner will often be sufficient for basic
 message formatting. However, in many cases a more powerful and
 flexible approach will be necessary. The definition of such
 approaches is beyond the scope of this memo; however, such approaches
 can benefit from additional Content-Disposition values and
 parameters, to be defined at a later date.
 In addition to allowing the sender to specify the presentational
 disposition of a message component, it is desirable to allow her to
 indicate a default archival disposition; a filename. The optional
 "filename" parameter provides for this.  Further, the creation-date,
 modification-date, and read-date parameters allow preservation of
 those file attributes when the file is transmitted over MIME email.
 SHOULD NOT, RECOMMENDED, MAY, and OPTIONAL, when they appear in this
 document, are to be interpreted as described in [RFC 2119].

2. The Content-Disposition Header Field

 Content-Disposition is an optional header field. In its absence, the
 MUA may use whatever presentation method it deems suitable.
 It is desirable to keep the set of possible disposition types small
 and well defined, to avoid needless complexity. Even so, evolving
 usage will likely require the definition of additional disposition
 types or parameters, so the set of disposition values is extensible;
 see below.

Troost, et. al. Standards Track [Page 2] RFC 2183 Content-Disposition August 1997

 In the extended BNF notation of [RFC 822], the Content-Disposition
 header field is defined as follows:
   disposition := "Content-Disposition" ":"
                  *(";" disposition-parm)
   disposition-type := "inline"
                     / "attachment"
                     / extension-token
                     ; values are not case-sensitive
   disposition-parm := filename-parm
                     / creation-date-parm
                     / modification-date-parm
                     / read-date-parm
                     / size-parm
                     / parameter
   filename-parm := "filename" "=" value
   creation-date-parm := "creation-date" "=" quoted-date-time
   modification-date-parm := "modification-date" "=" quoted-date-time
   read-date-parm := "read-date" "=" quoted-date-time
   size-parm := "size" "=" 1*DIGIT
   quoted-date-time := quoted-string
                    ; contents MUST be an RFC 822 `date-time'
                    ; numeric timezones (+HHMM or -HHMM) MUST be used
 NOTE ON PARAMETER VALUE LENGHTS: A short (length <= 78 characters)
 parameter value containing only non-`tspecials' characters SHOULD be
 represented as a single `token'.  A short parameter value containing
 only ASCII characters, but including `tspecials' characters, SHOULD
 be represented as `quoted-string'.  Parameter values longer than 78
 characters, or which contain non-ASCII characters, MUST be encoded as
 specified in [RFC 2184].
 `Extension-token', `parameter', `tspecials' and `value' are defined
 according to [RFC 2045] (which references [RFC 822] in the definition
 of some of these tokens).  `quoted-string' and `DIGIT' are defined in
 [RFC 822].

Troost, et. al. Standards Track [Page 3] RFC 2183 Content-Disposition August 1997

2.1 The Inline Disposition Type

 A bodypart should be marked `inline' if it is intended to be
 displayed automatically upon display of the message.  Inline
 bodyparts should be presented in the order in which they occur,
 subject to the normal semantics of multipart messages.

2.2 The Attachment Disposition Type

 Bodyparts can be designated `attachment' to indicate that they are
 separate from the main body of the mail message, and that their
 display should not be automatic, but contingent upon some further
 action of the user.  The MUA might instead present the user of a
 bitmap terminal with an iconic representation of the attachments, or,
 on character terminals, with a list of attachments from which the
 user could select for viewing or storage.

2.3 The Filename Parameter

 The sender may want to suggest a filename to be used if the entity is
 detached and stored in a separate file. If the receiving MUA writes
 the entity to a file, the suggested filename should be used as a
 basis for the actual filename, where possible.
 It is important that the receiving MUA not blindly use the suggested
 filename.  The suggested filename SHOULD be checked (and possibly
 changed) to see that it conforms to local filesystem conventions,
 does not overwrite an existing file, and does not present a security
 problem (see Security Considerations below).
 The receiving MUA SHOULD NOT respect any directory path information
 that may seem to be present in the filename parameter.  The filename
 should be treated as a terminal component only.  Portable
 specification of directory paths might possibly be done in the future
 via a separate Content-Disposition parameter, but no provision is
 made for it in this draft.
 Current [RFC 2045] grammar restricts parameter values (and hence
 Content-Disposition filenames) to US-ASCII.  We recognize the great
 desirability of allowing arbitrary character sets in filenames, but
 it is beyond the scope of this document to define the necessary
 mechanisms.  We expect that the basic [RFC 1521] `value'
 specification will someday be amended to allow use of non-US-ASCII
 characters, at which time the same mechanism should be used in the
 Content-Disposition filename parameter.

Troost, et. al. Standards Track [Page 4] RFC 2183 Content-Disposition August 1997

 Beyond the limitation to US-ASCII, the sending MUA may wish to bear
 in mind the limitations of common filesystems.  Many have severe
 length and character set restrictions.  Short alphanumeric filenames
 are least likely to require modification by the receiving system.
 The presence of the filename parameter does not force an
 implementation to write the entity to a separate file. It is
 perfectly acceptable for implementations to leave the entity as part
 of the normal mail stream unless the user requests otherwise. As a
 consequence, the parameter may be used on any MIME entity, even
 `inline' ones. These will not normally be written to files, but the
 parameter could be used to provide a filename if the receiving user
 should choose to write the part to a file.

2.4 The Creation-Date parameter

 The creation-date parameter MAY be used to indicate the date at which
 the file was created.  If this parameter is included, the paramter
 value MUST be a quoted-string which contains a representation of the
 creation date of the file in [RFC 822] `date-time' format.
 UNIX and POSIX implementors are cautioned that the `st_ctime' file
 attribute of the `stat' structure is not the creation time of the
 file; it is thus not appropriate as a source for the creation-date
 parameter value.

2.5 The Modification-Date parameter

 The modification-date parameter MAY be used to indicate the date at
 which the file was last modified.  If the modification-date parameter
 is included, the paramter value MUST be a quoted-string which
 contains a representation of the last modification date of the file
 in [RFC 822] `date-time' format.

2.6 The Read-Date parameter

 The read-date parameter MAY be used to indicate the date at which the
 file was last read.  If the read-date parameter is included, the
 parameter value MUST be a quoted-string which contains a
 representation of the last-read date of the file in [RFC 822] `date-
 time' format.

2.7 The Size parameter

 The size parameter indicates an approximate size of the file in
 octets.  It can be used, for example, to pre-allocate space before
 attempting to store the file, or to determine whether enough space

Troost, et. al. Standards Track [Page 5] RFC 2183 Content-Disposition August 1997

2.8 Future Extensions and Unrecognized Disposition Types

 In the likely event that new parameters or disposition types are
 needed, they should be registered with the Internet Assigned Numbers
 Authority (IANA), in the manner specified in Section 9 of this memo.
 Once new disposition types and parameters are defined, there is of
 course the likelihood that implementations will see disposition types
 and parameters they do not understand.  Furthermore, since x-tokens
 are allowed, implementations may also see entirely unregistered
 disposition types and parameters.
 Unrecognized parameters should be ignored. Unrecognized disposition
 types should be treated as `attachment'. The choice of `attachment'
 for unrecognized types is made because a sender who goes to the
 trouble of producing a Content-Disposition header with a new
 disposition type is more likely aiming for something more elaborate
 than inline presentation.
 Unless noted otherwise in the definition of a parameter, Content-
 Disposition parameters are valid for all dispositions.  (In contrast
 to MIME content-type parameters, which are defined on a per-content-
 type basis.) Thus, for example, the `filename' parameter still means
 the name of the file to which the part should be written, even if the
 disposition itself is unrecognized.

2.9 Content-Disposition and Multipart

 If a Content-Disposition header is used on a multipart body part, it
 applies to the multipart as a whole, not the individual subparts.
 The disposition types of the subparts do not need to be consulted
 until the multipart itself is presented.  When the multipart is
 displayed, then the dispositions of the subparts should be respected.
 If the `inline' disposition is used, the multipart should be
 displayed as normal; however, an `attachment' subpart should require
 action from the user to display.
 If the `attachment' disposition is used, presentation of the
 multipart should not proceed without explicit user action.  Once the
 user has chosen to display the multipart, the individual subpart
 dispositions should be consulted to determine how to present the

Troost, et. al. Standards Track [Page 6] RFC 2183 Content-Disposition August 1997

2.10 Content-Disposition and the Main Message

 It is permissible to use Content-Disposition on the main body of an
 [RFC 822] message.

3. Examples

 Here is a an example of a body part containing a JPEG image that is
 intended to be viewed by the user immediately:
      Content-Type: image/jpeg
      Content-Disposition: inline
      Content-Description: just a small picture of me
       <jpeg data>
 The following body part contains a JPEG image that should be
 displayed to the user only if the user requests it. If the JPEG is
 written to a file, the file should be named "genome.jpg".  The
 recipient's user might also choose to set the last-modified date of
 the stored file to date in the modification-date parameter:
      Content-Type: image/jpeg
      Content-Disposition: attachment; filename=genome.jpeg;
        modification-date="Wed, 12 Feb 1997 16:29:51 -0500";
      Content-Description: a complete map of the human genome
      <jpeg data>
 The following is an example of the use of the `attachment'
 disposition with a multipart body part.  The user should see text-
 part-1 immediately, then take some action to view multipart-2.  After
 taking action to view multipart-2, the user will see text-part-2
 right away, and be required to take action to view jpeg-1.  Subparts
 are indented for clarity; they would not be so indented in a real

Troost, et. al. Standards Track [Page 7] RFC 2183 Content-Disposition August 1997

      Content-Type: multipart/mixed; boundary=outer
      Content-Description: multipart-1
  1. -outer

Content-Type: text/plain

        Content-Disposition: inline
        Content-Description: text-part-1
        Some text goes here
  1. -outer

Content-Type: multipart/mixed; boundary=inner

        Content-Disposition: attachment
        Content-Description: multipart-2
  1. -inner

Content-Type: text/plain

          Content-Disposition: inline
          Content-Description: text-part-2
          Some more text here.
  1. -inner

Content-Type: image/jpeg

          Content-Disposition: attachment
          Content-Description: jpeg-1
          <jpeg data>

4. Summary

 Content-Disposition takes one of two values, `inline' and
 `attachment'.  `Inline' indicates that the entity should be
 immediately displayed to the user, whereas `attachment' means that
 the user should take additional action to view the entity.
 The `filename' parameter can be used to suggest a filename for
 storing the bodypart, if the user wishes to store it in an external

Troost, et. al. Standards Track [Page 8] RFC 2183 Content-Disposition August 1997

5. Security Considerations

 There are security issues involved any time users exchange data.
 While these are not to be minimized, neither does this memo change
 the status quo in that regard, except in one instance.
 Since this memo provides a way for the sender to suggest a filename,
 a receiving MUA must take care that the sender's suggested filename
 does not represent a hazard. Using UNIX as an example, some hazards
 would be:
 +    Creating startup files (e.g., ".login").
 +    Creating or overwriting system files (e.g., "/etc/passwd").
 +    Overwriting any existing file.
 +    Placing executable files into any command search path
      (e.g., "~/bin/more").
 +    Sending the file to a pipe (e.g., "| sh").
 In general, the receiving MUA should not name or place the file such
 that it will get interpreted or executed without the user explicitly
 initiating the action.
 It is very important to note that this is not an exhaustive list; it
 is intended as a small set of examples only.  Implementors must be
 alert to the potential hazards on their target systems.

6. References

 [RFC 2119]
      Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement
      Levels", RFC 2119, March 1997.
 [RFC 2184]
      Freed, N. and K. Moore, "MIME Parameter value and Encoded Words:
      Character Sets, Lanaguage, and Continuations", RFC 2184, August
 [RFC 2045]
      Freed, N. and N. Borenstein, "MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail
      Extensions) Part One: Format of Internet Message Bodies", RFC
      2045, December 1996.

Troost, et. al. Standards Track [Page 9] RFC 2183 Content-Disposition August 1997

 [RFC 2046]
      Freed, N. and N. Borenstein, "MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail
      Extensions) Part Two: Media Types", RFC 2046, December 1996.
 [RFC 2047]
      Moore, K., "MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) Part
      Three: Message Header Extensions for non-ASCII Text", RFC 2047,
      December 1996.
 [RFC 2048]
      Freed, N., Klensin, J. and J. Postel, "MIME (Multipurpose
      Internet Mail Extensions) Part Four: Registration Procedures",
      RFC 2048, December 1996.
 [RFC 2049]
      Freed, N. and N. Borenstein, "MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail
      Extensions) Part Five: Conformance Criteria and Examples", RFC
      2049, December 1996.
 [RFC 822]
      Crocker, D., "Standard for the Format of ARPA Internet Text
      Messages", STD 11, RFC 822, UDEL, August 1982.

7. Acknowledgements

 We gratefully acknowledge the help these people provided during the
 preparation of this draft:
      Nathaniel Borenstein
      Ned Freed
      Keith Moore
      Dave Crocker
      Dan Pritchett

Troost, et. al. Standards Track [Page 10] RFC 2183 Content-Disposition August 1997

8. Authors' Addresses

 You should blame the editor of this version of the document for any
 changes since RFC 1806:
      Keith Moore
      Department of Computer Science
      University of Tennessee, Knoxville
      107 Ayres Hall
      Knoxville TN  37996-1301
      Phone: +1 (423) 974-5067
      Fax: +1 (423) 974-8296
      The authors of RFC 1806 are:
      Rens Troost
      New Century Systems
      324 East 41st Street #804
      New York, NY, 10017 USA
      Phone: +1 (212) 557-2050
      Fax: +1 (212) 557-2049
      Steve Dorner
      QUALCOMM Incorporated
      6455 Lusk Boulevard
      San Diego, CA 92121

9. Registration of New Content-Disposition Values and Parameters

 New Content-Disposition values (besides "inline" and "attachment")
 may be defined only by Internet standards-track documents, or in
 Experimental documents approved by the Internet Engineering Steering

Troost, et. al. Standards Track [Page 11] RFC 2183 Content-Disposition August 1997

 New content-disposition parameters may be registered by supplying the
 information in the following template and sending it via electronic
 mail to IANA@IANA.ORG:
   Subject: Registration of new Content-Disposition parameter
   Content-Disposition parameter name:
   Allowable values for this parameter:
        (If the parameter can only assume a small number of values,
        list each of those values.  Otherwise, describe the values
        that the parameter can assume.)
        (What is the purpose of this parameter and how is it used?)

10. Changes since RFC 1806

 The following changes have been made since the earlier version of
 this document, published in RFC 1806 as an Experimental protocol:
 +    Updated references to MIME documents.  In some cases this
      involved substituting a reference to one of the current MIME
      RFCs for a reference to RFC 1521; in other cases, a reference to
      RFC 1521 was simply replaced with the word "MIME".
 +    Added  a section on registration procedures, since none of the
      procedures in RFC 2048 seemed to be appropriate.
 +    Added new parameter types: creation-date, modification-date,
      read-date, and size.
 +    Incorporated a reference to draft-freed-pvcsc-* for encoding
      long or non-ASCII parameter values.
 +    Added reference to RFC 2119 to define MUST, SHOULD, etc.

Troost, et. al. Standards Track [Page 12]

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