Reading meeting invites from SPEmailMessage

SharePoint allows developers to create receivers for the EmailReceived event which occurs when a list receives an email. I have a use case which requires me to leverage this event in order to forward incoming email to a set of users according to a number of business specific rules. To achieve this I must create a custom email message object (we are using aspNetEmail to send email) from the message object received in the event receiver. I need to be able to extract all of the parts from the SPEmailMessage to create this new object. The SPEmailMessage object is pretty easy to work with; the attachments are in the attachments collection, the subject is in the subject property – you get the idea. However, there is one ‘property’ that isn’t as trivial to extract from the object: a meeting invite.


I will explain how to extract the meeting invite below but first let me provide a basic overview of how an email is stored in eml format. The eml format is relevant because the SPEmailMessage can be constructed from an eml stream and also because when SharePoint is configured to attach incoming emails to discussion items it does so using eml. The first lines of an email in eml format are the email headers (think properties). These are simply key value pairs and includes things like ‘to’, ‘from’, ‘date’, ‘subject’ and many other less obvious properties including threading info. Then comes the mime body parts. These should represent the ‘same’ content in different formats (mime types). Typically this includes a text/plain block and a text/html block. A client which supports HTML will render the latter body part where otherwise it might render the plain text body part as the email content. Finally, attachments are listed out with their own set of headers and the binary content (commonly represented as a base64 encoded string).

When a meeting invite is sent to a SharePoint list without attachments the meeting invite itself can be found in the attachments collection of the SPEmailMessage object. But don’t be fooled. Although it is present in this situation, if you send same meeting invite with an attached document then – sad face – the meeting invite is not in the attachment collection (the attached documents will be). Nor can the invite be found in any of the public properties on the email object. It’s not that strange that meeting invite isn’t present in the attachments collection; it is strange that it can ever be found there. I say this because if we consider the eml format, a meeting invite is stored as another mime body part (of type text/calendar) and not as an attachment at all.

Eventually, after much investigation and reflection, we discovered a way to read the mime body parts directly from the email using only Microsoft libraries with the help of reflection. Once we have the meeting invite as a memory stream we parse it into a dictionary of string properties. The dictionary contains keys such as “LOCATION”, “SUMMARY”, “DESCRIPTION”, “DTSTART”, “DTEND” and “UID”, along with any other data stored as part of the invite. See the example code below:

Finally, I’d like to note that we only have requirements to support Outlook clients at this point so please consider that your mileage may vary when you get it out into the real world. Good luck.

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Paul Ryan

As a developer my professional interests are technical and tend to be SharePoint focused. I've been working with SharePoint since 2009 and hope my posts will give back a little to the community that's supported me over this time. I'm also a keen runner (half-marathon) and passionate Brompton bicycle owner.

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