Contributor: JEFFERY FOY

> If anyone has the specs on any message formats. please send them to me
> as a friend of mine is writing a BBS.  Also, if anyone has the specs for
> QWK packets, send those to me also.  Thanx.

                       THE MYSTERIOUS QWK-FILE FORMAT 
                                  Jeffery Foy

         It would be safe  to  assume  that  if  you're  reading  this
         article,  you  use or have used a QWK-compatible offline mail
         reader. The QWK format has emerged as the  format  of  choice
         due  to  the  relatively  small  size  of QWK mail packets as
         compared to an equivalent ASCII text file.

         As most users of offline mail readers know,  the  QWK  format
         was designed by Mark Herring (Sparky) of Sparkware. While Mr.
         Herring  did  design  the  format,  he only gave very sketchy
         details as to the specifics of  the  format.  This  is  quite
         understandable  as  he  is  a  very  busy person. That is the
         reason why I'm writing this article.

         In it's most basic form, a QWK file is  simply  a  compressed
         file.  In  almost all cases, the QWK file has been compressed
         with PKZIP from PKWARE. With most mail doors, you can usually
         choose your favorite archiver so your QWK file may not be  in
         PKZIP format.

         Within  the  compressed  QWK file are quite a number of other
         component files. We'll start with the one called  CONTROL.DAT
         since it is the easiest to describe. It is an ASCII text file
         so if you have one handy, you can follow along.

         Generic BBS            ; Line # 1
         Seattle, WA            ; Line # 2
         206-555-1212           ; Line # 3
         Joe Sysop, Sysop       ; Line # 4
         00000,GENBBS           ; Line # 5
         01-01-1991,00:00:00    ; Line # 6
         MARY USER              ; Line # 7
         MENU                   ; Line # 8
         0                      ; Line # 9
         0                      ; Line #10
         254                    ; Line #11
         0                      ; Line #12
         Main Conf              ; Line #13
         ...                    ; Line # x
         254                    ; Line # x
         Last Conf              ; Line # x

         Line # 1 - This is the BBS name where you got your mail
         Line # 2 - This is the city and state where the BBS is
         Line # 3 - This is the BBS phone number.
         Line # 4 - This is the sysop's name.
         Line # 5 - This line contains first the serial number of the
                    mail door followed by the BBS ID. Note the BBS ID
                    as it will be used later in this article.
         Line # 6 - This is the time and date of the packet.
         Line # 7 - This is the uppercase name of the user for which
                    this packet was prepared.
         Line # 8 - This line contains the name of the menu file for
                    those who use the Qmail reader/door. Almost all
                    other mail doors leave this line blank.
         Line # 9 - No one seems to know what this line is meant for.
         Line #10 - No one seems to know what this line is meant for.
                    (Note: Both of these ALWAYS seem to be 0)
         Line #11 - This line is the maximum number of conferences
                    MINUS 1.
         Line #12 - This line is the first conference's number. It is
                    usually 0 but not always.
         Line #13 - This line is the name of the first conference. It
                    is 10 characters or less.

         Lines  12  and  13  are  repeated  for as many conferences as
         listed in line 11.

         Anything you see  after  the  last  conference  name  can  be
         ignored  as  that  information isn't usually provided by mail
         doors. One exception to this is the Markmail door.

         Now we'll talk about the message file itself. If you  haven't
         guess  by  now,  it  is the MESSAGES.DAT file. This is, quite
         obviously, the largest file in the .QWK packet.

         MESSAGES.DAT is organized  very  specifically  into  128-byte
         records.  The first record is the Sparkware copyright notice.
         The rest of the record after the copyright notice  is  filled
         with blanks (spaces). To maintain compatibility with Sparky's
         Qmail  Door,  all  mail  doors reproduce the copyright notice

         Following the first record begins the "meat" of  the  message
         file.  Each message included in the file consists of a header
         followed directly by the message text itself. First  we  will
         describe the header:

         Header    Field
         Position   Length   Description
         --------   ------   ----------------------------------------
         1          1        Message status byte
                                ' ' = public message which hasn't been
                                '-' = public and already read
                                '*' = private message
                                '~' = comment  to  sysop  which hasn't
                                      been read by the sysop
                                '`' = comment to sysop which HAS  been
                                      read by the sysop
                                '%' = password  protected message that
                                      hasn't been read  (protected  by
                                      sender of message)
                                '^' = password  protected message that
                                      HAS   been  read  (protected  by
                                      sender of message)
                                '!' = password  protected message that
                                      hasn't been read  (protected  by
                                      group password)
                                '#' = password  protected message that
                                      HAS   been  read  (protected  by
                                      group password)
                                '$' = password protected message  that
                                      is  addressed  to ALL (protected
                                      by group password)
         2         7         Message number coded in ASCII
         9         8         Date coded in ASCII (MM-DD-YY)
         17        5         Time  coded  in  ASCII  (HH:MM)  24  hour
         22        25        Uppercase name of person message is TO
         47        25        Uppercase name of person message is FROM
         72        25        Subject of message
         97        12        Message password. Usually  not  anything
                             but spaces (to denote no password)
         109       8         Message  # this message refers to (coded
                             in ASCII)
         117       6         Number of 128-byte chunks in  the  actual
                             message  (includes header and is coded in
         123       1         Determines whethere  a  message  is  live
                             (active)  or  killed. 90% of the time you
                             won't see a killed message in a packet.
                                 'a' = Message is active/alive (0xE1)
                                 'b' = Message is killed/dead  (0xE2)
         124       1         Least  significant  byte  of  conference
         125       1         Most  significant  byte   of   conference
                             number.  NOTE: This isn't in the original
                             .QWK format but has become  the  standard
                             due  to  conference  numbers greater than
                             255. In the original  format,  this  byte
                             was space-filled.
         126       3         Filler bytes for future expansion.
                             Space-filled and usually ignored.

         Following the header record comes the  message  text  itself.
         The  message  text is simply the body of the message. To save
         space, the return/linefeed combination is translated  to  the
         pi  character  'c'  (0xE3).  Note  that  the last line of the
         message is padded  with  spaces  to  fill  out  the  128-byte

         Now we'll talk about the *.NDX files that are included in the
         packet.  Each  .NDX file is formatted into records of 5-bytes
         each. The bytes in each record are formatted thusly:

         Start  Field
         Byte   Length   Description
         ----   ------   --------------------------------------------
         1      4        This is a floating point number in the MSBIN
                         format. This number is the record  number  of
                         the   message  header  in  MESSAGES.DAT  that
                         corresponds to this message.

         5      1        This  byte  is  the  conferece number of this
                         message.  This  byte  can  (and  should)   be
                         ignored  as  it  is duplicated in the message
                         header in MESSAGES.DAT.  This  is  especially
                         important  for  conferences  numbered  higher
                         than 255.

         Let's stray just a moment to talk about  the  MSBIN  floating
         point  format. This is the format used by the older Microsoft
         Basic compilers and interpreters. Most compiler manufacturers
         have switched to  the  more  efficient  IEEE  floating  point
         format. Therefore, we must have a method of converting to and
         from  MSBIN  format.  Included at the end of this article are
         two routines in C that accomplish this quite easily.

         Ok, let's talk about the format of the .REP  (reply)  packet.
         Like  the  .QWK  packet  it is usually compressed. Inside the
         compressed archive is a file whose  extension  is  .MSG.  The
         filename  itself  is the same as line #5 of CONTROL.DAT. This
         is the BBSID. So, for example, if the BBSID is  GENERIC,  the
         complete filename in the .REP packet would be GENERIC.MSG.

         The format of the .MSG file is almost exactly the same as the
         MESSAGES.DAT file with three differences:

         1). In the first record, rather than a copyright notice, the
             first  eight  bytes are the BBSID as described above. The
             rest of the record is filled with spaces.

         2). In the message header, rather than the ASCII-coded
             message number, we have the ASCII-coded conference number

         3). Also in the message header, the conference number field
             (byte offset 124 & 125) may be filled  with  spaces  *OR*
             the conference number.

         In  recent  months a new file, DOOR.ID, has been added to the
         .QWK packet. I know very little about it but will attempt  to
         explain it as best as I can.

         DOOR.ID  seems to be a method for individual doors to let the
         mail reader know how to add and drop  conferences.  It  is  a
         good  idea  and  I hope more doors and readers can be made to
         cooperate with it.

         Usually there are only five lines in this  file.  Here  is  a
         sample from one of my recent .QWK packets:

         DOOR = TomCat!                       Line #1
         VERSION = 2.9                        Line #2
         SYSTEM = Wildcat! 2.x                Line #3
         CONTROLNAME = TOMCAT                 Line #4
         CONTROLTYPE = ADD                    Line #5
         CONTROLTYPE = DROP                   Line #6

         Line #1 - This is the mail door's name.
         Line #2 - This is the mail door's version number.
         Line #3 - This is the BBS software used and version number.
         Line #4 - This is the control name (TO:) where to send
                   requests for conference changes.
         Line #5 - This is the command the door expects to see to add
                   a conference to the user's current list.
         Line #6 - This is the command the door expects to see to drop
                   a conference from the user's current list.

         Here  are the routines I use to convert to and from the MSBIN
         format. You  may  use  them  as  you  see  fit  -  they  are  not
         copyrighted by me.

         /***  MSBIN conversion routines ***/

         union Converter
                unsigned char uc[10];
                unsigned int  ui[5];
                unsigned long ul[2];
                float          f[2];
                double         d[1];

         /* MSBINToIEEE - Converts an MSBIN floating point number */
         /*               to IEEE floating point format           */
         /*                                                       */
         /*  Input: f - floating point number in MSBIN format     */
         /* Output: Same number in IEEE format                    */

         float MSBINToIEEE(float f)
            union Converter t;
            int sign, exp;       /* sign and exponent */

            t.f[0] = f;

         /* extract the sign & move exponent bias from 0x81 to 0x7f */

            sign = t.uc[2] / 0x80;
            exp  = (t.uc[3] - 0x81 + 0x7f) & 0xff;

         /* reassemble them in IEEE 4 byte real number format */

            t.ui[1] = (t.ui[1] & 0x7f) | (exp << 7) | (sign << 15);

         /* IEEEToMSBIN - Converts an IEEE floating point number  */
         /*               to MSBIN floating point format          */
         /*                                                       */
         /*  Input: f - floating point number in IEEE format      */
         /* Output: Same number in MSBIN format                   */

         float IEEEToMSBIN(float f)
            union Converter t;
            int sign, exp;       /* sign and exponent */

            t.f[0] = f;

         /* extract sign & change exponent bias from 0x7f to 0x81 */

            sign = t.uc[3] / 0x80;
            exp  = ((t.ui[1] >> 7) - 0x7f + 0x81) & 0xff;

         /* reassemble them in MSBIN format */

            t.ui[1] = (t.ui[1] & 0x7f) | (sign << 7) | (exp << 8);
            return t.f[0];
         } /* End of IEEEToMSBIN */

         Well,  that  is  all  there is to it! I hope this article has
         shed some light on the so-called "mysterious" .QWK format.