The Postfix Book

Postfix: The Definitive Guide covers everything from the basic configuration to the full power of Postfix. It discusses the interfaces to various tools that round out a fully scalable and highly secure email system. Topics include POP, IMAP, LDAP, MySQL, Simple Authentication and Security Layer (SASL), and Transport Layer Security (TLS, an upgrade of SSL). A reference section for Postfix configuration parameters and an installation guide are included.

Should you buy the book? It depends. If you want a fuller understanding of how Postfix works along with concrete examples that demonstrate the concepts, then yes. If you're looking for a quick answer to a particular problem or issue you're dealing with, then maybe. The book has been out for a few years now. While the information in it is still good, it does not cover the latest features available in Postfix. If your issue has to do with a new feature like milters, for example then it won't cover what you need. Check the table of contents listed below to see if it will likely cover what you're looking for.

To get a feel for the book, you can read a short sidebar that covers a common problem with Postfix and Mailman, and the first part of the chapter that discusses anti-spam measures and how to deal with blocking the junk.

  1. Postfix and the Mailman GID
  2. Spam Detection Concepts
  3. Postfix Restriction Classes

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Prerequisites
  3. Postfix Architecture
  4. General Configuration and Administration
  5. Queue Management
  6. Email and DNS
  7. Local Delivery and POP/IMAP
  8. Hosting Multiple Domains
  9. Mail Relaying
  10. Mailing Lists
  11. Blocking Unsolicited Bulk Email
  12. SASL Authentication
  13. Transport Layer Security
  14. Content Filtering
  15. External Databases

Writing the Postfix Book

My plan for the book was to write something that could hold up over time as much as that's possible in a printed book. With that in mind I included very little OS-specific information, and tried to explain underlying concepts more than write a series of How-To's that would certainly go stale in a short time. Explanations are followed by walk-throughs of general set-ups or configurations. I wanted to write for smart people (as opposed to the Dummy and Idiot books), who could learn the idea and apply it in their own situations. I also wanted to keep it short and not include lots of information that many email administrators would already know or could easily find elsewhere. I think the book has been overall successful and I got some very positive feedback from many people. O'Reilly said that it has done better than expected, which I'll take as a compliment. For a book that came out in 2004, the information in the book is, for the most part, still correct though missing some of the latest features. For somebody looking to understand how Postfix works it should still be very useful.

At one point, I thought that perhaps I should have provided more hand-holding to help those with less experience. My thinking was that people don't want to go to multiple sources to get the information they need, especially if they have a specific problem to solve. On the other hand, nowadays people's first impulse when they have a particular problem is to go to the web. Perhaps the role of printed books should now be to explain underlying concepts and leave the reference and problem-solving to online resources. But it's still a balancing act to get the right amount of explanation without detracting with lots of ancillary information that readers already know. I often find tech books that are frustrating because I feel like I have to slog through sections that are not truly relevant to the topic I actually want to learn about.

I have recently been considering a new approach to technical writing that tries to include a narrative to keep things moving and make absorbing the information easier. Please let me know what you think about a new introduction I started.

The book has been translated into several languages. I don't know about all of them because I don't get the details when it is translated, but I've seen it in French, German, Japanese and even Czech.