Skip to content

Dovecot Full Text Search (FTS) using the Solr Backend

Dovecot supports several FTS backends for providing fast and efficient full text searching of e-mails directly from the IMAP server.

As the size of your mail storage grows, the benefits of FTS are especially notable:

  • Without FTS, Dovecot would perform a search query by checking each individual email stored for a match, and then repeat this process again from scratch for the exact same query in future.
  • Some mail clients (like Thunderbird) may provide their own indexing and search features when all mail to search is stored locally, otherwise Dovecot needs to handle the search query (for example webmail and mobile clients, like Gmail).
  • FTS indexes each mail into a database for querying instead, where it can skip the cost of inspecting irrelevant emails for a query.

This is a community contributed guide

It extends our official docs for Dovecot FTS with a focus on Apache Solr. DMS does not officially support this integration.

Setup Solr for DMS

An FTS backend supported by Dovecot is Apache Solr, a fast and efficient multi-purpose search indexer.

Add the required dovecot-solr package

As the official DMS image does not provide dovecot-solr, you'll need to include the package in your own image (extending a DMS release as a base image), or via our feature:

If you'd prefer to avoid a custom image build. This approach is simpler but with the caveat that any time the container is restarted, you'll have a delay as the package is installed each time.


apt-get update && apt-get install dovecot-solr

A custom DMS image does not add much friction. You do not need a separate Dockerfile as Docker Compose supports building from an inline Dockerfile in your compose.yaml.

The image key of the service is swapped for the build key instead, as shown below:

    # The `image` setting now represents the tag for the local build configured below:
    image: local/dms:14.0
    # Local build (no need to try pull `image` remotely):
    pull_policy: build
    # Add this `build` section to your real `compose.yaml` for your DMS service:
      dockerfile_inline: |
        RUN apt-get update && apt-get install dovecot-solr
  • Just run docker compose up and it will pull DMS and build your custom image to run a container.
  • Updating to a new DMS release is straight-forward, just adjust the version tag as you normally would. If you make future changes that don't apply, you may need to force a rebuild.
  • This approach only needs to install the package once with the image build itself. This minimizes delay of container startup.

Why doesn't DMS include dovecot-solr?

This integration is not officially supported in DMS as no maintainer is able to provide troubleshooting support.

Prior to v14, the package was included but the community contributed guide had been outdated for several years that it was non-functional. It was decided that it was better to drop support and docs, however some DMS users voiced active use of Solr and it's benefits over Xapian for FTS which led to these revised docs.

ARM64 builds do not have support for dovecot-solr. Additionally the user demand for including dovecot-solr is presently too low to justify vs the minimal effort to add additional packages as shown above.

compose.yaml config

Firstly you need a working Solr container, for this the official docker image will do:

    image: solr:latest
    container_name: dms-solr
      # As Solr can be quite resource hungry, raise the memory limit to 2GB.
      # The default is 512MB, which may be exhausted quickly.
      SOLR_JAVA_MEM: "-Xms2g -Xmx2g"
      - ./docker-data/solr:/var/solr
    restart: always

DMS will connect internally to the solr service above. Either have both services in the same compose.yaml file, or ensure that the containers are connected to the same docker network.

Configure Solr for Dovecot

  1. Once the Solr container is started, you need to configure a "Solr core" for Dovecot:

    docker exec -it dms-solr /bin/sh
    solr create -c dovecot
    cp -R /opt/solr/contrib/analysis-extras/lib /var/solr/data/dovecot

    Stop the dms-solr container and you should now have a ./data/dovecot folder in the local bind mount volume.

  2. Solr needs a schema that is specifically tailored for Dovecot FTS.

    As of writing of this guide, Solr 9 is the current release. Dovecot provides the required schema configs for Solr, copy the following two v9 config files to ./data/dovecot and rename them accordingly:

    • solr-config-9.xml (rename to solrconfig.xml)
    • solr-schema-9.xml (rename to schema.xml)

    Additionally, remove the managed-schema.xml file from ./data/dovecot and ensure the two files you copied have a UID and GID of 8983 assigned.

    Start the Solr container once again, you should now have a working Solr core specifically for Dovecot FTS.

  3. Configure Dovecot in DMS to connect to this Solr core:

    Create a 10-plugin.conf file in your ./config/dovecot folder with this contents:

    mail_plugins = $mail_plugins fts fts_solr
    plugin {
      fts = solr
      fts_autoindex = yes
      fts_solr = url=http://dms-solr:8983/solr/dovecot/

    Add a volume mount for that config to your DMS service in compose.yaml:

          - ./docker-data/config/dovecot/10-plugin.conf:/etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-plugin.conf:ro

Trigger Dovecot FTS indexing

After following the previous steps, restart DMS and run this command to have Dovecot re-index all mail:

docker compose exec mailserver doveadm fts rescan -A

Indexing will take a while depending on how large your mail folders

Usually within 15 minutes or so, you should be able to search your mail using the Dovecot FTS feature! 🎉