This is one of the best form mailer programs we have found. Although
it appears very difficult to set up, it has withstood the test of many
users who were not familiar with perl programming, and they were able to
easily set this program up. Don't be intimidated! Just follow the steps.
This compiled script will allow you to make custom
e-mail forms that return nicely formatted output without learning CGI
programming. There are basically five steps to follow.
- Create an e-mail template.
- Create the HTML form.
- Make sure the ACTION is
- Try out your form with
- Go live with cgiemail.
The following steps are optional.
1. Create an e-mail
Before you start receiving e-mail messages through the web, you
should decide what these messages should look like. Create an ASCII file,
called an e-mail template, that looks something like this:
To: firstname.lastname@example.org HEADER LINES
Subject: questions three
What is your name? [yourname]
What is your quest? [quest] BODY
What is your favorite co lour? [color]
The template file consists of two parts, message headers and
the message body. The first part is the message headers. There
MUST be a To: line. Put your e-mail address there. There should
also be a Subject: line. Put the subject you want the replies to have
Some guidelines for creating a working template.
- Wherever you want the user of your form to supply
information, use a single word inside square
brackets with no spaces, e.g. Your
name: [yourname]. Not [Put your name
- Make sure the e-mail address in the To: field is
- If there are blank lines before the header lines,
- Make sure all your header lines are valid. Most
should go in the message body.
- Make sure there is a blank line between the header
lines and the body.
- If you created the file on a Mac, be sure to upload
it as text,
i.e. CR's translated. (Unix computers have
denoting the end of a line than Mac's do, so
your file might look
like one long line to the Unix computer.)
Within these guidelines there is a lot of
flexibility. You can put From:, [yourname], and in this case the e-mail
would show it was from the name the user input in the yourname
field. You can put things like Cc: email@example.com in the header,
and a copy of the e-mail form would be sent to that e-mail address. Be
creative. Just don't put anything in there you wouldn't want us
administrators to see, because that's where bounced
Once you create an e-mail template, upload it to the
WWW server and look at it with your WWW browser.
2. Create the HTML
The next step is to make the form that corresponds with
the template. Here is the form that corresponds with the sample template.
(This example doesn't actually send e-mail.)
This is the HTML source:
<FORM METHOD="POST" ACTION=
Your name: <INPUT NAME="yourname"><p>
Your quest: <INPUT NAME="quest"><p>
Your favorite colour: <INPUT NAME="colour"><p>
<INPUT TYPE="submit" value="Send e-mail">
This is a very simple example. To learn to create more
complicated forms, read NCSA's
guide. For now, simply note that the NAME of each input corresponds
to what you previously put in the e-mail template. In this example they
are yourname, quest, and colour.
3. Make sure the
ACTION is correct.
The trickiest part of the HTML form is getting the
ACTION set correctly. To do this, you need to take the full URL of your
template file, and insert the string "/cgi-bin/cgiecho" right after the
So if the template file is "test.txt", and it's stored
in yourcompany.com/public_html, the URL for the template file is
"http://www.yourcompany.com/test.txt". You would put type this URL into
the action part of your <FORM> tag, then move your cursor onto the
slash after "www.yourcompany.com", and type "/cgi-bin/cgiecho". The
resulting FORM command would then be
The form tag for our sample questions from the strange
old man guarding the bridge would be
4. Try out your form
Load your newly created form, and try it out! If it
works, you should see your template, with the values you entered filled
in. If some of your inputs don't seem to be showing up in the processed
template, make sure that the inputs have the exact same names in the HTML
form as in the ASCII template. e.g. NAME="yourname" in the
HTML form and [yourname] in the e-mail template.
5. Go live with
Now change cgiecho to cgiemail in
the ACTION of your HTML form. Try it out. You should receive an e-mail
message with the processed form. If not, go back and make sure you
correctly followed the instructions in step 1.
If it works, congratulations!
Note: You will
not personally get a bounced message even if you've put a From: line in
your headers. All bounces will go to the user id that our web server runs
as. It runs as "nobody", so that's why when you receive a message from
this script, it will be from "firstname.lastname@example.org". If there is a mistake in
the header, the message will bounce to nobody, who doesn't have a mailbox.
Optional: Use an
alternate success page.
If you don't like the default page that comes up when
e-mail is successfully sent, you can specify an alternate URL using a
hidden variable called ``success'' in your HTML form, e.g.
<INPUT TYPE="hidden" NAME="success" VALUE="http://web.mit.edu/">
There is no way to make this alternate success page
contain information the user submitted in the form. You will have to
learn cgi programming to do that. :)
Optional: Make some
If you would like to automatically reject forms with
certain inputs left blank (a very useful thing to be able to do!), add the
prefix ``required-'' to the name of the input in both your HTML
form and your e-mail template. Here is an example:
In the HTML form:
Your name: <INPUT NAME="required-yourname">
In the e-mail template
Your name: [required-yourname]
Optional: Specify formatting for some
If, in your e-mail template, the text inside square brackets begins
with %, cgiemail will use the printf() function in C on the field name
after the comma. If you're not familiar with this function, look in a
book on C. If you are familiar with it, please note these two
- The first character in the format
string must be %.
- Characters like \n and \t must be
literal. If you want a newline, you have to put a new line just before
the comma, even though this looks strange. For example, if Pizza wanted
toppings listed one per line, they would put the following in their e-mail
Script courtesy of CGIEmail at MIT.
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