Welcome!

You will be redirected in 30 seconds or close now.

ColdFusion Authors: Yakov Fain, Jeremy Geelan, Maureen O'Gara, Nancy Y. Nee, Tad Anderson

Related Topics: ColdFusion

ColdFusion: Article

Sending E-Mail With ColdFusion

Sending E-Mail With ColdFusion

You've seen it. You've probably done it, too. I'm talking about those Web sites that have a Contact Us link at the bottom of the page with something similar to mailto:[email protected] in the HREF attribute. They're kind of nice...

...and can spare you the burden of opening your e-mail client. They spawn a new message and populate the To: field and perhaps the Subject: field. The mailto: protocol can also be used in the ACTION attribute of the <form> tag. Pretty cool.

Great as the mailto: protocol is, it has shortcomings. Sometimes users don't have their e-mail client software configured correctly, so the link or form submission fails. Anyone who's installed MSIE on more than one occasion can probably attest to this. Plus, users have to confirm every e-mail sent via form submission. That's a necessary annoyance. Also, what if you want to capture more specific information about the user sending the e-mail? Sometimes a Subject: and Message: field just won't cut it.

That's what this article is about - creating an extensible, ColdFusion, Web-based e-mail application that uses only one CF template. This application offers several useful features; you'll see how to add and change them when you find a flavor that meets your needs. All this information will be in a zipped archive on the CFDJ site. Barring minor one-line code changes, the code is ready to use. Here are the features the application will cover:

  • Basic e-mail: Forms-based e-mail we all know and love
  • Handling multiple recipients: Grabbing names and addresses from a database and selecting multiple recipients
  • Keeping user input: Storing submitted info in a database for later crunching
  • Better-looking messages: Adding HTML and graphics to your messages
  • Send attachments: Adding the code for sending attachments

    ColdFusion makes incorporating these and other features quite easy.

    Introducing MailRat
    Figure 1 offers the debut of MailRat, the hippest new e-mail app ever to be powered by ColdFusion (let's not vote, though). As awesome and mind-bending as I've made it out to be, MailRat still consists of the following simple form elements:

  • Fields for your name and e-mail address
  • A SELECT list to choose the recipient's e-mail address(es)
  • A field to enter the topic you want to talk about
  • A text area to input your message
  • A file input field for attachment
  • Radio buttons for creating custom layouts for your messages

    The process is simple. Just enter the required information, then choose Go MailRat!. ColdFusion calls this same file, index.cfm, and changes the banner image on top to confirm that your message has been sent. Figure 2 shows the change in graphics. From the user's perspective there isn't much to it. Let's drill down a bit and see how it's all happening.

    Send e-Mail, Print the Form or Both
    index.cfm performs at least one operation and sometimes two. If the page is loaded for the first time, CF simply displays the MailRat interface. If the form is submitted, index.cfm needs to handle the e-mail operation, then print the interface. Let's assume this is the first time the page has loaded. In that case we'll be looking more at HTML than CFML. Listing 1, which is long but simple, contains the HTML output to create the interface.

    You won't find many surprises in that listing. It's really a form embedded in a couple of nested tables. The CFML in this portion of the document shows up when generating the SELECT list. Here it is up close:

    <select name="TheirEmail"
    style="width:258;" size="3" multiple>
    <CFOUTPUT QUERY="GetContacts">
    <option
    value="#EmailAddress#">#UserName#
    </CFOUTPUT>
    </select>

    The SELECT list is the product of a database query that occurred earlier in the execution. Here is the <CFQUERY>:

    <CFQUERY NAME="GetContacts" DATA-
    SOURCE="ContactDB">
    SELECT UserName, EmailAddress
    From Contacts
    </CFQUERY>

    The SQL inside this statement requests all usernames and corresponding e-mail addresses from the ContactDB data source, which is an MSAccess database. The SELECT list has OPTIONs with usernames as their text and e-mail addresses as their values. Notice, too, that the SELECT list contains the MULTIPLE attribute, i.e., all values of the selected options will be submitted to the server for processing.

    That's all there is to printing the form, except for the graphic at the top. If the MailRat is loading for the first time, ColdFusion displays the default banner. If mail was just sent, CF displays the mail-sent banner. This happens via a simple <CFIF> statement based on the value of the name entered. When the page loads for the first time, the default value of #YourName# is an empty string that cues CF to load the default banner.

    Creating and Validating the Message
    MailRat allows you to choose the type of layout you want the e-mail message to have. I used simple layouts, which basically changes the font family of the text. No reason why you can't go wild and exotic, though. Just make sure whoever receives this has an e-mail client that supports HTML. Most recent clients do, so you should be fine. You also have the option of choosing a file to send as an attachment; just click the button and choose the file from your directory tree. The only drawback is you lose any HTML layout capabilities you may have selected.

    What if you want to send the message to several people? After all, the SELECT list has the MULTIPLE attribute. In this case the code is no different. Remember that the value of #TheirEmail# is a comma-separated string, the same e-mail syntax for sending messages to multiple people. Choosing three people from the list would represent the value of #TheirEmail# to [email protected], [email protected] and person3 @somewhere.com. That's how the string will arrive when the script is called and how it'll be sent, as the value of the TO attribute.

    Notice that clicking on the radio buttons dynamically changes the image to match the mock-up of the font each layout will have. This article is about ColdFusion, but we should go over the JavaScript because there's so much interaction between the two. The image swap occurs when using the following code:

    function swapImg(idx) {
    document ['LayoutImg'].src =
    newImgs[idx].src; }

    It only takes three lines of code - not too bad. This function changes the source of the "Layout" image in the document, which you'll find near the radio button. When called, swapImg() expects an integer that'll reference an Image object with the corresponding JPEG image. Each radio button has the following code:

    onclick="swapImg(some_Integer);"

    Since there are only three images, the integer is either 0, 1 or 2. These integers reference an array element in the JavaScript array newImgs, which is created with a single call to function preload().

    function preload() {
    fExt = '.jpg';
    newImgs = new Array();
    var imgArr = new Array('Boring',
    'OK', 'Fancy');
    for (var i = 0; i
    imgArr.length; i++) {
    newImgs[newImgs.length] = new Image();
    newImgs[newImgs.length - 1].src = imgArr[i] + fExt;
    }
    }

    preload();

    This function preloads the images for the script. Image preloading is the process of downloading images and storing them in the browser cache before they're displayed. This may not seem like a big deal, but each time the user clicks a radio box for the first time, the browser normally makes an HTTP request back to the server to grab the image. If the images are loaded in the cache, the browser already has them and won't need to do the extra legwork.

    The array newImgs contains the Image objects with all the information about each JPEG. By the way, if you want to add more images for preloading, and they're JPEGs in the same folder as the others on the Web server, just add the first name of the image file as a string to the imgArray. For example, adding EvenFancier.jpg to the group changes the array as follows:

    var imgArr = new Array('Boring',
    'OK', 'Fancy', 'EvenFancier');


    Okay, the images are preloaded. The user has filled in the goods and selected an HTML layout option. Choosing Go MailRat! sets things in motion. Before sending everything back to the server, it's a good idea to get JavaScript involved again to make sure the user has provided enough information. Function checkMail() gets the call.

    function checkMail(f) {
    if((f.YourName.value == '') || (f.YourEmail.value == '') ||
    (f.TheirEmail.value == '') || (f.Message.value == '') ||
    (f.YourTopic.value == '')) {
    alert('You must complete all
    fields.');
    return false;
    }
    else if
    (isValidEmail(f.YourEmail.value) &&
    isValidEmail(f.TheirEmail.value)) {
    }
    else { return false; }
    }

    This function first determines if any of the fields (except the optional file attachment field) have been left empty. If so, the user is alerted and the form submission id canceled. Afterwards, checkMail() relies on isValidEmail() to make sure the e-mail address appears valid. I say appears valid because the actual code for validating e-mail addresses, according to the Internet standard, is thousands of characters long. For our purposes, as long as the user enters something, such as [email protected], everything will be fine. If the e-mail address fails this test, the user is again alerted and the submission canceled. Otherwise, it's back to the Web server with the form.

    function isValidEmail(str) {
    str += '';
    namestr = str.substring(0,
    str.indexOf("@")); // before the '@'
    domainstr =
    str.substring(str.indexOf("@")+1,
    str.length); // after the '@'
    if ((namestr.length == 0) ||
    (domainstr.indexOf(".") <= 0) ||
    (domainstr.length == 0) ||
    (domainstr.indexOf("@") != -1)) {
    alert('Hmmm.... "' + str + '"
    appears to be an invalid e-mail address.');
    return false;
    }
    return true;
    }

    Back to ColdFusion
    The form is submitted and index.cfm is called again, but this time things are different. All the CFML we glossed over at the beginning of the article comes into play. CFML uses a single <cfif> statement to determine whether to send e-mail (see Listing 2).

    The deciding factor for sending e-mail is the value of the variable #YourName#. If it's empty, the odds are there's no reason to send mail. As long as #YourName# isn't an empty string, CF will attempt to send e-mail. Once the script has determined that e-mail needs to be sent, it must check if the user uploaded a valid file for use as an attachment. This is done by not only checking the value of #Attachment#, but ensuring that the file exists. If both of the following conditions are true, the attachment will be sent with the plain text message:

    <CFIF #Attachment# NEQ "" AND #File-
    Exists(Attachment)# EQ "True">

    <CFMAIL
    FROM="#YourEmail#"
    TO="#TheirEmail#"
    SUBJECT="#YourTopic#"
    SERVER="pop.serve.com"
    MIMEATTACH="#Attachment#"
    >
    #YourName# wrote:
    #Message#

    <CFMAIL>
    This is the <CFMAIL> tag, which makes our job of sending e-mail ridiculously easy. Though we used only five of the attributes, let's take a look at all of them.

  • TO (required): This attribute expects the recipient's e-mail address(es). You can provide a static value or a ColdFusion variable. Multiple recipient addresses need only be separated by commas.
  • FROM (required): This attribute expects the sender's e-mail address.
  • CC (optional): This attribute can be set to one or more recipients to whom you'd like to send a copy. Can be set static or as a CF variable.
  • SUBJECT (required): This is the subject heading of the message and can be set to a static value or a CF variable.
  • TYPE (optional): This value indicates the MIME type of the message. It can only be set to a value of "HTML." If omitted, the message will be generated as plain text.
  • QUERY (optional): This attribute indicates the name of a database query performed with <cfquery> and can be used to print the results of a query in the message.
  • MAXROWS (optional): Indicates the maximum number of e-mail messages to send.
  • MIMEATTACH (optional): This attribute specifies the name of the path to a file attachment. The value can be static or a ColdFusion variable.
  • GROUP (optional): Used to group a set of query results by column name.
  • STARTROW (optional): Specifies which row to begin with in the query result set (the first row is 1 by default).
  • SERVER (required): Specifies the name or IP address of the SMTP server to contact in order to send the message. If this attribute isn't set, the script uses the SMTP server specified in the ColdFusion Administrator. For more information see the "Configuring a Default SMTP Server" section at the end of this article.
  • PORT (optional): This attribute indicates which TCP/IP port the SMTP listens to for requests. The default is 25.
  • MAILERID (optional): This attribute can specify a string in the SMTP header to identify the application. The default value is Allaire ColdFusion Application Server.
  • TIMEOUT (optional): This indicates the number of seconds to wait for a response from the SMTP server.

    Our <cfmail> tag identifies the sender, recipient, topic, SMTP server and file attachment value. The user provides the script with everything except the SMTP address. What about the message? It's placed between the opening and closing <cfmail></cfmail> tags. Notice there's no HTML, and there is a handful of carriage returns surrounding the #YourName# and #Message# variables. Since the e-mail will be sent as plain text, you have to do the formatting yourself. What you see is what you get.

    If the user hasn't uploaded a valid file attachment, the script uses a slightly different <cfmail> tag (see Listing 3).

    Since there isn't a valid file attached, CF can utilize the HTML attribute of the <cfmail> tag to output a message layout. It all depends on the value of the #Layout# variable, set when the user clicked on the selected radio button. The text in #YourName# and #Message# are still printed as before, but they're wrapped in some HTML.

    Once CF communicates with the SMTP server specified in the SERVER attribute and sends the message, why not store some info about the transaction? The following <cfquery> statement inserts a record into a waiting database.

    <CFQUERY DATASOURCE="ContactDB">
    INSERT INTO SentMessages
    (DateStamp, SenderName, SenderE-
    mail, Recipient, Topic, Message,
    Layout, Attachment)
    VALUES (#CreateODBCDateTime(Now())#, '#Your-
    Name#', '#YourEmail#',
    '#TheirEmail#', '#YourTopic#',
    '#Message#', '#Layout#',
    '#Attachment#')
    </CFQUERY>

    The DATASOURCE attribute is set to ContactDB, an MSAccess database included in the CFDJ download. The embedded SQL statement inserts a new record into the database, storing basically everything the message sender entered, plus the date and time the script ran by calling CFML functions #CreateODBCDateTime(Now())#. If you're interested in the sender's browser information and IP address, you could easily insert the CGI variables #HTTP_USER_AGENT# and #RE-MOTE_SERVER#.

    Wrapping Up
    After the e-mail is sent and the data is stored, the remaining code outputs the mail form to the browser. That's about it. Of course, you can change this application to suit your needs ad infinitum. One of the things you might want to change is the ability to enter any e-mail address without having to choose from a list. No problem. Change the SELECT list to INPUT TYPE=TEXT. Make sure you keep the same name of TheirEmail. Don't worry about validating the recipient's e-mail address before the form is submitted. The JavaScript function checkMail() already does it for you.

    Configuring a Default SMTP Server
    Notice that <CFMAIL> utilizes the SERVER attribute. You can set this value to an SMTP server. However, the CF Administrator makes it shamelessly easy to set a default SMTP server. That way you don't have to use the SERVER attribute every time you want to send mail. Here's how:
    1. Log into your CF Administrator.
    2. Choose Mail under the miscellaneous section.
    3. Enter the address of your SMTP server.
    4. If you want (but probably not), modify the port and time-out settings.
    5. Choose Apply.
    6. If you want to (probably so), choose Verify.

    That's all there is to it. If verification fails, check the SMTP server to confirm that it's available and running.

  • More Stories By Jerry Bradenbaugh

    Jerry Bradenbaugh works as a senior Web developer for Red Oak Technologies, Inc. (www.redoaktech.com). He focuses on robust Web-enabled systems using JavaScript, ColdFusion, Java and database technologies. He is also
    the Webmaster of HotSyte - The JavaScript Resource
    (www.serve.com/hotsyte) and is currently writing a JavaScript book for O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.

    Comments (0)

    Share your thoughts on this story.

    Add your comment
    You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

    In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


    @ThingsExpo Stories
    In a recent survey, Sumo Logic surveyed 1,500 customers who employ cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). According to the survey, a quarter of the respondents have already deployed Docker containers and nearly as many (23 percent) are employing the AWS Lambda serverless computing framework. It’s clear: serverless is here to stay. The adoption does come with some needed changes, within both application development and operations. Tha...
    In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, will lead you through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He'll look at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering ...
    As hybrid cloud becomes the de-facto standard mode of operation for most enterprises, new challenges arise on how to efficiently and economically share data across environments. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Dr. Allon Cohen, VP of Product at Elastifile, will explore new techniques and best practices that help enterprise IT benefit from the advantages of hybrid cloud environments by enabling data availability for both legacy enterprise and cloud-native mission critical applications. By rev...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Ryobi Systems will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ryobi Systems Co., Ltd., as an information service company, specialized in business support for local governments and medical industry. We are challenging to achive the precision farming with AI. For more information, visit http:...
    Amazon is pursuing new markets and disrupting industries at an incredible pace. Almost every industry seems to be in its crosshairs. Companies and industries that once thought they were safe are now worried about being “Amazoned.”. The new watch word should be “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” In his session 21st Cloud Expo, Chris Kocher, a co-founder of Grey Heron, will address questions such as: What new areas is Amazon disrupting? How are they doing this? Where are they likely to go? What are th...
    High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, will discuss how by using...
    In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Daiya Industry will exhibit at the Japanese Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ruby Development Inc. builds new services in short period of time and provides a continuous support of those services based on Ruby on Rails. For more information, please visit https://github.com/RubyDevInc.
    As businesses evolve, they need technology that is simple to help them succeed today and flexible enough to help them build for tomorrow. Chrome is fit for the workplace of the future — providing a secure, consistent user experience across a range of devices that can be used anywhere. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, will take a look at various options as to how ChromeOS can be leveraged to interact with people on the devices, and formats th...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Yuasa System will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Yuasa System is introducing a multi-purpose endurance testing system for flexible displays, OLED devices, flexible substrates, flat cables, and films in smartphones, wearables, automobiles, and healthcare.
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Taica will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Taica manufacturers Alpha-GEL brand silicone components and materials, which maintain outstanding performance over a wide temperature range -40C to +200C. For more information, visit http://www.taica.co.jp/english/.
    Organizations do not need a Big Data strategy; they need a business strategy that incorporates Big Data. Most organizations lack a road map for using Big Data to optimize key business processes, deliver a differentiated customer experience, or uncover new business opportunities. They do not understand what’s possible with respect to integrating Big Data into the business model.
    Recently, REAN Cloud built a digital concierge for a North Carolina hospital that had observed that most patient call button questions were repetitive. In addition, the paper-based process used to measure patient health metrics was laborious, not in real-time and sometimes error-prone. In their session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sean Finnerty, Executive Director, Practice Lead, Health Care & Life Science at REAN Cloud, and Dr. S.P.T. Krishnan, Principal Architect at REAN Cloud, will discuss how they b...
    Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities – ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups. As a result, many firms employ new business models that place enormous impor...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Dasher Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dasher Technologies, Inc. ® is a premier IT solution provider that delivers expert technical resources along with trusted account executives to architect and deliver complete IT solutions and services to help our clients execute their goals, plans and objectives. Since 1999, we'v...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that TidalScale, a leading provider of systems and services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TidalScale has been involved in shaping the computing landscape. They've designed, developed and deployed some of the most important and successful systems and services in the history of the computing industry - internet, Ethernet, operating s...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that TidalScale will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TidalScale is the leading provider of Software-Defined Servers that bring flexibility to modern data centers by right-sizing servers on the fly to fit any data set or workload. TidalScale’s award-winning inverse hypervisor technology combines multiple commodity servers (including their ass...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
    Infoblox delivers Actionable Network Intelligence to enterprise, government, and service provider customers around the world. They are the industry leader in DNS, DHCP, and IP address management, the category known as DDI. We empower thousands of organizations to control and secure their networks from the core-enabling them to increase efficiency and visibility, improve customer service, and meet compliance requirements.