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Mailer Contrib

Send e-mail notification of changes to topics in TWiki webs


The Mailer Contrib allows users to "subscribe" to regularly scheduled e-mails containing either:

  • A report on changes to all topics that have changed within a particular TWiki web.
  • A report on changes to a specific topic or set of topics the user can define flexibly.
  • The entire content of a specific topic or set of topics. This is referred to as "news mode."
  • The companion plugin (TWiki:Plugins.SubscribePlugin) lets you trivially add a "Subscribe to changes" button to topics


The central component of MailerContrib is a script, tools/mailnotify, that generates and sends out the emails based on analysis of

  1. users' subcriptions listed in the WebNotify topic in each web, and
  2. changes within the respective webs.
This script is designed to be run from cron (or an equivalent off-line job scheduler), or from the command-line.

The script collates the changes emails so that each subscriber only receives one changes notification for all changes in all webs in the TWiki. Furthermore, users can elect to receive just summaries of changes, or the entire content of topics that have changed.

Each web can optionally contain a topic called WebNotify.

Users subscribe to email notifications using their WikiName or an alternative email address, and can specify the webs/topics they wish to track, Whole groups of users can also be subscribed for notification.

The general format of a subscription is:

three spaces * subscriber [ : topics ]

Where subscriber can be a WikiName, an E-mail address, or a group name. If subscriber contains any characters that are not legal in an email address, then it must be enclosed in 'single' or "double" quotes. Please note that the guest user TWikiGuest does not have an email address mapped to it, and will never receive email regardless of the configuration of that user.

topics is an optional space-separated list of topics:

  • ... without a Web. prefix
  • ...that exist in this web.
Users may further customize the specific content they will receive using the following controls:
  • Using wild-card character in topic names - You can use * in a topic name, where it is treated as a wildcard character. A * will match zero or more other characters - so, for example, Fred* will match all topic names starting with Fred, *Fred will match all topic names ending with Fred, and * will match all topic names.
  • Unsubscribing to specific topics - Each topic may optionally be preceded by a '+' or '-' sign. The '+' sign means "subscribe to this topic". The '-' sign means "unsubscribe" or "don't send notifications regarding this particular topic". This allows users to elect to filter out certain topics. Topic filters ('-') take precedence over topic includes ('+') i.e. if you unsubscribe from a topic it will cancel out any subscriptions to that topic.
  • Including child-topics in subscription - Each topic may optionally be followed by an integer in parentheses, indicating the depth of the tree of children below that topic. Changes in all these children will be detected and reported along with changes to the topic itself. Note This uses the TWiki "Topic parent" feature.
  • Subscribing to entire topic ("news mode") - Each topic may optionally be immediately followed by an exclamation mark ! and/or a question mark ? with no intervening spaces, indicating that the topic (and children if there is a tree depth specifier as well) should be mailed out as complete topics instead of change summaries. ! causes the full topic to be mailed every time even if there have been no changes, and ? will mail the full topic only if there have been changes. One can limit the content of the subscribed topic to send out by inserting %STARTPUBLISH% and %STOPPUBLISH% markers within the topic. Note that "news mode" subscriptions require a corresponding cron job that includes the "-news" option (see details).

Examples: Subscribe Daisy to all changes to topics in this web.

   * daisy.cutter@flowers.com
Subscribe Daisy to all changes to topics that start with Web.
   * daisy.cutter@flowers.com : Web*
Subscribe Daisy to changes to topics starting with Petal, and their immediate children, WeedKillers and children to a depth of 3, and all topics that match start with Pretty and end with Flowers e.g. PrettyPinkFlowers
   * DaisyCutter: Petal* (1) WeedKillers (3) Pretty*Flowers
Subscribe StarTrekFan to changes to all topics that start with Star except those that end in Wars, sInTheirEyes or shipTroopers.
   * StarTrekFan: Star* - *Wars - *sInTheirEyes - *shipTroopers
Subscribe Daisy to the full content of NewsLetter whenever it has changed
   * daisy@flowers.com: NewsLetter?
Subscribe buttercup to NewsLetter and its immediate children, even if it hasn't changed.
   * buttercup@flowers.com: NewsLetter! (1)
Subscribe GardenGroup (which includes Petunia) to all changed topics under AllnewsLetters to a depth of 3. Then unsubscribe Petunia from the ManureNewsLetter, which she would normally get as a member of GardenGroup:
   * GardenGroup: AllNewsLetters? (3)
   * petunia@flowers.com: - ManureNewsLetter
Subscribe IT:admins (a non-TWiki group defined by a custom user mapping) to all changes to Web* topics.
   * 'IT:admins' : Web*
In addition to single quotes ('), double quotes (") do the same job for a non-TWiki group.

A user may be listed many times in the WebNotify topic. Where a user has several lines in WebNotify that all match the same topic, they will only be notified about changes that topic once (though they will still receive individual mails for news topics).

If a group is listed for notification, the group will be recursively expanded to the e-mail addresses of all members.

ALERT! Warning: Because an email address is not linked to a user name, there is no way for TWiki to check access controls for subscribers identified by email addresses. A subscriber identified by an email address alone will only be sent change notifications if the topic they are subscribed to is readable by guest users. You can limit what email addresses can be used in WebNotify, or even block use of emails altogether, using the {MailerContrib}{EmailFilterIn} setting in =configure.

TIP Tip: List names in alphabetical order to make it easier to find the names.

In the future it is intended that individual users will be able to control the frequency with which they are notified of topic changes, by changing a schedule specification in their home topic. However at present, the notification schedule is controlled by the frequency of activation of the cron job that runs the mailnotify script.

Note that when using the "news mode" ! or ? specifiers the entire topic text is mailed out as HTML. The newsletter template is used to generate the content in this mail, using whatever skin is selected in the topic being mailed.

In addition, the %STARTPUBLISH% and %STOPPUBLISH% markers used by TWiki:Plugins.PublishContrib to delimit the text to be published are respected in news mode.

TWiki/Contrib/MailerContrib code library

The second part of the module is a code library that provides the services for other applications to modify the subscription topics through a clean, well documented API. This allows (for example) plugin developers to add (for example) a "Register me for this newsletter" button to their pages. Developers should refer to the POD documentation for the WebNotify class as their starting point.

Installation Instructions

This module is pre-installed. TWiki administrators can upgrade it as needed on the TWiki server.

  • For an automated installation, run the configure script and follow "Find More Extensions" in the in the Extensions section.

  • Or, follow these manual installation steps:
    • Download the ZIP file from the extension home on twiki.org (see below).
    • Unzip MailerContrib.zip in your twiki installation directory.
    • Set the ownership of the extracted directories and files to the webserver user.
    • Install the dependencies (if any).

  • To make sure the installation was successful, run the mailnotify script from the command line, with no parameters. In this case it will print out what it would have done to STDOUT.

Additional settings

Restricting email addresses

You can change the regular expression that matches email addresses in WebNotify using the {MailerContrib}{EmailFilterIn} setting in configure. This allows you to limit the domains to which emails can be sent, or even block email addresses altogether.

Custom user/group notations without quotes

As mentioned in the 'IT:admins' example above, you can use custom user/group notations in WebNotify by surrounding them with single quotes (') or double quotes ("). But surrounding them in quotes is inconvenient especially because quotes are not needed for access control.

So you can set {MailerContrib}{CustomUserGroupNotations} to a regular expression matching the custom notations in configure. If you do that, you don't need to put those into quotes.

Email sending retries

If an error occurs with email sending, it reties. By default, 5 tries happen before it gives up. You can specify the max number of tries by setting {MailerContrib}{SendEmailTries}.

Setting up your cron job(s)

You need to set up a cron (or equivalent) job to run the tools/mailnotify perl script.

The script is used as follows: perl -I bin mailnotify [-q] [-news] [ web1 web2 ... webN ]

bin path to the TWiki bin directory, so that the script can find the rest of TWiki.
-q Don't print progress information
-news Run in "news mode" (process subscriptions that include "!" or "?" following the topic)
web1 web2 ... webN List of webs to process, separated by spaces or commas. The default is to process all webs. Wildcards (*) are supported.
For example, assuming TWiki was installed at /usr/local/twiki, this cron entry:
0 0 * * * cd /usr/local/twiki && perl -I bin tools/mailnotify -q Public Private
will generate change notifications for the Public and Private webs every night at midnight. (Google for crontab for more information on what all the 0 0 * * * fields mean)
0 0 * * * cd /usr/local/twiki && perl -I bin tools/mailnotify -q -Sandbox
will generate change notifications for all webs, except the Sandbox web.
0 0 * * 0 cd /usr/local/twiki && perl -I bin tools/mailnotify -news
will generate newsletters from all webs every week on midnight Saturday.

ALERT! Note: Multiple instances of mailnotify script are not allowed to be executed simultaneously. If you need to run the script multiple times with different options, make sure the cron jobs are scheduled so a previous run has finished before the next starts. You can also write a small script that runs mailnotify in sequence as described in TWiki:Support.DuplicateNotificationsFromMailerCon.

Developer Notes

The changes mails sent to subscribers are based on a TWiki template called mailnotify. This template must contain the following definitions.

HTML:before Section of a HTML mail before the changes
HTML:middle Repeated in a HTML mail for each change
HTML:after Section of a HTML mail after the changes
PLAIN:before Section of a plain text mail before the changes
PLAIN:middle Repeated in a plain text mail for each changes
PLAIN:after Section of a plain text mail after the changes
MailNotifyBody All the above are embedded in this. %HTML_TEXT% expands to the HTML obtained by expanding the HTML:* templates, and %PLAIN_TEXT% from the PLAIN:* templates.

The default template sends multipart mails containing both HTML and plaintext versions. You can easily provide a custom version of this template using a local skin.

Newsletters are sent after formatting using the standard view template, using whatever skin is selected in the topic being mailed.

Contrib Info

Many thanks to the following sponsors for supporting this work:

Author: TWiki:Main.CrawfordCurrie (http://c-dot.co.uk)
Copyright: © 2004, Wind River Systems;
© 2008, wikiring.com
© 2004-2015 TWiki:TWiki.TWikiContributor
License: GPL (GNU General Public License)
Version: 2015-05-27
2015-05-27: TWikibug:Item7604: Switch from GPL v2 to v3
2014-10-01: TWikibug:Item7559: mailnotify showing subscribers of a web wrong -- fixed
2013-05-02: TWikibug:Item7248: TWiki::Contrib::MailerContrib::_processWeb() to set $twiki->{webName}
2013-04-26: TWikibug:Item7245: Allowing a custom user/group notation in WebNotify without quotes
2013-02-15: TWikibug:Item7123: Use TWISTY in installation instructions and change history
2012-12-08: TWikibug:Item6962: Configure change: Move contrib settings from top level section to Extensions section -- TWiki:Main.PeterThoeny
2012-01-13: TWikibug:Item6796: Fixing copyright year to 2012
2011-11-07: TWikibug:Item6799: Doc & typo fixes
2011-07-08: TWikibug:Item6725: Change global package variables from "use vars" to "our" -- TWiki:Main.PeterThoeny
2010-07-09: TWikibug:Item6518: Fix for notification e-mail showing %MAKETEXT{"Web"} in subject
2010-06-12: TWikibug:Item6489: Separate WIKITOOLNAME from WEB name; escape WEB name to avoid auto-linking in case web is WikiWord
2010-05-26: TWikibug:Item6474: Fix for mailnotify failing due to non-existing _alert method
2010-05-21: TWikibug:Item6433: More doc fixes
2010-04-25: TWikibug:Item6433: Doc fixes, no code changes
15 Oct 2008 TWikibug:Item: generalised code to enable TWiki:Codev.SubscribePlugin to delegate parsing to MailerContrib - TWiki:Main.SvenDowideit
14 Oct 2008 TWikibug:Item6066: fixed issue for user mappings where cuid = login - TWiki:Main.SvenDowideit
27 Aug 2008 TWikibug:Item5949: fixed problem with unsubscribe that should result in an empty subscription
03 Aug 2008 TWiki 4.2.1 release version
27 Jul 2008 TWikibug:Item5776: TWiki:Main.KennethLavrsen added note to warn against running multiple instances of mailnotify at the same time.
15 May 2008 TWikibug:Item5232: TWiki:Main.CrawfordCurrie added support for non-ascii alphanumerics in topic names to WebNotify. TWikibug:Item5630: TWiki:Main.SvenDowideit fixed some spelling errors
25 Jan 2008 TWikibug:Item4812: added TWiki:Main.BobGoldstein's noexpand patch for groups
2 Nov 2007 TWikibug:Item4818: added quotes to support non-alphabetic and other wierd group names TWikibug:Item4887: corrected minor rendering error TWikibug:Item4917: removed dependence on symbolic web names
9 Sep 2007 TWikibug:Item4326 workaround for possible error in WebNotify API in old releases, Should not affect most users.
6 Sep 2007 TWikibug:Item4488 doc tweaks
14550 TWikibug:Item4461 - 'Changed' link now points to most recent changes, not the entire history
22 Jun 2007 TWikibug:Item4284 - added access control checks and email filter
21 May 2007 TWikibug:Item3969 - 8bit email fix (TWiki:Main.WillNorris)
13623 TWikibug:Item4014 no changes was resetting the notify time to 0. Thanks to TWiki:Main.JeffCrawford for nailing this down.
12496 TWikibug:Item3415 mailnotify did not send notifications to intranet users because of wrong call to findUser.
11672 Added newsletter support, after much harassment from TWiki:Main.LynnwoodBrown
11534 TWikibug:Item2153 Clarified docs. TWikibug:Item2698 Improved error reporting.
8808 TWikibug:Item1654 mailnotify must enter the command_line context
8625 TWikibug:Item1508 Making the dashes in the separatator clearer
8606 TWikibug:Item1508 MailerContrib: Brushing up HTML mailnotify template
8602 TWikibug:Item1508 MailerContrib: Cleaning up plaintext e-mail template, removing TEXTAREA
8522 TWikibug:Item1511 arguments to getScriptUrl in wrong order frown
8434 TWikibug:Item1465 Fix 'TWiki.' to '%TWIKIEB%.'
8398 TWikibug:Item1460 polished up the comment a bit
8308 TWikibug:Item1362 moving mailnotify cron script
7848 TWikibug:Item1167 forced all mail operations to generate absolute URLs
7568 TWikibug:tem910 use SCRIPTURL{view} instead of complex url expr
6864 TWikibug:tem624 mailer templates moved the the right places
6861 TWikibug:tem624 Added proper templates support for plain text mails
6809 TWikibug:tem623 don't print anything if verbosity is switched off.
6659 TWikibug:tem528 Updated MailerContrib. it's working and the sendmail parameter is used.
6474 TWikibug:tem420 removed spurious remove_obsolete_locks from MailerContrib
5924 TWikibug:tem153 fix mail URL-fixing scheme
5269 Minor doc fixes
5266 Doc tidy-ups, added filtering of _ webs, added obsolete lock script
5264 Changed default to add web name to user name (I hope)
5263 Minor doc tidyups
5261 Documentation changes, and fixed to scan all webs.
5253 runnable as CGI script, minor bugfixes, removed dependency on DBCacheContrib
5234 Minor doc changes
5231 Made a change an object, added unit tests to CVS, lots of testing.
4 March 2005 1.010 Dakar release ready.
12 Oct 2004 1.004 Added support for anti-subscriptions. Doc fixes from TWiki:Main.PeterThoeny. Bug fixes to permissions code. Back-off and retry if the mailer can't be reached (should really be in Net::sendEmail)
6 Oct 2004 1.003 Excluded _ webs from processing, added bin/remove_obsolete_locks for full reverse-compatibility
1 Oct 2004 1.002 PeterThoeny provided additional documentation
27 Sep 2004 1.001 runnable as CGI script, minor bugfixes, removed dependency on DBCacheContrib
8 Sep 2004 1.000 Initial version
Home: http://TWiki.org/cgi-bin/view/Plugins/MailerContrib
Feedback: http://TWiki.org/cgi-bin/view/Plugins/MailerContribDev
Appraisal: http://TWiki.org/cgi-bin/view/Plugins/MailerContribAppraisal

Related Topics: TWikiPreferences, CustomUserGroupNotations

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Topic revision: r18 - 2015-05-28 - TWikiContributor
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