The full documentation of FormMail


FormMail is a universal WWW form to E-mail gateway. There is only one required form input tag which must be specified in order for this script to work with your existing forms. Other hidden configuration fields can also be used to enhance the operation of FormMail on your site. Version 1.6 of FormMail contains a few minor bug fixes, optimized code and more comments. The biggest change in this version is that by default, form fields are now sorted as they appear in the form. Error pages were also beautified a little and two new configuration fields were created. Read the History for a more complete list of changes.

Form Configuration

The action of your form needs to point towards this script (obviously), and the method must be POST or GET in capital letters. Version 1.5 of FormMail offers many new ways to code your form to tailor the resulting HTML page and the way the script performs. Below is a list of form fields you can use and how to implement them.

Necessary Form Fields

There is only one form field that you must have in your form, for FormMail to work correctly. This is the recipient field.

Field: recipient
Description: This form field allows you to specify to whom you wish for your form results to be mailed. Most likely you will want to configure this option as a hidden form field with a value equal to that of your e-mail address.
Syntax: <input type=hidden name="recipient" value="">

Optional Form Fields

Field: subject
Description: The subject field will allow you to specify the subject that you wish to appear in the e-mail that is sent to you after this form has been filled out. If you do not have this option turned on, then the script will default to a message subject: WWW Form Submission
Syntax: If you wish to choose what the subject is:
<input type=hidden name="subject" value="Your Subject">

To allow the user to choose a subject:
<input type=text name="subject">

Field: email
Description: This form field will allow the user to specify their return e-mail address. If you want to be able to return e-mail to your user, I strongly suggest that you include this form field and allow them to fill it in. This will be put into the From: field of the message you receive. If you want to require an email address with valid syntax, add this field name to the 'required' field.
Syntax: <input type=text name="email">
Field: realname
Description: The realname form field will allow the user to input their real name. This field is useful for identification purposes and will also be put into the From: line of your message header.
Syntax: <input type=text name="realname">
Field: redirect
Description: If you wish to redirect the user to a different URL, rather than having them see the default response to the fill-out form, you can use this hidden variable to send them to a pre-made HTML page.
Syntax: To choose the URL they will end up at:
<input type=hidden name="redirect" value="">

To allow them to specify a URL they wish to travel to once the form is filled out:
<input type=text name="redirect">

Field: required
Version:1.3 & Up Description: You can now require for certain fields in your form to be filled in before the user can successfully submit the form. Simply place all field names that you want to be mandatory into this field. If the required fields are not filled in, the user will be notified of what they need to fill in, and a link back to the form they just submitted will be provided.

To use a customized error page, see 'missing_fields_redirect'
Syntax: If you want to require that they fill in the email and phone fields in your form, so that you can reach them once you have received the mail, use a syntax like:

<input type=hidden name="required" value="email,phone">

Field: env_report
Version:1.3 & Up Description: Allows you to have Environment variables included in the e-mail message you receive after a user has filled out your form. Useful if you wish to know what browser they were using, what domain they were coming from or any other attributes associated with environment variables. The following is a short list of valid environment variables that might be useful:

REMOTE_HOST     - Sends the hostname making the
REMOTE_ADDR     - Sends the IP address of the
                  remote host making the request.
REMOTE_USER     - If server supports authentication
                  and script is protected, this is
                  the username they have
                  authenticated as. *This is not
                  usually set.*
HTTP_USER_AGENT - The browser the client is using
                  to send the request.
There are others, but these are a few of the most useful. For more information on environment variables, see:

The CGI Resource Index: Documentation: Environment Variables
Syntax: If you wanted to find the remote host and browser sending the request, you would put the following into your form:

<input type=hidden name="env_report" value="REMOTE_HOST,HTTP_USER_AGENT">

Field: sort
Version:1.4 & Up Description: This field allows you to choose the order in which you wish for your variables to appear in the e-mail that FormMail generates. You can choose to have the field sorted alphabetically or specify a set order in which you want the fields to appear in your mail message. By leaving this field out, the order will simply default to the order in which the browsers sends the information to the script (which is usually the exact same order as they appeared in the form.) When sorting by a set order of fields, you should include the phrase "order:" as the first part of your value for the sort field, and then follow that with the field names you want to be listed in the e-mail message, separated by commas. Version 1.6 allows a little more flexibility in the listing of ordered fields, in that you can include spaces and line breaks in the field without it messing up the sort. This is helpful when you have many form fields and need to insert a line wrap.
Syntax: To sort alphabetically:

<input type=hidden name="sort" value="alphabetic">

To sort by a set field order:

<input type=hidden name="sort" value="order:name1,name2,etc...">

Field: print_config
Version:1.5 & Up Description: print_config allows you to specify which of the config variables you would like to have printed in your e-mail message. By default, no config fields are printed to your e-mail. This is because the important form fields, like email, subject, etc. are included in the header of the message. However some users have asked for this option so they can have these fields printed in the body of the message. The config fields that you wish to have printed should be in the value attribute of your input tag separated by commas.
Syntax: If you want to print the email and subject fields in the body of your message, you would place the following form tag:

<input type=hidden name="print_config" value="email,subject">

Field: print_blank_fields
Version:1.6 Description: print_blank_fields allows you to request that all form fields are printed in the return HTML, regardless of whether or not they were filled in. FormMail defaults to turning this off, so that unused form fields aren't e-mailed.
Syntax: If you want to print all blank fields:
<input type=hidden name="print_blank_fields" value="1">
Field: title
Version:1.3 & Up Description: This form field allows you to specify the title and header that will appear on the resulting page if you do not specify a redirect URL.
Syntax: If you wanted a title of 'Feedback Form Results':

<input type=hidden name="title" value="Feedback Form Results">

Field: return_link_url
Version:1.3 & Up Description: This field allows you to specify a URL that will appear, as return_link_title, on the following report page. This field will not be used if you have the redirect field set, but it is useful if you allow the user to receive the report on the following page, but want to offer them a way to get back to your main page.
Syntax: <input type=hidden name="return_link_url" value="">
Field: return_link_title
Version:1.3 & Up Description: This is the title that will be used to link the user back to the page you specify with return_link_url. The two fields will be shown on the resulting form page as: Syntax: <input type=hidden name="return_link_title" value="Back to Main Page">
Field: missing_fields_redirect
Version:1.6 Description: This form field allows you to specify a URL that users will be redirected to if there are fields listed in the required form field that are not filled in. This is so you can customize an error page instead of displaying the default. Syntax: <input type=hidden name="missing_fields_redirect" value="">
Field: background
Version:1.3 & Up Description: This form field allow you to specify a background image that will appear if you do not have the redirect field set. This image will appear as the background to the form results page.
Syntax: <input type=hidden name="background" value="">
Field: bgcolor
Version:1.3 & Up Description: This form field allow you to specify a bgcolor for the form results page in much the way you specify a background image. This field should not be set if the redirect field is.
Syntax: For a background color of White:

<input type=hidden name="bgcolor" value="#FFFFFF">

Field: text_color
Version:1.3 & Up Description: This field works in the same way as bgcolor, except that it will change the color of your text.
Syntax: For a text color of Black:

<input type=hidden name="text_color" value="#000000">

Field: link_color
Version:1.3 & Up Description: Changes the color of links on the resulting page. Works in the same way as text_color. Should not be defined if redirect is.
Syntax: For a link color of Red:

<input type=hidden name="link_color" value="#FF0000">

Field: vlink_color
Version:1.3 & Up Description: Changes the color of visited links on the resulting page. Works exactly the same as link_color. Should not be set if redirect is.
Syntax: For a visited link color of Blue:

<input type=hidden name="vlink_color" value="#0000FF">

Field: alink_color
Version:1.4 & Up Description: Changes the color of active links on the resulting page. Works exactly the same as link_color. Should not be set if redirect is.
Syntax: For a active link color of Blue:

<input type=hidden name="alink_color" value="#0000FF">

Any other form fields that appear in your script will be mailed back to you and displayed on the resulting page if you do not have the redirect field set. There is no limit as to how many other form fields you can use with this form, except the limits imposed by browsers and your server.

Some of the possible uses of this script

  1. You want to have a form that will be mailed to you, but aren't sure how to write the CGI script for it.
  2. You are the webmaster of your site and want to allow users to use forms, but not to have their own cgi-bin directories, which can cause security risks to your system. You can set this script up and then allow all users to run off of it.
  3. Want to have one script to parse all of your html forms and mail them to you.


Version 1.0 06/11/95 -  This script was created.
Version 1.1 08/03/95 -  A major hole in the script which allowed
                        users to run commands under your server's
                        uid was disabled, thanks to Paul Phillips
                        who noticed the error.
                     -  The ability to redirect the user to a
                        specified HTML file after they filled
                        out a form was added.
Version 1.2 09/23/95 -  If the form field is one of the required
                        or optional 'special' fields, such as
                        redirect, recipient, subject, email,
                        realname, etc... the script will not
                        print these fields to either your mail
                        message or to the user's screen when they
                        are returned to a generic form response.
                        It helps you so that things do not get
Version 1.3 01/21/96 -  Much needed update finally completed
                     -  Added form fields: env_report, bgcolor,
                        background, link_color, vlink_color,
                        title, text_color, return_link_title,
                        return_link_title, and required.
                     -  Security hole, which allowed any user on
                        any system to bum off of your formmail
                        script, has been plugged up with the
                        @referers variable.
                     -  Report style in return html and e-mail
                        touched up a bit.
Version 1.4 01/23/96 -  Added options: sort, alink_color
                     -  Fixed a few bugs from Version 1.3, namely
                        the fact that the link_colors weren't
                        working well.
                     -  FormMail now supports both the GET and
                        POST methods.
Version 1.5 02/05/96 -  Sorting of Fields in E-Mail Response
                     -  print_config option added.
Version 1.6 05/02/97 -  Sorting of fields by default was fixed to
                        now sort in the order the fields are
                        passed to FormMail from the web browser,
                        which is usually the same order as they
                        appear in the HTML form.
                     -  The sort order: directive, env_report and
                        print_config parsing routines were made
                        to better compensate for line breaks and
                        extra spaces in input for ease of use.
                     -  Redirect error causing the redirect
                        option to incorrectly work with https
                        (secure servers) was fixed.
                     -  Output of non-filled in form fields
                     -  E-mail addresses checked for correct
                        syntax if designated a required field.
                     -  Fields only printed if they contain a
                        value or if the print_blank_fields option
                        is set to 1.
                     -  missing_fields_redirect added so you can
                        route users who don't completely fill out
                        the form to a pre-made HTML page.
                     -  Parts of code optimized, especially in
                        respect to the way config variables are

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