r4 - 15 Jan 2007 - 23:11:59 - TWikiContributorYou are here: TWiki >  TWiki Web > MailerContrib


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 (SubscribePlugin? ) lets you trivially add a "Subscribe to changes" button to topics

WARNING: TWiki-4 only. If you want to use this extension with an earlier version of TWiki, please use revision 17 of the zip.


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, WWhole 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.

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:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Each topic may optionally be immediately followed by an exclamation mark ! 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 topic to be mailed every time even if there have been no changes, and ? will mail the topic only if there have been changes to it. This only makes sense for subscriptions, and is intended for mailshotting regular newletters.

For example: 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 an alternate user mapping) to all changes to Web* topics.
   * 'IT:admins' : Web*

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 email addresses. A user identified by an email address will only be sent change notifications if the topic they are asubscribed to is readable by guest users. You can limit what email addresses can be used in WebNotify, or even block use of emails altogther, 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. The main interface is the WebNotify package described below.

package TWiki::Contrib::MailerContrib::WebNotify

Object that represents the contents of a WebNotify topic in a TWiki web.

Note that $TWiki::Plugins::SESSION is used to find the TWiki session, and must be set up before this class is used.

new($session, $web, $topic)

  • $session - TWiki object
  • $web - web name
  • $topic - topic name
Create a new object by parsing the content of the given topic in the given web. This is the normal way to load a WebNotify topic. If the topic does not exist, it will create an empty object.


Write the object to the WebNotify topic it was read from. If there is a problem writing the topic (e.g. it is locked), the method will throw an exception.

getSubscriber($name, $noAdd)

  • $name - Name of subscriber (wikiname with no web or email address)
  • $noAdd - If false or undef, a new subscriber will be created for this name
Get a subscriber from the list of subscribers, and return a reference to the Subscriber object. If $noAdd is true, and the subscriber is not found, undef will be returned. Otherwise a new Subscriber object will be added if necessary.


Get a list of all subscriber names (unsorted)

subscribe($name, $topics, $depth)

  • $name - Name of subscriber (wikiname with no web or email address)
  • $topics - wildcard expression giving topics to subscribe to
  • $depth - Child depth to scan (default 0)
  • $mode - ! if this is a non-changes subscription and the topics should be mailed even if there are no changes. ? to mail the full topic only if there are changes. undef to mail changes only.
Add a subscription, adding the subscriber if necessary.

unsubscribe($name, $topics, $depth)

  • $name - Name of subscriber (wikiname with no web or email address)
  • $topics - wildcard expression giving topics to subscribe to
  • $depth - Child depth to scan (default 0)
Add an unsubscription, adding the subscriber if necessary. An unsubscription is a specific request to ignore notifications for a topic for this particular subscriber.

stringify() -> string

Return a string representation of this object, in WebNotify format.

processChange($change, $db, $changeSet, $seenSet, $allSet)

  • $change - ref of a TWiki::Contrib::Mailer::Change
  • $db - TWiki::Contrib::MailerContrib::UpData database of parent references
  • $changeSet - ref of a hash mapping emails to sets of changes
  • $seenSet - ref of a hash recording indices of topics already seen
  • $allSet - ref of a hash that maps topics to email addresses for news subscriptions
Find all subscribers that are interested in the given change. Only the most recent change to each topic listed in the .changes file is retained. This method does not change this object.

processCompulsory($topic, $db, \%allSet)

  • $topic - topic name
  • $db - TWiki::Contrib::MailerContrib::UpData database of parent references
  • \%allSet - ref of a hash that maps topics to email addresses for news subscriptions

isEmpty() -> boolean

Return true if there are no subscribers

package TWiki::Contrib::MailerContrib::Subscriber

Object that represents a subscriber to notification. A subscriber is a name (which may be a wikiName or an email address) and a list of subscriptions which describe the topis subscribed to, and unsubscriptions representing topics they are specifically not interested in. The subscriber name may also be a group, so it may expand to many email addresses.


  • $name - Wikiname, with no web, or email address, of user targeted for notification
Create a new user.

getEmailAddresses() -> \@list

Get a list of email addresses for the user(s) represented by this subscription


  • $subs - Subscription object
Add a new subscription to this subscriber object.


  • $subs - Subscription object
Add a new unsubscription to this subscriber object. The unsubscription will always be added, even if there is a wildcard overlap with an existing subscription or unsubscription.

An unsubscription is a statement of the subscribers desire not to be notified of changes to this topic.

isSubscribedTo($topic, $db) -> $subscription

  • $topic - Topic object we are checking
  • $db - TWiki::Contrib::MailerContrib::UpData database of parents
Check if we have a subscription to the given topic. Return the subscription that matches if we do, undef otherwise.

isUnsubscribedFrom($topic) -> $subscription

  • $topic - Topic object we are checking
  • $db - TWiki::Contrib::MailerContrib::UpData database of parents
Check if we have an unsubscription from the given topic. Return the subscription that matches if we do, undef otherwise.

stringify() -> string

Return a string representation of this object, in WebNotify format.

package TWiki::Contrib::MailerContrib::Subscription

Object that represents a single subscription of a user to notification on a page. A subscription is expressed as a page spec (which may contain wildcards) and a depth of children of matching pages that the user is subscribed to.

new($pages, $childDepth, $news)

  • $pages - Wildcarded expression matching subscribed pages
  • $childDepth - Depth of children of $topic to notify changes for. Defaults to 0
  • $mode - ! if this is a non-changes subscription and the topics should be mailed evebn if there are no changes. ? to mail the full topic only if there are changes. undef to mail changes only.
Create a new subscription.

stringify() -> string

Return a string representation of this object, in WebNotify format.

matches($topic, $db, $depth) -> boolean

  • $topic - Topic object we are checking
  • $db - TWiki::Contrib::MailerContrib::UpData database of parent names
  • $depth - If non-zero, check if the parent of the given topic matches as well. undef = 0.
Check if we match this topic. Recurses up the parenthood tree seeing if this is a child of a parent that matches within the depth range.

covers($other, $db) -> $boolean

  • $other - Other subscription object we are checking
  • $db - TWiki::Contrib::MailerContrib::UpData database of parent names
Return true if this subscription already covers all the topics specified by another subscription. Thus:
  • A&#2A;B covers AB, AxB?
  • A&#2A; covers A&#2A;B
  • &#2A;B does not cover A&#2A;

getMode() -> $mode

Return ! if this is a non-changes subscription and the topics should be mailed even if there are no changes. ? to mail the full topic only if there are changes. undef to mail changes only.

equals($other) -> $boolean

Compare two subscriptions.

package TWiki::Contrib::MailerContrib::Change

Object that represents a change to a topic.


  • $web - Web name
  • $topic - Topic name
  • $author - String author of change
  • $time - String time of change
  • $rev - Revision identifier
Construct a new change object.


  • $change - Change record to merge
Merge another change record with this one, so that the combined record is a reflection of both changes.

expandHTML($html) -> string

  • $html - Template to expand keys within
Expand an HTML template using the values in this change. The following keys are expanded: %TOPICNAME%, %AUTHOR%, %TIME%, %REVISION%, %BASE_REV%, %CUR_REV%, %TEXTHEAD%.

Returns the expanded template.

expandPlain() -> string

Generate a plaintext version of this change.

package TWiki::Contrib::MailerContrib::UpData

Object that lazy-scans topics to extract parent relationships.


  • $web - Web we are building parent relationships for
Constructor for a web; initially empty, will lazy-load as topics are referenced.

getParent($topic) -> string

Get the name of the parent topic of the given topic

package TWiki::Contrib::MailerContrib

Package of support for extended WebNotify notification, supporting per-topic notification and notification of changes to children.

Also supported is a simple API that can be used to change the WebNotify topic from other code.

StaticMethod mailNotify($webs, $session, $verbose, $exwebs)

  • $webs - filter list of names webs to process. Wildcards (*) may be used.
  • $session - optional session object. If not given, will use a local object.
  • $verbose - true to get verbose (debug) output.
  • =$exwebs = - filter list of webs to exclude.

Main entry point.

Process the WebNotify topics in each web and generate and issue notification mails. Designed to be invoked from the command line; should only be called by mailnotify scripts.

Installation Instructions

You do not need to install anything in the browser to use this extension. The following instructions are for the administrator who installs the extension on the server where TWiki is running.

Like many other TWiki extensions, this module is shipped with a fully automatic installer script written using the BuildContrib.

  • If you have TWiki 4.1 or later, you can install from the configure interface (Go to Plugins->Find More Extensions)
    • The webserver user has to have permission to write to all areas of your installation for this to work.
  • If you have a permanent connection to the internet, you are recommended to use the automatic installer script
    • Just download the MailerContrib_installer perl script and run it.
  • Notes:
    • The installer script will:
      • Automatically resolve dependencies,
      • Copy files into the right places in your local install (even if you have renamed data directories),
      • check in new versions of any installed files that have existing RCS histories files in your existing install (such as topics).
      • If the $TWIKI_PACKAGES environment variable is set to point to a directory, the installer will try to get archives from there. Otherwise it will try to download from twiki.org or cpan.org, as appropriate.
      • (Developers only: the script will look for twikiplugins/MailerContrib/MailerContrib.tgz before downloading from TWiki.org)
    • If you don't have a permanent connection, you can still use the automatic installer, by downloading all required TWiki archives to a local directory.
      • Point the environment variable $TWIKI_PACKAGES to this directory, and the installer script will look there first for required TWiki packages.
        • $TWIKI_PACKAGES is actually a path; you can list several directories separated by :
      • If you are behind a firewall that blocks access to CPAN, you can pre-install the required CPAN libraries, as described at http://twiki.org/cgi-bin/view/TWiki/HowToInstallCpanModules
  • If you don't want to use the installer script, or have problems on your platform (e.g. you don't have Perl 5.8), then you can still install manually:
    1. Download and unpack one of the .zip or .tgz archives to a temporary directory.
    2. Manually copy the contents across to the relevant places in your TWiki installation.
    3. Check in any installed files that have existing ,v files in your existing install (take care not to lock the files when you check in)
    4. Manually edit LocalSite.cfg to set any configuration variables.
    5. Run configure and enable the module, if it is a plugin.
    6. Repeat from step 1 for any missing dependencies.

Note if you are installing this extension in TWiki version < 4.2, please add these definitions to your Main.WebPreferences, if they are not already there:


  • 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
  • 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.

Setting up your cron job(s)

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

Usage: perl -I <bin> mailnotify [-q] [-news] [ web1 web2 ... webN ] <bin> is the 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 NewsNotify instead of WebNotify)
web1 web2 ... webN List of webs to process, separated by spaces or commas. Default is to process all legal TWiki 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.
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.

Developer Notes

The changes mails sent to users 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

Another great TWiki extension from the WikiRing - working together to improve your wiki experience!

Many thanks to the following sponsors for supporting this work:

Author: TWiki:Main/CrawfordCurrie (http://c-dot.co.uk)
Copyright ©: 2004, Wind River Systems; 2006, http://WikiRing.com
License: GPL
Version: 15465 (02 Nov 2007)
Change History:  
2 Nov 2007 Bugs:Item4818: added quotes to support non-alphabetic and other wierd group names Bugs:Item4887: corrected minor rendering error Bugs:Item4917: removed dependence on symbolic web names
9 Sep 2007 Bugs:Item4326 workaround for possible error in WebNotify API in old releases, Should not affect most users.
6 Sep 2007 Bugs:Item4488 doc tweaks
14550 Bugs:Item4461 - 'Changed' link now points to most recent changes, not the entire history
22 Jun 2007 Bugs:Item4284 - added access control checks and email filter
21 May 2007 Bugs:Item3969 - 8bit email fix (TWiki:Main.WillNorris)
13623 Bugs:Item4014 no changes was resetting the notify time to 0. Thanks to TWiki:Main.JeffCrawford for nailing this down.
12496 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 Item2153 Clarified docs. Item2698 Improved error reporting.
8808 Item1654 mailnotify must enter the command_line context
8625 Item1508 Making the dashes in the separatator clearer
8606 Item1508 MailerContrib: Brushing up HTML mailnotify template
8602 Item1508 MailerContrib: Cleaning up plaintext e-mail template, removing TEXTAREA
8522 Item1511 arguments to getScriptUrl in wrong order frown
8434 Item1465 Fix 'TWiki.' to '%TWIKIEB%.'
8398 Item1460 polished up the comment a bit
8308 Item1362 moving mailnotify cron script
7848 Item1167 forced all mail operations to generate absolute URLs
7568 Item910 use SCRIPTURL{view} instead of complex url expr
6864 Item624 mailer templates moved the the right places
6861 Item624 Added proper templates support for plain text mails
6809 Item623 don't print anything if verbosity is switched off.
6659 Item528 Updated MailerContrib. it's working and the sendmail parameter is used.
6474 Item420 removed spurious remove_obsolete_locks from MailerContrib
5924 Item153 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: TWiki:Plugins/MailerContrib
Feedback: TWiki:Plugins/MailerContribDev
Appraisal: http://TWiki.org/cgi-bin/view/Plugins/MailerContribAppraisal

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