University of Vermont

Information Technology



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.

Form Configuration

    The action of your form needs to point towards this script , and the method must be POST or GET in capital letters. Thus,


    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="">
    Note: Multiple recipients may be specified, separated by commas but NO spaces:
    Correct: <input type=hidden name="recipient" value=",">
    Wrong! : <input type=hidden name="recipient"

    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: ccme
    Description: This form field directs FormMail to send a courtesy copy of the email to the user's address as specified by the email field. Give it a value of 1 to send courtesy copy email, set it to 0 (or don'r use it at all!) to just send mail to recipient.
    Syntax: <input type=hidden name="ccme" value=1>

    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
    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
    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
 Version 1.7 07/27/01 -  Added in @recipients to defeat spamming attempts
                      -  Added in @valid_ENV to allow administrators to
                         specify what environment variables can be sent.
 Version 1.8 08/02/01 -  Fixed the recipients code to allow multiple
                         recipients using the 'recipients' form field and
                         commas. Under certain cases in v1.7, spam could
                         still get through by appending a legit recipient
                         to the list of intended spam victims.
                      -  Moved send_email subroutine in front of
                         return_html as many people reported their web
                         server would kill the FormMail process after the
                         redirect command was issued and no e-mail would
                         be sent.
 Version 1.9 08/03/01 -  Added in a further anti-spam check which would
                         take advantage of newline characters in the
                         subject to send invalid e-mail.
                      -  Removed a restriction when checking e-mail
                         addresses for validity that required a 2 - 3
                         character domain extension.  With the new TLD's
                         becoming available, it can no longer apply.

Last modified September 24 2012 02:19 PM

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