Formmail Advanced

The guide is extracted and modified from the readme file for The original source code and readme file can be found in Matt's Script Archive (

NOTE: The sample syntax should be viewed as it is on screen if you want to copy it. Just do not copy from the source code of this html file. The best way of really understanding how the fields work is to try them out.

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.

  • All the fields with special meanings attached must be written in lowercase.
  • A valid field name may be a phrase instead of just a word. E.g. Course Code is a valid field name. You need not write it as CourseCode.
  • All field names are case-sensitive. E.g. Course is treated as a different field from course.


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 1.9 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 (found in the Readme text from Matt's Archive for Formmail) for a more complete list of changes.

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 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. Since version 1.5 of FormMail, the program 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.

Note that ALL special fields listed below MUST be written in lowercase, or they will be treated as an ordindary user defined field.

In NTU, to call the Formmail program, you type this in your FORM statement, just before you begin your codes for the input fields:


Remember to end off with the </FORM> tag after your SUBMIT button field.

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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.
  4. You want to have an automated email sent to the user who can then forward the contents of the email back to you. Think of it as a kind of simple verification process to see if the email address is valid.
  5. You can use the online form for feedback, queries (where you force/encourage the user to give you needed information about the problem), as an application form, work request form (depending on what the user answered for the task to be done field, the email will be channelled to the right persons), and the program can also be used for simply surveys where you do not expect too many returns. There could also be other uses for the program, and it is up to your ingenuity to use the special fields to your advantage.

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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.

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. This has to be a NTU email address ending with
Syntax:<input type=hidden name="recipient" value="">

You may have more than one recipient in your form. Just add the additional email addresses one after another and separate them with a comma. Do not place spaces between the addresses. An example of a valid syntax for two recipients is
<input type=hidden name="recipient" value=",">

Substitute and with the email addresses of the recipients you intend to send the email to.

The recipient field need not always be hidden. Sometimes you may want the form to be emailed to different persons depending on the area of query the user is looking for. Example,

Which area of help do you need from us?
area A area B

The syntax for such a functionality would be:

<input type=radio name="recipient" value="">
<input type=radio name="recipient" value="">

Of course, you can also add additional person's email address for the recipient field's value if there should be more than one person who needs to receive the results of the submission form.

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Optional Form Fields
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

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">

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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">

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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">

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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.

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">

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Version:1.3 & Up

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'


For example, 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">

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Enhancement:This is a special enhancement to the version of Formmail on NTU's server.

For cases when you want to use the formmail program to email an automated confirmation to the user, you may want to give special instructions to the user on what they should do when they receive your email. You can add this special message into your submission form and it will be printed before everything else in the email message.

The text for specialmsg should not have any special HTML format tags or paragraph breaks.

An example of this in action is the Centre for IT Services' online form for Counter Changes.

Syntax:<input type=hidden name="specialmsg" value="When you receive this email, you should do this, this, and blah, blah, blah...">

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Version:1.3 & Up

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_HOSTSends the hostname making a request.
REMOTE_ADDRSends the IP address of the remote host making the request.
REMOTE_USERIf server supports authentication and script is protected, this is the username they have authenticated as. *This is not usually set.*
HTTP_USER_AGENTThe 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 other references on the list of CGI variables available.

For example 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">

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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.

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,name3,etc...">

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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">

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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">

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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">

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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="">

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Version:1.3 & Up

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:

  • return_link_title
Syntax:<input type=hidden name="return_link_title" value="Back to Main Page">

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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="">

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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="">

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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">

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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">

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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">

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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">

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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 visited link color of Blue:
<input type=hidden name="alink_color" value="#0000FF">

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