Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sending batch mail on Solaris 10 (with attachments)

The typical problem. You have to do a repetitive task and you bless UNIX and its shells. But sometimes you wonder how to do it. This time, I had to write a bunch of emails to a set of email addresses. So far, so good. Solaris and many other UNIX flavors have utilities such as mail and mailx which you can easily do you job with. I usually use mailx to do send emails from scripts and I'm very happy with it.

But today I had to send emails with attachments and mailx has no built in support for them. If you know something about emails standards, you could easily figure out how to do it. Google searches about the topic are full of examples of sending properly formatted mails with mailx, where properly means uuencoding the attachments, concatenating them with the mail message and then send them all piped to mailx. Some examples you can find are even easily scriptable. Reinventing the wheel, more often than not, is not a mean for progress so I decided to go with mutt, a powerful program I always neglected favoring mailx.

mutt has a similar syntax and has built in support for attachments. Its configuration file is a powerful tool to create different sending profiles in which you can, for example:
  • setting user mail identity
  • modify mail headers
  • write and attach hooks to mail events
I haven't spent much too time reading mutt documentation, yet, but it really seems worth the time. Just a one liner (inside an over-simplified loop):

for i in addresses ; do
cat user-message-file | mutt -s subject -a attachment-1 ... attachment-n -- $i

Please note that the the option -- is necessary only for separating the addresses from a list of multiple attachments. In the case of just one attachment the line above reduces to:

for i in addresses ; do
cat user-message-file | mutt -s subject -a attachment $i

I also had to modify some header and both mutt and muttrc man pages are well written and easy to search. The content of my (first) ~/.muttrc configuration file is:

set realname="myname"
set use_from=yes
set use_envelope_from=yes
my_hdr Reply-To:

This way I told mutt:
  • to set my name
  • to set the From: header
  • to use the From: header
  • to force sendmail to use the same address from the From: header as the envelope address
  • to use a Reply-To: header
Some of these directives have their drawbacks so always follow the golden rule and don't copy and paste these lines without fully documenting yourself: read the manual and enjoy mutt.

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