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Simple newsletter mailer for Rails


This project is a simple mailer for newsletters, which implements simple queue processing, basic campaign management, VERP support, bounce processing and auto-unsubscribe of invalid emails and also assists you in implementing unsubscribe links in the email messages.

It is intended to be used within a Rails project.

Supported versions of Rails

It has been tested with Rails 3.0.x, Rails 3.1.0 and Rails 2.3.5.

Note: for Rails 3.0.x, you will probably need to use Smailer 0.5.x, because of a version incompatibility with the mail Gem.

It should work with Rails 4 and 5 as well, but it hasn't been tested extensively there. Testing and PRs for Rails 4 and 5 compatibility are welcome. See this issue for more info.


Install the gem

For Rails 3 projects, add the following to your Gemfile:

gem 'smailer'

Then run bundle install. For Rails 2.x projects which do not use Bundler, add config.gem 'smailer' to your environment.rb file and then run rake gems:install in your project's root. Also, if you use Rails 2.3.5, you may need to explicitly require a newer version of the mail gem, because mail 2.2.x has a dependency on ActiveSupport 2.3.6. For example, you can add this to your Rails 2.3.5's environment.rb:

config.gem 'mail', :version => '~> 2.3' # we need 2.3.x which does not depend on ActiveSupport 2.3.6

Generate and run the migration

To create the tables needed by Smailer to operate, run the smailer:migration generator after installing the gem. For Rails 3, you can do this:

rails g smailer:migration && bundle exec rake db:migrate

For Rails 2.x projects, use script/generate smailer_migration && rake db:migrate to generate and run the migration.

Initializing the plugin's settings

Since the plugin has been designed to be managed via an admin UI, its settings are stored in a simple key-value table, interfaced by the Smailer::Models::Property model. Here is some sample data you can use to initialize your settings with:

Smailer::Models::Property.create! :name => 'queue.max_retries', :value => '0', :notes => '0 = unlimited.'
Smailer::Models::Property.create! :name => 'queue.max_lifetime', :value => '172800', :notes => 'In seconds; 0 = unlimited.'
Smailer::Models::Property.create! :name => 'queue.batch_size', :value => '100', :notes => 'Emails to send per run.'
Smailer::Models::Property.create! :name => 'finished_mails.preserve_body', :value => 'false', :notes => 'If this one is set to true, it will take more space in the DB. Use with caution and for debugging purposes only.'

These properties and values are also the defaults.


If you have an older version of the gem and would like to upgrade to a newer one, take a look at the changelog.

Usage and documentation

Sending out newsletters consists of a couple of steps:

  • At least one record should exist in Smailer::Models::MailingList. This record can then be used for unsubscribe requests if your system supports multiple newsletter types.
  • For each newsletter issue you intend to send, you should create a Smailer::Models::MailCampaign record. This record contains the subject and body contents of the newsletter you will be sending out.
  • Given a list of active subscribers your application provides, you then enqueue mails to be send via the MailCampaign#queued_mails list (see the example below).
  • Finally, you should call Smailer::Tasks::Send.execute repeatedly to process and send-out the enqueued emails, probably via a Cron daemon.

Issuing a newsletter

Here is an example how you could proceed with creating and issuing a newsletter:

# locate the mailing list we'll be sending to
list = Smailer::Models::MailingList.first

# create a corresponding mail campaign
campaign_params = {
  :from      => '',
  :reply_to  => '',
  :subject   => 'My First Campaign!',
  :body_html => '<h1>Hello</h1><p>World</p>',
  :body_text => 'Hello, world!',
  :mailing_list_id =>,
campaign = campaign_params
campaign.add_unsubscribe_method :all

# Add attachments
campaign.add_attachment 'attachment.pdf', 'url_or_file_path_to_attachment'!

# enqueue mails to be sent out
subscribers = %w[
subscribers.each do |subscriber|
  campaign.queued_mails.create! :to => subscriber

One-off emails

You can send one-off emails that each have a different mail template:

campaign = Smailer::Models::MailCampaign.first

# The mail template is first copied from the mail campaign and then any
# changes you make are stored in the newly created copy.
# In this example, the subject and from fields are copied from the campaign.
campaign.queued_mails.create! :to => '', :body_html => 'my custom body', :body_text => 'my custom body'

# Changing the campaign now won't change anything in the one-off queued mails.

# Sending two mails to the same person for a single campaign:
campaign.queued_mails.create! :to => '', :body_html => 'second custom body', :body_text => 'second custom body', :require_uniqueness => false

You can change the from, reply_to, subject, body_html, body_text and you can also call add_attachment. For more info check Smailer::Models::QueuedMail.


You can have zero or more attachments to any mail campaign. As demonstrated in the example above, you add them to the campaign using the MailCampaign#add_attachment(file_name, url_or_path) method.

Any attached files will be referenced at the moment of sending and must be reachable and readable by the send task. Currently, open-uri is used to fetch the content of the path or URI. The maximum length of the path/URI field is 2048 symbols.

Managing unsubscriptions

Among the few unsubscription methods supported, probably the most widely used one is unsubscription via a unsubscribe link in the email.

In order to help you with implementing it, Smailer provides you with some interpolations you can use in the email's body:

  • %{email} -- the concrete email this message will be sent to (example:
  • %{escaped_email} -- the same as %{email}, but safe to be put within an HTML-version of the message
  • %{email_key} -- a unique key identifying the %{email} field (example: 34d9ddf91edb4d0206837b125f4a2750)
  • %{mail_campaign_id} -- the ID of the Smailer::Models::MailCampaign record for this message
  • %{mailing_list_id} -- the ID of the Smailer::Models::MailingList record this mail campaign is for
  • %{message_key} -- a unique key, identifying the message to be sent out; this key can later be used for view statistics tracking and bounce email processing

Here is an example text you could include in the HTML version of your email to show a unsubscribe link (this also demonstrates how interpolation in the email's body works):

<p>If you wish to be removed from our mailinglist go here: <a href="{email_key}">{email_key}</a>.</p>
<p>You are subscribed to the list with the following email address: %{escaped_email}</p>

In this case, you will have to add a route in your Rails app to handle URLs like '/unsubscribe/:email_key'. For example, it could lead to UnsubscribeController#unsubscribe, which you could implement like so:

@email = Smailer::Models::MailKey.find_by_key(params[:email_key]).try(:email)
raise ActiveRecord::RecordNotFound unless @email

# here you have the @email address of the user who wishes to unsubscribe
# and can mark it in your system accordingly (or remove it from your lists altogether)

Sending mails

The emails which have already been placed in the send queue, have to be sent out at some point. This can be done for example with a Rake task which is run periodically via a Cron daemon. Here's an example Rake task you could use:

# lib/tasks/smailer.rake
namespace :smailer do
  desc 'Send out a batch of queued emails.'
  task :send_batch => :environment do
    result = Smailer::Tasks::Send.execute :return_path_domain => '', :verp => true
    result.each do |queue_item, status|
      puts "Sending #{}: #{status}"

This task can be executed via RAILS_ENV=production bundle exec rake smailer:send_batch (provided you are running it on your production servers).

Notice that we pass a :return_path_domain option to Send.execute. This domain will be used to construct a dynamic Return-Path: address, which you could later use in order to process bounced mails and connect the bounce with a concrete mail campaign and sender's email address. The generated return path will have the following format: "", where SOMEKEY will be the same as the key field in the corresponding FinishedMail record and will uniquely identify this record, and is what you passed to :return_path_domain.

Dynamic return path is generated only when :return_path_domain is specified and :verp is not false. If you omit the :verp option and just pass :return_path_domain, Send.execute will still use VERP and generate dynamic return path addresses.

Processing bounces and auto-unsubscribing bad emails

If you use the VERP support Smailer provides when sending your messages, you can easily implement auto-unsubscribe for invalid email addressess or for addresses which bounce too much.

This can be done via a simple cron task, which runs daily (or whatever) on your servers.

Suppose you manage your site's newsletter subscriptions via a Subscription model, which has two boolean flags -- subscribed and confirmed and also an email field. You could implement a simple Rake task to be run via a cron daemon this way:

task :process_bounces => :environment do
  subscribed_checker = lambda do |recipient|
    Subscription.confirmed.subscribed.where(:email => recipient).first.present?

    :server             => '',
    :username           => '',
    :password           => 'mailbox-password',
    :subscribed_checker => subscribed_checker,
  }) do |unsubscribe_details|
    subscription = Subscription.confirmed.subscribed.where(:email => unsubscribe_details[:recipient]).first

    if subscription
      subscription.subscribed = false
      subscription.unsubscribe_reason = 'Automatic, due to bounces'!

For more info and also if you'd like to adjust the unsubscribe rules, take a look at the ProcessBounces.execute method and its options. It's located in lib/smailer/tasks/process_bounces.rb. A few extra options are available, such as :logger callbacks (which defaults to puts), default action for unprocessed bounces, etc.


  • Tests, tests, tests


bundle exec rspec


Patches are always welcome. In case you find any issues with this code, please use the project's Issues page on Github to report them. Feel free to contribute! :)


Released under the MIT license.