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Action Mailer – Easy email delivery and testing

Action Mailer is a framework for designing email-service layers. These layers are used to consolidate code for sending out forgotten passwords, welcome wishes on signup, invoices for billing, and any other use case that requires a written notification to either a person or another system.

Action Mailer is in essence a wrapper around Action Controller and the Mail gem. It provides a way to make emails using templates in the same way that Action Controller renders views using templates.

Additionally, an Action Mailer class can be used to process incoming email, such as allowing a weblog to accept new posts from an email (which could even have been sent from a phone).

Sending emails

The framework works by initializing any instance variables you want to be available in the email template, followed by a call to mail to deliver the email.

This can be as simple as:

class Notifier < ActionMailer::Base
  delivers_from 'system@loudthinking.com'

  def welcome(recipient)
    @recipient = recipient
    mail(:to => recipient,
         :subject => "[Signed up] Welcome #{recipient}")

The body of the email is created by using an Action View template (regular ERb) that has the instance variables that are declared in the mailer action.

So the corresponding body template for the method above could look like this:

Hello there,

Mr. <%= @recipient %>

Thank you for signing up!

And if the recipient was given as “david@loudthinking.com”, the email generated would look like this:

Date: Mon, 25 Jan 2010 22:48:09 +1100
From: system@loudthinking.com
To: david@loudthinking.com
Message-ID: <4b5d84f9dd6a5_7380800b81ac29578@void.loudthinking.com.mail>
Subject: [Signed up] Welcome david@loudthinking.com
Mime-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain;
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

Hello there,

Mr. david@loudthinking.com

In previous version of rails you would call create_method_name and deliver_method_name. Rails 3.0 has a much simpler interface, you simply call the method and optionally call deliver on the return value.

Calling the method returns a Mail Message object:

message = Notifier.welcome  # => Returns a Mail::Message object
message.deliver             # => delivers the email

Or you can just chain the methods together like:

Notifier.welcome.deliver    # Creates the email and sends it immediately

Receiving emails

To receive emails, you need to implement a public instance method called receive that takes a tmail object as its single parameter. The Action Mailer framework has a corresponding class method, which is also called receive, that accepts a raw, unprocessed email as a string, which it then turns into the tmail object and calls the receive instance method.


class Mailman < ActionMailer::Base
  def receive(email)
    page = Page.find_by_address(email.to.first)
      :subject => email.subject, :body => email.body

    if email.has_attachments?
      for attachment in email.attachments
          :file => attachment, :description => email.subject

This Mailman can be the target for Postfix or other MTAs. In Rails, you would use the runner in the trivial case like this:

rails runner 'Mailman.receive(STDIN.read)'

However, invoking Rails in the runner for each mail to be received is very resource intensive. A single instance of Rails should be run within a daemon if it is going to be utilized to process more than just a limited number of email.


The Base class has the full list of configuration options. Here's an example:

ActionMailer::Base.smtp_settings = {
  :address        => 'smtp.yourserver.com', # default: localhost
  :port           => '25',                  # default: 25
  :user_name      => 'user',
  :password       => 'pass',
  :authentication => :plain                 # :plain, :login or :cram_md5

Download and installation

The latest version of Action Mailer can be installed with Rubygems:

% [sudo] gem install actionmailer

Source code can be downloaded as part of the Rails project on GitHub


Action Mailer is released under the MIT license.


API documentation is at

Bug reports and feature requests can be filed with the rest for the Ruby on Rails project here: