May 11, 2004

Email Notifications

(Note that this tutorial is appropriate for MT versions 2.661 and earlier.)

Say you want to send an email to your weblog readers when you update your blog, so they know to go to your site. There are various ways to do this. Movable Type has a built-in email notification feature. Unfortunately it is probably the least robust of the many wonderful MT features as I will explain shortly. With some serious hacking of the code the feature becomes more functional. Another option (which I prefer) is Bloglet, a third party service that can seamlessly provide email notifications for your site.

1. Movable Type's built-in Email Notification feature.
Using MT's email notification feature, you can either add the names of people to notify manually, or you can set up a form on your website so that people can self-subscribe to your mailing list.

notifications.gifTo manually add names, click on the Notifications menu bar on the left side of your weblog edit window.


One by one enter the email addresses of the people to whom you would like to send email notifications.

You can let your site visitors self-subscribe by adding some code to your templates where you would like the subscription form to appear. See the Movable Type Manual's section on Notifications for the code.

MT doesn't send the notifications automatically. You need to specifically instruct MT to do so each time you have created and published an entry. Open your entry edit window for the entry for which you wish to send a notification. Scroll to the bottom of the page.


Fill in a message to accompany the email and select Include Excerpt, Include Entire Entry Body or leave both unchecked. If you leave the boxes unchecked, MT will send only a hyperlink to the entry with your message. If you select Entire Entry Body, MT will include any HTML markup tags (such as <b> for bold text or <a href="">). Select Send to send the email notification.

Easy enough to do right? I use the manual email-adding method on a couple of my weblogs to send notifications to a few friends who I know. The main problem with MT's self-subscribe form method is that it is open for abuse. Anyone can put any email in there and the person receiving the email has no way to easily unsubscribe. Click here to see an example of what one of the automatic emails looks like that MT generates. There's no unsubscribe link. I don't recommend using a system that doesn't make it very easy for people to unsubscribe. In fact, the best way to manage a mailing list is with a double opt-in method which validates that the person signing up for the mailing list actually wants to be on the mailing list.

There are some hacks available to add subscribe / unsubscribe buttons to the form. See this MT Support Forum thread for more information.

2. FeedBlitz.
FeedBlitz is a free service that sends readers a daily email with all of the updates to the sites to which they subscribe. If there have been no updates, an email is not sent. To use FeedBlitz for your weblog, go to the FeedBlitz website and sign up for a new account and follow the instructions to add a weblog.

Building a Mailing List - instructions by Glen Fleishman for ubergeeks who want to build their own email notifications system.
MT-Notifier - a plugin for email notifications of new comments posted to an entry.
PHPlist - a web application for mailing lists.

Has this tutorial been helpful? Please consider linking to Learning Movable Type at . Thanks!

Posted by Elise Bauer on May 11, 2004 to Email
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Is there anyway to customize the email format/layout that is generated?

Tij - No, at least not easily. That's one of the problems with the MT 2.X notifications feature. Apparently you can do more with MT3.0 but since I'm not using that version yet I haven't checked it out.

I only wish I had understood the manual aspect of sending out the notifications sooner... has that changed in MT3.0? Great post, by the by!

I just added bloglet to my blogs. Elise -- has bloglet been reliable? I Googled them and it seems they went down for some time last year and the publisher's last news update on the Bloglet site was in March. Anyone's recent experiences on this would be helpful!

Hi Anastasia, regarding Bloglet, so far so good. MT3 apparently does have a better notifications feature than earlier versions. May try that when I eventually switch to MT3. I'm waiting for the general (non-developer) release. I've had some concerns about Bloglet as well given that it appears to be someone's hobby. Bloglet does list out all of your subscribers so, I guess if one was truly concerned, one could make a back up of the subscription list.

I've just signed up to bloglet, and so far I'm impressed, though faintly concerned about there being no help/faq pages on their site.
Where does it take the information from MT, and is there a way to modify the emails given by bloglet? I have an image with each entry, but it doesn't appear on the bloglet emails.

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