Weblog of Nazly Ahmed

Nazly Ahmed

Nazly Ahmed

Web Developer. PHP Addict. Wordpress Hacker. FOSS Enthusiast. (Micro)Blogger. Photo Hobbyist. Cricket Fanatic. Husband. Dad.

When we start building a dynamic website or a Web Application using PHP, sending out Emails to the users is always on top of the To-Dos list. In most cases it will require sending the email in a specific template to maintain the branding of the website/application. In this situation the developer has to send out the emails in HTML Format.

When you use PHP’s built-in mail() function with the basic parameters, the email is sent out in plain-text.

mail("", "This is the Subject", "Hello World");

To send out HTML Emails using the built-in mail() function, you will require to add another parameter where you can specify the headers of the email. Here I will add some additional headers to send out a proper a Email with a from address as well. The additional headers should be separated with a CRLF (\r\n).

#Specify a From Address
$addHeaders = "From:" . "\r\n";
# Set the content-type to send out the email in HTML format
$addHeaders .= "MIME-Version: 1.0" . "\r\n";
$addHeaders .= "Content-type:text/html;charset=iso-8859-1" . "\r\n";
# Mail Body consists HTML tags
$mailBody = "<h1>Hello World</h1>
                 <strong>Example: </strong>How to send a HTML Email";
mail("", "This is the Subject", $mailBody, $addHeaders);

In most of the cases there will be a requirement to embed images into HTML since the particular Email template will consists logos, photos etc.

There are actually two ways to do this.

  1. You can specify absolute paths to the images on your site.
  2. You can attach images into the message and link it with a special URI.

For the first method I will use the built-in mail() function itself.

#Specify a From Address
$addHeaders = "From:" . "\r\n";
# Set the content-type to send out the email in HTML
$addHeaders .= "MIME-Version: 1.0" . "\r\n";
$addHeaders .= "Content-type:text/html;charset=iso-8859-1" . "\r\n";
# Mail Body consists Images with an absolute URI
$mailBody = "<h1>Hello World</h1>
                 <strong>Example: </strong>How to send a HTML Email with images
                 <img src=\"\" />";
mail("", "This is the Subject", $mailBody, $addHeaders);

But this method has few drawbacks. Most of the Email clients do not allow displaying images from absolute URLS coz someone can track the people who will be opening this Email. Its a privacy issue, and you can enable to display images from absolute URLS in your Email client. But you can’t expect every user who will be checking this email to have this option enabled. So the best option is to use the second method.

Using the built-in mail() function to attach images and link it with a special URI can be a painful process in my opinion. It is possible but maintaining that code can be a real pain if the Email templates have to be modified over and over again.

PHPMailer is a life saver when it comes to sending Emails using PHP. Though the built-in mail() function fulfills most of our requirements, special cases like SMTP authentication, attaching files, embedding images can be done effectively and easily with PHPMailer without doing any modification to the Server settings.

You need to download the PHPMailer library files from here first.
The following code explains how you can send Emails with inline images. I added the code for SMTP authentication as well.

$mail = new PHPMailer();
# Follwing code segment uses a SMTP server to send email
# Comment this segment if you don't wish to use a SMTP server
# Use a SMTP Server
# SMTP Server address                  
$mail->Host = ""; 
# SMTP Port
$mail->Port = 25;
# Enable debug for SMTP (Only for testing purposes)
# 1 = errors and messages
# 2 = messages only
$mail->SMTPDebug = 1;              
# From address and Name                                            
$mail->SetFrom("", "User Display Name");
# Message Subject
$mail->Subject  = "Message Subject"; 
# Enable HTML Email
# Embed Images into the Email Body
# Attach file logo.jpg and give it an identifier name 'logo'
$mail->AddEmbeddedImage('logo.jpg', 'logo', 'logo.jpg'); 
# Attach file photo.jpg and and give it an identifier name 'photo'
$mail->AddEmbeddedImage('photo.jpg', 'photo', 'photo.jpg'); 
# Use the identifier in the special URI format to link with the attached image
$mail->Body = "<h1>Hello World</h1>
                <img src=\"cid:logo\" />
                   <img src=\"cid:photo\" />";
# alternate text if the Email client doesn't support HTML
$mail->AltBody="This is text only alternative body.";
# Add recipients of the email
# Send out the email 
    #if Email failed to send
    echo "Email not sent";
    #Debug purposes only
    echo $mail->ErrorInfo;
else {
    # If Email was successfully sent out
    echo "Email sent";
Posted on 16th February 2010 14:45:47