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Issues With Formmail

Aug 26, 2007
If you are a webmaster interested in adding an HTML form to your website, then you are going to need a PHP file commonly known as formmail.php. This file processes the HTML form and sends the results to you via email. However, there are a number of things you need to be aware of when creating and installing it on your website. If you have never created an HTML form before, then you really need to pay close attention.

To create a Formmail file, you can either write the PHP code yourself (which is impossible unless you are experienced), or you can download the code from one of the many sites that have made Formmail available for download. After you download it, you will need to modify the code in order to adapt it to the form you have created.

The first challenge you will face is changing the code, if need be, so that it automatically checks to make sure that all required fields from your form have been completed. Some versions of Formmail automatically include this code, some do not. If it does not include this code, you will need to hire a programmer to create it, or visit some free programming message boards and ask someone to help you with it.

The next challenge you will face is writing the code that will create the email message containing the answers to the form and send it to the email address you specified in your HTML code. This is extremely difficult to do if you are not familiar with PHP. Again, you will need the help of a programmer if you can not do it.

Also, you will need to make sure that included, somewhere in the code, is protection against spammers who will try to send spam through your form by altering the recipient field. To prevent this, you need to create a variable that only authorizes the email address you are using as the recipient. For example, if you have set up your form so that the results will be sent to your Yahoo email account, then you need to insert some code into the Formmail file that prevents the form from being submitted unless your Yahoo email account is the recipient. If you do not this, people will be able to send spam right through your form, which brings us to another important point.

Because it is possible to send spam through a form if the Formmail file is not created properly and does not authorize only one email address as the recipient, several web hosting companies do not allow their customers to run forms on their sites. Or, they use their own PHP files to process your form, which gives you less flexibility. The bigger, better web hosting companies all allow forms and allow you to create your own formmail.php file to process the form. The better web hosting companies also have extensive firewall protection built into their servers to prevent spam if a form is vulnerable.

I hope this information has shed some light on what you need to consider when installing Formmail to process your HTML form. Call your hosting company and ask them if they currently have your site hosted on a server that can process forms. If they do not allow their customers to process forms or have certain rules that restrict your flexibility, you should switch to a bigger, more experienced hosting provider that will give you the ability to do you what you want.
About the Author
Jim Pretin is the owner of http://www.forms4free.com, a service that helps programmers make free HTML forms.
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