Thursday, October 7, 2010

Allow the designer to easily preview Rails application emails

In my post Leave a project how you would like to find it, I discussed how to leave a project with a great README. I added another item to that, how to preview emails. When handing off a project to a designer to skin, an issue that arises is previewing the application emails.

In his Scaling Labs video, Greg Pollack suggests handing of application emails to an email service provider. I think that is a great idea, but sometimes if you are working on a short lived website that might be over kill. So my solution is to create a rake that a designer can easily use. Here's my recipe:

  • Create a separate config/mail.rb environment based on development.
  • Append config.action_mailer.delivery_method = :sendmail to the file.
  • Configure your database.yml with the same settings as your development environment.
  • Write your rake tasks.

Here an (edited) example of the rake task I wrote (lib/application.rake):

desc %{Sends test notification
Must specify RAILS_ENV=mail to specify email address}
task :send_notification => :environment do |t|
  registration =
  registration.first_name = Faker::Name.first_name
  registration.last_name = Faker::Name.last_name
  registration.email_address = ENV['EMAIL']

Now run rake send_notification RAILS_ENV=mail Check your email inbox!

Platform notes:

  • Rails 2.3.8
  • Mac OS X

There are other solutions that you may be interested in as well:

  • MockApp: "a native Mac application that embeds its own SMTP server. It also features an e-mail client browser, enabling instant viewing of both raw content and HTML rendering, so you can see how your mail looks when delivered".
  • MailTrap: "A mock SMTP server for use in Rails development".

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