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Day 16: The Mailer

1.4 / Propel
Symfony version
Language ORM

Yesterday, we added a read-only web service to Jobeet. Affiliates can now create an account but it needs to be activated by the administrator before it can be used. In order for the affiliate to get its token, we still need to implement the email notification. That's what we will start doing in the coming lines.

The symfony framework comes bundled with one of the best PHP emailing solution: Swift Mailer. Of course, the library is fully integrated with symfony, with some cool features added on top of its default features.


Symfony 1.3/1.4 uses Swift Mailer version 4.1.

Sending simple Emails

Let's start by sending a simple email to notify the affiliate when his account has been confirmed and to give him the affiliate token.

Replace the activate action with the following code:

// apps/backend/modules/affiliate/actions/actions.class.php
class affiliateActions extends autoAffiliateActions
  public function executeListActivate()
    $affiliate = $this->getRoute()->getObject();
    // send an email to the affiliate
    $message = $this->getMailer()->compose(
      array('[email protected]' => 'Jobeet Bot'),
      'Jobeet affiliate token',
Your Jobeet affiliate account has been activated.
Your token is {$affiliate->getToken()}.
The Jobeet Bot.
  // ...


For the code to work properly, you should change the [email protected] email address to a real one.

Email management in symfony is centered around a mailer object, which can be retrieved from an action with the getMailer() method.

The compose() method takes four arguments and returns an email message object:

  • the sender email address (from);
  • the recipient email address(es) (to);
  • the subject of the message;
  • the body of the message.

Sending the message is then as simple as calling the send() method on the mailer instance and passing the message as an argument. As a shortcut, you can only compose and send an email in one go by using the composeAndSend() method.


The email message is an instance of the Swift_Message class. Refer to the Swift Mailer official documentation to learn more about this object, and how to do more advanced stuff like attaching files.


By default, the send() method tries to use a local SMTP server to send the message to the recipient. Of course, as many things in symfony, this is totally configurable.


During the previous days, we have already talked about symfony core objects like the user, request, response, or the routing. These objects are automatically created, configured, and managed by the symfony framework. They are always accessible from the sfContext object, and like many things in the framework, they are configurable via a configuration file: factories.yml. This file is configurable by environment.

When the sfContext initializes the core factories, it reads the factories.yml file for the class names (class) and the parameters (param) to pass to the constructor:

  class: sfWebResponse
    send_http_headers: false

In the above snippet, to create the response factory, symfony instantiates a sfWebResponse object and passes the send_http_headers option as a parameter.


The sfContext class

The sfContext object contains references to symfony core objects like the request, the response, the user, and so on. As sfContext acts like a singleton, you can use the sfContext::getInstance() statement to get it from anywhere and then have access to any symfony core objects:

$mailer = sfContext::getInstance()->getMailer();

Whenever you want to use the sfContext::getInstance() in one of your class, think twice as it introduces a strong coupling. It is quite always better to pass the object you need as an argument.

You can even use sfContext as a registry and add your own objects using the set() methods. It takes a name and an object as arguments and the get() method can be used later on to retrieve an object by name:

sfContext::getInstance()->set('job', $job);
$job = sfContext::getInstance()->get('job');

Delivery Strategy

Like many other core symfony objects, the mailer is a factory. So, it is configured in the factories.yml configuration file. The default configuration reads as follows:

  class: sfMailer
    logging:           %SF_LOGGING_ENABLED%
    charset:           %SF_CHARSET%
    delivery_strategy: realtime
      class: Swift_SmtpTransport
        host:       localhost
        port:       25
        encryption: ~
        username:   ~
        password:   ~

When creating a new application, the local factories.yml configuration file overrides the default configuration with some sensible defaults for the env and test environments:

      delivery_strategy: none
      delivery_strategy: none

The delivery_strategy setting tells symfony how to deliver emails. By default, symfony comes with four different strategies:

  • realtime: Messages are sent in realtime.
  • single_address: Messages are sent to a single address.
  • spool: Messages are stored in a queue.
  • none: Messages are simply ignored.

Whatever the strategy, emails are always logged and available in the "mailer" panel in the web debug toolbar.

Mail Transport

Mail messages are actually sent by a transport. The transport is configured in the factories.yml configuration file, and the default configuration uses the SMTP server of the local machine:

  class: Swift_SmtpTransport
    host:       localhost
    port:       25
    encryption: ~
    username:   ~
    password:   ~

Swift Mailer comes bundled with three different transport classes:

  • Swift_SmtpTransport: Uses a SMTP server to send messages.

  • Swift_SendmailTransport: Uses sendmail to send messages.

  • Swift_MailTransport: Uses the native PHP mail() function to send messages.


The "Transport Types" section of the Swift Mailer official documentation describes all you need to know about the built-in transport classes and their different parameters.

Testing Emails

Now that we have seen how to send an email with the symfony mailer, let's write some functional tests to ensure we did the right thing. By default, symfony registers a mailer tester (sfMailerTester) to ease mail testing in functional tests.

First, change the mailer factory's configuration for the test environment if your web server does not have a local SMTP server. We have to replace the current Swift_SmtpTransport class by Swift_MailTransport:

# apps/backend/config/factories.yml
  # ...
      delivery_strategy: none
        class:  Swift_MailTransport

Then, add a new test/fixtures/administrators.yml file containing the following YAML definition:

    email_address: [email protected]
    username: admin
    password: admin
    first_name: Fabien
    last_name: Potencier
    is_super_admin: true

Finally, replace the affiliate functional test file for the backend application with the following code:

// test/functional/backend/affiliateActionsTest.php
$browser = new JobeetTestFunctional(new sfBrowser());
  info('1 - Authentication')->
  click('Signin', array(
    'signin' => array('username' => 'admin', 'password' => 'admin'),
    array('_with_csrf' => true)
  info('2 - When validating an affiliate, an email must be sent with its token')->
  click('Activate', array(), array('position' => 1))->
    checkHeader('Subject', '/Jobeet affiliate token/')->
    checkBody('/Your token is symfony/')->

Each sent email can be tested with the help of the checkHeader() and checkBody() methods. The second argument of checkHeader() and the first argument of checkBody() can be one of the following:

  • a string to check an exact match;
  • a regular expression to check the value against it;
  • a negative regular expression (a regular expression starting with a !) to check that the value does not match.


By default, checks are done on the first email sent. If several emails have been sent, you can choose the one you want to test with the withMessage() method. The withMessage() takes a recipient as its first argument. It also takes a second argument to indicate which email you want to test if several ones have been sent to the same recipient.


Like other built-in testers, you can see the raw message by calling the debug() method.

Final Thoughts

Tomorrow, we will implement the last missing feature of the Jobeet website, the search engine.