Sending email from command line scripts

This weekend I open-sourced a script called notifymail which I have been using for the past few years to send myself emails from automated scripts, particularly Python scripts.

It is very easy to configure notifymail for the first time:

$ pip install notifymail
$ --setup
SMTP Server Hostname:
SMTP Server Port [465]: 587
SMTP Server Uses TLS (y/n) [n]: yes
SMTP Username:
SMTP Password: ********
From Address []:
From Name (optional) []: notifymail
To Address:

Verifying connection to SMTP server... OK

Check your mail provider’s documentation to get the SMTP settings mentioned above. For example I made an internet search for “gmail SMTP settings” to find Gmail’s SMTP settings:

  • Gmail SMTP Server:
  • Gmail SMTP Port: 587 (for TLS)
  • Gmail SMTP Uses TLS? yes

Once you have notifymail installed, you can send an email to yourself in a Python script with as little code as:

import notifymail
notifymail.send('Subject', 'Hello World', from_name='greeting_script')

Or you can invoke notifymail from the command line:

$ echo "Hello World" | -s "Subject"

Full documentation is available on the notifymail project page.

Hasn’t this been done before?

I reinvented my own wheel to send email principally because of the poor documentation of other alternatives:

  • mail and postfix were so complicated I couldn’t figure out how to set them up.

  • ssmtp didn’t work after I tried to configure it and there was no good documentation to help me debug why it wasn’t working.

For reference, here’s some information for setting up those alternatives.

Fun things to do with notifymail

  • I have a script called heartbeat that periodically attempts to connect to all of my servers via SSH. If it cannot connect to a server it sends me an email with notifymail. If it cannot access email it displays a sticky Growl notification locally.

  • I have another script called meetupfilter that tracks incoming “New Meetup Group” emails from Meetup. It waits until all such announced groups have at least 3 events on their calendar before sending me a notification at my personal email with notifymail. That way I don’t hear about Meetup groups that appear but then fizzle out immediately, which is a surprising number. I may open-source this script eventually if I hear there is interest.