Home » How do I send HTML email using linux ‘mail’ command?

How do I send HTML email using linux ‘mail’ command?


There are many different versions of mail around. When you go beyond mail -s subject to1@address1 to2@address2 <body (for sending, that’s all POSIX guarantees — and even -s didn’t exist in the old days), they tend to have different command line options. Adding an additional header isn’t always easy.

  • With some mailx implementations, e.g. from mailutils on Ubuntu or Debian’s bsd-mailx, it’s easy, because there’s an option for that.

    mailx -a 'Content-Type: text/html' -s "Subject" to@address <test.html
  • With the Heirloom mailx, there’s no convenient way. One possibility to insert arbitrary headers is to set editheaders=1 and use an external editor (which can be a script).

    ## Prepare a temporary script that will serve as an editor.
    ## This script will be passed to ed.
    cat <<'EOF' >>"$temp_script"
    Content-Type: text/html
    $r test.html
    ## Call mailx, and tell it to invoke the editor script
    EDITOR="ed -s $temp_script" heirloom-mailx -S editheaders=1 -s "Subject" to@address <<EOF
    rm -f "$temp_script"
  • With a general POSIX mailx, I don’t know how to get at headers.

If you’re going to use any mail or mailx, keep in mind that

  • This isn’t portable even within a given Linux distribution. For example, both Ubuntu and Debian have several alternatives for mail and mailx.
  • When composing a message, mail and mailx treats lines beginning with ~ as commands. If you pipe text into mail, you need to arrange for this text not to contain lines beginning with ~.

If you’re going to install software anyway, you might as well install something more predictable than mail/Mail/mailx. For example, mutt. With Mutt, you can supply most headers in the input with the -H option, but not Content-Type, which needs to be set via a mutt option.

mutt -e 'set content_type=text/html' -s 'hello' 'to@address' <test.html

Or you can invoke sendmail directly. There are several versions of sendmail out there, but they all support sendmail -t to send a mail in the simplest fashion, reading the list of recipients from the mail. (I think they don’t all support Bcc:.) On most systems, sendmail isn’t in the usual $PATH, it’s in /usr/sbin or /usr/lib.

cat <<'EOF' - test.html | /usr/sbin/sendmail -t
To: to@address
Subject: hello
Content-Type: text/html



echo "To: me@example.com"
echo "Subject: hello"
echo "Content-Type: text/html"
echo "<html><b><font size="7">H</font>ello</b></html>"
) | /usr/sbin/sendmail -t

With the Heirloom mailx, convenient way is

mailx -s "$(echo -e "Newsletter issue 3nContent-Type: text/html")" user@server.com < /tmp/htmlmail.txt

Thanks, Dude
Tested on Fedora 17, and worked

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