Sending Email From Gmail Using Golang

As part of the soon-to-be-deployed checkforbrokenlinks app, I found myself faced with the task of creating a contact form that would allow users to send me feedback on the app, so I could improve it and make it better in the future. In order to do so I had to figure out a way to configure my server-side backend, written in Golang, to perform all of the neccessary steps in order to send me an e-mail from the front-end (written in AngularJS). Looking into it, I don’t see too many e-mail sending implementations in Golang available easily online, so I’m putting the results of my research out there for all to see.

A helpful little gopher.

net/smtp

Golang provides a smtp (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) library as part of its net package. "net/smtp" exposes some useful functionality right out of the box. As it turns out, it’s [not too hard]() to connect to [Gmail]() using net/smtp, which saved me some serious misgivings I was having about setting up and configuring my own mail server (I’ve no doubt it could be done, but I was looking for a quick and simple solution). So I signed up for a new Gmail account and connected to that to send e-mails to my primary address from the Check For Broken Links app form. As it turns out, doing so with "net/smtp" is fairly straightforward. You call smtp.PlainAuth with the proper credentials and domain name, and it returns you back an instance of smtp.Auth that you can use to send e-mails. I use a custom-defined struct called EmailUser to define the parameters for that call for clarity’s sake, and so that I can keep them defined in a configuration file.

This is an example usage:

type EmailUser struct {
    Username    string
    Password    string
    EmailServer string
    Port        int
}

emailUser := &EmailUser{'yourGmailUsername', 'password', 'smtp.gmail.com', 587}

auth := smtp.PlainAuth("",
    emailUser.Username,
    emailUser.Password,
    emailUser.EmailServer
)

Templating Mail

Odds are good that you don’t want to send identical e-mails all of the time, so I’ll walk you through setting up some basic templated e-mails and then show you how to send them using net/smtp after we’ve already connected to Gmail. When you format an e-mail sent with SMTP correctly, useful information about the sender, subject, and so on will be parsed out of the e-mail’s body and interpreted/displayed by the recipients e-mail client in the manner that one would expect. You can also use more complex template structures to generate e-mails that have more user-specific data, for example if you wanted to send your customers a customized report of their server’s bandwidth usage over time via e-mail, or a list of the items they purchased and their invoicing status.

I use a struct called SmtpTemplateData to keep track of the basic information for templating the e-mail. In this case, we know the value of the e-mail body text ahead of time, but we could also run a template for the body template if we wanted to include business-specific logic such as mentioned above. We import "text/template" and "bytes", then:

type SmtpTemplateData struct {
    From    string
    To      string
    Subject string
    Body    string
}

const emailTemplate = `From: {{.From}}
To: {{.To}}
Subject: {{.Subject}}

{{.Body}}

Sincerely,

{{.From}}
`
var err error
var doc bytes.Buffer

context := &SmtpTemplateData{
    "SmtpEmailSender",
    "recipient@domain.com",
    "This is the e-mail subject line!",
    "Hello, this is a test e-mail body."
}
t := template.New("emailTemplate")
t, err = t.Parse(emailTemplate)
if err != nil {
    log.Print("error trying to parse mail template")
}
err = t.Execute(&doc, context)
if err != nil {
    log.Print("error trying to execute mail template")
}

Then, you can send mail with smtp.SendMail, passing a list of recipients as well as the bytes.Buffer buffer for the body of the e-mail:

err = smtp.SendMail(emailUser.EmailServer+":"+strconv.Itoa(emailUser.Port), // in our case, "smtp.google.com:587"
    auth,
    emailUser.Username,
    []string{"nathanleclaire@gmail.com"},
    doc.Bytes())
if err != nil {
    log.Print("ERROR: attempting to send a mail ", err)
}

If you want to send e-mails concurrently, or just not block in a HTTP handler, you can encapsulate the above functionality in a function and invoke it with go sendMail(/* params ... */).

Conclusion

"net/smtp" gets the job done, but specifically for the task of sending e-mails from Gmail it takes a little bit of setup. I may take a whack at making a simple, clean implementation of a library for this purpose (also providing support for boilerplate templating).

Hope this article has been useful and you have a Merry Christmas. And as always, stay sassy Internet.

  • Nathan