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Sending HTML-email with Attachment Using PHP’s mail() Function November 18, 2011

Posted by tournasdimitrios1 in PHP.

Sending email with PHP is a basic functionality , in most cases your installation of PHP will be capable of sending emails out-of-the-box . If you are using a shared host , or if you installed PHP using a package management system like YUM (Red-Hat) more than likely you’re all set . You’ll really only need to worry about extra configuration if you’re compiling PHP from source or if you’re running it on Windows . PHP’s native mail functionality is achieved through its mail() function . An absolute basic example could be :

// The message
$message = "Your long message goes here ";

In case any of our lines are larger than 70 characters, we should use wordwrap()
$message = wordwrap($message, 70);

// Send
mail('caffeinated@example.com', 'My Subject', $message);

The mail function accepts 5 parameters  (the last 2 are optional ie header and options)  :

  • 4th –header :  Structured into fields such as From , To , CC , Subject , Date , and other information about the email (MIME-type) . Remember to always end each header line with a \r\n and always use double quotes , if you use single quotes the \r\n will be ignored . Originally email was designed to transfer only plain text , though as Internet made huge evolution , other content types were transferred like : html , pictures , digital file-formats …. By adding the MIME type into the header we basically saying to the email client (and the MTA ) that the content is something other than a plain text email (although  plain text can still be sent with the MIME type set) . The MIME type has a long list of identifiers that define  what content type will be included into the email  .
  • The 5th is optional for sendmail configuration

To send an HTML email , the process is the same, however , you need to provide additional headers (MIME) , as well as an HTML formatted message .


// Set up parameters
$to = "user1@example.com";
$subject = "Your password";
$from = "admin@itservice.com";
$message = "</pre>
<h3>Hello User1 ,</h3>
<p>Thanks for registering .</p>
<p>Your password is : <span style='color:red'><b>User@1$#!</b></span></p>
$headers = "MIME-Version: 1.0" . "\n";
$headers .= "Content-type:text/html;charset=iso-8859-1" . "\n";
$headers .= "From: $from" . "\n";

// Send email

$success = mail($to,$subject,$message,$headers);
   if (!$success) {
  echo "Mail to " . $to . " failed .";
   }else {
  echo "Success : Mail was send to " . $to ;


In MIME type emails you basically can put as many things as you like in your email as long as they are separated by a  boundary (custom string ) . Consider the scenario where you send an email for email-clients that doesn’t support html content but  the same email will be used by email-clients that has html support and inline picture display and attachments  .  If you stack those content all together in an email how will the email-client know when to stop displaying one and display another ?  The answer is , the boundary string .


$to = "user1432@gmail.com";
$subject = "Your password with attachment test";
$from = "admin@itservice.com";
$headers = "From: $from\r\n";
$headers .= "MIME-Version: 1.0\r\n"
  ."Content-Type: multipart/mixed; boundary=\"1a2a3a\"";

$message .= "If you can see this MIME than your client doesn't accept MIME types!\r\n"

$message .= "Content-Type: text/html; charset=\"iso-8859-1\"\r\n"
  ."Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit\r\n\r\n"
  ."hey my <b>good</b> friend here is a picture of me"
  ."<p>Your password is : <span style='color:red'><b>User@1$#!</b></span></p> \r\n"

$file = file_get_contents("picture.jpg");

$message .= "Content-Type: image/jpg; name=\"picture.jpg\"\r\n"
  ."Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64\r\n"
  ."Content-disposition: attachment; file=\"picture.jpg\"\r\n"

// Send email

$success = mail($to,$subject,$message,$headers);
   if (!$success) {
  echo "Mail to " . $to . " failed .";
   }else {
  echo "Success : Mail was send to " . $to ;


The picture below demonstrates how the email will displayed through my web- mail ( browser ) .

Let’s recap : Email headers contain the : Cc , BCc , From , To and the MIME information . MIME defines the version of itself (1.0 is the current standard version ) , content-type , transfer-encoding and boundary string . A full list of MIME content-types can be found on Wikipedia  . Emails constructed with the multipart type  MIME allows messages to have  multipart content arranged in a tree structure where the leaf nodes are any non-multipart content type and the non-leaf nodes are any of a variety of multipart types . Most commonly, multipart/alternative is used for email with two parts , one plain text (text/plain) and one HTML (text/html) .  The plain text part provides backwards compatibility while the HTML part allows use of formatting and hyperlinks . Most email clients offer a user option to prefer plain text over HTML .   Confused by this last paragraph ? Let the code explain this subject .


$to = "user1476@gmail.com";
$subject = "Your password with attachment test";
$from = "admin@itservice.com";
$myAttachment = chunk_split(base64_encode(file_get_contents( "logreport.rar")));

$headers = "From: \"Webmaster\" <admin@itsupport.com>\r\n" .
  "Repy-To: admin@itsupport.com\r\n" .
   "MIME-Version: 1.0\r\n" .
   "Content-Type: multipart/mixed; boundary= \"1a2a3a\"\r\n";
$body = "--1a2a3a\r\n" .
    "Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary= \"4a5a6a\"\r\n" .
     "--4a5a6a\r\n" .
      "Content-Type: text/plain; charset=\"iso-8859-1\"\r\n" .
      "Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit\r\n" .
  "The attachment contains the log-files .\r\n" .
     "--4a5a6a\r\n" .
      "Content-Type: text/html; charset=\"iso-8859-1\"\r\n" .
  <title>Report of last months log files</title>
<span style="color: red;"><strong>Please keep in mind :</strong></span> Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book.
</html>\r\n" .
    "--1a2a3a\r\n" .
     "Content-Type: application/zip; name=\"logreport.rar\"\r\n" .
     "Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64\r\n" .
     "Content-Disposition: attachment\r\n" .
  $myAttachment. "\r\n" .

   $success = mail($to, $subject, $body, $headers);
   if (!$success) {
  echo "Mail to " . $to . " is fail.";
   }else {
  echo "Success : Mail was send to " . $to ;


Final notes :

This article was just an introduction of how we can manipulate email headers and send all kind of content into email-messages . PHP provides alternative  solutions (wrapper classes) to make our job more pleasant . My previous article demonstrated how the phpMailer class sends attachments with just a few lines of code . PhpMailer can do much more in a  simpler way  .  Future articles will show Zend Framework’s mail module and PHP’s  Swing class , so stay tuned …..


1. Sending HTML-email with Attachment Using Zend Framework’s Mail component « Tournas Dimitrios - November 18, 2011

[…] previous article ” Sending HTML-email with Attachment Using PHP’s mail() Function ” has shown that it’s possible to configure the headers of an email-message for […]

2. Pritesh Patel - December 18, 2011

Thanks for this. I search hi and low on how to send email with attachment with HTML message but none of the examples worked except this one.

tournasdimitrios1 - December 18, 2011

@Pritesh Patei
My intention was to demonstrate the basic structure of an email-package .My example use “hard-coded” content . In a production environment you would use data submitted by users to send mail . Be very careful when implementing this code on an production environment , you should sanitize the content submitted by users to prevent “email header injection” . In simple words : somebody could send spam mail through your website or send rude messages and impersonate that it was send by you .

3. Sending HTML-Mail With Attachement Using PHP’s PEAR::Mail Package « Tournas Dimitrios - January 3, 2012

[…] Sending HTML-email with Attachment Using PHP’s mail() Function […]

4. gurupathi - May 15, 2013

it’s great i got attachment..

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