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Writing Blog Posts by E-mail

by Tom Johnson on Feb 9, 2007 •
categories: technical-writing wordpress

If you prefer to post by email, you can do this with WordPress. Posting by email might be advantageous if you want to automate your job postings or even your listserv announcements. When you post by email, you set up a secret e-mail account and simply send the e-mail to that account; the content of the message then appears on your blog as a new post. The only drawback in posting by email is that your posts must remain in plain text, so you cannot have any links or graphics. If you include HTML formatting, the formatting tags actually appear in the post.

Follow the steps in each of the sections below to post to your blog via e-mail:

Set Up a Secret E-mail Account

First you must set up a special e-mail account that you will use to post to your blog. The email must be kept secret because if anyone else starts sending mail to that address, the email will appear on your blog.

  1. Log in to your host's cpanel, and go to the Mail feature (whatever tool you use to create a new e-mail address with your host).
  2. Create a new email address that has a non-obvious name. Remember the login and password settings.
  3. You can test that you set up your email correctly in Outlook by adding the e-mail account. In Outlook, go to Tools > E-mail accounts and add a new e-mail account.
  4. Remove or disable the e-mail account from your Outlook; otherwise it will intercept messages that you plan to post to your blog.

Configure WordPress's Post Via Email Section to Match Your Secret Email Account:

  1. In your WordPress Dashboard, go to Options > Writing.
  2. Under the Post Via E-mail section, enter details about the secret e-mail that you will use to post with.
  3. Type the same login name and password you would use if setting up the e-mail in Outlook.
  4. Select the default category for the posts.
  5. Click the Update Options button at the bottom.

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Send the message:

  1. Use Outlook or whatever e-mail program you use, and create a new message.
  2. Change your message settings from HTML to plain text, if not already set to plain text.
  3. Send the message to your secret email address.

Run a "chron job" to process the mail:

  1. To process the email job manually, type in your browser' s URL field and press Enter. (Substitute your own domain and possible subfolder after the domain.) You should see a message on the screen indicating that the mail was processed. If you see a message that says there is no mail, then you have your email account set up wrong, or the login name and password is set up wrong in Options > Reading in Wordpress.The message appears on your blog. If the formatting looks screwy, it's most likely because you did not select plain text when you composed the message.
  2. If you plan to post a lot by e-mail, download a plugin that runs a chronic job to check for e-mail. You can use this Chron jobs plugin from Skippy. Upload the wp-mail and wp-chron php files to your plugin directory, and and they will automatically processes mail jobs every ten minutes or so.

I am thinking of using this post-by-email function to automate job postings from recruiters. I could set up a contact form that routes email to the secret email account, which would automatically post the message.

Can you think of any other reason why posting by email would be advantageous?

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer / API doc specialist based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.