Using PHPList to send bulk emails for newsletter

Instead of developing a newsletter system, I thought it would be easier to find an already made solution which I could use with minimal effort. PHPList was the first when it comes to this sort of functionality. However I was not very much pleased to have all the emails I send with an image of phplist at the bottom, not because I did not want to give credit to the developers but only because I thought it would be considered paid advertising in my newsletter.

I thought that I needed a very basic system in place. I already have the email address of my subscribers, I just need to mass email them and give them the option to unsubscribe as well. It sounds easy but then again, I didn’t want a rushed solution, so I decided to go ahead with PHPList but opting for a text link instead of the image credit to the author.

I installed PHPList through Fantastico on Linux CPanel and I’m sure you can install it with Softaculous as well. When the installation was complete, I quickly navigated to the interface but was met with a deadend. These are the problems I encountered:

500 internal server error

To fix this problem, I had to remove the line for php magic quotes from the .htaccess file. You can uncomment it as well by placing the hash symbol (#) at the beginning of the line as follows:

#php_flag magic_quotes_gpc on

Could not load xml for FCK Editor

When going into messages to compose a newsletter, I couldn’t type anything into the rich text box (FCK Editor) because there was a problem with loading the xml for that file. I had to modify the htaccess file to include the fckstyles.xml file in the allowed list as follows:

<FilesMatch “(index.php|dl.php|ut.php|lt.php|download.php|fckstyles.xml)$”>
Order allow,deny
allow from all
</FilesMatch>

Users are set to receive TEXT instead of HTML by default when importing

If the users in your lists are set to receive text, your html newsletter will be converted to text when sent to them. This is really a bad thing especially if you know the users can receive html in their email. You can go to your main page on phplist where you’ll find the option to reconcile users and from there, you can “mark all users to receive html”. You can also add a column to your file (CSV) with the name “Send this user HTML emails” and a value of 1 so that all imported users are default to receive html emails.

Cron jobs not working

With the command line cron job, the queue was not being processed because a login username and password was required. So I was getting emails to enter the login in. Mind you that the emails were text based and I had to copy the source to a new file, save as html, to view it properly. Anyway, I fixed that problem by using cURL and providing the username and password as follows:

curl ‘http://www.domain.com/phplist/admin/index.php?page=processqueue&login=username&password=password’

My cron job runs every 10 mins as I have defined a batch mode of 20 emails every 10 mins because I’m on a shared server which only allows 150 emails per hour. I decided to go safe with 120 per hour.

And to get the cron job to not email me every time it runs, I had to change the output to this:

curl ‘http://www.domain.com/phplist/admin/index.php?page=processqueue&login=username&password=password’ > /dev/null 2>&1

The 2>&1 is required because it tells linux not to print any error messages as well (so no mailing of any sort to you).

Number 0 is for standard input

Number 1 for standard output

Number 2 for errors

Anyway, so far so good. Let’s if the newsletter brings in more traffic!