Personalization

SMTPeter provides many possibilities to personalize emails. Personalization is important to make a good impression and to keep the attention of the reader. The syntax of how you write variables in SMTPeter is explained below. Accompanied we've given some examples in order to make things more tangible.

The following concepts will be explained:

Variables

Let's just start with the basics of printing a user supplied variable. A variable starts with a {$ than your variable name and is closed with a }. Valid variables for example are {$firstname}, {$age} and {$city}. Formally, a variable is required to:

  • start with a dollar sign
  • is surrounded by curly braces
  • may contain alphanumeric characters. May not start with a number
  • may contain dash (-) and underscore (_) symbols
  • may not start with dash or underscore
  • is case sensitive, meaning that {$NAME} is different from {$name}

The next table gives all variable notations:

Syntax Meaning
{$foo} Displaying a simple variable (non array/object).
{$foo[4]} Display the 5th element of a zero-indexed array.
{$foo.bar} Display the "bar" key value of an object.

With these notations you may make combinations. Examples of combinations are:

Syntax Meaning
{$foo.bar.baz} Display the value behind the key "baz" inside the array "bar" which is a part of $foo.
{$foo[4].baz} Display the value behind the key "baz" inside the 5th element of $foo.
{$foo.bar.baz[4]} Display the 5th element of baz, which is in bar which is in $foo.

If a variable happens to be an object where the index are keys, you can still access elements in the array with an index number (starting from 0).

Modifying your variables

You can alter the content of your variables by applying modifiers to them. E.g. you can capitalize the content, calculate the length of a string, or calculating a hash sum. A list of all modifiers and an explanation about their usage can be found here.

Simple calculations

Variables containing a numerical value can be used to do some simple math. Just like with normal variables, all math should be done within the {} brackets. So you can do for example the following:

{$var + 10}

Besides the surrounding of curly braces, all standard math rules apply. The standard math operators (+, -, *, /) and the modulo operator (%) are available. Note that if a value does not exists or does not contain a numeric value, it will behave as if its value were zero.

Conditional statements

One of the key concepts of any programming language are conditional statements. A conditional block always starts with the {if} keyword (always between curly braces) followed by the statement that is evaluated. A conditional block always ends with the if closing tag {/if}. A conditional block is only executed if the statement in the {if} part is true.

In the next example, the text 'Hello John' is only displayed when the value of the variable $name is equal to 'John'.

{if $name == 'John'}Hello John{/if}

But what if there's also a Sarah in your mailing list. You wouldn't want to display nothing to her, would you? That's where the {elseif} comes in.

{if $name == 'John'}Hello John{elseif $name == 'Sarah'}Hello Sarah{/if}

Now, if we want to say something to anyone except to John and Sarah, we will use the {else} keyword. The code after the {else} keyword will be executed if none of the preceeding statements returned true.

{if $name == 'John'}
    Hello John
    {elseif $name == 'Sarah'}
        Hello Sarah
    {else}  
    Hello anybody else
{/if}

This is of course a very bad example of how you should write your personal salutation because your conditional block would need to be as long as the list of all names in the world.

A much better example would obviously be:

{if $name == ''}
    Dear subscriber,
    {else}
    Dear 
    {$name},
{/if}

The code snippet above means: if the value of name is empty, show 'Dear subscriber', otherwise, show "Dear John" (or any other name in the {$name} variable).

In the preceeding example, the operator == was used. This operator means 'is equal to'. It will evaluate to true if the left hand side of the == is exactly equal to the right hand side. Operator == is just one of the many operators that you can use to test the statements. Here's the complete list:

Syntax example Meaning
$a == $b $a and $b are equal
$a != $b $a and $b are not equal
$a > $b $a is greather than $b
$a >= $b $a is greather than or equal to $b
$a < $b $a is less than $b
$a <= $b $a is less than or equal to $b
$a AND $b $a and $b are true
$a OR $b $a or $b (or both) are true
not $a Negation, will invert the boolean value of $a

With the first six operators ("==" to "<=") you compare the the values of variables $a and $b. If the comparison holds, a true will be returned. If the comparison does not hold, you will get a false. With the next two operators in the table above (AND and OR) you can combine statements. If you are writing conditional blocks, you will sometimes find yourself ending up with blocks that become too long or complex. To shorten long or more complex conditional blocks, you can put multiple statements in one single {if} block using the AND and/or OR operators. The AND and/or OR operators combine the value of $a and $b into a true or a false. The following tables give the rules.

The truth table for AND is:

$a $b result
true true true
true false false
false true false
false false false

The truth table for OR is:

$a $b result
true true true
true false true
false true true
false false false

E.g. you can use AND like:

{if $a >= $b AND $b <= $c}
    true
    {else}
    false
{/if}

In the above snippet first $a >= $b will be tested. Only if this is true, $b <= $c will be tested. If this happens to be true as well, true will be printed, else, false will be printed.

Subsequently there is the not operator. This operator will invert the value that is given. So true becomes false and false becomes true. Finally it is good to know that a variable itself will be converted to a boolean when used in an if statement. If the variable contains an empty string or the value 0 it will be evaluated as false. If it is not an empty string or not zero it will be evaluated as true.

Foreach

If you have a collection of data (an array), and want to see if a specific something is inside that collection, you'll have to loop through all the items in this collection.

Let's use a real world example and display all members of a soccer team, stored in an array $soccerTeam.

To get the members of the team, the foreach statement is used. Its syntax is fairly straight forward:

{foreach $player in $soccerTeam}
    {$player.name}
{/foreach}

This will loop over the items (team members) in $soccerTeam and assign each player to the variable $player in each iteration. Inside this foreach block you can do whatever you want with the outputted information. You can for example generate a HTML list with soccer players from that team.

It becomes a little bit more technical now...

Of course we also support looping over arrays that have non-standard keys.

{foreach $list as $key => $value}
    Key {$key} contains {$value}.
{/foreach}

As you can see here, you specify both a $key and a $value which will be used to store these values on each iteration.

And finally, sometimes you want certain code to execute if there is no data at all, this is done using the {foreachelse} statement.

{foreach $item in $list}
    {$item.name}
{foreachelse}
    No items in list.
{/foreach}

This foreachelse statement is only executed in case of no data. It is completely ignored otherwise.

Assigning variables

It is possible to assign values on runtime. You can for example use this to calculate the total price of a set of purchased items. Or to remember a certain item inside a foreach statement. Assigning variables is done as follows:

{assign $item to $topitem}

After this statement the variable $topitem is available and it will contain what $item contained when the email was being compiled and sent to the user.

This will allow you to do things like the following.

{foreach $item in $list}
    {assign $total + $item.price to $total}
    {if $item.price > $topitem.price}
        {assign $item to $topitem}
    {/if}
{/foreach}

Which will eventually have the most expensive item in the $topitem variable. And the total price in $total. Variable modifiers

Using curly braces in your text

As you can see above the syntax heavily depends on the curly braces {}. Therefore, these braces cannot appear in the text without leading to a valid syntax. If you do need these braces in you text, you can use: {ldelim} to get a { and {rdelim} to get a }. If you have a large text with these bracelets you can enclose the text in {literal} and {/literal}. This text will then not be processed.

Layout issues

The code snippets above our formatted in a way to make them readable, we used new lines, indentation, etc. When you are generating text for the html part of your mail this is advisable since it is easier to capture mistakes. However, if you are generating content for the text part of your mail, you should be aware that the formatting of your template code affects the format of your text.

E.g. above we gave a snippet that prints out names of players in a soccer team

If the soccerTeam array looks like: ["Ronaldo", "Messi", "Ibrahimovic"] The output that we get in the text section will be:

Ronaldo

Messi

Ibrahimovic    

This is probably not what you had in mind while typing the foreach loop. But this is what you get since there is a new line before and after the variable and there are some spaces in front of it used as indentation. To get a list of the names without the extra whitespace you should write:

{foreach $player in $soccerTeam}
    {$player}
{/foreach}

This is less readable but gives what you want:

Ronaldo
Messi
Ibrahimovic

More information



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