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Mailcatcher: Making email testing a breeze

Mailcatcher Logo One of my least favorite chores as a developer is dealing with email. I’m not talking about my inbox. That is a post for another day ;). I’m talking about emails sent by web applications. Whether it is a sign up confirmation email, a receipt from a purchase, or reminder for your dog’s birthday. Chances are, if you have a web application, it sends email.

Traditionally, my workflow for testing these emails has not been very elegant or even efficient. It would either involve creating a bunch of users with different emails accounts I own, or telling the back-end to send all emails to my email address. While both of these work to some extent, the former is very time consuming and the later isn’t really testing the system the way it is meant to be used.

Mailcatcher one-ups both of these methods big time. Mailcatcher provides you with a local SMTP server for you to send your emails to in your development environment. Mailcatcher also provides you with a webmail interface to view all the emails your system has sent.

Mailcatcher is written in ruby and is available as a gem. The gem’s site offers detailed instructions on how to use Mailcatcher with a Rails app or even a PHP app. Without going into the details here, after you have installed Mailcatcher, you basically just set whatever is sending mail to use Mailcatcher’s SMTP server. Then any emails sent by your site will be collected in Mailcatcher’s webmail interface.

Mailcatcher has really eased the pain of dealing with emails in web application development. What are some tools you have found or made that have made development more fun for you?

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