Sandboxing outgoing email

While you’re testing email functionality on a website, you don’t want to accidentally send out mails to all your (or your clients’) end users! There are a few ways to prevent this. Here’s the simplest one I’ve found so far. It allows you to redirect all outgoing email from PHP to a local user (you, for example), so that you can read it with any ordinary mail client. You can also redirect to any arbitrary external email address you own.


This only works if you’re using PHP’s built-in mail functionality. It won’t help if you’re talking directly to an SMTP server via something like PHPMailer.

Create a shell script with the following content:

/usr/sbin/sendmail -i "$@" "$REDIRECT"

Make it executable, then add a line to php.ini:

sendmail_path = "/path/to/ username@localhost"

Reload Apache, and you’re done.

It might seem that you can simplify this further by putting the sendmail command directly in php.ini, but you can’t: Postfix’s sendmail expects its arguments in POSIX order (options first), and PHP may add a -f option after the hardcoded email address, which would be interpreted as a recipient address beginning with -f.

You can also redirect email to a different address for each virtual host, by setting the sendmail_path option via php_admin_value.

I’ve tested this with Postfix on Ubuntu, but I believe it should work in other configurations too.