Library Overview

Most features (and more) of your every day mail client software are provided by Swift Mailer, using object-oriented PHP code as the interface.

In this chapter we will take a short tour of the various components, which put together form the Swift Mailer library as a whole. You will learn key terminology used throughout the rest of this book and you will gain a little understanding of the classes you will work with as you integrate Swift Mailer into your application.

This chapter is intended to prepare you for the information contained in the subsequent chapters of this book. You may choose to skip this chapter if you are fairly technically minded, though it is likely to save you some time in the long run if you at least read between the lines here.

System Requirements

The basic requirements to operate Swift Mailer are extremely minimal and easily achieved. Historically, Swift Mailer has supported both PHP 4 and PHP 5 by following a parallel development workflow. Now in it's fourth major version, and Swift Mailer operates on servers running PHP 5.2 or higher.

The library aims to work with as many PHP 5 projects as possible:

  • PHP 5.2 or higher, with the SPL extension (standard)
  • Limited network access to connect to remote SMTP servers
  • 8 MB or more memory limit (Swift Mailer uses around 2 MB)

Component Breakdown

Swift Mailer is made up of many classes. Each of these classes can be grouped into a general "component" group which describes the task it is designed to perform.

We'll take a brief look at the components which form Swift Mailer in this section of the book.

The Mailer

The mailer class, Swift_Mailer is the central class in the library where all of the other components meet one another. Swift_Mailer acts as a sort of message dispatcher, communicating with the underlying Transport to deliver your Message to all intended recipients.

If you were to dig around in the source code for Swift Mailer you'd notice that Swift_Mailer itself is pretty bare. It delegates to other objects for most tasks and in theory, if you knew the internals of Swift Mailer well you could by-pass this class entirely. We wouldn't advise doing such a thing however -- there are reasons this class exists:

  • for consistency, regardless of the Transport used
  • to provide abstraction from the internals in the event internal API changes are made
  • to provide convenience wrappers around aspects of the internal API

An instance of Swift_Mailer is created by the developer before sending any Messages.


Transports are the classes in Swift Mailer that are responsible for communicating with a service in order to deliver a Message. There are several types of Transport in Swift Mailer, all of which implement the Swift_Transport interface and offer underlying start(), stop() and send() methods.

Typically you will not need to know how a Transport works under-the-surface, you will only need to know how to create an instance of one, and which one to use for your environment.

Class Features Pros/cons
Swift_SmtpTransport Sends messages over SMTP; Supports Authentication; Supports Encryption Very portable; Pleasingly predictable results; Provides good feedback
Swift_SendmailTransport Communicates with a locally installed sendmail executable (Linux/UNIX) Quick time-to-run; Provides less-accurate feedback than SMTP; Requires sendmail installation
Swift_MailTransport Uses PHP's built-in mail() function Very portable; Potentially unpredictable results; Provides extremely weak feedback
Swift_LoadBalancedTransport Cycles through a collection of the other Transports to manage load-reduction Provides graceful fallback if one Transport fails (e.g. an SMTP server is down); Keeps the load on remote services down by spreading the work
Swift_FailoverTransport Works in conjunction with a collection of the other Transports to provide high-availability Provides graceful fallback if one Transport fails (e.g. an SMTP server is down)

MIME Entities

Everything that forms part of a Message is called a MIME Entity. All MIME entities in Swift Mailer share a common set of features. There are various types of MIME entity that serve different purposes such as Attachments and MIME parts.

An e-mail message is made up of several relatively simple entities that are combined in different ways to achieve different results. All of these entities have the same fundamental outline but serve a different purpose. The Message itself can be defined as a MIME entity, an Attachment is a MIME entity, all MIME parts are MIME entities -- and so on!

The basic units of each MIME entity -- be it the Message itself, or an Attachment -- are its Headers and its body:

Other-Header: Another value

The body content itself

The Headers of a MIME entity, and its body must conform to some strict standards defined by various RFC documents. Swift Mailer ensures that these specifications are followed by using various types of object, including Encoders and different Header types to generate the entity.

Each MIME component implements the base Swift_Mime_MimeEntity interface, which offers methods for retrieving Headers, adding new Headers, changing the Encoder, updating the body and so on!

All MIME entities have one Header in common -- the Content-Type Header, updated with the entity's setContentType() method.


Encoders are used to transform the content of Messages generated in Swift Mailer into a format that is safe to send across the internet and that conforms to RFC specifications.

Generally speaking you will not need to interact with the Encoders in Swift Mailer -- the correct settings will be handled by the library itself. However they are probably worth a brief mention in the event that you do want to play with them.

Both the Headers and the body of all MIME entities (including the Message itself) use Encoders to ensure the data they contain can be sent over the internet without becoming corrupted or misinterpreted.

There are two types of Encoder: Base64 and Quoted-Printable.


Plugins exist to extend, or modify the behaviour of Swift Mailer. They respond to Events that are fired within the Transports during sending.

There are a number of Plugins provided as part of the base Swift Mailer package and they all follow a common interface to respond to Events fired within the library. Interfaces are provided to "listen" to each type of Event fired and to act as desired when a listened-to Event occurs.

Although several plugins are provided with Swift Mailer out-of-the-box, the Events system has been specifically designed to make it easy for experienced object-oriented developers to write their own plugins in order to achieve goals that may not be possible with the base library.

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