Start a New Topic via Email ✉

If you have already set up reply via email, or you are on a hosting plan that pre-configures your incoming email, you’re now ready to set up Starting a New Topic via Email.

Site Settings

The incoming emails feature is globally controlled by these 3 site settings:

  • email_in: this is the only setting that must be enabled for incoming emails to work.
  • email_in_min_trust: the minimum trust level required for users to send an email to Discourse.
  • enable_staged_users: create staged users for unknown email addresses.

What are staged users?

In order to support incoming emails from anyone, we needed a way to create user accounts on the fly.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t use normal user accounts. They would start receiving digests and it would prevent people from signing up with the same email address (which was confusing since they only sent emails).

That’s why we came up with the idea of staged users. They are special user accounts in Discourse.

They can’t be mentioned or searched for, they will never receive a digest and they can only be notified of and reply to the topics they started or were invited in.

If the user ever wants to create an user account using the same email address, we will promote the staged user to a normal user.

Category vs Group

So now that you have enabled incoming emails, you need to decide whether you want them to end up into a category or a group.

Why use a group?

  • Using a group is useful if you want to set up a support-like workflow.
  • Sending an email to a group will create a message sent to all the members of that group.
  • These messages will appear in /my/messages.
  • Anyone can send an email to a group (since it’s just an email behind the scene)
  • Any member of the group may read, reply, delete or archive the message.
  • All member of the group have their own read tracking state.

Why use a category?

  • Using a category is useful if you want to simulate a mailing list.
  • Sending an email to a category will create a topic in said category.
  • Anyone with access to that category may read and reply using the web interface or via email.
  • Emails sent to a category must respect the category’s security settings.
  • Emails sent to a category must respect the email_in_min_trust_level site setting.
  • You may disable staged users on a per category basis.

Setting up incoming emails on a group

To setup incoming emails on a group, go to your groups page by clicking the “groups” link from the main menu, then click the name of the group (or create a new one).

If you have created a new group, at the bottom of the form, there should be a field named Custom incoming email address. If there isn’t, make sure you have enabled the email_in site setting.

Enter the email address you want to associate to that group and click the Save button to save your changes.

If you are editing an existing group, click the group’s Manage tab, then click the Interaction link from the left side menu. You should see a Custom incoming email address field near the bottom of the form:

If you are not seeing the field, make sure that you have enabled the email_in site setting. Enter the email address you want to associate to that group and click the Save button to save your changes.

You’re done :tada:

Setting up incoming emails on a category

To setup incoming emails on a category, you need to go to the category’s page (eg. /c/<category_slug>) and click the Edit button.

Then, click the Settings tab on the Edit category modal that shows up.

There should be two fields “Accept emails from anonymous users with no accounts” and “Custom incoming email address”. If there aren’t, make sure you have enabled the email_in site setting.

Enable “Accept emails from anonymous users with no accounts” if you want staged users to be created when an incoming email address does not exists yet.

Enter the email address you want to associate to that category and click the Save Category button to save your changes.

You’re done :tada:

For troubleshooting tips, see the Logging and Errors section of this topic.

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Have just set this up - absolutely brilliant.

A note to anybody wondering how to configure pop3 polling - see here (a single account is configured for polling, and all “start a new topic via email” accounts need to forward to the polled mailbox).

7 Likes

another way to simplify category email addresses is through setting up a bunch of email forwarders on your email account.

example:
your email account: reply@yourdomain.com
category email: categoryname@yourdomain.com
forwarder: categoryname@yourdomain.com to reply@yourdomain.com

basically, you just need to make sure that whatever email you choose for a category, will end up in your discourse mailbox (reply@yourdomain.com).

2 Likes

Is there any way to send multiple emails to a category that all end up as replies to the same topic?

I have a use case where I want to send scheduled email reports and alerts into discourse and it would be very useful to group them by subject. The default behaviour is to reject the email stating “title has already been used”

There was some talk about it back in 2014, Emails in with already-used subject should append to that topic

Just some way for the site admin to tell discourse “this mail address belongs to a bot” to change the behaviour for that specific user would be helpful, since bots and scripts won’t be able to deal with the dynamic reply-to addresses that discourse generates.

6 Likes

We are trying to remove this feature from our forum but I am not finding an easy way to setup an email response if someone tried to email in.

If see two options either disable the plugin or remove the incoming email addresses from the topics.

If we simply disable this feature and a user emails in a new topic they do not receive any auto response saying this is not possible.

Leaving the plugin enabled but remove the incoming email addresses from the topic settings. They receive kick backs for not having a user or an error ‘Email issue – Unknown To: Address’ I have updated the kick back for no account but I haven’t been able to find the Unknown to response.

1 Like

I’ve not got round to installing this, so wonder what your reasons are for removing it.

Could you create a real email account on your server the same as the old topic creation email, then have an auto reply and/or forward it to your own inbox?

2 Likes

We use our forum as a support portal and decided it would be more clear to have them submit new topics though the site rather then emailing in. It also might not have been obvious to some users that they were emailing into a forum. When they just email in it also became a hassle to keep cleaning up the post.

2 Likes

Do other ways of forwarding emails work? For example, what if categoryname@yourdomain.com was an alias of reply@yourdomain.com. Or, what if categoryname@yourdormain.com is a google group that reply@yourdomain.com is subscribed to?

1 Like

I went ahead and just tried this and guess what, it totally works! I’m thrilled.

2 Likes

A number of guides I’ve seen for users (mozilla, riot os) indicate that categories for which this is enabled should have an :email: icon at the top. On my site, I see no such icon, and I can’t find a preference. What am I missing?

2 Likes

Looks like mozilla is using a custom plugin that they’ve developed:

the Riot-os site is using the same html class/ids, so probably just using that same plugin.

Looks like there are several discourse plugins in the mozilla repository

3 Likes

Thanks! Now… RFE: please consider adding the Mozilla "expose emails in" plugin to the standard hosted plugins

1 Like