Generate HTML e-mail body in C# using templates

Almost a year ago, I answered a question on StackOverflow, about if there’s a better way to generate HTML e-mails in C# than using a StringBuilder and just appending strings one by one.

I think that any modern piece of software today, needs to send e-mail. Whether it being password recovery e-mails, rich reports, newsletters or anything else – being able to easily see and customize the look and feel of your e-mails is vital.

So, the worst way I could think of is having your HTML hidden away in some StringBuilder.Append() hell. The best solution (in my opinion) would be, if you could have plain old HTML files with parameters like <#FirstName#> so you could dynamically replace those at runtime.

The MailDefinition class

Luckily, there’s a class for that! If you read the comments on my answer on StackOverflow, you’ll notice that none of them was familiar with that class and it came as a bit of a surprise. It did for me too, I actually wrote my own “MailDefinition” class that did just about the same thing. A complete waste of time, and it only tells me that us, developers, are sometimes too trigger happy on the keyboard instead of doing some research first. A quick search in the MSDN documentation would have saved me some work here and there.

Using the MailDefinition class is pretty straight forward. You use the MailDefinition class to create an instance of MailMessage, which you can send straightaway:

MailDefinition md = new MailDefinition();  
md.From = "";  
md.IsBodyHtml = true;  
md.Subject = "Test of MailDefinition";

ListDictionary replacements = new ListDictionary();  
replacements.Add("{name}", "Martin");  
replacements.Add("{country}", "Denmark");

string body = "<div>Hello {name} You're from {country}.</div>";

MailMessage msg = md.CreateMailMessage("", replacements, body, new System.Web.UI.Control());  

Instead of having the HTML inside the code, you could easily have it in your database or as a file on the computer. That will also enable you to edit the look and feel of the HTML template at any time, without having to rebuild and deploy your application.

MailDefinition is located in the System.Web assembly, so don’t forget to add reference to that from your project.