How I Made PHPList Autoresponder Work In My Site

PHPList is a free autoresponder plugin for wordpress. It takes some tweaking to make it work though.

Being a newbie in the blogging world, I was not ready to invest hard-earned money on an Aweber autoresponder or other list-building autoresponder services that required monthly payments. I purchased a software called FreeAutoresponder Pro which only needed a one time payment. However, I believe it requires a lot of PHP know-how in order to make it work to my liking. So after trying for weeks to make it behave the way I want it, and failing, I decided to find some other tools that don’t entail a lot of expense. That’s when I found PHPList. It actually surprised me that it has always been there waiting for me because it is included in Fantastico. And most importantly, this autoresponder is FREE!.


The installation was a breeze because I did it through Fantastico in Lunarpages. I just accepted all the default values already in the boxes. I only needed to input some required fields like the install directory (which usually is ‘lists‘), the admin name and password you need to login to your PHPList account, etc.

After the installation, I logged in through http://mydomain.com/lists/admin/. The resulting page was very user friendly. PHPList by default only asks your subscribers for their email address. If you want to require their names, you need to create a Name Attribute. You do this by going to the PHPList main page and clicking on the ‘attributes‘ link under the ‘Configuration Functions‘ block. In the resulting PhpList Configure Attributes page, click the ‘add a new one‘ link. Type ‘Name‘ in the name field box, choose ‘textline‘ in the Type menu, leave the Default Value and Order of Listing as is, and check the ‘Is this attribute required?‘ checkbox. Save Changes.

Next step is to create a list. In the sidebar to the right, click on the ‘lists‘ link. Click on the ‘add a list‘ link. Type in the name of your list in the ‘List name‘ text box; check the checkbox to make the list ‘active‘; leave the ‘Order for listing‘ as is; and finally, write the description of your list in the large text box. Save.

Create Subscribe pages. Click the ‘subscribe pages‘ link on the sidebar. ‘Add a new one‘. The fields are self-explanatory like the previous ones. When you come to the ‘Select the attributes to use‘, check the ‘Check this box to use this attribute in the page‘ checkbox. This makes sure that the Name field will appear in the subscribe page besides the email fields. Then check your list in ‘Select the lists to offer‘ portion. ‘Save and Activate‘.

To start having your readers subscribe to you, you need to find out the url link to your subscribe page. You do this by going back to the subscribe page and clicking the ‘view‘ link of your created list. The url you find in your browser’s url box is that link e.g. ‘http://yourdomain.com/lists/?p=subscribe&id=1‘. Copy that and use it in your site’s side bar or wherever you want people to click in order to subscribe. Of course, this arrangement is not same as those you find in most websites where their name box, email box and submit buttons are integrated right on their website (with the theme). Using PHPList requires your reader to be directed to the PHPList subscribe page which usually does not look like your regular themed pages. There is however a plugin that can integrate this into your wordpress pages beautifully. Please refer to the article Making The PHPList Form Integration Plugin Work to know how to do this.

Making The PHPList Form Integration Plugin Work

The PHPList Form Integration plugin is a really wonderful piece of work that takes the use of PHPList to a new level.

I installed the PHPList form integration plugin for the first time in a test site and was glad that I did not install it directly on my wordpress blog because it did not work right out. It took me a few days of googling (after office hours, and errr… (cough)… during some of my office hours too) before I was finally able to make it work. And boy, how I did jump and shout in glee when it happened. The people downstairs probably thought I won the lottery or something. This PHPList form integration plugin is a God-send for bloggers who start out with a PHPList autoresponder.

My problem was like that of the majority of users who commented on Jesse Heap’s post. The name and email boxes are indeed nicely integrated in my wordpress blog page. When I entered a name and email address and clicked on the ‘submit’ button, the page tells me I got through all right. However, I did not receive any confirmation email. The PHPList database also did not reflect the email address I entered earlier.

General Settings:

After activating the plugin, go to its settings page by clicking ‘PHPList’ under the dashboard’s Settings drop down menu. Do not be fooled by some default values that are already there. The first field under the General Settings block, PHPList URL, has a default value of ‘http://yourdomain.com/lists/’. Change this one accordingly. The ‘lists‘ in the url is the install directory that you specified in Fantastico when you installed PHPList. In the ‘PHPList List Information‘, if you’re not sure of the PHPList ID, go back to your PHPList page (http://yourdomain.com/lists/admin/?page=home) and click on the ‘lists‘ link on the sidebar. The List ID is that leftmost number (under the ‘No’ column) corresponding to your created list’s row. Then, to play safe with the CAN-SPAM Act, uncheck the ‘Skip Confirmation Email‘ checkbox. Click ‘Update Options‘.

Form Settings:

If you want to have the Name box appear in your form, check the first leftmost checkbox under the ‘Show the Form‘ heading. Under the ‘Text Field Label Name‘, type ‘Name:’ or just ‘Name‘. For the ‘Text Field ID‘ of your name box, go back to your PHPList subscribe pages section (http://yourdomain.com/lists/admin/?page=spage) and click on the ‘edit‘ link of your subscribe page. Scroll down until you get to the ‘Select the attributes to use‘ section. Find the one for your Name field. On the top-leftmost grid of the box, you’ll find ‘Attribute:x‘, where x is a number, e.g. 1. So, if you find there ‘Attribute:2’, your Text Field ID for your Name field shall be ‘attribute2‘. Prior to clicking the ‘Update Options‘ button, make sure you check the ‘Required Field‘ checkbox if you so desire this field to be required.

Now, there’s only one more thing to do, and that’s to place your form on your desired page. Say, you want it on your ‘signup’ page. Just insert ‘<!--phplist form-->‘ (w/o the quotes) wherever you want it to appear in that page. Unfortunately, this plugin is not widgetized; so you can not just drop it in your sidebar like the other plugins. You can however still insert it into your sidebar by inserting the following codes in your sidebar.php file.

<?php
   $content = apply_filters('the_content', '<!--phplist form-->');
   echo $content;
?>

The important thing is to make sure all the entered data are correct. Go back and forth between your WP dashboard and your PHPList home page to make sure that their data match.

You can download and find the documentation of the PHPList Form Integration Plugin at its creator’s (Jesse Heap) site.

Jesse Heap, btw, has stopped further development of this amazing plugin because of his commitment to their business and his studies. Hopefully, some other genius can pick up where he left off and make our life even easier.