Contact Form Documentation

ContactForm

This project provides a simple CGI-based contact form arranged in a format that fits in easily with a Jekyll-based static web site. The script takes measures to prevent casual discovery of the destination address and/or email credentials by storing those details out of reach of the web server.

Requirements

The script makes the following assumptions:

  • that Python 3.6 or greater exists on the host and that it can be used to run CGI scripts under the current configuration of the web server,

  • that the Python libraries named in the “import” statement at the top of the contact.cgi file (like cgi, cgitb, json, smtplib, and ssl) are installed on the host (most, if not all, of these should already be part of any standard Python installation), and

  • that the web server can be configured to run CGI scripts as the owner of the script file rather than a generic “nobody” user (although this requirement is only needed in order to store secure information outside the web server root; if your CGI runs under a generic UID, you can still use this script but your secure information will be at greater risk).

Installation

To install the contact form, copy the contents of this repository to a directory in your Jekyll source tree, if you’re using Jekyll, or to a directory in the root directory of your website. The configuration files assume the name of the directory is “contact” but with a bit of editing (see below) you should be able to put the files in any directory you prefer.

The contact-secret.json file should be moved or copied to your $HOME directory before filling it out with your secure information. It should also be renamed to contact.json. If this is not possible, the variable settings in that file should be copied into the contact.json file, which will remain in the directory containing the contact.cgi file.

Non-Jekyll Installation

Note that if you are not using Jekyll to construct your web site, you will have to convert the contact.md file, and possibly the README.md file, to HTML.

The simplest way to accomplish that is to take a sample page from your existing website source, delete the content of the page, and then drop the form element from contact.md into the spot where the deleted content used to be. The file should then be renamed content.html (or README.html if you are converting the README.md file.

Configuration

There are a number of simple configuration steps outlined in the subsections below. The steps which are not marked “mandatory” are optional steps you might want to take to customize the user experience to match your preferences.

Setting the site name and/or preparing to serve multiple sites

(work in progress)

Adding your secure information (mandatory)

The contact-secret.md file contains SMTP login data and email addresses that you might not want web visitors to be able to access. By storing these values in a file in the $HOME directory of the account, the file will not be visible to the web server at all. So as long as the account directory is not hacked, your secure information should be safe.

This file should be renamed to match the basename of the script itself (the default basename of the script is contact). There is currently no provision to support configuration files in any locaiton other than $HOME and the same directory as the CGI script itself.

If a contact.json file exists in both the $HOME directory and the directory where the CGI script itself resides, any variables set in the latter config file will overwrite data read from the former if the key names are the same.

The SmtpHost and SmtpPort variables should be set to the host and port where your SMTP (ie: outgoing email) server can accept logins.

The SenderUsername and SenderPassword variables should be set to the username and password for the email account which will be sending emails on behalf of the contact form script. If your hosting account allows for more than one mailbox, it might be prudent to set-up a separate “contact” email mailbox to be used exclusively for sending contact form submissions. That way if your account is hacked and the intruder finds the contact.json file with your secure information, the most they would be able to do is to send email from that account – your hosting account password would, of course, be something different.

The SenderEmail variable should be set to the email address of the mailbox from which contact form submissions will be originating. This will be used as the “From:” address for the emails.

The TargerEmail variable should be set to the email address where you would like the contact form submissions to be sent.

Editing the script to fit your environment (possibly mandatory)

If the python3 command invokes the Python 3.x interpreter on your host, then the script should run as-is. If your Python command is different (ie: python as opposed to python3), edit the first line of the script to use the proper command.

If you have trouble with the script and want to see the data and form values the script is receiving from the server, in addition to the values in the environment at the time the script is run, set the Debug variable to True.

By default, the script assumes that the configuration files (in the script directory and the $HOME directory) are both named to match the script itself but with a .json extension. If you want to change the basename of the files, there are two possibilities:

  1. set the CfgFile variable in the script to the basename you want to use, or
  2. rename the script itself (keeping the .cgi extension if that’s required by your web server configuration).

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