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Tutorial: Receiving Upcoming Events Automatically by E-Mail

Wouldn't it be nice for your web site visitors to be able to receive a weekly e-mail automatically of upcoming events for your school or business? Well, you can by using a special RSS feature of Zap Calendar and a free service from Feedburner.com.  When a user subscribes to this service, they will automatically receive a weekly e-mail containing all the events for the upcoming week. The e-mail is automatic.  Even if you schedule a last minute event that will occur before the next weekly e-mail, an e-mail will still be sent out to your users within 24 hours with the new event details.  This article explains how to setup both Zap Calendar and feedburner.com to accomplish this.

There are three areas that need to be configured: the Zap Calendar view setup, the Feedburner.com setup and the web site front end setup.

Zap Calendar View Setup

The Zap Calendar RSS feed acts in reverse from a typical RSS feed for articles.  In a typical RSS feed for articles, the feed displays articles that have been recently posted.  With Zap Calendar, an RSS feed displays events that will occur in the future.  If the calendar view is configured for 7 days, then events will be displayed in the feed when they occur within 7 days from the current date.  Feedburner.com utilizes RSS feeds, however, this RSS method does not work well for e-mails. What will happen is tha an e-mail will be sent everytime a new event appears on the feed, so several e-mails could be sent during the week.  It is usually much more useful to be able to send a single e-mail containing all the events for the upcoming week.  Zap Calendar has a special RSS mode designed for Feedburner.com that can accomplish this.  For example, you can send an e-mail on Sunday to show all events occurring from Sunday to Saturday.

To configure Zap Calendar, create a new view from the view manager or use an existing view (you can create a new view just to use this feature).  Specify the view title, the categories you wish to include in the e-mail, and an optional description for the RSS feed. Under the export tab, say "yes" to the RSS Feed option, specify "week" mode, and the day of the week you wish to send the e-mails.  Save the view and make note of the RSS URL by clicking on the RSS icon for the view and copying the URL for the just opened page.

Feedburner.com Setup

Feedburner.com is a site that manages RSS feeds.  It was recently acquired by Google, so if you already have an account with Google, you can use the same account at the Feedburner.com website.

Once you have created an account or logged into Feedburner.com, enter your feed URL in the "Type your blog or feed address here" field.  Use the URL that you copied from the view setup and paste it here. Press the "Next" button, where you can optionally modify the title and feed address.

After the Feedburner feed has been created, select the "Publicize" tab and select the "Email Subscription" option to activate it. 

Web Site Front End Setup

Once your feed and e-mail subscription are activated, you are presented with more options. One of them is the HTML form code for the subscription.  This code creates a form box on your site to allow users to subscribe to the e-mail subscription service.  One nice feature of this Feedburner service is that they handle all the user management details of the mailing list such as subscribing and unsubscribing.  Copy and paste this code into a Joomla article so you can tell your users of your new events by e-mail subscription service. You may need to switch to raw HTML mode in your Joomla editor (if it is supported) in order to paste the code correctly.

So you now have created the RSS feed, published it to Feedburner and publicized it on your web site. You now just need to wait for your users to join the list!  It is probably a good idea for you to be the first subscriber to ensure the form is working and e-mails are working correctly.  There are other Feedburner options that you may want to look at to tweek your subscription service.

Other Tips and Tricks

You can specify the time of day (or rather, a time window) you wish the e-mail to be sent out. See Feedburner's e-mail subscription options.

You can add a company logo to the weekly e-mail, see the Feedburner options for more details.

You can have more than one e-mail subscription, just create a new view for each subscription.  For example, a school may wish to have a separate subscription for the sports schedule.