activitymail - CVS activity notification


  # In commitinfo:
  DEFAULT $CVSROOT/CVSROOT/activitymail -l

  # In loginfo:
  DEFAULT $CVSROOT/CVSROOT/activitymail -dacf '%{sVv}' -t


This program may be used for sending email messages for CVS repository activity. There are a number of different modes supported. It can send messages for every change to the repository (like syncmail), or it can be used to send a single message for each commit. In the latter case, a list of all the files affected by the commit will be assembled and listed in the single message. This is similar to how commit_prep and log_accum work, but is more efficient.

An additional option allows for diffs to be calculated for the recent changes, and either appended to the message (like syncmail does) or added as an attachment (neater). See the -d and -a options below.


This script requires Getopt::Std and File::Basename. It also requires a CVS server and the diff package. See "Known Issues" for more information.


This script works best with File::Spec installed. See "Known Issues" for more information.


To use this program, you need to check out your CVSROOT repository from CVS and edit some files. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Copy activitymail into your CVSROOT checkout.

  2. Add activitymail to the CVSROOT repository.

  3. Add activitymail to the checkoutlist file.

  4. If you plan to use commit mode (see "Commit Mode" below), add a call (or calls) to activitymail with the -l options to the commitinfo file. Read the CVS docs to determine the format for this file, and to decide which repositories for which you want it run. Here's an example:

      DEFAULT $CVSROOT/CVSROOT/activitymail -l
  5. Add a call (or calls) to activitymail to the loginfo file. Note that the -f and -t options are required here, and the -P option is a good idea for CVS 1.12 and later. Use the -c option if you're running commit mode (i.e., you've added a call with -l to the commitinfo file -- see "Commit Mode" below). Here's an example:

      DEFAULT $CVSROOT/CVSROOT/activitymail -cP %p -f '%{sVv}' -t
  6. Commit your changes to CVSROOT.



Directory logging mode. Use this mode in the commitinfo file to log the current directory. Best if used with -c in the loginfo file -- otherwise it's just a waste.


Commit mode. This mode will aggregate all the actions on a single commit and send a single message. Must have specified -l in the commitinfo file.

-f '%{sVv}'

The file spec argument from CVS. It must be called as -f '%{sVv}'. Single quotes are recommended, as some shells otherwise seem to have a hard time. Required unless -l. CVS 1.12 and later users should also use -P %p, as -f %1{SVv} will generate deprecation warnings.


The directory argument from CVS. This option is only useful for CVS 1.12 or later, where the command line format should be -P %p -f '%{sVv}'.

-t <email>

The email address or addresses to send notifications to. Required unless -l.

-e <cvs>

Location of the CVS executable, e.g., /usr/bin/cvs. Defaults to cvs, thus assuming that the cvs executable is in the path.


Include the diffs for all the files processed. These will be appended to the notification message unless the -a option has been specified.

-j <diff>

Location of the diff executable, e.g., /usr/bin/diff. Defaults to diff, thus assuming that the cvs executable is in the path. Used only for comparing added and deleted files to /dev/null.

-N <file>

Location of the null file. Defaults to /dev/null. This file will be used to diff against deleted and added files. In most cases this option can be left to the default, but Win32 systems, for example, will need to change it to NUL or some such.

-o <diff options>

Options to pass to the cvs diff command. Useful for changing the behavior of the diff command. Be sure to include these options inside quotation marks so that they will be distinguished from the options parsed by activitymail itself. See diff for a list of available options. Defaults to -u --minimal if not specified.


Attach diffs to the notification message. The diffs for all the files processed will be calculated, and then they will be added to the message as an attachment.

-r <email>

An optional reply-to address. This address will be added to a Reply-To header in the notification email.


Ignore "New directory" commits. By default, activitymail sends mail when a directory has been added. Use this option to ignore those actions.


Ignore imports. By default, activitymail sends mail when a files have been imported. Use this option to ignore those actions.

-m <message>

An optional message to put at the beginning of the email subject.


Option to add the name of the CVS module to the message subject.


Optional attempt give the file name or lowest common directory name. Used only in commit mode.

-s <sendmail>

Location of sendmail. If not specified, activitymail will search for sendmail in the following locations: /usr/lib/sendmail. /usr/sbin/sendmail, /usr/ucblib/sendmail. If activitymail cannot find sendmail, it'll throw an exception.

-u <user email>

Email address to use in the From header of the commit email message. Typical usage is to use the CVS $USER variable to specify an address, e.g., -u ${USER} The default behavior is to provide no From header and to let Sendmail do it.


Groups the collection of CVS transactions in a single commit by the $USER environment variable. This is most useful when connecting to CVS via :pserver:, since the usual method of collecting transactions -- by relying on the value returned by pgrp, won't work. Use in both the commitinfo and loginfo files, or else it won't work at all!

-M <size>

Max length for email messages, in kilobytes. If an email greater than this size would be sent then an error message is printed to the user's terminal, instead. This option is useful if your repository contains large binary files not prevented from be diffed by -B, or when adding many files at once. In those cases, failing to use this option may result in broken mail clients.


Include the old and new revision numbers after each file listed in the email.


Generate HTML emails. The Content-Type header will be set to "text/html" and some basic HTML formatting tags used for the display of the commit message.

-C <charset>

Character set to be used in the Content-Type header. Defaults to "UTF-8". If much of the content in your repository is encoded in a character set incompatible with UTF-8, then set this option for a more appropriate character set.

-w <url>

Include links to specified ViewVC or CVSWeb URL for the diffs for each file. Most useful with the -H option.

-B <list>

Binary file extension list. activitymail does its best to prevent binary files from being diffed by using the Perl -B operator to check for binary files. However, this approach doesn't catch all binary files. If you find that activitymail is diffing binary files, use this option to specify a quoted, space-delimited list of file name extensions on the binary files that you want activitymail to skip.

-I <regexen>

A quoted, space-delimited list of regular expressions identifying the files to include in the processing of the commit message. Use \s in place of literal spaces. The file name checked by the regular expression will be relative to the CVS module root. Cannot be used in combination with -E.

-E <regexen>

A quoted, space-delimited list of regular expressions identifying the files to exclude from the processing of the commit message. Use \s in place of literal spaces. The file name checked by the regular expression will be relative to the CVS module root. Cannot be used in combination with -I.


Older versions of CVS had a bug that prevented them from properly diffing when they were passed arguments to be passed to diff with spaces in them. Since we use the -L option to diff to pass in the complete file name to be put into the diff headers, this can lead to problems. So if you're using an older version of CVS that exhibits this problem (prior to 1.12, if I recall correctly), use this option to replace any spaces in file names with underscores before passing them off to diff.


Quiet mode. Status messages will be suppressed. Debug messages will still be output if -D is enabled.


Very quiet mode. In addition to the status messages suppressed by -q, -Q will also suppress the message output when an email won't be sent because of a size limitation set by -m. Debug messages will still be output if -D is enabled.


Print usage statement. It's a simplified version of this section of the docs, intended to remind the user of all the options. Be sure to read the detailed descriptions here, first.


Enables debug mode. This will trigger lots of output. All activitymail debug messages will start with the string "@@@@@@@@ activitymail debug:" so that they can be spotted easily.


Standard Mode

In this mode, a notification message will be sent for every directory affected by a single commit to the repository. This could be a lot of messages if you've made a lot of changes, and is thus highly redundant.

To use it, all you need to cimply add a call to activitymail to your loginfo file with (at minimum) the -f, -P (for CVS 1.12 and later), and -t options:

  DEFAULT $CVSROOT/CVSROOT/activitymail -P %p -f '%{sVv}' -t

To mimic the behavior of syncmail, add the -d option to append diffs:

  DEFAULT $CVSROOT/CVSROOT/activitymail -dP %p -f '%{sVv}' -t

Commit Mode

This mode takes a just a little more work to put in place, but manages your email resources much more efficiently. In this mode, activitymail tracks all the files changed throughout a single commit and sends a single email when all the changes have been made. This is especially useful in circumstances where many files have been changed at once. In standard mode, many messages will be sent, but in commit mode, only one will be sent.

An additional advantge of commit mode is that activitymail will construct a custom subject for the notification messages. In standard mode, the subject is simply the contents of the -P and -f options. In commit mode, however, activitymail will use either the first sentence of the log message, or the maximum number of words that take up less than 72 characters (including the -m and/or -p options, if specified). This offers an easy way to see what was done during the commit based on the context of the beginning of the actual log message. CVS users thus might want to consider making the first sentence of their messages (up to the first period) be a brief summary, and the rest of the message can be a more detailed description of the changes.

To use commit mode, you must place a call to activitymail with the -l option in your commitinfo file for every repository package you want to manage in commit mode. Usually, that's everything, so you can just use the line (as long as you have no other lines -- see cvs for more information):

  DEFAULT $CVSROOT/CVSROOT/activitymail -l

Then, you'll need to add a second call to activitymail to your loginfo file for the same repository packages as in the commitinfo file's call to activitymail. A convenient line for this purpose (even if you have other log filters in place) is the ALL line:

  ALL $CVSROOT/CVSROOT/activitymail -cf '%{sVv}' -t

The DEFAULT line will work equally well. Perhaps you want to have mail sent to different addresses for different repository packages. see cvs for more information on the loginfo file syntax.

If you'd like to see diffs for the changes for any particular commit, add the -d option. All of the changes to the repository will be recorded in diff format and appended to the end of the message:

  ALL $CVSROOT/CVSROOT/activitymail -cdf '%{sVv}' -t

Better still, have the diffs added to the message as attachments by adding the -a option.

  ALL $CVSROOT/CVSROOT/activitymail -cdaf '%{sVv}' -t

Finally, If you commit to CVS via :pserver:, you should use the -g option to get activitymail to properly group all of the CVS activity for a commit. By default, activitymail uses the value returned by pgrp to determine what's part of a single commit action and what's another action. However, in :pserver: mode, pgrp always returns the same value. The solution is to use the $USER environment variable to group the CVS activity. The assumption is that a single user will not be doing two separate commits at the same time, so this should work fine. Note that if you use the -g option, you must use it in both the commitinfo file:

  DEFAULT $CVSROOT/CVSROOT/activitymail -lg

And the loginfo file:

  ALL $CVSROOT/CVSROOT/activitymail -cdagf '%{sVv}' -t


  • This program depends on the presence of several modules that are distributed standard with Perl. They are Getopt::Std, File::Basename, and File::Spec. If either Getopt::Std or File::Basename isn't present, activitymail won't run. If File::Spec isn't installed (not uncommon, since it's a fairly recent addition to Perl -- SourceForge, for example, doesn't have it as of this writing), activitymail will assume very simple Unix semantics for creating file names, and will assume that /tmp is the temp directory.

  • The default diff on SunOS 5.9 does not like the -L option that activitymail uses. The workaround is to install GNU diff.


  • Change the way diffs are aggregated for messages so that we're not loading them all up into memory, but passing them directly to sendmail instead. This should dramatically lower the amount of memory activitymail takes up during a large commit.


Please send bug reports to <> or report them via the CPAN Request Tracker at


David Wheeler <>



This is a port of activitymail to subversion. Only it's a lot better. Check it out!


Ruby-powered CVS notification. Includes colored HTML representations of diffs right in the email.


Python-powered CVS notification. Sends emails with diffs for every directory in a single commit. Popular on SourceForge.

commit_prep & log_accum

The original Perl 4-powered CVS notification applications.,


This module is stored in an open repository at the following address:

Patches against Widget::Meta are welcome. Please send bug reports to <>.


Copyright (c) 2002-2009, David Wheeler. Some Rights Reserved.

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl.