Improved emailing function so the email body is now inlined

If you didn’t use internal PDF generator, Manager would email a link to the user they would need to click in order to access the page you’ve emailed them.

This was broken in the desktop edition because the link would point to invalid URL so users would have to revert to obsolete internal PDF generator to make Manager generate PDF documents internally and email it to them instead.

The latest version (24.4.4) is solving this issue by simply inlining the contents within the email (whether it’s an invoice, order, quote or report) without relying on internal PDF generator. This means, instead of recepient receiving this:

They would receive this:

The same goes for all other emailed documents.

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Can the receiver download the invoice as an attachment?

If you insist on sending PDF, you can continue using internal PDF generator but the preferred way should be just inlining content within the email. The recipient can always print the email to PDF if they require. But that’s up to them.

Then I will have to continue using the internal PDF generator. Every invoice that I receive has an attachment that I can download - and every email I send requires that I make an attachment.
Printing something “inline” is awkward - when I select an email in gmail and select “print”, the output is the entire email contents (headers, recipients, body, etc )

2 Likes

@lubos, I am going to jump in with some comments here.

I for one see absolutely no reason why the desktop version should support every single feature of Manager that the cloud or server version does. With the free version of desktop, users get far more functionality for their accounting program than they would from any accounting software on their lowest or cheapest tier. I think it is more than reasonable to make it that emailing invoices, customer portal and multi users requires cloud or server version. This would mean you are not limited in how emailing works by the limitations of the desktop version. You have effectively downgraded the functionality to make it work in the desktop version. I would seriously reconsider this. Desktop Manager should not support emailing invoices full stop. If people want that feature, they can pay for it by buying the server or cloud version.

I can’t test how the new email functionality works as I don’t use the feature, but I believe (under correction) that the new email functionality essentially sends an html attachment. I maintain my own mail server and along with other IT technicians, we automatically block html attachments because they are heavily abused by malware and viruses. HTML are a terrible file format to email from a cyber security point of view. Whilst pdf is not 100% safe from malware, it can be migitated by disabling javascript, loading external links etc. As someone who maintains a mail server, I would far rather receive pdf attachments than html any day! There was a period some time back where 90% of html attachments were malware! If you are using html attachments to inline the document, please reconsider this as many email providers automatically block html due to malware concerns. You have just increased the chances of people not receiving invoices in their email.

For those of us that want to use the Customer Portal, I would highly recommend emailing links to the customer portal for that customer to login and view their invoice and potentially download quotes and invoices etc. This is the way a lot of other accounting providers work and I think from a cyber security point of view is preferable to attachments. For my clients they would have a link to their customer portal on their home page bookmarks. So I would prefer this option. An email that says you have received a quote, invoice - please login to your portal is the most optimal way.

For those that don’t use the customer portal, pdf attachments or sending a link in the email which opens up the invoice presumably in pdf is the best way. I am not massively keen on links in emails as they are a known malware vector, but the only alternative is to send the actual pdf as an attachment. Inline is the least desirable format.

I agree with one of the posters above - I don’t like receiving invoices inline within the email. Virtually everyone I work with, will need to save the quote, invoice into their accounting software as an attachment. When I receive invoices from my suppliers, I attach their pdf invoice to my purchase invoice in Manager. You have just made it harder for people to do that. Printing to pdf from email is not satisfactory as you have the headers and footers and the printed pdf format looks like crap compared to a proper pdf. The invoice needs to open up in pdf format so people can save it to their accounting software.

Would you please reconsider this. From a cyber security point of view, html inline invoices are a terrible idea. From an end user customer point of view, inline invoices are a terrible idea. Make it so that the desktop version does not support customer portals, multi users and emailing invoices etc. If people want those features they can pay for a version of Manager that is designed to support that functionality. You have just downgraded the functionality of emailing for paying customers to satisfy users that don’t pay anything for Manager. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Last, what is the point of the customer portal if customers receive all the information inline within the email? I really think the customer portal has great potential, but this inline emailing actually undermines the whole purpose of the customer portal where the information can be securely viewed in the portal. I am sorry, but this latest “improvement” is a mistake on so many levels. Thank you.

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The previous implementation was kind of competing with customer portal because both implementations required access to the server where Manager is running.

This change just means that emailing from Manager is decoupled from the server. The issue is that server URL is not forever while self-contained email that has all the information in itself is potentially forever.

There is more work to be done on customer portals because that’s where customers get real-time access to live data.

I’m working on it. Right now, customer portals are kind of lame. And if you enable customer portal for customer, then the self-contained email can also contain link to their customer portal so they can get more comprehensive view of their billing account.

There is no harm to implement the current in-line email functionality for desktop users. However, properly attaching PDF to emails should be considered for Server and Cloud versions. In another post @Lubos explains the problems and I think that there is indeed need to keep looking for a better solution that replaces the PDF generator without loosing its current functionality but allow for arabic, etc, to also be implemented properly.

Viewing my emailed invoice on a mobile phone isn’t very readable as I have lengthy descriptions which turn into a single character width string of vertical text.

P

I will add further points to the discussion.

In one sense yes, but in another sense no - because many businesses don’t have clients that would use the customer portal. Some businesses have hundreds of one off clients - a customer portal would be pointless for the general public as it were. The portal is more useful in business to business scenarios.

I like your suggestion @eko and in fact I would like to recommend the following:

@lubos could you update the email functionality with three options:

  1. Email Invoice inline - which will be mainly to support desktop version.

  2. Email Invoice using a link which is available for 48 hours (greyed out for desktop). This would work for one off customers who don’t need a customer portal. Question what does this link open up - a pdf or internet page where you can print to pdf?

  3. Email Invoice using a link to that customer’s portal where they can login and view whatever. Granted there are some risks with links malware wise. But for my clients, they would have their customer portal already saved on their homepage view. So I would be happy to have an email that just says you have received a new quote etc, please login to your customer portal to view.

This way, you can cater for desktop which can only support option 1, you can cater for general public one off purchase clients who just need a temporary link to the invoice - I believe this is how Xero work? The last for those of us that do business to business type work, can email our clients telling them to login and view the latest whatever.

@eko while I am not happy with the inline invoice option, it is a fair compromise for desktop users, because I fully agree with Lubos about retiring the internal pdf generator. Browsers can print to pdf and if the internet page that loads up from the link that used to be attached, looks anything like the customer portal view, then it would display the invoices exactly how we have themed it in Manager. The pdf generator is not practical if it doesn’t support all languages and the people who make the pdf generator don’t fix the bugs. I am also keen on moving away from expecting users to open attachments in their email as this is the prime method of malware distribution, which is why I like the customer portal concept so much. A secure portal is far better and more and more businesses are moving to portals - particularly business to business operations.

@lubos would you consider updating Manager to include all three options for emailing invoices. This means you can support all three types of requirements as mentioned above and please everyone. I presume Manager could support all three options which could be set in settings?

I still think html inline emails are a bad idea cyber security wise. But if you provide three options, people can choose which one they want.

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The current PDF generator has been working fine for us in all businesses. It became obsolete because of reasons given by @Lubos. At the moment most if not all customers and suppliers we work it prefer the PDF attachment and our users like the ability to email straight from Manager inclusive of having the email templates. So it works, but this discussion is about for those many instances where it is flawed.

So prefer to keep a PDF attachment to emails from Manager functionality as is. At the same time I sympathise with all those users that for the limitations of the current method can not use it and thus need alternatives. The inline solution, customer portal, etc all have flaws too. So therefore it is best to keep looking and preserve what at least works for a proportion of the users as it is now.

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@lubos While trying to send an email (Payments, Purchase Invoices, etc.), I receive this error:

I think it indicates that the error occurred internally within the system, rather than being caused by external factors (either blank email message or with text).

@evans what type of document are you sending? It is a parsing error where HTML from web-browser is being converted into HTML for email clients.

I think that I found the reason behind that…

I was trying to send an email for a Payment (the same for any other document, such as Purchase Invoice, Sales Invoice, etc.) having a Custom Theme. By disabling the custom theme, there is no error.

@lubos I have had a look at what the options are for pdf attachments in bulk email and asked Chatgpt for input.

I think using headless browser automation is a very good idea. It solves a number of problems. It would work with all versions of Manager, it supports custom themes for invoices and it has all the advantages of using the browser itself to create the pdf’s for compatibility with languages etc. I do agree with a number of users that pdf’s attached to the invoice is ideal in many instances.

I do understand your concern with using Google Chrome headless as it increases the size to around a gigabyte and includes loads of dependencies. However there are other headless browser options such as puppeteer - which looks very good. Puppeteer only has a download size of 3mb and itself downloads a lightweight version of Chromium around 150mb in size. It seems to have very good reviews, is well maintained and does exactly what it says on the tin. It also supports Firefox as well, which takes up less space than chromium apparently. I use Firefox and have no issues with printing to pdf from Firefox - although I use pdx xchange editor to create my pdfs.

There are quite a few headless options - Selenium WebDriver, Playwright, WebDriver, PhantomJS and SlimerJS to name a few. From what I have read Puppeteer is the best.

You could have two install options. The default Manager install as it is currently and a second larger install option for those users who actually want to bulk email pdf attachments as not everyone (myself included) uses the bulk email option. I personally want an option to let the user know that their quote/invoice etc is available for viewing and to login to their customer portal - but that’s when the customer portal is actually ready for production use.

Headless browsers seems to be a very good way to go. It is essentially an api dedicated to scraping the web pages and creating pdf’s as well as many other automation tasks. So it’s not just a pdf creation tool but an api that can be used for automation as well, so it could in theory be used for custom reports?

Seriously??

I can’t guess what an inlined invoice will look like.
I think send invoice in pdf format or send public link for invoice is very good, it works in all editions, and supports custom themes.

I actually want the internal features of internal pdf generator, custom themes and extensions to be returned as normal features.

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Version 24.4.15.1438 - The inlined version of Tax Invoices (and I guess other documents) are not displaying the Business Logo in Gmail.

Yes, because our logo link is in a private environment that cannot be accessed from outside. HTML Style also cannot be maintained on inline invoices. Invoices that use Qrcode also cannot be sent, because Qr is written outside the table.
I think @lubos is working on this feature.

This feature is not yet fully usable, and should not be released by eliminating features that have worked well before. Internal PDF Generator is the only possible option at the moment. besides sending emails manually.

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The logo is no link, I am trying to point out that there is inconsistency in the current inline implementation, when you send an invoice to a Gmail recipient, the logo disappears, however, when you send the email to a normal mail client (I used Thunderbird) the logo is visible (with no styling).
Although I can support the inline implementation as an option, I much rather prefer the PDF Generator to be permanent feature.

1 Like

Yes, in normal themes, it looks like the image src is empty by the email sender because the link cannot be accessed externally. If you try custom themes, and use the public link for the image you want to display, it works fine.

this what i sent

and this is inline invoice look like in gmail

some styles were removed from my Themes, causing the qrcode not to display well. maybe by email sender, or maybe by gmail server. I’m not sure.

The internal pdf generator is also not very good, many styles cannot be applied there, unless you use normal themes. Save as pdf is much better for getting results that match what is displayed, even if you have to send the email manually.