SMTP Primer

October 15th, 2009

This is a very simplified primer giving you just enough knowledge to follow the Troubleshooting SharePoint Alerts article , it’s neither complete or totally accurate so you may want to read more complete guides.

  • Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) is used to transport and route emails.
  • A sending Message User Agent (MUA) such as your email client or SharePoint sends an email to a Mail Transfer Agent (MTA) aka outgoing mail server.
  • The MTA (such as Windows IIS SMTP server which may be running on the same server as SharePoint or a separate server) may in turn ‘relay’ or pass all messages on to another MTA.
  • In a large organisation there may be multiple relays and emails to different destinations may be routed through different paths of MTA’s – you can see the path an email has taken if you look at the Internet Header (in Message Options in Outlook) for the “Received: …” lines.
  • For an external recipient a delivering MTA will take the destination domain ( use a DNS lookup to find the Mail Exchanger (MX) record for the destination domains incoming mail server and then send on the message via the Internet.
  • Eventually the email will reach a Mail Delivery Agent (MDA) and then a mailstore such as Microsoft Exchange where it will wait until picked up by the recipients email client via POP,IMAP, or MAPI protocols.

For many organisations using Microsoft technologies the infrastructure will look as simple as this – SharePoint sends on emails to Microsoft Exchange, if the recipient is external its then delivered to the recipients mail server.

Simple email infrastructure

Simple email infrastructure

(Note these services can exist on the same physical machine, for example SBS or Small Business Server will contain SharePoint and Exchange on the same server)

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Troubleshooting – The url in Alert Email is incorrect

October 13th, 2009

This is one article in the larger Troubleshooting SharePoint Alerts guide


When you setup an Alert in SharePoint the URL is stored in the content database as absolute URL’s and using the URL of the page you were using at the time (for example it could be intranet or if using Alternate Access Mapping with external zones)

If you later change the url used to access your site (for example the name of the server, the host name, the port, protocol change from http to https etc) then the URL used in the email alerts will not change and may no longer work.


To Fix

Use STSADM’s updatealert command that was released in the SharePoint Administration Toolkit in April 2008 (see download links in above KB)


stsadm -o updatealert -url http://yournewurl -oldurl http://yournewurl

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Troubleshooting – The date format in Alert emails is incorrect

October 12th, 2009

This is one article in the larger Troubleshooting SharePoint Alerts guide


The date format in emails received from workflow notification emails such as Task Assigned do not use the correct (site) date format.

For example you may get emails with US date formats for a site using UK date formats and vice versa.


Fixed in

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Alert Me tricks for Power Users

September 21st, 2009

Alert Me Tricks for Power Users

  • The Alert Me functionality is crucial in that it provides a means of automatically communicating to employees what is happening in a company using SharePoint via email alerts.
  • Employees that are well versed in Alert Me power user tricks can greatly increase their productivity.

Limiting what you get Alerted on

  • When configuring an alert for a whole list, selecting anything changes and send email immediately can result in an overwhelming amount of email.

    SharePointAlertAnythingChanges SharePoint Alert send when anything changes

  • Likewise selecting anything changes and send a weekly summary can result in a rather large summary with information that is irrelevant to a given user.

    SharePointAlertAnythingChanges SharePoint Alert send weekly summary

Setting up Alerts for an Individual List Item or a Folder

  • You can begin to focus your alerts by setting up alerts for an individual list item or folder.
  • To create an alert on a documents folder right click on the folder and click on the Alert Me menu item.

SharePoint - Alert Me on a Folder

  • You can then for example get alerts when a document is added, modified or deleted within the folder.
  • To create an alert for one item on a list you can right click on item and click on the Alert Me menu item.

Alert Me while right clicking the task item on a list

  • Alternatively if you have clicked on the item and you are currently viewing the item, you can click on the Alert Me link to create an alert for that item.

Click alert me while viewing the item

Setting up Alerts on a View of a List

  • Although setting up an alert for an individual item may be required on occasion, spending time setting up alerts on each individual list item you are interested in may not be an effective use of time.
  • The most powerful way to refine the alerts you are getting is to set alerts based on a view.
  • You can then dynamically receive alerts on items that are relevant to a views configuration of your choice.

High Priority Tasks Assigned to me and Modified by Someone Else

  • When a view is created by a user it can be selected from the view pull down menu such as in this example a view called “High Priority Tasks Modified Not by Me”.

Drop-down selection of High Priority List View

  • The “High Priority Tasks Modified Not by Me” configuration in the modify this view page include the following:
    • the status is not completed
    • the priority is high
    • the items has been modified by someone other than me
    • the item is assigned to me

Filter Selections in a high priority view

  • Such a view can provide alerts targeted on changes to tasks that you really need to see.
  • Then with a view created, when creating an alert, the alert can be configured to receive alerts based upon that view.

Refine Alerts by View on High Prioirty View

Modifying Existing Alerts In SharePoint

  • To modify an existing email alert for a SharePoint list click on the Actions pull down menu on any SharePoint list such as Calendar or Tasks and click on the Alert Me menu item.

Create an alert based on a drop down menu

  • The Alert Me webpage allowing you to configure an email alert will open.
  • Click on the view my existing alerts link.

View My Existing Alerts Link On New Alert Page

  • The My Alerts on this Site page will open where you can click on an alert from the list to make modifications to it.

My Alerts on this site where you can modify or delete and existing alert

Modifying Existing Alerts In Outlook

  • This image is of an email alert in Outlook 2007 for a high priority item in progress that is assigned to John G. Taylor and modified by Greig M Stevens.

View of Alert in Outlook

  • You can click on modify my alert settings to be taken to the My Alerts on this Site page.

Outlook Alerts Link

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Getting started with SharePoint Alerts

September 13th, 2009

Excerpt of Getting started with SharePoint Alerts


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