Customizing ELMAH’s Error Emails

Published 06 January 11 10:40 PM | Scott Mitchell

ELMAH (Error Logging Modules and Handlers) is my ASP.NET logging facility of choice. It can be added to a new or running ASP.NET site in less than a minute. It’s open source and it’s creator, Atif Aziz, remains actively involved with the project and can be found answering questions about ELMAH, from Stackoverflow to ELMAH’s Google Discussion group. What’s not to love about it?

ELMAH’s sole purpose is to log and notify developers of errors that occur in an ASP.NET application. Error details can be logged to any number of log sources – SQL Server, MySQL, XML, Oracle, and so forth. Likewise, when an error occurs ELMAH can notify developers by sending the error details to one or more email addresses.

The notification email message sent by ELMAH is pretty straightforward: it contains the exception type and message, the date and time the exception was generated, the stack trace, a table of all server variables, and the Yellow Screen of Death that was generated by the error.


Prior to sending the notification email, ELMAH’s ErrorMailModule class raises its Mailing event. If you create an event handler for this event you can inspect details about the error that just occurred and modify the email message that is about to be sent. In this way you can customize the notification email, perhaps setting the priority based on the error or cc’ing certain email addresses if the error has originated from a particular page on the website.

To create an event handler for the Mailing event, open (or create) the Global.asax file and add the following syntax:

void ErrorMailModuleName_Mailing(object sender, Elmah.ErrorMailEventArgs e)

In the above code snippet, replace ErrorMailModuleName with the name you assigned the ErrorMailModule HTTP Module. This module may be defined in one or two places: the <system.web>/<httpModule> section and/or the <system.webServer>/<modules> section. The following Web.config snippet shows both sections:

        <add name="ErrorMail" type="Elmah.ErrorMailModule, Elmah" />


        <add name="ErrorMail" type="Elmah.ErrorMailModule, Elmah" preCondition="managedHandler" />

The name for the module in both sections should be the same - in the above snippet the name is ErrorMail. Consequently, to create an event handler for ELMAH’s Mailing event with the above configuration we would use the syntax:

void ErrorMail_Mailing(object sender, Elmah.ErrorMailEventArgs e)

Note that the Mailing event handler’s second input parameter is of type ErrorMailEventArgs. This class provides two helpful properties:

  • Error – the error that was just logged by ELMAH. This property is of type Elmah.Error and has properties like Exception, Message, User, Time, and so on.
  • Mail – the MailMessage object that is about to be sent. This gives you an opportunity to modify the outgoing email.

The following Mailing event handler shows how you could adjust the notification email based on the type of exception that occurred. Here, if the error that just occurred was an ApplicationException then the notification email is set to a High priority, it’s subject it changed to “This is a high priority item!”, and is cc’d.

void ErrorMail_Mailing(object sender, Elmah.ErrorMailEventArgs e)
    if (e.Error.Exception is ApplicationException ||
        (e.Error.Exception is HttpUnhandledException && 
            e.Error.Exception.InnerException != null &&
            e.Error.Exception.InnerException is ApplicationException))
        e.Mail.Priority = System.Net.Mail.MailPriority.High;
        e.Mail.Subject = "This is a high priority item!";

Note that if an unhandled ApplicationException is what prompted ELMAH to record the error then by this point the original exception will have been wrapped in an HttpUnhandledException. So in the if statement above I check to see if the error’s Exception property is an ApplicationException or if it is an HttpUnhandledException exception with an InnerException that is an ApplicationException. If either of those conditions hold then I want to customize the notification email.

Happy Programming!

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