2019 twenty-four merry days of Perl Feed

Paws to Plan What Todo

Paws - 2019-12-16

Christmas is a busy time of the year. So much to do! And who can keep track of it all?

Why, I can, with the help of OmniGroup's OmniFocus app. It's an excellent all singing-all dancing GTD machine. Fully scriptable (both on macOS and iOS) and with Focus views allowing you to filter your tasks by context, tag, or any other dimension, it really is a programmer's todo list app.

However, the one feature that OmniFocus is missing is a way to add things to its inbox of new tasks via a REST interface. Sure, you can email things to a private email address on the OmniGroup servers so next time OmniFocus syncs it'll import them into its encrypted database, but email sucks as an import mechanism. SMTP is a fiddly little protocol, requiring non-core libraries, authentication, and considerable thought into avoiding anti-spam technologies. A HTTP endpoint can be accessed from anywhere - from Perl, from curl, or even from JavaScript in a browser bookmarklet.

What I need is some way to bridge between an HTTP request to sending an email into my todo list.

After reading yesterday's Perl Advent Calendar we know we can use AWS::Lambda::Quick to very quickly throw together a web accessible HTTP API. Maybe we can use something like that here?


In order to send email our Lambda services is going to have do more than just do some calculations and spit out a web page. Amazon offer an extensive range of web services APIs that allow Lambda to do anything from simply persisting data to a database to using Hyperledger Frabric for Blockchain shenanigans. Sometimes it seems like they've got an API for everything and the kitchen sink (actually they really do).

In order to send mail from our Lambda function we're going to need tp make use of Amazon Web Services's Simple Email Services (AWS SES.) But, before we can make use of that we're going to have to grant our Lambda function permission to actually call it!

As part of the setup that AWS::Lambda::Quick does, it creates a new AWS IAM Role that gives it permission to do things. This role, called perl-aws-lambda-quick, is initially configured to attach the AWSLambdaRole and CloudWatchLogsFullAccess policies so the Lambda function can be executed and so logs can be written. It's through modifying this role we're going to get SES access.

First we write a new policy document that describes access to SES. In a production environment we'd probably want to limit the addresses that people can send emails from or to, but for our purposes today a broad policy that grants ses:SendEmail and ses:SendRawEmail for anywhere is fine.

    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": [
            "Action": [
            "Resource": "*",
            "Effect": "Allow"

Then we can use the aws command line interface to create a new policy from that document (which we've saved in /tmp/allow-all-ses.json)

    shell$ aws iam create-policy \
             --policy-name allow-all-ses \
             --policy-document file:///tmp/allow-all-ses.json

That command returns a bunch of data:

    "Policy": {
        "PolicyName": "allow-all-ses",
        "PermissionsBoundaryUsageCount": 0,
        "CreateDate": "2019-12-15T22:56:49Z",
        "AttachmentCount": 0,
        "IsAttachable": true,
        "PolicyId": "ANPA25GBIG3Z2LOSXPAAH",
        "DefaultVersionId": "v1",
        "Path": "/",
        "Arn": "arn:aws:iam::749877081843:policy/allow-all-ses",
        "UpdateDate": "2019-12-15T22:56:49Z"

Most important in there is the ARN of the newly created policy. We can now attach that to our existing role.

    shell$ aws iam attach-role-policy \
             --policy-arn arn:aws:iam::749877081843:policy/allow-all-ses \
             --role-name perl-aws-lambda-quick

Hooray! Our Lambda functions now has permission to send email in general. However, we can't still can't send any old email just yet - because we haven't verified our email addresses.

You have to prove to Amazon that you own any email address you're sending email from. This process is as simple as using the CLI to get Amazon to send you an email with a link you can click on:

    shell$ aws ses verify-email-identity --email-address mark@twoshortplanks.com

You'll also need to move SES out of sandbox mode if you don't want to have to verify email addresses you send to as well. This is a complicated process where you have to explain what I'm doing sending email to real humans. For now, I can just verify my destination address too so I'll be able to send to that address without further ado:

    shell$ aws ses verify-email-identity --email-address sent-to-of@twoshortplanks.com

Writing The Perl Code

In order to call the AWS API we're going to need to make use of Paws (the hilariously named Perl AWS interface.) Paws is an interface to all of AWS's current APIs - but for today we're just going to be making use of the Paws::SES::SendEmail workflow.

In order to use Paws we need to install the modules somewhere where our Lambda script can make use of them. One option is to use the extra_files option to AWS::Lambda::Quick to bundle up all the files along with our source code.

A simpler option is to make use of Lambda layers. These are common reusable zipfiles that layer their contents on top of the Lambda filesystem.

use AWS::Lambda::Quick (
    name => 'send-to-omnifocus',
    extra_layers => [ $layer_arn ],
    timeout => 10,

(We've also bumped out the timeout now to ten seconds to give our function more time to do stuff.)

One of the best things about layers is that they can be shared between accounts. In fact, all AWS::Lambda::Quick always uses the standard Perl Lambda prebuilt layer to provide the AWS::Lambda code that drives the handler. Here we're just adding a second shared layer ontop of that (AWS Lambda currently allows you to have up to five layers and your per-function source code.)

Since we want to use Paws we don't even have to build our own layer - we can use one of the standard ones. Instead of passing in the ARN, we can just pass in the AWS::Lambda::Quick identifier for a layer it knows about and it'll use the ARN for the layer in your region.

use AWS::Lambda::Quick (
    name => 'send-to-omnifocus',
    extra_layers => [ 'paws' ],
    timeout => 10,

Finally, we can get to writing the actual meat of the function:


use strict;
use warnings;

use AWS::Lambda::Quick (
    name => 'send-to-omnifocus',
    extra_layers => [ 'paws' ],
    timeout => 10,

use JSON::PP qw( encode_json );
use Paws;

# this is my own personal address that forwards to my top secret
# OmniGroup maildrop address.
my $EMAIL_ADDRESS = 'send-to-omnifocus@twoshortplanks.com';

sub handler {
    my $args = shift;
    my $param = $args->{queryStringParameters};

    my $text = $param->{text} or return _error(400, "Missing text");
    my $note = $args->{note} // q{};

# get access to AWS's Simple Email Service
my $ses = Paws->service(
        region => 'us-east-1',

# and use it to send an email
        Destination => {
            ToAddresses => [ $EMAIL_ADDRESS ],
        Message => {
            Subject => {
                Charset => 'UTF-8',
                Data => $text, # todo text goes in the subject
            Body => {
                Text => {
                    Charset => 'UTF-8', # todo details go in the body
                    Data => $note,
        Source => 'mark@twoshortplanks.com',

    return {
        statusCode => 200,
        headers => {
            'Content-Type' => 'application/json',
        body => '{"ok":true}',

sub _error {
    my $status = shift;
    my $message = shift;
    return {
        statusCode => $status,
        headers => {
            'Content-Type' => 'application/json',
        body => encode_json({
            ok => JSON::PP::false,
            error => $message,


And now we can execute it

    shell$ perl send-to-omnifocus.pl

And start adding todo entires:

    shell$ curl 'https://52p3rf890b.execute-api.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/quick/send-to-omnifocus?text=Write+More+Perl+Advent+Articles'

Now...I just have to do those things.

Gravatar Image This article contributed by: Mark Fowler <mark@twoshortplanks.com>