Mailman User Guide for Subscribers
What is a mail list?
Mailing list terms
from the list server
Doing things with
the Mailman MLM
Setting your list options
and accessing other lists
General subscription options
Mailing list archives
Using Mailman without the
The Division of Information has recently adopted GNU Mailman as their
main mailing list server. It allows the campus community to more effectively
use email for courses, departmental communications, and interactions within
campus groups and clubs.
Mailman will not affect your normal e-mail operations. As you
become a subscriber to various lists you will begin receiving email traffic
through the server. All you need do to participate is read the mail
as you normally would and reply to the messages as you normally would. In addition to basic mailing list services, Mailman provides a number or web-based
features that will make your participation in lists more valuable.
This document is intended for people who are members of a Mailman list and
who want to get the most out of the new system. A separate guide for list
managers can be found in Mailman
Quick Reference Guide and GNU Mailman
List Manager Guide.
What is a mail list?
A mailing list is simply a list of e-mail addresses of people that are
interested in the same subject, are members of the same work group, or who
are taking a class together. When a member of the list sends a note
to the group's special address, the e-mail is broadcast to all of the members
of the list. The key advantage of a mailing list over things such as web-based
discussion is that as new messages become available they are immediately
delivered to the participants mailboxes. Mailman, the subject of this
document, is a program that will make it easy for you to customize your
participation in lists that you will be using at the ANU.
Mail list terms
Before we look further at Mailman there are some key terms that it
will help to understand.
A mailing list is simply a collection of e-mail addresses that will be
receiving mail on a particular topic. Every mailing list has a list name
and a list address. For example here at the ANU, the list address for
the mail list named student_consultants is email@example.com.
Mailman is actually a Mail List Manager (MLM). The mail list
manager is a program on the server that makes it easy to create and remove
lists, to add or remove users from lists, and to do things such as make
message digests or maintain message archives. As a list subscriber
you will only be using the mailing list manager to modify your personal account
Joining or being added to a list is called subscribing. When
you leave a list it is called unsubscribing.
Many Mailman lists will be archived. When a list is archived
the mail list manager will store a copy of list traffic on the web server
that you will be able to access with your browser. Sometimes mail lists
will produce a lot of traffic and the additional traffic can be a nuisance
in your mailbox. One of the options that you will be able to set allows
for the delivery of a digest. If you request digest delivery then
Mailman will store all of the messages that the list receives and send them
to you bundled together as one large message every day.
from the list server
The Mailman web interface allows you to visit a mailing list server and
find out about the lists that the server hosts. Keep in mind, however,
that Mailman will not show you lists that the managers have opted to keep
private. The URL to access the Mailman mail lists hosted at the ANU
Every mailing list on the server, both public and private, has its own
mail list information page. When you go to the server's main list information
page you will see a listing of the publicly available lists along with
a brief description of each. To access the information page for a
particular list (including subscription information and the list archives)
just click on the name of the list.
If you want to access a private list that is not advertised, you will
need to go directly there using the following address format:
where <listname> is the name of the mail list.
If, for example, you are trying to reach the list "demo" as shown in
the graphic below, you could either click on the list's name or type in
http://mailman.anu.edu.au/mailman/listinfo/demo. It is important
that you understand how to get to a mail list's information page as that
is the gateway through which all mailman features are accessed.
When you join a list or are added to the list membership by the owner
the list manager software automatically sends you a note telling you the
URL that you need to go to in order to access the information page. On some lists the list manager will also send you a monthly password reminder
with the web address of the list information screen. If you have
difficulty finding the location of the information page for a particular
list you should contact the list owner or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doing things with the
Mailman list manager
This section will detail some of the things that you can do with Mailman
through the web interface. This assumes that you are able to access
your list's information page either directly or through the directory
of lists discussed in the above section. In the event that you are
unable to access the list's web interface but still have access to e-mail,
alternate instructions can be found in this document's final section:
Using Mailman Without the Web.
When you arrive at the information page of a list you will see information
divided into sections. The first section directs you to the list's
archives if they are available. See the archive section below for
detailed information. The list info page also tells you how to send
a message to the list. Note that the conventional list configuration
prevents postings to the list from people who have not subscribed: so if
you try to send a message to the list before you join it the message will
probably be rejected.
Subscribing to a list is simple and includes safeguards to prevent abuse
of the list. In the subscription section type your e-mail address
and then select a password. The password will be used later when you
want to log in and change your personal settings.
When you fill out the form you also have the option to receive mail from
the list batched in a daily digest. This is convenient if you are
a member of a number of lists or if the list that you are joining has a lot
of traffic. If you change your mind you will be able to change the
digest option at a later time as detailed in the "options" section below.
After you supply your e-mail address and password you should press the
subscribe button to add yourself to the list. Your addition to the list
is not, however, immediate. After you submit the form Mailman will
send an e-mail message to the address that you used to subscribe. The message that you receive will ask you to confirm your subscription request
(this is to prevent someone from maliciously adding you to mail lists that
you do not want to join). When you receive the confirmation request
just follow the instructions - the simplest thing being just to hit the "reply"
button in your mail program. If you send the message back without altering
the subject line (the Re: added by your mailer is OK) then your confirmation
will be accepted.
After successfully confirming your subscription Mailman will send you
a welcome note. The note will include the following important information:
You will need the information that it contains if you ever want
to modify your personal settings or remove yourself from the list.
For some lists this information will be mailed to you as a monthly reminder,
but just to be safe you should always keep the original.
- The URL that takes you directly to the list's information page.
- The URL that takes you directly to your personal settings page.
- Your password. Please keep this message in a safe place.
At the bottom of the list information page is a section for people who
are already subscribers. The first option is a button that allows
you to see the people who are subscribed to the list. Note that
some list owners disable this function in which case it will not appear
on this page. Other lists make this option available only to individuals
who are members of the list - in which case you will be prompted for your
e-mail address and your list password to visit subscriber list.
The final item on the page allows list subscribers to change their configuration
information. Members of the list can type their e-mail address into
the box (they need to use the address that the mailing list delivers mail to
if they have multiple addresses) and then click the Edit Options button. Details on this feature are in the List Options section below.
Setting your list options
Once you have subscribed to a Mailman list there are number of things
that you can to do to customize your subscription. The most straightforward
means of accessing your subscription options is by going to the URL delivered
in your welcome message. If you do not have it handy, then you can
go directly to the list information page if you know the name of the list.
Tell your browser to open:
where <listname> is the name of the mail list. In our
examples here, it is:
At the bottom of the list information page is a blank that will allow
you to type in your e-mail address and click the edit options button.
Note that if you have multiple e-mail accounts you need to supply the address
that you are using as a member of the list whose options you are trying
to edit. This will introduce you to a new page which allows you to
do one of the following three things:
- Log in
By entering your list password and click the Log in button, you
will log in to the page where you can configure and access your subscription
options. You must enable cookies in your web browser to affect the changes
By clicking on the Unsubscribe button, a confirmation message
will be emailed to you.
- Password reminder
By clicking on the Remind button, your password will be emailed
Membership Configuration and Options
Upon successful login, you will be presented with the membership configuration
page which has five sections.
Click on the Log out button to exit from the membership configuration.
Changing your membership information
This section allows you to change the email address that you are subscribed
to the mailing list. A confirmation email will be sent to the new
address, and the change must be confirmed before it is processed.
You can optionally set or change your real name used in the membership.
If you want to make the membership changes for all the lists that
you are subscribed to hosted on the Mailman server at anu.edu.au, turn
on the Change globally check box.
accessing other lists
If you want to remove yourself from the mailing list, all you need
do is turn on the check box "Yes, I really want to unsubscribe" and
click the unsubscribe button.
It is likely that you will be subscribed to several lists that reside
on the same server. Mailman allows you to jump from one configuration
screen to the other through the use of the "Your other subscriptions" feature.
This is useful, for example, if you are going on vacation and need to change
to the no mail option on several lists while away.
The password section of the configuration screen provides you with two
options. First, it allows you to look up your password if you have
forgotten it. Note that for security purposes it will email your password
to the email address that you have registered - preventing unauthorized access
to your password. For the same reason, you should not use your valuable
passwords for your list password.
The second section allows you to change your password. To change
your list password you need to type in your old password once and then the
new password twice. It is a good security habit to change all of your
passwords once a month; it is also a good idea to change your password from
the computer generated random password if you were added to the list by the
There are two additional things that you should know about Mailman's handling
of passwords. As a convenience to the user, some list manager may configure
their lists to send you a monthly reminder of the lists that you are subscribed
to, the list information URLs of those lists, and your personal passwords
for those lists. When you receive this reminder you do not need to
do anything, but it is a good idea to keep the note in case you want to
make modifications to your subscriptions. It is also important to
keep in mind that you have a separate password for each of the lists that
you are subscribe to, even though they may be on the same mail server.
For convenience you may visit each list and set your password to something
common, but changing your password on one list will not change your password
on others on the same server. If you ever forget a password, remember
that you can request that it be sent to you from the list information page.
General subscription options
At the bottom of the configuration screen are the general subscription
options for the list as they are set for your account. When you first
load this page the options reflect your current settings. You may
make changes to these settings and then put them into effect by clicking
on the "Submit My Changes" button at the bottom of the screen.
Here are the options and explantions.
Click on Enabled if you want to receive messages posted to the list.
Click on Disabled if you do not want to receive messages posted
to the list.
Click on Set globally if you want your selected delivery
option applied to all your lists on the server.
Click on Off if you want messages sent to the list delivered
to you one at a time.
Click on On if you want messages posted to the list sent to you
bundled into one single message, usually one daily.
Get MIME or Plain Text Digests
MIME is a way of sending mail that allows for document formatting and
the easy shipping of attachments. Most modern mail readers can handle
MIME mail; older, text-based mail readers may have problems.
Click on MIME if you want digests to be sent in MIME-compliant format.
Click on Plain Text if your mail reader has problems with MIME
Click on Set globally if you want your selected option applied to
all your lists on the server.
Receive your own post
to the list?
Click on Yes if you want to receive a copy of every message you post to
Click on No if you do not want to receive a copy of any messages you post
to the list. Some people find copies of their own messages annoying, this
option will prevent then from having to read their own words.
mail when you send mail to the list?
No - when you send mail to the list, you will have to assume that
your message has been successfully received by the list manager and is
on its way.
Yes: - when you send a note to the list, the list manager will
send acknowledgment of its receipt. This is particularly helpful in
two instances: when you are subscribed to the digested version and will not
see your own posting until the following day; and when the list is moderated
and the moderator may not review/forward your note to the list for some
Get password reminder
email for this list?
Provided your list manager has enabled the password reminder feature for
the list, you will get a monthly reminder of your password of your list
password. If you do not wish to get the reminder, click No. Click also Set
globally if you want this to apply to all your lists on the server. However,
if the list manager has opted to disable the password reminder feature,
setting the option to Yes will have no effect.
from subscriber list?
No - people who have access to the "Visit Subscriber list" option
will be able to see that you are a member of the list.
Yes - people who have access to the "Visit Subscriber list" option
will not be able to see you listed even though you are a member of the
list and receive messages.
Avoid duplicate copies
After making changes to any of these settings you scroll to the bottom
of the screen and click the "Submit My Changes" button. After submitting
your changes the page will be reloaded and the settings should reflect
any modifications that you made.
Mailing list archives
Most list managers will choose to activate Mailman's powerful archival
features to make list traffic available to members. Mailman makes
it archives available through each list's information page. Keep in
mind that the list manager may have chosen not to archive a particular
list to which you belong. Also keep in mind that it is a general practice
to make the list archive available only to individuals who are subscribed
to the list.
If the archive is "open" then you will be able to go straight in from
the information page. If the archive is for subscribers only then
you will be prompted for your e-mail address (make sure to use the address
that the list knows you as) and your list password. See the Password Options section if you need to find
out what your list password is. Once in, you will be shown a historical
listing of list traffic similar to the one shown at right.
The default setting for the archive is to divide messages by month.
Do not be surprised, however, if you see some other division of the archive
contents: the list manager decides how things will be divided up.
There are different viewing options for each month:
- Thread: separates each topic that was discussed from one another
and then displays the notes that are part of each "thread" following one
another in an indented fashion. This view is the best to use if you
want an idea of how conversation on a particular topic progressed.
- Subject: sorts all postings alphabetically by the subject line.
This view is useful for finding a particular topic, but it will not show
the relationships in a visual fashion as in the Thread view. Author: sorts
all postings alphabetically based on the name of the author.
- Date: sorts all postings by the date that they were delivered to
the list. The final option allows you to download a Gzip'd version of the
archive text. Gzip is a compression utility whose files end in .gz.
Most "zip" utilities are able to open Gzip'd files. When you download
and unzip this file you will have the entire contents of the archive's
After you have chosen how you wish to view the archive you will see the
headers of the notes displayed according to your specified criterion.
To read an individual note just click on the subject line. When the
note appears there will be additional navigational information allowing
you to see the previous or next messages (as you had them sorted), or
to request the listing of all of the notes again sorted by a different
Using Mailman without the
There is also an email interface to Mailman if you have no access to
the World Wide Web. The following describes commands you can send to get information
about and control your subscription to Mailman lists at this site.
A command can be in the subject line or in the body of the message. Commands
should be sent to
where listname is the name of the mailing list.
The following describes the list commands. Note that words in "< >"s
signify REQUIRED items and words in "[ ]" denote OPTIONAL items. Do not include the "< >"s or "[ ]"s when you use the commands.
- Confirm an action. The confirmation-string is required
and should be supplied with in mailback confirmation notice.
- Stop processing commands. Use this if your mail program automatically
adds a signature file.
- Print the help message which provides you a list of valid commands
and their description.
- Get information about the mailing list.
- See a list of the public mailing lists on this GNU Mailman server
password [<oldpassword> <newpassword>]
- Retrieve or change your password. With no arguments, this
returns your current password. With arguments <oldpassword>
and <newpassword> you can change your password.
- If you're posting from an address other than your membership
address, specify your membership address with `address=<address>'
(no brackets around the email address, and no quotes!). Note that in
this case the response is always sent to the subscribed address
- Set or view your membership options.
- Use `set help' (without the quotes) to get a more detailed list
of the options you can change.
- Use `set show' (without the quotes) to view your current option
subscribe [password] [digest | nodigest] [address=<address>]
- Subscribe to the mailing list. Your password must be given
to unsubscribe or change your options, but if you omit the password, one
will be generated for you. You may be periodically reminded of your
- The next argument may be either: `nodigest' or `digest' (no quotes!).
If you wish to subscribe an address other than the address you sent this
request from, you may specify `address=<address>' (no brackets around
the email address, and no quotes!)
unsubscribe [password] [address=<address>]
- Unsubscribe from the mailing list. If given, your password
must match your current password. If omitted, a confirmation email
will be sent to the unsubscribing address. If you wish to unsubscribe an
address other than the address you sent this request from, you may specify
`address=<address>' (no brackets around the email address, and no quotes!)
who password [address=<address>]
- See everyone who is on this mailing list. The roster is limited
to list members only, and you must supply your membership password to retrieve
it. If you're posting from an address other than your membership address,
specify your membership address with `address=<address>' (no brackets
around the email address, and no quotes!)