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Mailman: FAQs

Frequently Asked Mailman Questions

Is there an automated email list processor at WSU?
Yes, WSU IT Services maintains an application (Mailman) on the central computer systems for redistributing email messages to groups.

How do I find information about a particular Mailman list?
  1. Go to
  2. Replace "listname" with the actual List Name.
If you have any questions about Mailman not answered on the general information pages, email

How can I see what public Mailman lists are at WSU?
You can go to the following site to see a list of public Mailman lists:

How do I find a Mailman list owner at WSU?
Send email to: where "listname" is replaced with the actual name of the list. Your message will be automatically forwarded to the list owner.

How do I subscribe to a Mailman list at WSU?

You can access the directory of public lists at

To access a private list, you will need to know the exact list name.

Once you have accessed the list's information page, scroll down to the Subscribe section. Enter your email address and a password of your choice. The password that you select should be only for this mailing list.

When you fill out the form, you will be given the option of receiving mail from the list in digest format. The digest format will result in you receiving a single message from the list each day rather than receiving them individually. If you later decide you want to change your digest option, you can do so.

Once you have filled in the information requested in the Subscribe section, click on the Subscribe button. If the list has been set up to require owner approval for subscriptions, you will have to wait until the list owner approves your subscription request. Otherwise, Mailman will send an email message to your email address. The message that you receive will ask you to confirm your subscription request. This helps to prevent other people from adding you to a list without your permission. When you receive the confirmation request, simply reply to the message.

After successfully subscribing to the list, Mailman will send you a welcome message (list owners can configure their list so that welcome messages are not sent). The message will include the URL that will direct you to the list's information page, a URL that will direct you to your personal settings page, and your list password. You should keep the welcome message for future reference. You will need the information contained in the welcome message if you ever want to modify your personal settings on the list or unsubscribe from the list.

How do I unsubscribe from a Mailman list at WSU?
To unsubscribe from a Mailman mailing list at the WSU, go to the list's information page where "listname" is replaced with the actual list name.

In the list's "Subscribers" section you will see a button that says "Unsubscribe or Edit Options." Enter the email address with which you are subscribed to the list and click on the button. This will take you to the list's "Membership Configuration" page where you can change your membership options, unsubscribe to the list, or request a password reminder. By clicking on the Unsubscribe button, a confirmation message will be emailed to you. The message will have a URL that you can go to in order to complete the removal process. (There will also be instructions on how to confirm your unsubscribe request by email.) This confirmation step ensures that you will not be removed from the list by someone other than yourself or the list owner.

Forgotten Password? Can I get a reminder?

To get your password for a Mailman list, go to the list's information page where "listname" is replaced with the list's actual name.

Under the list's “Subscribers” section you will see an "Unsubscribe or Edit Options" button next to which you can enter your email address. Enter the email address with which you are subscribed to the list and click on the button. This will take you to the list's "Membership Configuration" page where you can change your membership options, unsubscribe to the list, or request a password reminder. By clicking on the Remind button at the bottom of the page, your list password will be emailed to you.

Are there general guidelines for posting messages to lists?
  • Use a Meaningful Subject Line
    When sending messages to a mailing list, please make sure that they have a clear and descriptive entry on the "Subject:" line.

  • Provide Context
    Every posting should begin with a clear introduction to the topic, or offer some kind of reference to the topic or a previous posting. There are often several "threads" of discussion going on simultaneously, which makes unreferenced postings confusing to readers.

    A popular way of providing context is to quote verbatim from the original message. However, keep the quotations short and relevant. Quoting whole messages, signatures and all, can be inconsiderate.

  • Humor
    Humor is appreciated, but please remember that humor in email can easily be misinterpreted.

  • Censorship
    Some Mailman mailing lists are "unmoderated" lists. This means that what members post goes directly to the other members. In order to keep lists uncensored, it is important that only pertinent messages are posted to the list. Members whose messages do not meet minimum expectations will be notified, and may be excluded permanently from future participation.

  • Personal Mail
    Just as it is important to try to share public information with the whole group, private correspondence should remain just that: private. Send personal messages directly to individuals, not by way of the list.

  • Quality of Communication
    If you find something posted on the list objectionable, you have every right to voice your objections, but you should not do so in public. Please express your complaints directly to the person responsible. If enough complaints are received, it is unlikely that the offender will post those kinds of things again. You can also, of course, simply discard/delete all mail from an offending writer.

    Please note that this DOES NOT address harassment or illegal activities. Such instances should be reported to IT Security by sending email to

Can I post messages to a list from multiple email accounts?

If the list to which you are subscribed restricts postings to subscribers, any account from which you post messages will need to be subscribed. You can subscribe your other accounts at the list's information page: where "listname" is replaced with the actual name of the list.

Now, you will want to edit the options for your subscriptions, so that only one of them will receive postings from the list. At the very bottom of the listinfo page for the list, there should be a line that begins with "To unsubscribe from... ." At this point, you should decide which addresses should receive postings and which should not. Take one that should not, and enter it as directed. Click on the button that says Unsubscribe or Edit Options. You will then be asked to enter your subscriber password.

At the next screen, scroll down until you see "Your listname Subscription Options." Under "Mail Delivery," check the button that says Disabled. Then scroll down and click on the button that says Submit My Changes.

You should repeat this process for any email addresses that you do not want postings sent to, but would like to be able to send postings from.

Why do my digests have unreadable text in them?

If your subscription is set to receive a plain text digest, MIME formatted messages or attachments will show up as random characters. The solution is to change your subscription to receive MIME formatted digests.

To change the type of digest you are receiving, go to the list's information page at where "listname" is replaced with the actual name of the list. Log in with your administrator password or fill in your email address next to the "Unsubscribe or Edit Options" button at the bottom of the page. On the Membership Configuration screen, scroll down until you see the "Get MIME or Plain Text Digests?" box. Choose MIME (if you also choose "Set Globally," all of your Mailman subscriptions will be changed) and then click on the Submit My Changes button at the bottom of the screen.

Can I use email commands to interact with the Mailman server?

The majority of Mailman's options are available exclusively by the Web interface.

If you're posting from an address other than your membership address, specify your membership address with [address=<address>] (no brackets!). Note that in this case the response is always sent to the subscribed address.

Mailman will recognize the following commands (note that words in "<>" are required and words in "[]" are optional. Do not include the "<>" or "[]" in the actual commands):

  • Confirm <confirmation-string>
    Confirm an action. The confirmation-string is required and should be supplied within the mail back confirmation notice.

  • End
    Stop processing commands. Use this if your mail program automatically adds a signature file.

  • Help
    Print this help message.

  • Info
    Get information about this mailing list.

  • Lists
    See a list of the public mailing lists on this GNU Mailman server.

  • Password [<oldpassword> <newpassword>] [address=<address>]
    Retrieve or change your password. With no arguments, this returns your current password. With arguments <oldpassword> and <newpassword> you can change your password.

  • Set
    Set or view your membership options.

  • Set Help
    Get a more detailed list of the options you can change.

  • Set Show
    To view your current option settings.

  • Subscribe [password] [digest|nodigest] [address=<address>]
    Subscribe to this 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.

  • Unsubscribe [password] [address=<address>]
    Unsubscribe from the mailing list.

  • Who Password
    See everyone who is on this mailing list. The roster is limited to list administrators and moderators only; you must supply the list administrator or moderator password to retrieve the roster.
Commands should be sent to <listname> (where <listname> is replaced with the name of the list and the "<>" are not included).

Messages appear to be from on behalf of the original person who sent the message. Why is that?

Mailman adds a Sender header that looks like this:

Sender: [] On Behalf Of “name of sender”

Some email programs such as MS Outlook read this Sender header rather than the original From header but label it as the From header. Only people using MS Outlook (or other programs that behave in a similar way) will see the From line in this way. Most programs will display the correct From line with the original sender's name and address.

My list is being abused, how can I quickly shut it down to prevent any further emails being sent?

Start Emergency Moderation at the Mailman website.

Log into the administrative pages (see Administrating a new list). If you are not already there, go to General Options. Scroll down toward the bottom of the page, and look for the section titled "Emergency moderation of all list traffic." Select Yes to start emergency moderation.

When this option is set, all mail sent to the list will be held for moderation. When the problem has been resolved, you can allow your list operation to go back to normal by going back and changing this option back to "No."

Who can own a Mailman list at WSU?

Current WSU faculty, staff (non-hourly) or graduate students.

All Mailman lists must have at least one owner who is a current WSU faculty, staff (non hourly), or graduate student. One of the Mailman list owner email addresses must be a valid WSU email address.

Recognized WSU student groups and organizations may request new lists, but are required to provide a full time Faculty/Staff list sponsor before the list can be set up. The sponsor does not need to be a list owner.

How do I establish a Mailman list?

How do I request a New List?
Use the Request a List form at

Please allow 24-48 working hours for your request to be processed. You will receive an email message from ITS Technical Staff when the list is ready for use.

Once your list has been created, you can access it via Web pages on the Mailman server. As a list owner, you can configure your list settings, add and delete members, and customize your list as needed.

How do I Administrate my new List?

To view your list settings go to the following URL: where "listname" is replaced with the actual name of your list.

How do I add or delete subscribers?

Login to your List Admin page.

After you have logged in to your list administration pages, go to Membership Management. This should bring you to a page with a list of the subscribers. Every subscriber will have a checkbox at the left, entitled "unsub." If you wish to unsubscribe a few people, you can check the boxes and click on Submit Your Changes.

If you have a list of email addresses that you wish to add or remove, you can go to either Mass Subscription or Mass Removal, which are options under Membership Management.

For Mass Subscriptions enter the email addresses in the text box provided, one per line. If you would like to include a name associated with each address, you can do so in the following format:

full-text-name <email-address> Don't forget to include the brackets around the email address. It is also very important that you include the full email address (in other words, do not shorten Washington State University addresses to "@wsu").

For the Mass Removal page, just enter the email addresses you want to remove, one per line.

How can I add, delete or change Mailman list owners?

To change ownership of your list, go to your list's administration pages.

Under General Options you will find a list administrator setting where you can specify the email address(es) of the current list owner(s). Simply add or delete email addresses change list owners. Please note that at least one list owner must have a valid WSU email address. When you are finished, click on the Submit Your Changes button. It is a good idea to then double-check the spelling of the owner addresses.

How can I delete my list?
Use the form at the Mailman website

List deletion requests must be made by the list owner. You will receive an email message from when the list has been deleted.

Can I hide my Mailman list to make it less vulnerable to abuse?

Change your privacy settings

Log on to the administration page and select the Privacy Options link under Configuration Categories. The first setting asks you if you want to "Advertise this list when people ask what lists are on this machine." Set this to No and click on the Submit Your Changes button.

How do I prevent my List from distributing Spam?

Several options exist:

  • First Option: Have Mailman automatically discard all messages from non-members.
    • Login to your List Admin page. 
    • Select Configuration Categories links to Privacy Options > Sender Filters.
    • Set the Generic Non-member Action setting to discard and submit your changes.

  • Second Option: Allow specific domains to post to your list.
    Note: These domains are based on the From address of the incoming message and are often forged by spammers.

    • To allow Domain address to post to your list whether or not they are members, add the following entry to the "Accept These Non-members" setting in Privacy Options under the Sender Filters page and submit your changes: example:  ^.*

  • Third Option: Discard messages from specific domains.
    Note: The from address is often forged.

    • To block a domain, enter the following in the "Discard These Non-members" setting in the Privacy Options under Sender filtersexample:  ^.*

How do I create and manage a moderated list?

To add moderators to your list, login to your admin page and select General Options.

Look for the "moderator" field. Enter the information as necessary. Note: Owners do not need to be listed as moderators.

You will also need to assign a separate password to the moderator(s).

The password can be set by going to the Passwords category.

If you decide that you would like members to have their messages moderated by default, go to Privacy Options > Sender Filters. Locate the Default Member Moderation setting, and click Yes. Then choose the action you want taken on messages sent by members. The Member Moderation Action setting has three options: Hold, Reject, and Discard. "Hold" will hold the message for approval by the owner/moderator. "Reject" and "Discard" will both prevent the message from reaching the list, however "Reject" will send a notification to the sender, whereas "Discard" will not.

You will notice that on this same screen, there is a section that allows you to specify what is to be done with mail sent from non-members. This is only for non-members for whom no specific action has been set.

When you have finished making changes on this page, click Submit Your Changes. Keep in mind that this applies to new list members only.

If you have existing members that you would like to make moderated, go to Membership Management. This will bring you to a screen that lists all the members of your list. The "mod" option allows you to specify whether or not a member's postings are moderated. If you have a lot of unmoderated members, and would like to make them moderated, you can change this under "Additional Member Tasks" by selecting "On" to make everybody moderated, or "Off" to set everybody to unmoderated. After selecting the option you want, click the "Set" button. This changes everyone's moderation option, including the list owners if they are list subscribers. If you don’t want to be a moderator of your list, don't forget to turn off moderation for your own address.

To manage a moderated list, you should go to your list's administration pages, then click on the link in the upper right Tend to Pending Moderator Requests.

How do I add, delete or change Mailman list moderators?

Go to your list's administration pages. 

Select General Options where you can specify the email address(es) of the list moderator(s). Simply add or delete email addresses to change list moderators. When you are finished, click Submit Your Changes.

Why are messages from the list owner moderated?

Mailman distributes messages based on if you are subscribed to the list and your current moderation rule.

Most often, owners whose messages are being moderated are not subscribed to their own list. To add your email address to the list, log in to your list administration page and select the Membership Management section and then Mass Subscription. Type in your name and email address in the following format: name <email_address>.

Remember that the brackets around your email address are required. When finished, click Submit Your Changes. You should then view your Membership List and make sure that the box in the "mod" column is not checked next to your email address. If it is, uncheck it and click Submit Your Changes.

If you do not want to subscribe to your list but you still want to be able to post messages without being moderated, go to the Privacy Options section and click on the Sender Filters link. Find the "Accept These Non-members" option and type your email address into the box provided. Then click Submit Your Changes.

Why am I getting moderation requests for my unmoderated list?

Mailman list may moderate a particular message based on the following:

  • Reason: Post by non-member to a members-only list
    Explanation: This reason is given whenever a non-member tries to post to a list that is configured to only allow members to post.
    Setting: The "Generic Non-member Action" setting under “Sender Filters” in “Privacy Options” controls what happens to messages from non-members. It can be set to either accept messages (no moderation), hold for moderation, reject, or discard messages.

  • Reason: Message body is too big
    Explanation: Mailman will compare the size of the incoming message to the size allowed for each list. By default, any message over 40 KB is held for moderation. Any message over 3 MB will be returned to sender as undeliverable.
    Setting: To control the maximum message size allowed for your list, go to General Options and look for the Max Message Size setting at the bottom of the page. You can set it to 0 for the maximum allowable size of 3 MB.

  • Reason: Post to moderated list
    Explanation: Individual subscribers can be moderated (rather than having the entire list moderated). This is the reason that will be given if a moderated member sends a message to the list.
    Setting: An individual's moderation can be controlled through Member Management > Membership List. The setting that controls what is done with a message sent by a moderated member is under Privacy Options > Sender Filters and is called "Member Moderation Action."

  • Reason: Message has implicit destination
    Explanation: By default, Mailman looks for the list's address in the To or Cc fields of incoming messages. If the address is not explicitly given in the To or Cc fields (e.g. if the list has been blind carbon copied or if the list is subscribed to another list to which the message was originally sent), the message will be held for approval.
    Setting: You can configure the list so that the address is not required to be in the To or Cc fields by going to Privacy Options > Recipient Filters and setting the "Require Explicit Destination" setting to No.

  • Reason: Too many recipients to the message
    Explanation: Mailman will examine the number of email addresses listed in the To or Cc fields of incoming messages. By default, Mailman will hold for moderation any message that contains more than 10 addresses in these fields (the list's address is only one address and the number of subscribers on the list does not have an effect on this setting).
    Setting: You can change the default setting for "Max Num Recipients" under Privacy Options > Recipient Filters. Change this setting to 0 for no limit.

  • Reason: Message has a suspicious header
    Explanation: Your Mailman list can be configured to moderate messages with specific headers (e.g. "Subject: On Vacation"). If a message contains such a header, it will be held for moderation.
    Setting: You can add or delete headers from the "Bounce Matching Headers" list. Go to Privacy Options > Spam Filters > Bounce Matching Headers.

How do I change the name of my Mailman list?

Mailman list names can't be changed. A new list has to be created and the old one deleted. You'll have to take care of details like transferring the subscribers to the new list and informing anyone who uses the list what the new listname is.

How do I change where replies to my list are sent?

As a Mailman list owner, you can configure your list so that replies to messages are directed to either the original sender, the entire list, or to a specific email address. The location you choose will depend on the type of list you want to have.

Replies directed to the original sender will cut down on list traffic. This may be the setting you prefer if you want to have an "announcement" type list.

Replies directed to the entire list will promote list discussions. This increases the amount of traffic on the list, but it allows everybody to see the discussion.

Replies directed to an explicit address are good for announcement type lists with a parallel discussion type list. If this is the type of list you would like to have, select "Explicit Address" and set the "Reply-To:" address setting to the discussion list address.

To make changes, log in to your administration page. You will find the "Reply-To" settings in the "General Options" section under "Reply-To: header munging."

How do I find out who is subscribed to my list?

Go to your list's administration page 

Under the Configuration Categories section at the top of the page, select the Membership Management link and you will be shown a list of your current subscribers along with their settings. If you have more than 30 subscribers on your list, the Membership List will be broken down alphabetically on separate pages.

How can I view all of my subscribers on a single Webpage?
If you have more than 30 subscribers on your list and Mailman is displaying them alphabetically on separate pages of the Membership List, you can view them all on a single page by going to your list's information page at where "listname" is replaced with the actual name of your list.

Log in with your administrative password, then click Visit Subscriber List towards the bottom of the page. This will take you to a list of current subscribers who are not concealed. You can change the concealment option for individual subscribers on the admin pages for your list at

Go to Membership Management and check or uncheck the box in the "hide" column next to the subscriber's email address. (Checking the box will conceal the member and un-checking the box will make them visible.) When finished, make sure you click Submit Your Changes at the bottom of the screen.

How do I limit postings to my list so that only subscribers can post?

Mailman allows you to choose what to do with incoming messages.

Go to your list's administration pages then click on Privacy Options > Sender Filters. The second to last option will allow you to decide what to do with mail from non-subscribers. "Reject" and "Discard" will both prevent the mail from posting to the list, but "Reject" will send a notice to the sender, whereas "Discard" will not.

How do I tell subscribers what their list password is when they forget it?
As a list owner, there is no way for you to look up a subscriber's password. However you can direct them to the list's information page where they can request that their password be emailed to them: They can select the option to have their password sent to them.

How do I create a list where only the owners/moderators can post messages?
In order to do this, you must make sure that subscribers and non-subscribers cannot post, allowing only the owners and moderators the ability to post to the list.

To reject mail from non-subscribers, go to your list's administration pages and select Privacy Options > Sender Filters > Generic Non-member Action option will allow you to decide what to do with mail from non-subscribers. "Reject" and "Discard" will both prevent the mail from going to the list, but "Reject" will send a notice to the sender, whereas "Discard" will not. Before hitting Submit Your Changes, you will have to do a little more work to block mail from subscribers. There is no specific way to do this, but there is a workaround. You can make all the subscribers moderated, then define what to do with mail from moderated subscribers.

To make all members moderated, go to the top of the Sender Filters page. Select "Yes" for the "default_member_moderation" option, so that new members are automatically set to "mod" status. The "member_moderation_action" option will allow you to choose what you do with the mail sent by subscribers. After making your choice, you should click Submit Your Changes.

If your list already has subscribers, you should make sure that they are also set to "mod" status. Go to Membership Management. Under Additional Member Tasks, select the button that says "On" to set everyone's moderation bit and then click Submit Your Changes. This will set all current subscribers to "mod" status.

If the owners and moderators are also subscribed to the list, you will need to change their moderation status. You can do so on the Membership List under Membership Management. Find each owner's or moderator's email address and uncheck the "mod" box. Click on Submit Your Changes before moving on to a new screen. If the owners or moderators are not subscribed to the list, follow the links to Privacy Options > Sender filters and enter their email addresses in the "accept_these_nonmembers" setting. When finished, submit your changes.

Can Mailman ignore vacation messages?
Mailman currently ignores any message marked with a "Precedence: Bulk" header which some vacation programs add to vacation messages. If the vacation message does not contain such a header, however, you will need to manually configure your Mailman list to moderate (but not ignore) certain messages based on other information such as keywords in the Subject line.

To do so, log in to your list's admin pages and follow the links to Privacy Options and to the Spam Filters section. There you will find the "Bounce Matching Headers" setting that should already contain some values. Add the following line in the text box:

Subject: .*keyword where "keyword" is replaced with typical vacation subject line text.

Submit Your Changes" button at the bottom of the screen.

When a message is received by the list that matches any of the lines specified in the spam filter, Mailman holds the message so it is not distributed to the entire list and sends a moderation notice to the list owner.

Keywords:listserv listproc lists mailman   Doc ID:78624
Owner:Lindsay H.Group:Washington State University
Created:2017-12-07 15:30 PSTUpdated:2017-12-13 11:34 PST
Sites:Washington State University, Washington State University - Spokane, Washington State University - Tri-Cities, Washington State University - Vancouver
Feedback:  0   0