Managing Mailman Mailing Lists


Each mailman list must have at least one person who will be its owner, also known as an administrator, or admin, for short. As a list admin, one assumes responsibility for the mailman list. Also, the list admin may perform various administrative functions with the list. These would include adding and removing subscribers, processing administrative requests or making configuration changes to the list.

Along with a description of how mailman mailing lists work, this document will describe the most frequently performed list admin functions including:

  • using e-mail to send commands to the mailman system

  • adding subscribers to a list

  • removing subscribers from a list

  • processing special admin requests for the list

How Does Mailman Work?

Mailman lists work the same way as Listproc or any other mailing list service. People send an e-mail message to the address of the list and it is distributed to those who are subscribed to it.

When a person is subscribed to a mailman list, they get a message informing them of their being subscribed. This message contains several pieces of information about the list, including a subscriber password. This password is required for things such as changing subscription options and un-subscribing from the list. Please note that some lists are configured so that no message is sent when a person is subscribed. This is an option that can be set for your list. Mailing lists in mailman can be configured so that a reminder e-mail is sent to all subscribers at the beginning of each month. This reminder will inform the subscriber about their being on the list and their subscriber password. By default, this option is turned off. It can be set in the administrative options web pages for your list.

To perform administrative or subscriber functions on mailman lists, such as adding or removing subscribe, can be done by two methods. One can send commands to a special e-mail address where they will be processed. Or, one can use mailman's web interface. This method is most commonly used.

Sending Commands Via E-Mail

In mailman, each list has its own address for sending commands to. The address will look like this:

Substitute list-name with the name of your mailing list. For example, if you have a list called class-list, the address for sending commands would be The command you wish to send can be placed either in the subject line of the message or in the body of a plain text format message. Rich or styled text messages, such as those you get when composing e-mail in Outlook, will result in error messages being sent back. Mailman cannot interpret your command if it is in a rich or styled text message because of extra HTML code that is used to create the styles or formatting used in these types of messages. The formatting of your message can be set to plain text. It can usually be done by selecting an option similar to “Plain Text” from your e-mail composer's “Format“ menu.

The command


will give you a listing of all available commands that can be sent by e-mail.

Administering Your Mailman List Via The Web

Each mailman list has its own administrative web page. From this page, you can do things such as adding and removing subscribers or changing configuration options. The URL for your list's admin page is:

Replace list-name with the name of your mailing list. To use our previous example, the admin page for the list class-list would be at:

Once you get to your list's admin page, you will be required to enter your list's administrative password. Enter this in the field provided and click the button marked Let me in....

Please note, when working with your list, you must have cookies enabled in your web browser. The admin page will not work properly if your browser cookies are disabled.

You are now in the main admin section for your list. Near the top of the page, there are three columns of links. The left two columns are "Configuration Categories". Here, you can change your list's settings or add and remove subscribers. The rightmost column is "Other Administrative Activities". These activities include tending to requests that have been queued for your list and going to the list's general information page. When you are done working with your list, click the Logout link.

These columns of links are displayed on all the "Configuration Categories" pages. Also, all administrative pages will have a link at the bottom taking you back to the list's administrative interface, which is the main admin options page.

When you are working with your list's administrative options, the category you are currently in will be displayed in the menu of links in boldface type, surrounded by square brackets. When you first sign into your list's admin page, you will be in the General Options category. It will be displayed in the menu as:

  • [General Options]

Below the columns of links, you will find the list's General Options. Here, you can make changes to some of the settings for your list. There is documentation describing each option. Click the (Details...) link beside each option for its description. This link will take you to a new page that has a description of the option. You can also make changes to this option's value on this page. When you are done viewing the option detail and/or changing the option values, click the Submit Your Change button. this will save your changes and take you back to the previous page. The option you made changes to, on the details page, will be displayed with its new settings.

Should you decide to make any changes on any of the options pages, you must click the Submit Your Changes button at the bottom of the page. Your changes will not be applied if this button is not clicked.

Managing Subscribers in Mailman

Subscribers can be added to and removed from lists via the web. In the "Configuration Categories" links, click Membership Management. This will take you to a page that will show any subscribers you currently have on your list. The subscribers, and their subscription options, are listed in a table. To view the meanings of the column headings, click the link labeled “Click here to include the legend for this table.”.

Subscribers are listed in alphabetical order, based on their e-mail address. Below each subscriber's e-mail address, there is a text field for their name. If their name was provided when they subscribed to the list, it will be displayed. You can edit these fields if you wish. Like any other changes you make to this list they must be submitted when done so that they will be saved. Above this list, there are links that will allow you to jump to different letters of the alphabet for viewing subscribers. If you have a large number of people on you list, a small subset of them will be display with links to the rest of the subsets shown below.

Removing Subscribers

Beside each subscriber's e-mail address, you will see a checkbox in the "unsub" column. To remove a subscriber from your list, simply check the box. When you submit your changes, all subscribers with checks in the unsub boxes will be removed.

Adding Subscribers

The Membership Management page has a link labeled Mass Subscribe Members. Use this section to add new subscribers to your list. The first item in this section is an option to either subscribe or invite new members to the list. If you choose to invite them, they will be sent a message with the invitation to join the list as well as instructions on how to do so. The default action is to subscribe the new addresses.

Next, is the option to send a welcome message to the new subscribers. This option can be configured on the General Options page for you list. The welcome message is sent to a subscriber when that person joins the list. It will inform the person about the list and give them their subscriber password. Click "No" if you don't want new subscribers to receive this message. The welcome message can be customized. On the General Options page, there is a text box where you can enter additional text that new list subscribers will receive.

There is also an option to have notification e-mails sent to the owners of the list when a new subscriber joins. By default, "Yes" is chosen.

Next, there is a text box for entering new subscribers for your list. Enter the e-mail addresses of the people you want to subscribe here. Put each address on a separate line. If you also have the name of each subscriber, you can include it in parentheses (round brackets), preceded by a space, after the e-mail address of the new subscriber. Below is a sample of a few lines and how they would look with the name included: (Mickey Mouse) (Donald Duck)

You can manually type in the text. If you have this information in a text filer, you can upload it and mailman will read the subscriber data from it and add the people to the list. The new subscriber names and addresses can also be pasted into the text box.

Below the text box is a field for you to enter the name of a text file. You can also click the Browse button and use the file browser window that opens to select the file you want to upload. The file you choose will be entered into the text field.

In the text box that is below the place where you can enter subscriber addresses or choose a file to upload, you can optionally enter additional text that will be used either in the invitation message to potential new subscribers or the welcome message for the subscribers you added. The use of this text is determine based on your choice to either invite or subscribe people, that was made above.

After making changes to either the "Membership List" or adding subscribers through "Mass Subscribe Members", click the Save Your Changes button.

Once you are done all your admin tasks, click the "Logout" link to exit your list's administration page.

How Can People Subscribe Themselves to Your List?

It is possible to have people subscribe themselves to your list. If you list is configured to allow this, there are two methods new subscribers can use to join the list.

Subscribing By E-Mail

For people to subscribe themselves to your list using e-mail, they will need to compose a message to Replace list-name with the name of your list. For example, someone who is subscribing to class-list must compose a message to On the subject line of the message, the command


should be entered. This can also be put in the body of a plain text message. Then, the message should be sent. If your list is configured to send out a welcome message, the new subscriber will receive a message about their subscribing to the list.

Subscribing On The Web

Each mailman list has its own list information page. Here, people can read up about the list, subscribe to it or change subscription options. The URL for the list's info page is

Replace list-name with the name of your list. For the list class-list, the info page URL would be:

There is a section on the page for subscribing to the list. Fill in the little form with the e-mail address, a choice of whether or not to receive a daily digest of the list, a desired subscription password, and confirmation of that password. After filling in this form, click the "Subscribe" button. You will then be shown a page with the status of the subscription attempt. E-mail will also be sent.

Administrative Requests

As the owner of a mailing list, you may receive administrative requests by e-mail. These requests can be for:

  • the approval of ne wmember subscriptions

  • approval of messages being sent to a moderated mailing list

  • approval of messages sent to a list that may meet certain conditions that the list has set to protect itself from spam

The e-mail you receive will contain a brief description of the request plus a link you can click that will take you to the administrative requests page for your list. Sign in with your list's admin password.


If you have any questions about mailman or other mailing list issues, please contact IST Service Desk at 474-8600 at IT Service Desk,



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