Guide to Understanding and Managing a LISTSERV Mailing List

This document will cover the basics of LISTSERV lists specific to the University of Hawai‘i’s centralized servers, including how to use, set up, and manage them.

Any UH faculty, staff member, or a student is allowed to request for a mailing list. However, students must be sponsored by a faculty or staff member. List topics should be directly related to academic and/or administrative work of the University.



General Information


Getting More Help



General Information

What is a Mailing List?

A mailing list is a tool that provides users with the means to disseminate information to groups of people. Rather than list every address individually, the user need only enter a single address on the message. This address will reference a list, which will contain the addresses of the intended audience, thus simplifying the task of reaching all of the members of the group.

Personal mailing lists can be setup within email client software such as Microsoft Outlook, Eudora, Netscape mail, etc.  However, these lists are stored on the local computer and are only available to the owner. For others to send to the same group of people on a different computer, they would have to either manually enter the group members’ email addresses individually or import the list from the source computer.

UH mailing lists, on the other hand, are stored on the UH list server.  To send a message to a group, you only need to send the email to the mailing list’s email address.  When the mail server receives the message, it distributes the message to the members of that list.  It does not matter what computer or what email software you are using.

UH mailing lists are much more than email address reference lists.  The owner(s) of a mailing list can configure it to behave differently according to their needs.  Setting specific permissions using keywords and templates creates different types of mailing lists. These are four common examples of mailing lists, each with its own advantages for specialized use:

·         Mail Alias – An email address that is used to redirect a message to one or more addresses. Emails sent to the list are not archived and no record of who sent what and when it was sent is kept on the server.

·         One-way announcement – The owner(s) and editor(s) of the list are the only people who are allowed to send messages to the subscribers. This type of list is primarily used for newsletters, product announcements, and dissemination of information that does not require feedback from the subscriber.

·         Two-way discussion – The list administrators and the list subscribers are both permitted to post messages to the list. This type of list is primarily used for discussion groups engaged in the exchange of ideas and information centered on a specific topic.

·         Moderated – This type of discussion list has an editor(s) who reviews all incoming messages. The editor decides whether or not to allow the message to be sent to all the subscribers on the list. Moderated lists can be used to control the discussion by keeping inflammatory or inappropriate messages from the reaching subscribers.

To use a mailing list you would simply type in the name of the list in the To: field of the outgoing email message. When you send the message, it will go to everyone who is on the list. For example, if there are twenty people that you normally send email to, these people can all belong to a mailing list called Instead of sending a message to twenty addresses:



You would send the message to the list address:


The address will redirect your message to everyone whose email address is in the group-l mailing list. This becomes especially helpful when the size of your group gets very large. Rather than typing in the addresses of everyone individually, you can create a mailing list that will do the same thing for you.

For a more detailed description of the different features of using a mailing list, please refer to online documentation available at:

How do I Request/Create a Mailing List(LISTSERV)?
  1. To request a mailing list, visit the following web site: Login with your UH username.

    NOTE: If you do not currently own a UH username,  Get a UH Username
  2. After you login, enter the requested list's name(must include a hyphen) and your list's description. Using the radio buttons, select Quick Start or Configure LISTSERV and click on the Request List button after you have completed the online form.


List Owner's Responsibilities

A list owner is entrusted with its members’ personal information (email address and name), and this carries certain responsibilities with regards to ensuring privacy and security. You must determine what level of security is most appropriate for your list. For example, a closed family list where all members know each other personally may be set to Review=Private (any list member may get the list of all subscribed addresses), but any list with subscriptions open to the public should be set to Review=Owners. A hobby discussion list may operate with relaxed security and deal with transgressions as they occur, but a commercial newsletter must have very tight security as any breach will reflect poorly on the department/organization’s reputation. On an open discussion list, subscribers are aware that the discussion may sometimes stray off the topic, whereas on a moderated list they expect that you will exercise more control over what gets posted. On a one-way list, subscribers will hold you responsible for every posting.

As the owner of the list, it is your responsibility to:
  • Understand your list’s configuration.
  • Let subscribers know what they can expect from the list when they sign up.
  • Help subscribers subscribe and sign off.
  • Assist subscribers when they have difficulties with the list.
  • Prevent abuse of the list by third parties. For example, always require subscription confirmations on open lists, prevent outside access to subscriber email addresses (Review=Owner), and require confirmation of all postings to one-way lists (Send=…,Confirm).
  • Receive and review all mail sent to the listname-request address. This address is publicized as the way to get in touch with the list owner when a subscriber or potential subscriber requires assistance.




How Can I Access the LISTSERV?

You can perform actions in LISTSERV by sending a command through email or using the Web interface ( Some commands are only available to LISTSERV administrators and list owners while other commands are available to subscribers and non-subscribers as well.

Using Email to communicate with LISTSERV

There are two main email addresses that are used to work with LISTSERV lists. One is to communicate with the LISTSERV program — a “command address.” The other is used to post mail to the list — the “list address.” If you want to change a list configuration or subscription setting, you would email If you want you want to post a message to the list, you would email the list address (ex: 

Using the web interface to communicate with LISTSERV

Sending email messages to LISTSERV containing commands and posting messages to the list is sometimes confusing for people who are new to mailing lists. To simplify this process, the Web interface provides a centralized location for interaction with LISTSERV. As a list owner, you can use the Web interface to issue commands directly to LISTSERV and post simple messages to the list.

To maintain your list via the Web, visit and sign on using your email address ( First time users must submit a request for a new password.

What is the "OK" Confirmation?

To increase security, there are a number of actions for which LISTSERV requires confirmation before proceeding. In some cases, LISTSERV will accept a password-based validation. In other cases, email confirmation is required. When this happens, LISTSERV sends an email message with a subject line such as:

Subject:           Command confirmation request (787EF897)

The string of letters and numbers in parentheses (“787EF897” in the example) is called a “cookie” (sometimes referred to as a “confirmation code”) and is different every time.

Once an “OK” confirmation request is sent out, you must confirm it within 48 hours in order for the command to be executed.

There are three methods of confirming the command:

  1. To confirm using the Web interface, simply click on the link that is provided in the email message sent to you.
  2. To confirm with email, simply reply to the email message, keeping intact the Subject line including the cookie. In the text of your reply, simply type “OK” (without the quotes).
  3. As an alternative method, you can also create a new email message with a blank subject line and the text “OK xxxxxxxx” where “xxxxxxxx” is the cookie from the original confirmation request email.

The cookie is the most important part of the “OK” confirmation method of validation. LISTSERV randomly generates a new cookie for each action that requires validation.  All of the privileges within LISTSERV are tied to an email address. Only someone with access to your email address can make changes to your LISTSERV.

Caution: Never “OK” a cookie blindly. Make sure you are confirming a command that you initiated or a message that you want distributed to the list.  Several cases of list “hijacking” or spam sent to well-secured lists have been tracked back to a list owner or moderator absent-mindedly clicking an OK link that they should not have clicked.

Accessing LISTSERV via the Web

This section provides a quick tour of the list management part of the Web interface. For more information about each page, refer to the online help (Help  in the navigation panel). For your convenience some common tasks have been included in the next section.


Getting Started

To get started, point your browser to:
University of Hawai‘i LISTSERV screen will be displayed, listing a variety of menu selections. Your access to these selections depends on your status – Subscriber or List Owner.

To get started, click on Log In.
If you have already registered with the UH LISTSERV, just enter your email address and the password that was used to register your LISTSERV account. If this is the first time you are logging in, click on get a new LISTSERV password that is in blue and fill in the information requested. An “OK” confirmation will be emailed to you. Click on the link in the email to activate your account. If you are already registered and have forgotten your password, click on the get a new LISTSERV passwordlink to create a new password. Follow the instructions on the next screen to specify a new password. An “OK” confirmation will be sent to your email address for verification. Your request will become active after you have verified your request.
Note: Your password for the LISTSERV must be a minimum of 5 non-space characters. This password is independent of your UH username password. Like any password, you should take care in creating a password that is unique, and you should not distribute it to others. 
After you have confirmed your password, go back to the Welcome page and click on Log in to sign in. On the Login Required screen, type in your complete email address and the password you specified, then click the Log In button.

Navigating the Web Interface

The Web Interface is divided into the following parts: 
  • Top Banner – Default Page header
  • Navigation bar – Appearing on the top side of the main form is the navigation bar. The navigation bar stays generally the same from page to page and contains links back to the various main areas of the Web interface that you have access to: List Management, Subscribers Corner, Email Lists, Preferences, and Log off.
  • Options – Shows options such as Log Out, Change Password, and Search Archives.
  • Help – This section contains links to documentation for users of the LISTSERV website
  • Resources – Functions to request for a new LISTSERV, browsing other LISTSERV through the Catalist search, and information about the LISTSERV software
  • Public Lists - LISTSERV that are marked public.
In LISTSERV 15.0, you can select three modes for the web interface. 
  • Basic - Only the most common options are shown, but no tutorial text is displayed. This is the best mode for those users who are familiar with LISTSERV, but who are not experts and do not need to use the more advanced features. This setting is the default setting.
  • Tutorial - Each web page is displayed with additional text that is meant to guide you through the options on the page. This is the best mode for beginners or for the occasional users. 
  • Expert - Each web page is displayed with no tutorial text, similar to Basic mode, and certain pages may contain advanced options that are not available with the Basic or Tutorial modes. The Expert mode is available for those users who are very familiar with LISTSERV or need access to any advanced settings.

To change the mode, click on Preferences or Basic Mode located in the top header. Use the pull down box to select the mode type (Basic Mode, Expert Mode, Tutorial Mode) then click Submit.

List Owner Management

The List Management menu is the launch point for all list management functions. If you are the owner of only one list, the List Management page for that list will be displayed. If you own more than one list, you will need to use the drop down box to select the list you want to work with. 


List Dashboard
This selection displays a user interface that organizes and presents information about your lists in a way that is easy to read. It allows you to quick access to adding or deleting subscribers or subscription options as well.
List Configuration
This menu allows access to a subset of menus that leads to the List Configuration Wizard, Tasks, Alphabetic Keyword List, and Manual List Configuration functions. Under the List Configuration Wizard option, one is able to make changes to the LISTSERV settings. 
List Reports
This menu allows access to a subset of menus that leads to List Reports, Subscriber Reports, and List Activity Reports. Here one can see the reporting section which enables you to view and change the settings of your subscribers and lists.
Web Templates (also referred to as Dynamic Web Templates) control the pages produced by the Web interface. These pages are produced dynamically when they are accessed. What gets displayed by the browser depends on the circumstances and may change depending on who is accessing the interface, which list they are accessing, the settings of that list, and so on.
A mail template is a complete email message. Formatting commands are available, substitutions that make sense in the context of the specific message are available, and while other templates may be imbedded with the .IM command, the message is in and of itself ready for LISTSERV to send.
Subscriber Management
This function allows you to add or remove subscribers from your lists. It also allows bulk functions through a text file to be done here.
This page allows you to send text based commands for configuration functions without the need of using your email address.

Common List Configuration Settings


Description: This configuration simulates a mail alias. A message posted to the list is simply forwarded to all subscribers. Messages sent to the list are not archived or kept on the server. Subscription to this list is restricted and requires the owner’s approval; however anyone may post to the list.
Header Settings:
My public discussion list (MYLIST-L)
Subscription= By_Owner
Ack= No
Send= Public
Errors-To= Owner
Confidential= No
Validate= Yes, Confirm
Reply-to= List, Respect
Review= Owners
Notebook= No

Public Listservs Lists

Description: Public LISTSERV lists are available for people to search for and request a subscription. Set “Confidential” to “No” to make your LISTSERV list public and “Subscription” to “Open” to allow a user to subscribe without the need of the owner’s approval.
Header Setting:
My public discussion list (MYLIST-L)
Subscription= Open
Ack= Yes
Send= Public
Errors-To= Owner
Confidential= No
Validate= Yes, Confirm
Reply-to= List, Respect
Review= Owners
Notebook= Yes,/listserv/root/lists/listname,Monthly

One-way announcement List

Description: Only the owner or moderator/editors, in this case, are allowed to send mail to this list. Subscription is unrestricted (anyone can subscribe to this list). List is archived monthly.
Header Settings:
 My public discussion list (MYLIST-L)
 Subscription= Open
 Ack= Yes
 Errors-To= Owner
 Confidential= No
 Validate= Yes, Confirm
 Reply-to= List, Respect
 Review= Owners
 Notebook= Yes,/listserv/lists/mylist-l, Monthly
Note: To add more allowed senders to the list, add another email next to the send command:

MODERATED (Editor based)

Description: All messages sent to the list are reviewed by an editor, who is responsible for checking the appropriateness and correctness of a message, before forwarded the message to the list. Moderated lists reduce the amount of “spam” messages since they are filtered by the editor.
Header Settings:
 My public discussion list (MYLIST-L)
 Subscription= By_Owner
 Ack= Yes
 Send= Editor
 Errors-To= Owner
 Confidential= No
 Validate= Yes, Confirm
 Reply-to= List, Respect
 Review= Owners
 Notebook= Yes,/listserv/lists/mylist-l, Monthly


Description: All messages sent to the list are reviewed and approved by the moderator of the list. Subscription to this is restricted and must be approved by the list owner. Unlike a moderated list with an editor, the moderator only approves or disapproves of a message, but doesn’t actually change the contents of the message.
Note: You must have at least one moderator specified. Click on List Management, then click on the Wizard button, then click on Alphabetical Keyword Listingthen click on Moderator(or the keyword of your choice).
Header Settings:
 My moderated discussion list (MYLIST-L)
 Editor= joe@example
 Subscription= By_Owner, Confirm
 Ack= Yes
 Confidential= No
 Validate= Yes, Confirm
 Send= Editor, Hold, Confirm
 Errors-To= Owner
 Reply-to= List, Respect
 Review= Owners
 Notebook= Yes, /listserv/lists/mylist-l, Monthly
Note: Moderation can also be done in a Round-Robin Fashion. To do so, simply remove the ‘All’ following Moderator.


Common Tasks Using the LISTSERV Web Interface

To add multiple subscriptions (for list owners):

a.       Create a text file with the subscribers you want to add to the list. File should be in the form of [complete email]  [first name]  [last name] one user per line.
b.      Click on List Management and click on Subscriber Management.
c.       If you own more then one list, select the list that you want to manage from the top.
d.      Click on the Bulk Operations tab.
e.       Click on the Browse button to locate your file.
f.       Click on the Import button to add the users. Make sure that the Add function is selected. (Hint: You can remove all the users by simply selecting Remove instead.)

To remove a subscription (for list owners):

a.       Click on List Management and click on Subscriber Management.
b.      If you own more then one list, select the list that you want to manage from the top.
c.       Under Examine or Delete Subscription section, type in the field an email address to perform a search for the user and then click on the Search in <List Name> button. (Hint: Searching the user using his or her complete email will return the most accurate result.)
d.      Verify that the search result shows the correct user and click on Delete to remove user from the current list. The function to notify the individual about their removal is optional.

To change the list’s configuration –Getting Assistance With Header Keywords: 

a.       Click on List Management and click on Subscriber Management.
b.       If you own more than one list, select the list that you want to manage from the top.
c.       Click on List Management and click on List Configuration then List Configuration Tasks.
d.      Choose any of the options and make any appropriate changes as you see fit.
Common Tasks Using Email

If you are use to using email to make changes to your list, you can continue to do so. Emails should be sent to with a blank subject line. The body of the message should contain only commands to LISTSERV with one command per line.  Lines containing non-commands will result in an error message being returned. Be careful not to include your signature file in your email if you have it set to include automatically. LISTSERV will attempt to interpret the signature text as commands and will return “Invalid command” errors. Here are some common tasks using email:

  1. To Subscribe to or Unsubscribe from a mailing list:
To subscribe:
      subscribe history150-l Jane Doe
To Unsubscribe (using the SIGNOFF command):
      signoff history150-l
  1. To obtain a listing of all the public mailing lists on the UH server:
  1. To add or delete subscribers to/from a list (for list owners):
      add history150-l Jane Doe
      delete history150-l
  1. Getting Help:



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Article ID: 1066
Created: Thu, 15 Oct 2009 8:38am
Modified: Thu, 18 Feb 2016 4:15pm