Subscribing to a List

Table of Contents


Basic Terms

Methods for Using List Commands

Essentials: Joining a List

Posting a Message to the List

Visiting Your List on the Web and Modifying Your Settings

Modifying Your List Settings Via Email

Moving On…


Lists allow email discussions among a group of people. Instead of sending a mail message to one person, you send the message to an email address that identifies the list. The message is then redistributed to everyone who reads (or subscribes to) the list. Reading a list is a matter of reading your email. You may belong to a group or a class which has decided to carry out discussion on a list, or you may have heard of a list which discusses a topic in which you are interested. The following information will help you join the list and participate in its discussion.

Basic Terms


A list is a group of email addresses that you can email by sending a message to one address. Messages sent to the list are redistributed to subscribers of the list. A particular list’s address will have the format:

Open List

An Open List is a list which anyone with email or web access can join. Therefore, anyone can send to these lists, including spammers.

Closed List

A Closed List is set up so that only the owner of the list can approve subscriptions. For example, a list might be set up so that only members of a specific department are subscribed.

Course List

A Course List is list made up of the students and instructor(s) of a class. This list must be created by the registered instructor.

List Server

The List Server is the name given to the hardware/software that creates lists and allows them to be used.


This is the specific software that controls the administration and use of a list. For example, people send requests to subscribe to a list to Lyris. The person who maintains a list also sends maintenance commands to Lyris. For lists maintained at UNC-Chapel Hill, all commands and requests to the software are sent to .


A person who subscribes to or receives mail from a list.


The person who creates and maintains a list is considered the owner or administrator. There can be multiple owners/admins. An owner/admin is a subscriber with special permissions.


The moderator is a subscriber who is set up to approve/reject postings to a list. All lists must have a list owner, but moderators are optional.


Posting is a method of sending mail to list subscribers. This can be done by sending email to the list or by visiting the list webpage and sending messages there.


Mail sent to the list may be saved in the list archives. Because of space limitations this option is not turned on by default. The list owner must activate this feature. You can view archives on the List Server site by visiting your list and looking under the Messages tab.


A Digest is a file compilation of messages sent to a list. A list must be set up to have archives before digests will work. Subscribers can get periodic digests instead of individual messages. For example, if you are set up to receive digests you will get one message every day that has all the mail sent to the list attached to your single message.

Methods for Using List Commands

You need to send commands to the list in order to perform basic functions, such as subscribing to the list. There are two ways for sending these commands. The first option for submitting list commands is to use the List Server website at This website offers access to list commands which allow you to modify your settings as a list member, subscribe, unsubscribe, and/or any of a number of other commands (see below). Using these web pages means you do not have to memorize commands or the protocol for using them. An alternative method for submitting list commands is email. You can send messages directly to the List Server at the address. This method requires you to remember the commands or to keep a reference sheet available. This document covers both the web and email methods for submitting list commands. You may find one method easier than the other or you may decide to use the web for some commands and email for others.

Essentials: Joining a List

Using the Lyris Web Pages

In a web browser such as Mozilla Firefox, Safari or MS-Internet Explorer, go to the URL . Choose the utility Search for Lists under User Tools. If you already know the listname simply type the name in the Search field, and click the Search button. You will then have two options: (1) You can submit a subscribe request to join the list (if the list is Closed, your request will be sent to the administrator) or (2) Visit the list. Some open lists you can enter without logging in, while others will require you to login as a member to view its content. Right now you need to join this list, so click the Subscribe button. You will be presented with the following fields on the next screen, if the list allows web subscriptions:

1. Email address: this is required and must be a valid internet email address (all other options below are not required, unless set otherwise by the list owner)

2. Your Name: this may be required on some lists

3. Password: here you can set a personal password or if the listowner requires a password for new subscriptions you will need to enter it here

Click Save when you are finished. If the list is closed your request will be forwarded to the listowner for approval; if it is an open list you will be added to the list.

Click here for information on modifying your personal settings for your subscription.

Joining a List using Email

You can also join a list by sending a message to the List Server. For example, if Jane Doe wants to join an open list called UniversityNews, she would send subscribe UniversityNews as the body of her mail message to (the email address for the List Server controlling the UniversityNews list), leaving the Subject: field blank. For example:





——- Message Text ——–

subscribe UniversityNews

If the list is closed, the request will be forwarded to the list owner for approval. (The list server knows who you are when you submit the request because it extracts your address from the header of the email message containing your request. This prevents errors in entering your email address.)

Posting a Message to the List

To send or post a message to the list, send an email message to the address Enter the subject and content information as you normally would.

Replying to a Posted Message

If you would like to reply to a message that someone else has sent, simply choose Reply as you would for any other message. Depending on how the list is set up, you may be asked if you want to reply to just the original sender or to the whole list. Before you reply to the whole list, consider carefully whether your response is of interest to everyone or just the original poster.

General Posting Netiquette

When posting to a list, be aware that some people get hundreds of email messages a day. These people do not want to receive unnecessary messages and they may get rather testy if they do. So be sure that any messages you post to a list are interesting and useful to those who read the list (messages like “Great!”, for example, are rather useless) and especially that the message is relevant to the list. If you ask the English grad students’ list how to use the library, for example, you may get some rather nasty responses. If people start “email arguments” do not participate. These are considered a misuse of university resources and therefore violates university policies.

A Word on Privacy

Email sent to a list is as secure as any other email. But unlike an email message that you send to an individual, email sent to a list is sent to many different people. You may not know all the people who are subscribed to the list and if the list is a public list, anyone with email access anywhere in the world can subscribe to the list. It is possible to set up a list that is closed (meaning that the manager(s) of the list must approve all subscribers) and private (meaning that only subscribers to the list may send to the list), but that does not prevent a member of the list from forwarding mail that they received from the list to whomever they chose. You might want to consider a list to be much like a bulletin board. It may be like the board that is in the back hallway of your office suite or it may be the kiosk that is in the Pit. In either case many people will be reading the messages that you send and the more people who read a message, the less the message is private.

The point is, it is always wise to consider how what you put in an email message will be perceived by the person reading the message. The lack of body language and voice inflection sometimes makes it possible to interpret an email message in many different ways. This is particularly important in email sent to a list because of the large number of people who may read your message.

Visiting Your List on the Web and Modifying Your Settings

Once you have joined a list you can visit it on the web by going to the List Server site at and choosing Read Lists. You will be prompted to enter your email address and password for the list. Under the My Lists tab, choose the list that you want to access. You can also unsubscribe from any list by clicking on the word unsubscribe next to any of the lists you see.

Reading and Posting Messages

Once you have chosen a list that you are subscribed to, you can choose the Messages tab to read messages, reply to messages and compose new messages. Messages in this view can be displayed by Date, Subject, Replies or Author – just click on the arrows in the appropriate column to do a sort. If a message has 1 or more replies, just click on the message to view the entire thread.

Adjusting your personal settings

To adjust your personal settings for the list, choose the My Account tab and adjust any of the options under the following two tabs:


  • Your email address: you can change your email address that you use to subscribe to the list here. Note that you will need to use the new address the next time you login.
  • Your name: Here is where you would update how your name appears in your postings.
  • Membership Type: this is how you receive your mail. Options include:
    • Normal: receive messages as they are contributed
    • Digest: one daily message with all the contributions for that day **
    • Mimedigest: one daily message with all the contributions for that day in MIME format **
    • Index: one daily message with only the subject lines for that day **
    • No Email: receive no mail from this mailing list

** Note that these settings will only work correctly if the list is set up to keep Archives. If you are unsure if the list is saving archives, contact the list owner.


  • Your Password: You can change your list password here.
  • See Your Postings: Setting which determines if you get an email copy of your own postings sent to you upon submission.
  • Apply Changes: This setting allows any changes that you make to your account to apply globally to all other lists to which you are subscribed to with that address.

Modifying Your List Settings Via Email

Though the List Server provides a powerful web interface you can still accomplish a great deal with email commands as a subscriber. The size constraints of this format prevent an in-depth discussion of the available email commands, but we have provided a brief listing of some of the more useful commands below. The Lyris Help pages provide more detailed info: just search on ‘Email Commands’ .

Note: all the commands below must be sent to . Note also that Lyris will read your From: email address to determine who you are. So if you are subscribed to a list with your home ISP email account and you send the email from your UNC email account, you may have problems. Remember to replace all italicized terms with the terms appropriate to your action.


All of the following formats will work. You will only need the password if the list requires a password to join

  • subscribe list_name
  • subscribe list_name password
  • subscribe list_name your_name
  • subscribe list_name your_name password
  • subscribe list_name password your_name


unsubscribe list_name

Confirm your Subscriber Settings for a Particular List

confirm list_name

Query your Subscriber Settings for a Particular List

query list_name

Change Your Email Address for a Particular List

set list_name email=new_email@address

Change Settings on how you receive List Mail

set list_name mail

set list_name digest

set list_name index

set list_name nomail

Receive Copies of your own posts (repro)

Repro – receive a copy of messages you contribute to a mailing list when the messages are distributed to list (this is the default)

Norepro – do not receive copies of your own postings

set list_name norepro

set list_name repro

Find out Which Lists youre a Member of


Set Password

set list_name pw=password


search list_namesearch term




Moving On…

For more information about the List Server, see the Listserv FAQ. If you think you would like to set up a list, see the ITS document Managing a List. To create a list you will also be using the List Server web pages at Just click Create a List and follow the instructions.

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