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LISTSERV® Lists
Posted: 10: 37 AM, Monday, Feb 10, 2003
Last Updated: 7:00 PM, Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Basic LISTSERV Information
  1. What is LISTSERV?
  2. Where can I find the Policy for Establishment and Use of Mailing Lists?
  3. Who can get a LISTSERV list?
  4. How do I subscribe to a GW list?
  5. How do I unsubscribe from a GW list?
  6. How do I send mail to a mailing list?
  7. How can I find a mailing list?
  8. What is does it mean for a list to be open or closed?
  9. How can I contact the owner of a list?
  10. Who do I contact for additional assistance?
Creating/Owning A LISTSERV List
  1. How do I create a LISTSERV list?
  2. How do I change ownership of a currently existing list?
  3. How do I manage my list?
  4. What is my LISTSERV password?
  5. Who do I contact for additional assistance with my lists?
Additional Documention
  1. What additional documentation is available?

Common LISTSERV Configuration Settings

  1. What are some common settings Owners may use to change a list's configuration?

Managing Subscribers

  1. How do I review the list membership?

Basic LISTSERV Information

1. What is LISTSERV?
LISTSERV is a proprietary mailing list software, made by L-Soft International, Inc. It is installed on one of GW's UNIX machines, Hermes, and is used to create mailing lists for students, faculty, and staff at GW.

A mailing list is just that - a list of addresses to send e-mail to. They can add and delete subscribers and determine options for the list. Then people (either the owner or everyone on the list) can send to one address, and have it distributed to everyone on the list.

Occasionally, you will hear a mailing list referred to as a LISTSERV. While this is technically inaccurate, most people will know what you mean if you say that you have "to join a LISTSERV" for a class.

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2. Where can I find Policy for Establishment and Use of Mailing Lists at GW?


3. Who can get a LISTSERV list at GW?
Any student, student organization, faculty or staff member may be a list owner. Students and student organizations must have a sponsor's approval to create a list. See Creating/Owning A LISTSERV List below for more details.

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4. How do I subscribe to a GW list?
Simply send this text in the body of a message (not subject!) to listserv@hermes.gwu.edu:
	subscribe Name-of-the-list  Your-First-Name Your-Last-Name
Please note that your message cannot contain any other text, such as your signature file. Any other text is interpreted as a command, the LISTSERV server will return errors.

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5. How do I unsubscribe from a GW list?
Simply send this text in the body of a message (not subject!) to listserv@hermes.gwu.edu:
	unsubscribe Name-of-the-list
Please note that your message cannot contain any other text, such as your signature file. Any other text is interpreted as a command, the LISTSERV server will return errors.

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6. How do I send mail to a mailing list?
Simply send your e-mail to
	name-of-the-list@hermes.gwu.edu 
For example. for a list called "horses", just e-mail
	horses@hermes.gwu.edu.
Be aware that this message will go to everyone on the list! Be sure not to confuse the list address (horses@hermes.gwu.edu - where you send mail to all the people on the horses list) with the LISTSERV address (listserv@hermes.gwu.edu - where you send commands like subscribe, signoff, etc.)

Please note that some lists may not allow everyone to send to the list, but just a select few users (see open or closed lists below).

If you cannot send mail to a certain list, please check with the list owner to see if you are authorized to do so. See the question below on contacting the owner of a list if you don't know who the owner is.

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7. How can I find a mailing list?

Generally, you will be invited or instructed to join a list by the list owner (your instructor, a colleague, etc..)

There are several databases on the Web which you may search to find public mailing lists. If you find a list you would like to join, these databases also provide information about how to subscribe. L-Soft International's Cata-List is the official LISTSERV database of public lists. You can search for all public GW lists there as well.

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8. What does it mean for a list to be open or closed?
There are two types of mailing lists, open and closed. Open lists, also known as public lists, permit any user to subscribe. Closed lists allow the list owner to control the list membership. A closed list, controlled by the instructor, would be most appropriate for a class, a committee, or a department.

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9. How can I contact the owner of a list?
If you don't know who that is, you can contact the owner via e-mail by using the -request alias e-mail address:
name-of-the-list-request@hermes.gwu.edu
Be sure to substitute the appropriate list name for name-of-the-list and then add "-request".

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10. Who do I contact for additional assistance?
Typically, you should contact the list owner for help using their mailing list. General assistance is also available from the IT Support Center (see the bottom of this page for contact information).

The Division of IT offers an Introduction to LISTSERV class. Visit http://teachme.gwu.edu for schedules and contact information.

Additional documentation is available here.

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Creating/Owning a LISTSERV List

11. How do I create a LISTSERV list?
Please visit http://hermes.gwu.edu and click on "Request A New List".

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12. How do I change ownership of a currently existing list?
If you are the owner of a list and wish to transfer ownership to another person, you can do it by editing your list header and changing the owner (if you know how). If you do not know how to perform this procedure, please e-mail listadm@gwu.edu and request the change in ownership (complete with the new owner's name and e-mail address).

If you are not the owner of the list, please ask the current owner to change the list or make the request to listadm@gwu.edu. If you cannot contact the owner (a staff member who has left the University for example), please contact listadm@gwu.edu directly with your request - in most cases, ITS will require a memo from a department chair to transfer a list in this manner.

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13. How do I manage my list?
We now recommend utilizing the web-based management interface to manage your LISTSERV mailing list. Please visit http://hermes.gwu.edu and click on "Manage Your Lists".

The web management interface should be relatively self-explanatory. Remember to select the appropriate list to manage from the drop-down box before performing any action.

The GW training handout on LISTSERV for List Owners provides good information on managing your LISTSERV mailing list via the Web. See the additional documentation section below.

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14. What is my LISTSERV password?
Your LISTSERV password is tied to your e-mail address, but is completely separate from your e-mail password (or any other password). If you do not have a password, or cannot remember it, you can reset it from the Login page (under Manage Your Lists on http://hermes.gwu.edu) by clicking on "get a new password first". You will need to enter your e-mail address and then respond to an e-mail to confirm the password change.

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15. Who do I contact for additional assistance with my lists?
General assistance is available from the IT Support Center (see the bottom of this page for contact information). You can contact the LISTSERV administrators directly via e-mail at listadm@gwu.edu for more specialized assistance.

The Division of IT offers a LISTSERV for List Owners class. Visit their web page at http://teachme.gwu.edu for schedules and contact information.

Also, check out the additional documentation referenced at the end of this FAQ.

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Additional Documentation

16. What additional documentation is available?
The LISTSERV Policy mentioned previously has good information for list owners and users: The Division of IT provides course materials (for Intro to LISTSERV and LISTSERV for List Owners courses) online: The LISTSERV software provider (L-Soft International) also maintains extensive LISTSERV documentation on its website. Here are links to the most relevant documents:
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Common LISTSERV Configuration Settings

17. What are some common settings Owners may use to change a list's configuration?

Use the LISTSERV configuration feature on the List Management main page to change the way your LISTSERV works.

The List Management main page allows you to change the configuration of your LISTSERV. Using these advanced instructions, you can alter the settings you selected when you originally requested the LISTSERV.

Logging in to List Management

Before you can log in, you must create a list management account. (Refer to the following to create a LISTSERV account.) To log in to the List Management main page, do the following:
  1. Go to https://hermes.gwu.edu/.
  2. Click Manage Your Lists.
  3. Enter your gwu.edu e-mail address and your list management password.
  4. Click Login.
  5. Select one of your LISTSERVSs from the List name drop-down menu.
  6. Click the Configuration button or the Edit list configuration option.

Edit Your Listserv Configuration

To edit your LISTSERV configuration, do the following:
  1. Your LISTSERV configuration is displayed as raw text with each line representing a different setting on your LISTSERV.
  2. To change a LISTSERV setting, you must edit the appropriate line. Refer to the information below for details on each LISTSERV setting.
  3. When you are done making changes to your LISTSERV configuration, click Update.
  4. The page will reload and you will receive a success message at the top of the window. If you receive an error, double-check your changes to make sure there are no typos.

LISTSERV Settings

Refer to the information below for details on LISTSERV settings.

Owner – The gwu.edu e-mail address of the owner of the LISTSERV. A single LISTSERV may have multiple owners.
  • Values: One or more e-mail addresses, separated by commas.
    • Add Owners: Add additional owners by typing their gwu.edu e-mail addresses.
    • Transfer Ownership: To transfer ownership of the LISTSERV to someone else, remove your e-mail address and type the new owner's gwu.edu e-mail address. Warning: If you remove your e-mail address, you will no longer be an owner.
    • The use of the "Quiet:" parameter causes all subsequently-defined list owners to be excluded from receiving any delivery error messages or other administrative mail from LISTSERV.
  • Example: Owner= owner1@gwu.edu, owner2@gwu.edu, Quiet: owner3@gwu.edu
Auto-Delete – This option specifies whether or not LISTSERV e-mails should be automatically deleted if they cannot be delivered after 4 days.
  • Values: Yes or No
    • Yes: LISTSERV membership will stay current and old, out-of-date e-mail addresses will be automatically removed for you.
    • No: LISTSERV members will never be automatically removed.
    • Semi-Auto: LISTSERV passes the actual error message to the list owner for further disposition if running in semi-auto mode.
    • Full-Auto: Error messages themselves are discarded and the errors only show up as entries in the daily auto-deletion monitoring report.
    • Manual: The auto-delete monitor informs the list owner of the error(s) and takes no further action on delivery errors.
  • Example: Auto-Delete= Yes, Semi-Auto
Confidential – This option specifies whether or not the list is confidential. All non-confidential lists are displayed on the official catalog of Listserv lists.
  • Values: Yes or No
    • Yes: The list is published to the Listserv Lists web page.
    • No: The list is not published to the Listserv Lists web page.
  • Example: Confidential= No
Daily-Threshold – This option specifies the limit of activity on your LISTSERV. The number specified is the maximum number of e-mails that can be handled by the list each day.
  • Values: A positive integer. By default, this option is set to 100.
  • Example: Daily-Threshold= 100
Default-Options – This option allows you to specify up to three defaults for your list. If you choose to include more than one default, separate them with commas.
  • Values: repro, ack, and/or digest
    • repro: When a person sends an e-mail to the LISTSERV, he or she gets a copy too.
    • ack: When a person sends an e-mail to the LISTSERV, he or she will receive a short acknowledgment indicating the message was received by the LISTSERV.
    • digest: Members periodically receive a digest e-mail, which is a composite of all recent LISTSERV activity, rather than receiving individual e-mails as they are sent to the LISTSERV.
  • Example: Default-Options= repro
Editor – This option allows you to specify the e-mail address of an editor for your list.
  • Values: An e-mail address.
  • Example: Editor= editor1@ilstu.edu
Errors-To – This option specifies to whom list errors and problems should be sent.
  • Values: The default value is Owners. You may replace this value with one or more e-mail addresses, separated by commas.
  • Example: Errors-To= Owners
Moderator – This option allows you to specify a moderator for your LISTSERV. This is optional.
  • Values: One or more e-mail addresses, separated by commas. You may leave this option blank.
  • Example: Moderator=
Notify – This option specifies whether or not someone should be notified when members join or leave the list.
  • Values: Yes, No, or one or more e-mail addresses, separated by commas.
    • Yes: Notifications are sent to list owners when members join or leave.
    • No: No notifications are sent when members join or leave.
    • Replace Yes or No with one or more e-mail addresses, separated by commas, to have notifications sent to those addresses.
  • Example: Notify= Yes
Reply-To – This option specifies to whom LISTSERV replies should be sent.
  • Values: List, Sender, Both, or one or more e-mail addresses, separated by commas.
    • List: The reply is sent back to the list.
    • Sender: The reply is sent to the sender of the original e-mail.
    • Both: The reply is sent to both the list and the original sender.
    • None: No Reply-to: header is generated unless ",Respect" is specified and a Reply-to: header is present in the original posting, in which case replies are directed to wherever the Reply-To: tag points.
    • Respect: The original "Reply-to:" tag on the posting, if any, is kept. If no valid Reply-To: tag exists in the posting, the value defined in the first parameter of this keyword is used.
    • Ignore: The original "Reply-to:" tag on the posting, if any, is ignored and discarded, and the value defined in the first parameter of this keyword is used instead. If Reply-To= None,Ignore, then a Reply-to: tag will never be generated by LISTSERV.
    • Replace any of these options with one or more e-mail addresses, separated by commas, to have replies sent to those addresses.
  • Example: Reply-To= List, Respect

Ack - Defines the default value assigned to new users when they subscribe to the list.

  • Values: Yes, Msg, No, or None.
    • Yes: A short acknowledgment with statistical information on the mailing will be sent back to you.
    • Msg: Messages will be sent when your mail file is being processed.
    • No: No acknowledgement will be sent.
    • None: No messages of any kind are sent when your mail file is processed.
  • Example: Ack= Yes

Review – This option specifies who has permission to view the list configuration and members.

  • Values: Private, Public, Editor, Owner, or one or more e-mail addresses, separated by commas.
    • Private: Only members of the LISTSERV.
    • Public: Anyone.
    • Editor: Only the editor of the list.
    • Owner: Only the owner of the list.
    • Replace any of these options with one or more e-mail addresses, separated by commas, to specify individuals.
  • Example: Review= Owner

Notebook – This option indicates whether or not an automatic log of every piece of mail sent to the list is to be kept, and defines at which interval of time its file name must be changed and who is allowed to retrieve it from the server.

  • Values: No, Yes, where, interval, Separate, access-level.
    • No: This option indicates that an automatic log will not be kept.
    • Yes: This option indicates that an automatic log will be kept.
    • where: The filemode of the minidisk (VM) or the disk and directory (non-VM) on which the notebook is to be kept.
    • interval: Defines the filetype for the filename/list name: Single/Yearly/Monthly/Weekly.
    • Separate: A separate file is kept for each mailing (e.g. announcements, newsletters).
    • access-level: Public or Private
  • Example: Notebook= yes,/export/home/listserv/archives/samplelist,Monthly,Private
Send – This option specifies who can send e-mail messages to the LISTSERV.
  • Values: Private, Public, Editor, Owner, or one or more e-mail addresses, separated by commas. Also, if the list has a moderator, add a comma and specify Semi-moderated, Hold, or Confirm after the Send value.
    • Private: Only members of the LISTSERV.
    • Public: Anyone.
    • Editor: Only the editor of the LISTSERV.
    • Owner: Only the owner of the LISTSERV.
    • Replace any of these options with one or more e-mail addresses, separated by commas, to specify individuals.
  • For Moderated Listservs: Add a comma and one of the following options after the Send value if the LISTSERV is moderated.
    • Semi-moderated: All e-mails, except those with a subject starting with Urgent:, require the moderator's review and authorization before they are delivered to list members.
    • Hold: All e-mails require the moderator's review and authorization before they are delivered to LISTSERV members.
    • Confirm: All e-mails must be confirmed by the original sender before they are delivered to LISTSERV members.
  • Example: Send= Private
  • Example (moderated): Send= Private, Hold
Sender – This option specifies the e-mail address that appears as the sender (i.e. From:).
  • Values: List, None, or an e-mail address.
    • List: The LISTSERV e-mail address appears in the From: line as the sender.
    • None: No e-mail address appears in the From: line. The sender appears to be unknown.
    • Replace either option with an e-mail address so it appears in the From: line as the sender.
  • Example: Sender= List

X-Tags – Indicates whether "X-To:" and "X-cc:" tags are to be included in the output mail files to list recipients of the original mail file (other than the list userid) or not, and how they should appear in the RFC822 header.

  • Values: Yes, Comment, No.
    • Yes: This information must be provided in the form of "X-To:" and "X-cc:" tags in the RFC822 header (similar to the "To:" and "cc:" tags).
    • Comment: This information must be provided in the form of "Comment:" tags, for example, "Comment: X-To:" and "Comment: X-cc:".
    • No: This information must not appear at all in the mail header.
  • Example: X-Tags= No

Subscription – This option specifies how members are added to the list.

  • Values: By_Owner, Closed, Open. Also, if you wish to have new members confirm their e-mail addresses, add a comma and Confirm to one of the previous options.
    • By_Owner: The owner must approve each person who requests membership to the list.
    • Closed: The owner must manually add members to the list.
    • Open: Anyone may join the list.
    • Confirm: Prospective members must confirm their e-mail addresses before they are added as members. To use this option, add a comma and this value after one of the first three options.
    • Open,Confirm: Before new users are allowed to subscribe to the list they must confirm their addresses with an "OK" response. No list owner intervention is required.
  • Example: Subscription= By_Owner
Validate – This option specifies whether or not LISTSERV commands are validated by the owner.
  • Values: Yes, No, Confirm.
    • Yes: Listserv commands must be validated by the owner before they are executed.
    • No: Listserv commands are immediately executed without validation by the owner.
    • Yes,Confirm: Protected commands are validated using the "OK" mechanism by default.
    • Yes,Confirm,NoPW: Protected commands are always validated using the "OK" mechanism.
    • All,Confirm: All commands causing a change in state are validated using the "OK" mechanism.
    • All,Confirm,NoPW: All commands causing a change in state are always validated using "OK".
  • Example: Validate= No

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Managing Subscribers

18. How do I review the list membership?

Reviewing List Membership

You can review the list membership either in a browser window or by e-mail.

  1. Go to https://hermes.gwu.edu/.
  2. Click Manage Your Lists.
  3. Enter your gwu.edu e-mail address and your list management password.
  4. Click Login.
  5. Select one of your list from the List name drop-down menu.
  6. Click the Subscribers button or the 'Manage subscribers' list configuration option.
  7. Select
    1. 'in a browser window' to display the list in your web browser, or
    2. 'by e-mail' to have the list e-mailed to the same address you used during login in step 4.
    3. Avoid using a browser window if the list has more than about 500 subscribers as it could crash your browser.

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