Communication Technologies

Majordomo - The Complete and Unchanged List-Owners Information

Majordomo address: # Majordomo@FooBar.COM
Majordomo-Owner address:# Majordomo-Owner@FooBar.COM
List Name: # ListName
Is resend used: # yes
Is the list archived: # no
List posting address: # ListName@FooBar.COM
List request address: # ListName-Request@FooBar.COM
List password: # whatever
Digest list name: # ListName-digest
Digest list password: # whatever

Your mailing list has been established. It is being served by an
automated mailing list manager that responds to commands emailed to
the "Majordomo address" listed above. This message has all the details
of how to manage your list remotely using Majordomo. If you have any
questions, refer them to the Majordomo-Owner address listed above.

There's a lot of info here, so please read this completely and
carefully, and save it for future reference. If you have any questions,
you should send them to the Majordomo-Owner address above.

Your list-owner password is shown above. Keep track of this; you'll
need it later. Instructions for changing your password are below.

As soon as possible, please issue a "newinfo" command for your
list (see below) to create the file that someone will receive when
they join or ask about your list.

You can issue a "who" command for your list to see who's already on your
list. You may or may not already be subscribed to your own list.

The Gory Details

Your mailing list is managed by an automated mailing list management
program called Majordomo. Majordomo should free you from dealing
with most of the administrivia usually associated with running mailing
lists (adding users, dropping users, etc.).

To submit something to your list, you (or anybody else) should simply
mail it to the list posting address shown at the top of this file.

To be added to your list, a user simply sends a message to majordomo.
There are two ways to do it:

address-- To: ListName-request@FooBar.COM
message-- subscribe


address-- To: majordomo@FooBar.COM
message-- subscribe ListName

Majordomo understands several commands, and is not limited to a single
command per message (it will process commands until reaching
end-of-message or the command "end"). The command "help" will tell
you about all the other commands.

Actually, it won't tell you about _all_ the other commands that
Majordomo understands. There are several commands there for use by
list owners such as yourself, which are not advertised to the public.
All of these commands are password-protected on a list-by-list basis,
but anyone with a valid list/password combination can invoke these
commands. This is not exactly high-tech security, but it's more
intended to keep annoyance to a minimum than to be foolproof.

The "documented" commands which Majordomo understands and which are
for everyone to use are:

subscribe <list> [<address>]
unsubscribe <list> [<address>]
which [<address>]
who <list>
info <list>
index <list>
get <list>

You can get detailed explanations of all of these by asking for "help"
from Majordomo (send a message containing just the word "help" as the
message text to majordomo@FooBar.COM).

The "undocumented" commands for use by list owners are:

approve <passwd> {subscribe|unsubscribe} <list> [<address>]
This is so that you can approve subscription or unsubscription
actions that need approval by the list owner. Note that this
is just a standard "subscribe" or "unsubscribe" command prefixed
with "approve <password>" (where you substitute the password for
your list, which is listed above, for "<password>").

approve <passwd> who <list>
This allows you to get the list of addresses for your
anonymous list. Without the password, even the list owner can
not see who is on the list.

passwd <list> <old_passwd> <new_passwd>
This is so you can change the password for your list, if you desire.

newintro <list> <password>
This is so that you can replace the information file that people
get when they do "intro <list>" or "subscribe <list>". It reads
everything after the "newintro" command to end-of-message or the
word "EOF" on a line by itself as the new intro for the list.

newinfo <list> <password>
This replaces the information file that people get when they do
"info <list>". (This file is also sent by "subscribe <list>" if
the intro file doesn't exist.) This reads everything after the
"newinfo" command to end-of-message or the word "EOF" on a line
by itself as the new info for the list.

config <list> <password>
Retrieves a self-documenting configuration file for
the list <list>. The <password> can be the password
contained in the file <list>.passwd or the
admin_password in the configuration file.

newconfig <list> <password>
Validates and installs a new configuration file. It reads
everything after the "newconfig" command to end-of-message or
the word "EOF" on a line by itself as the new info for the
list. The config file is expected to be a complete config
file as returned by "config". Incremental changing of the
config file is not yet supported. As soon as the config file
is validated and installed its settings are available for
use. This is useful to remember if you have multiple commands
in your mail message since they will be subject to the
settings of the new config file. If there is an error in the
config file (incorrect value...), the config file will not be
accepted and the error message identifying the problem line(s)
will be returned to the sender. Note that only the error
messages are returned to the sender not the entire config
file, so it would be a good idea to keep a copy of your
outgoing email message.

writeconfig <list> <password>
Write a new config file in standard form. Writeconfig forces a
rewrite of the config file with all default values in place (or
current values if the config file already exists). It is
useful to use after an upgrade of majordomo since it will add
the new keywords for people to change. It also updates the
documentation in the file if that has changed.

mkdigest <digest list name> <password>
mkdigest <digest list name> <digest outgoing alias> <password>
Generate a digest immediately without waiting to reach the
maxlength given in the config file. The first form will cause the
digest to be sent to an alias found by appending "-outgoing" to the
digest list name. Because this can be a security concern, the
second form allows specification of the name of the alias that the
outgoing digest will be sent to.

Configuring Your List

You should retrieve the configuration file for your list. To do this,
send an email message to the majordomo address listed at the top of
this form. The contents of this message should be:

config <list> <List password>

Where <list> <List password> are given at the top of the form. You
will receive a config file that can be used to change the operation of
your list. If the information at the top of this form shows that
resend is being used, you want to configure the majordomo and resend
subsystems. Otherwise you only have to configure those items that are
associated with the majordomo system.

The configuration file is meant to be self documenting. Once you have
completed all of the changes to the config file, You should use the
newconfig command (described above) to put a new configuration file in

If you have a digest version of your list, you should retrieve the
config file for the digest as well using:

config <Digest List Name> <Digest list password>

and configure the parameters for the digest and majordomo subsystems.

Regular Expressions

For some of the configuration options, a rudimentary knowledge of perl
style regular expressions will help you run Majordomo through its
tricks. A regular expression is a concise way of expressing a pattern
in a series of characters. The full power of regular expressions can
make some difficult tasks quite easy, but we will only brush the
surface here.

The character / is used to mark the beginning and end of a regular
expression. Letters and numbers stand for themselves. Many of the
other characters are symbolic. Some commonly used ones are:

\@ the `@' found in nearly all addresses; it must be preceded by a
backslash in later versions of perl to avoid errors
. (period) any character
* previous character, zero or more times; note especially...
.* any character, zero or more times
+ previous character, one or more times; so for example...
a+ letter "a", one or more times
\ next character stands for itself; so for example...
\. literally a period, not meaning "any character"
^ beginning of the string; so for example...
^a a string beginning with letter "a"
$ end of the string; so for example...
a$ a string ending with letter "a"

Example 1.

Notice the periods are preceded by a backslash to make them be
literally periods. This matches any string containing
such as:

Example 2.

The `@' has special meaning to later versions of perl and must be prefixed
with a backslash to avoid errors. The string ".*" means "any character,
zero or more times". So this matches:

but it doesn't match

Example 3.

This is similar to Example 2, and matches the same first two strings:

but it doesn't match

because the regular expression says the string has to begin with
letter "r" and end with letter "u", by using the ^ and $ symbols, and
neither of those is true for

Example 4.

This is the regular expression that matches anything.

Example 5.

Here the * is preceded by a \, so it refers literally to an asterisk
character and not the symbolic meaning "zero or more times". The . still
has its symbolic meaning of "any one character", so it would match for

It would not match this because the . by itself implies one character:

Normally all matches are case sensitive; you can make any match case
insensitive by appending an `i' to the end of the expression.

Example 6.

This would match,, AoL.cOm, etc. Removing the `i':


would match but not or any other capitalization.

To be on the safe side put a \ in front of any characters in the
regular expressions that are not numbers or letters. In order to put
a / into the regular expression, the same rule holds: precede it
with a \. Thus, with \ in front of the / and = characters, this

matches /CO=US and may be a useful regular expression to those of you
who need to deal with X.400 addresses that contain / characters.


When Majordomo requests your approval for something, it sends you a
message that includes a template of the approval message; if you concur,
you simply need to replace "PASSWORD" in the template with your list
password, and send the template line back to Majordomo.

The requests for approval that Majordomo generates all start with
"APPROVE" in the "Subject:" line.

You aren't limited to approving only things to Majordomo requests
approval for. You can approve any "subscribe" or "unsubscribe" request,
regardless of whether Majordomo has requested this approval, with an
"approve" command. Thus, you can subscribe or unsubscribe people from
your list without them having to send anything to Majordomo; just
send an appropriate "approve PASSWORD subscribe LIST ADDRESS" or
"approve PASSWORD unsubscribe LIST ADDRESS" command off to Majordomo.

If you use a mailer which is capable of sending a message to an external
program, can run perl and can run sendmail or a program capable of behaving
like it for the purposes of sending mail, then all you have to do is send
the entire approval message (including all of the headers, which are very
important and which are automatically removed by some mailers unless
configured to do otherwise) to the approve script. Approve looks for a
file called ".majordomo" in your home directory to find the approval
password for your list. The format of this file is given in the following
excerpt from the approve manual page:

approve assumes that the approve password for each list is
the same as the approval password used by resend, and that
this password is stored in a file called .majordomo in the
user's home directory. The file has the following format:

this-list passwd1 Majordomo@This.COM
other-list passwd2 Majordomo@Other.GOV

The first column specifies the name of the mailing list, the
second column specifies the list-owner's password for the
given list, and the third column specifies the e-mail
address of the associated Majordomo server. It is assumed
that the value in the third column is an Internet-style
"something@somewhere" address, and that postings for "List"
should be sent to "List@somewhere". Since this file only
needs to be read by the user, it should be mode 600 to protect the passwords.

If you have the necessary environment for running the approve script,
contact the Majordomo owner at the site that serves your list and request

Bounced Messages

Majordomo may bounce certain messages that people attempt to post to your
mailing list. These messages may be bounced because they appear to be
administrative requests (i.e., someone mailed a request to subscribe or
unsubscribe to the posting address rather than to Majordomo or to the
-request address), because they are too long, because they match strings
that you or the list server owner has defined as being "taboo", or for any
of a number of other reasons, many of which may seem annoying but have been
decided upon as being useful in stopping unwanted messages from making it
onto your list. (These are often configurable, so if you find a check to
be too restrictive you can generally turn it off.) Note also that the
bounces mentioned here are not the same as the errors that will be returned
by various mail servers when addresses or hosts are unreachable. Those are
generally referred to as bounces, also; sorry for the confusion.

Majordomo will forward these messages to you in another message whose
subject line begins with the word "BOUNCE"; the subject line will also
indicate the name of the list the message was bounced from (in case you
manage more than one list) and the reason the message was bounced.

If you decide that the message is OK and should not have been bounced, then
you can cause Majordomo to post it anyway by sending the message back to
the posting address (NOT to the Majordomo address) with a special
"Approved: password" header. There are two ways to do this; the method you
use depends on your having access to and the ability to run the approve
script mentioned in the previous section. If you can run approve it is
recommended that you do so, as this method is much less prone to errors and
will reduce the time you spend moderating your list.

If you cannot run the approve script, you can manually approve the
message. To do so, follow the following directions _exactly_:

1) Save the original message (the body of the message you received
from Majordomo) in a file. The portion you need will consist of
the headers of the original message, followed by a single blank
line, followed by the text of the original message. You do not
need to include any of the headers of the message which contained
the original message. Here's a quick example:

From: majordomo@list.server \
To: your-list-approval@list.server | Don't want these headers
Subject: BOUNCE: taboo_header found /
- Blank line
>From date \
Received: some long routing info | Headers of original message;
From: | You want these. It's OK if you
To: your-list@list.server | don't have the first line.
Subject: Just a message /
- Blank line, you _must_ have this!
Hello. I'm just writing to \
consume some bandwidth and | Message body; include all of
take up space in your mail | this.
spool! /

Basically you want everything after (and not including) the first
blank line.

2) Edit the file to insert a line that says "Approved: password" (where
"password" is the password for your list) at the top, before the
original message, with absolutely no intervening space:

Approved: sekrit
>From date
Received: some long routing info
To: your-list@list.server
Subject: Just a message

Hello. I'm just writing to
consume some bandwidth and
take up space in your mail

3) Send this edited file back to the posting address for your list (NOT
to Majordomo). You should make sure that your mailer doesn't try
to do anything like include your prepared mail as an attachment,
encode it somehow, indent every line, or add anything extra to the
beginning or end of the message. There are mailers that will do
pretty horrible things to messages before they are sent; you should
take care that you aren't using one or, if you are, you have it
configured to pass your text on unadulterated.

This time around, Majordomo will notice the "Approved:" line and check it
against your list password. If it matches, Majordomo will strip off the
header of your message and the "Approved:" line (leaving just the original
message), and send the original message on through.

Even your own messages bay be bounced to you for approval. To send out your
own message without server checks (perhaps you know it contains something
the list server will complain about) you can pre-approve the message one of
the two following ways:

If you're using a mailer that can add additional headers, add one like the

Approved: sekrit

It's precise location within the headers is not important.

If your mailer does not allow you to add additional headers, you can add
the line:

Approved: sekrit

as the first line of the message, followed by a blank line (which is
required for your message to be sent properly) followed by the text of your
message. The Approved: line and one following blank line will be deleted
and the message will be passed without being checked. The blank line is
important because it is used to differentiate between a pre-approval and the
approval of a bounced message, outlined above.


If your list is moderated, (the moderate parameter in the config
file is yes) then messages without an "Approved:" line are bounced,
just as described above. To cause them to be posted to the list, you
add a valid "Approved:" line and send them back, just as described

Again, the "approve" program automates all this if you wish to use it. You
can also use the above pre-approval method to send your own messages
without them being bounced back to you.

If you have any questions about all of this, send them to the Majordomo-Owner
address shown at the top of this file.

Restricting Posting

An easier alternative to moderation is to restrict who can post to the
list, which can be done with the restrict_post configuration variable.
The variable requires a file listing the people who can post.

The most common case is to limit posting to people who are subscribed
to the list. This keeps out advertisements and other junk mail sent
by non-subscribers. Since majordomo already has a file of subscribers,
you don't need to create and maintain a file, so it's easy to set.

Change the restrict_post line to this, where <listname> is the name of
your list:

restrict_post = <listname>

If you want to restrict posting to any other set of people, you'll
need to ask majordomo-owner for help. Unfortunately there's no way to
tell majordomo about keeping another file of people who are allowed to
post, so a file would have to be set in place "by hand". Some future
release of majordomo may provide a way to do this automatically.


Archiving has to be set or unset by the system administrators reached
at majordomo-owner@FooBar.COM. It is not the default but must be
requested. Here is what can be done.

Archive files can be split by years, months, or days. This means all
mail to the list for one of those periods of time will be collected
into one archive file. People who want to get archived mail will need
to get one such file as a unit.

We are running an indexer program nightly. It produces two index files
that subscribers can get: CONTENTS lists what subject lines are in each
archive file; TOPICS lists what archive files contain each subject.

Subscribers use the "get" command to see files in the archives. Examples:
get ListName CONTENTS # gets the CONTENTS file
get ListName ListName.9507 # gets the July 1995 archive file

Access to archives is controlled by the private_get variable in the
config file. The default "yes" means they must be subscribers to get
archived files.

Subscribers can also get a list of filenames and dates in the archive
by sending an "index" command. Example:
index ListName

This is controlled by the config file variable private_index similarly.

Notes on archiving.

- It's possible for the archive to contain files besides the indexes
and the archive files of messages. However, majordomo offers no
method for you to put them there. In an unusual case you can ask
majordomo-owner to put a file there for you.

- Archiving could be accomplished by directing a copy of messages to
some other place besides the majordomo archive. Ask, if you have
something in mind.


A digest version of a list is a way to reduce the number of messages sent
from Majordomo to subscribers. Normally, each message to the list is
remailed to all the subscribers, but with a digest, several messages are
collected into a batch and then sent together as one message. This does
not reduce the total size too much, although there are fewer mail header
lines-- the main purpose is to reduce the number of separate messages.
This actually helps the mail systems at both ends, and may help subscribers
reduce clutter in their mailboxes.

A Majordomo digest is actually a separate mailing list. The digest of
ListName would normally be called ListName-digest.

People subscribe independently to ListName and ListName-digest.
Very likely no one would want to be on both lists. To change between
ListName and ListName-digest, a subscriber needs to unsubscribe
from one list and subscribe to the other. This can be done with one
message to majordomo@FooBar.COM with two command lines in it, e.g.:
unsubscribe ListName
subscribe ListName-digest

Remember that ListName-digest will have its own information file and
configuration file. Change them, if you want to, when you change the
same files for ListName.

Majordomo will send a digest automatically when the size of the digest
exceeds the size given as max_length in the configuration file of the
digest list. The default max_length is 40 K. Thus the interval
between digests can vary, but they will be of a predictable size.

The listowner can also tell Majordomo to make a digest (meaning, compile
and send out a digest) by sending the command mkdigest at any time:
mkdigest ListName-digest password

A daily digest (or for some other time period) could be achieved by
setting the max_length high enough so as not to be reached normally in
a day, and then setting up a job to run daily that sends mail to
Majordomo with the mkdigest command. On a unix system, give the
commands "man crontab" and "man 5 crontab" at the shell for an
explanation of such jobs, or ask majordomo-owner for help.