How do I use the SYMPA mailing list?

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How the mailing list service works

Mailing list service is managed by mailing-list software: Sympa. This software comes with a web mailing list environment at web site.

To perform actions related to mailing lists (subscribe, change your options, etc.), you have two options:

  • log on to the web environment;
  • send commands by email to the Sympa mailing list manager at

To send a command to Sympa, send email to

  • For a single command, put the command in the subject of an email messages and leave the body empty.
  • If you send several commands, leave the subject line of your email blank and type all the commands in the email body. Be careful: Sympa will not process your message unless you respect the following rules:
    • Write every command on a new line.
    • Send your message in plain text, not in HTML (no formatting).
    • Your message can not contain anything else than Sympa commands (no signature block).

A description of all the commands you can send to Sympa is available at /sympa/help/mail_commands.

Subscribing to mailing lists

  1. Choose the address with which you want to subscribe to the list.
  2. Send a message to from the address you want to subscribe to the list.
  3. In the subject line of your message, type in: subscribe pingpong-L Firstname Lastname (replace 'pingpong-L' by the name of the list and supply your own name).
  4. Leave the message body blank.

You will receive a message telling you whether your request was accepted or not. If the subscription to the list is subject to any approval, the list owner may choose not to subscribe you. If you have a question for the list owner, send a message directly to the list owner (

Note: you will sometimes be asked to confirm your subscription request before it can be processed. If so, please conform to the instructions contained in the message you receive.

If your request is accepted, the message you receive confirms your subscription to the list. You may not receive an immediate answer.

For users with MTU accounts, you can also subscribe to a list through the mailing list web interface.

  1. Go to the list environment home and log on.
  2. Go to the information page of the list you want to subscribe to.
  3. In the left menu, click on the 'Subscribe' link.

Checking your subscriptions

To see all the lists you subscribed to, you need to log on first. View a display under 'Your lists' in the left column.

To look at a list information page, click on its name You can:.

The number of people subscribed to the list is permanently displayed in the left menu. To review the list members, click on the 'Review members' link in the left menu (if the list-owner decided to deny access to the members list, this link is not available). The subscribers list displays and shows the email address and name of each of the subscribers (the indication of the name depends on the subscription method used by the subscribers).

By default, each page displays 25 subscribers. You can browse through the pages by using the browsing arrows or display more subscribers per page. You may also wish to sort subscribers according to their email address, domain or name by clicking on the corresponding column header.

The names of the list owners and moderators are displayed in the left menu.

To know when you subscribed to the list and when you last updated your subscriber options, click on the 'Subscriber options' link in the left menu.

Managing your preferences

To allow you to use lists more easily, you can define a number of personal preferences. There are two types of preferences you can change:

  • your subscriber options, which can vary according to the list;
  • your general preferences, which apply to the entire Sympa mailing list environment.

Changing your subscriber options

Your subscriber options can vary from a list to another. To change them, do as follows:

  1. Go to the list environment homepage and log on.
  2. Go to the information page of the list for which you want to change your subscriber options.
  3. In the left menu, click on the 'Subscriber options' link.
  4. Choose a message delivery mode (those options are mutually exclusive, thus you can not select several of them):
    • standard (direct reception): this mode is the default delivery mode, you receive list messages; .
    • no mail (useful for vacations): this mode makes it possible not to receive the messages of the list. It is especially useful when you have no access to your email for a long time and want to remain subscribed to the list nevertheless.
    • text only mode: this mode allows you to receive only the text version (text/plain) of messages sent in both formats (plain text and HTML).
    • HTML only mode: this mode allows you to receive only the HTML version (text/html) of messages sent in both formats.
    • urlize mode: this mode allows you not to receive attached documents. However these documents are available in the list archive and you can access them through a URL provided in the message.
    • you do not receive your own posts: this mode allows you not to receive a copy of your own messages.
  5. Choose a visibility option:
    • listed in the list review page: your name and email address will be displayed in the members list (if the list owner allowed subscribers to review the list members).
    • concealed: your name and email address will not be displayed in the members list. However you email address will be visible in the list archive if you send messages.
  6. Click on the 'Update' button.

Changing your general preferences

The general preferences apply to all your subscriptions as well as to the way your Sympa mailing list web interface displays. To change your preferences, do as follows:

  1. Go to the list environment homepage and log on.
  2. In the form displayed on top of the left column, click on the 'Your preferences' link.
  3. Change your preferences.
  4. Click on 'Submit' for every option you change.

You can change:

  • your name; if you subscribe to a list from the mailing list server web interface, the 'Name' field will automatically be filled in in the members list;
  • the language in which the Sympa web interface is displayed (you can change language on every page of the web interface; your choice will remain even though you change the interface language on another page than the 'Preferences' page;
  • the lifetime of the cookie placed on your computer by Sympa ('Connection expiration period'). By default, the session expires when you close your browser; if you use the mailing list service a lot, we advise you to choose a longer duration;

    A cookie is a small file a web server stores on your hard disk, most generally temporarily, in order to identify you as a user of its service. It contains a few pieces of personal information about you: name, email address, latest logon time, etc.

Searching for a mailing list

You may search for a mailing list. To do that, you have three options:

  • browse the different sections displayed on the list environment homepage;
  • search for a list via the search box: the searched string will return all public lists whose name or description matches your search criteria (descriptions of the lists generally consist of a short sentence);
  • click on the 'List of lists' tab on top of page to display all public lists.

Reading a list archive online

Please refer to the archive documentation.

Sending a message

Please refer to the documentation about sending messages.

Using the shared document web space

Please refer to the shared document web space documentation.

Unsubscribing from lists

To unsubscribe from a list, do as follows:

  1. From the address with which you subscribed to the list, send a message to
  2. In the subject line of your email, type in: unsubscribe nameofthelist (replace 'nameofthelist' by the name of the list you want to unsubscribe from).
  3. Leave the message body blank.

You can also unsubscribe through the mailing list web interface (you will need to repeat the operation for each list you want to unsubscribe from):

  1. Go to the list environment homepage and log on.
  2. Go to the information page of the list you want to unsubscribe from.
  3. In the left menu, click on the 'Unsubscribe' link.