Using Mutt to send emails to mailing lists

Please note that I have actually changed my mind on the role that the Mail-Followup-To hearder plays in this world.

It is not a standard, and some people argue against it for good reasons (see an example of arguments against Mail-Followup-To). Until there actually is an RFC solving the problems Mail-Followup-To is trying to address, or a group of people working on it and making it fit in the rest of the electronic mail scenary (RFC 2822 and friends), I am forced to see this header as a hack that can potentially do more harm than good.

I am leaving this page here because I think that it is useful documentation, but I am now setting:

set followup_to=no
set honor_followup_to=no

I will be happy to be pointed to a place where such discussions happen.

If you are in a hurry and want to see quickly what to put in your .muttrc, go the example configuration.

Background

I am getting tired of receiving emails twice when somebody replies to an email I sent to a mailing list (one copy for me, another one to a mailing list).

As I explained in my email guidelines, people should preferably write to a mailing list unless they really want to draw sombody's attention, in which case they can copy this person.

Most mail user agents do not know how to deal with mailing lists. Fortunately, Mutt does.

I want to summarize here how to configure Mutt to be able to send email to mailing lists in an efficient way. If you want more information about mailing list capabilities in Mutt, please have a look at the configuration and advanced usage information in the Mutt manual.

I am talking here about mailing list support in Mutt version 1.2.4.

Mutt recognizes mailing lists in two ways:

subscribe and lists

You should tell Mutt about mailing lists you use:

This allows you to use the list-reply function ('L' key) to reply to a mailing list.

Mail-Followup-To header

Please see my comment about this hearder.

To tell people how to reply to an email you send to those mailing lists, you must use a Mail-Followup-To header. In order to do that, put in your configuration:

set followup_to

This will have the following effect:

You must also tell Mutt that it should not ignore the Mail-Followup-To header. This is done with:

set honor_followup_to=yes

That way, group-replys and list-replys will use the information in the Mail-Followup-To field.

For example, doing a group-reply to an email sent by user1@example.org to bugs@lists.example.com and user2@example.org with the following headers:

From: user1@example.org
To: bugs@lists.example.com, user2@example.org
Mail-Followup-To: bugs@lists.example.com, user2@example.org

will send your mail to bugs@lists.example.com, user2@example.org as specified by Mail-Followup-To, but not to user1@example.org. The Mail-Followup-To field set will include your address since you are not subscribed to that list:

From: your.address@your.domain.example.org
To: bugs@lists.example.com, user2@example.org
Mail-Followup-To: bugs@lists.example.com, user2@example.org,
	your.address@your.domain.example.org

If the same email had been sent to coolstuff@lists.example.com to which you subscribed:

From: user1@example.org
To: coolstuff@lists.example.com, user2@example.org
Mail-Followup-To: coolstuff@lists.example.com, user2@example.org

your reply would have been:

From: your.address@your.domain.example.org
To: coolstuff@lists.example.com, user2@example.org
Mail-Followup-To: coolstuff@lists.example.com, user2@example.org

in order to tell people not to copy you if they want to reply to the list.

Sample configuration

The summary of the configuration in this example is:

# I subscribed to coolstuff@lists.example.com
subscribe coolstuff@lists.example.com
# I know that bugs@lists.example.com is a list, but I didn't subscribe to it
lists bugs@lists.example.com
# Please see my comment at the top of this page about this
set followup_to
set honor_followup_to=yes

You should really consider configuring Mutt like that in order to make everybody's life easier.


Hugo Haas. Send comments to hugo@larve.net.
$Date: 2003-01-15 12:41:46 -0800 (Wed, 15 Jan 2003) $