How To Install And Configure Mailman (With Postfix) On Debian Squeeze

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Author: Falko Timme
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Mailman is an open-source mailing list manager, i.e., it can be used to manage email discussions and newsletter lists. It is probably the most popular and widely used mailing list manager on the Internet. This tutorial explains how to install and configure Mailman on a Debian Squeeze server with a Postfix mail server.

I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!


1 Preliminary Note

In this tutorial I will configure a virtual host with the hostname where I will install Mailman. is also the right part of the mailing list email addresses that will be configured in Mailman, i.e., mails to a mailing list will have to be sent to the address <listname>

As your hostname will be different, please adjust this tutorial accordingly. Also make sure that your hostname exists in DNS.

Mailman can be used with many mail servers (e.g. Postfix, Exim, Sendmail, Qmail). I will use Postfix in this tutorial. Make sure you have a working Postfix installation, for example as shown in this tutorial: Virtual Users And Domains With Postfix, Courier, MySQL And SquirrelMail (Debian Squeeze)


2 Installing Mailman And Apache

As Mailman comes with a web frontend, we need a web server in addition to Mailman. I choose Apache. Mailman and Apache can be installed as follows:

apt-get install mailman apache2

You will see the following questions/messages:

Languages to support: <-- en (English)
Missing site list
Mailman needs a so-called "site list", which is the list from which password reminders and such are sent out from. This list needs to be created before mailman will start. To create the list, run "newlist mailman" and follow the instructions on-screen. Note that you also need to start mailman after that, using /etc/init.d/mailman start.
<-- Ok

Mailman comes with an Apache configuration file, /etc/mailman/apache.conf, which we copy to /etc/apache2/sites-available/mailman.conf:

cp /etc/mailman/apache.conf /etc/apache2/sites-available/mailman.conf

Open /etc/apache2/sites-available/mailman.conf...

vi /etc/apache2/sites-available/mailman.conf

... and append the following vhost configuration to the file (there's already a vhost for in the file which is commmented out - please don't use that vhost as my vhost configuration differs a little bit although it looks quite similar):

<VirtualHost *:80>
DocumentRoot /var/www/lists
ErrorLog /var/log/apache2/lists-error.log
CustomLog /var/log/apache2/lists-access.log combined

<Directory /var/lib/mailman/archives/>
    Options FollowSymLinks
    AllowOverride None

Alias /pipermail/ /var/lib/mailman/archives/public/
Alias /images/mailman/ /usr/share/images/mailman/
ScriptAlias /admin /usr/lib/cgi-bin/mailman/admin
ScriptAlias /admindb /usr/lib/cgi-bin/mailman/admindb
ScriptAlias /confirm /usr/lib/cgi-bin/mailman/confirm
ScriptAlias /create /usr/lib/cgi-bin/mailman/create
ScriptAlias /edithtml /usr/lib/cgi-bin/mailman/edithtml
ScriptAlias /listinfo /usr/lib/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo
ScriptAlias /options /usr/lib/cgi-bin/mailman/options
ScriptAlias /private /usr/lib/cgi-bin/mailman/private
ScriptAlias /rmlist /usr/lib/cgi-bin/mailman/rmlist
ScriptAlias /roster /usr/lib/cgi-bin/mailman/roster
ScriptAlias /subscribe /usr/lib/cgi-bin/mailman/subscribe
ScriptAlias /mailman/ /usr/lib/cgi-bin/mailman/
ScriptAlias / /usr/lib/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo

The second to last line ScriptAlias / /usr/lib/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo is optional; it makes that when you go to, you will be redirected to This makes sense if you don't have any files to serve in the document root /var/www/lists.

Next create the document root /var/www/lists, enable the vhost configuration and restart Apache:

mkdir /var/www/lists
a2ensite mailman.conf
/etc/init.d/apache2 restart

Because we are using a vhost here (, we need to adjust the following variables in /etc/mailman/

vi /etc/mailman/
DEFAULT_URL_PATTERN = 'http://%s/'


3 Configuring Postfix

Now we need to configure Postfix. First run:

postconf -e 'relay_domains ='
postconf -e 'mailman_destination_recipient_limit = 1'

Then open /etc/postfix/

vi /etc/postfix/

... and make sure you have the following lines in it (they should be there by default):

mailman   unix  -       n       n       -       -       pipe
  flags=FR user=list argv=/usr/lib/mailman/bin/
  ${nexthop} ${user}

Next we must associate the domain to the mailman: transport. How you do this depends on your Postfix configuration. For example, if you have set up your server according to the Virtual Users And Domains With Postfix, Courier, MySQL And SquirrelMail (Debian Squeeze) tutorial, transports are stored in a MySQL database; in most other setups, the file /etc/postfix/transport is used for creating transports. I am going to describe both cases in chapters 3.1 and 3.2.


3.1 Transports In A MySQL Database

If you have set up your server according to the Virtual Users And Domains With Postfix, Courier, MySQL And SquirrelMail (Debian Squeeze) tutorial, transports are stored in the transport table in the mail MySQL database. To create the necessary transport, log into MySQL...

mysql -u root -p

... and run the following MySQL commands:

USE mail;
INSERT INTO `transport` (`domain`, `transport`) VALUES ('', 'mailman:');

Restart Postfix afterwards:

/etc/init.d/postfix restart


3.2 Transports In /etc/postfix/transport

If you don't have your transport in a MySQL database, you probably use the file /etc/postfix/transport. In this case you can set up the necessary transport as follows:

postconf -e 'transport_maps = hash:/etc/postfix/transport'

Open /etc/postfix/transport...

vi /etc/postfix/transport

... and add the following line:      mailman:


postmap -v /etc/postfix/transport

afterwards and restart Postfix:

/etc/init.d/postfix restart   


4 Creating The mailman Mailing List

Before we can start to use Mailman, we must create a mailing list called mailman; this is obligatory - without it Mailman won't start:

newlist mailman

In most cases the --urlhost and --emailhost switches are not necessary because our vhost is already named, and we also have it in /etc/mailman/ (DEFAULT_EMAIL_HOST and DEFAULT_URL_HOST), but if you want to go sure that Mailman uses the correct hostname, use these switches.

root@server1:~# newlist mailman
Enter the email of the person running the list:
 <-- specify the list administrator email address, e.g. [email protected]
Initial mailman password: <-- mailman_password
To finish creating your mailing list, you must edit your /etc/aliases (or
equivalent) file by adding the following lines, and possibly running the
`newaliases' program:

## mailman mailing list
mailman:              "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman post mailman"
mailman-admin:        "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman admin mailman"
mailman-bounces:      "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman bounces mailman"
mailman-confirm:      "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman confirm mailman"
mailman-join:         "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman join mailman"
mailman-leave:        "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman leave mailman"
mailman-owner:        "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman owner mailman"
mailman-request:      "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman request mailman"
mailman-subscribe:    "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman subscribe mailman"
mailman-unsubscribe:  "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman unsubscribe mailman"

Hit enter to notify mailman owner...
 <-- ENTER


Now open /etc/aliases and add the aliases that you see in the output of the newlist command (this has to be done manually for each new list that you create):

vi /etc/aliases
## mailman mailing list
mailman:              "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman post mailman"
mailman-admin:        "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman admin mailman"
mailman-bounces:      "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman bounces mailman"
mailman-confirm:      "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman confirm mailman"
mailman-join:         "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman join mailman"
mailman-leave:        "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman leave mailman"
mailman-owner:        "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman owner mailman"
mailman-request:      "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman request mailman"
mailman-subscribe:    "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman subscribe mailman"
mailman-unsubscribe:  "|/var/lib/mailman/mail/mailman unsubscribe mailman"

Whenever you modify /etc/aliases, you need to run

/etc/init.d/postfix restart


Now we can finally start Mailman:

/etc/init.d/mailman start

root@server1:~# /etc/init.d/mailman start
Starting Mailman master qrunner: mailmanctl.

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