How can I use the topics feature of IU List?

On this page:


Using topics, an IU List mailing list owner can create several distinct avenues of discussion within a list. This may be useful if a list is large and subscribers generally only care about certain subjects within that list. An email message with a topic will have an "X-Sympa-Topic:" header, which subscribers can use to filter mail.

IU List is based on Sympa, which differs from LISTSERV in its support of topics tagging. In particular, there are no means to alter a subscriber's topic settings, even if you are an owner of the list.

Topic tagging is an advanced feature, and tagging is not a foolproof system. Some tuning of the rules is usually necessary, and subscribers must be willing to set their tags for this to be useful. This feature is provided mainly for large lists migrated from other sources, or for advanced list owners wanting focused discussion within large lists.

Only list owners can perform the actions described below.

Set topics for a list

To set topics for an IU List mailing list:

  1. Log into the campus IU List website for your list:
    Campus IU List web interface
    IU Bloomington
    IU East
    IU Kokomo
    IU Northwest
    IU South Bend
    IU Southeast
  2. Find the correct list in the left-side panel, and click admin.
  3. Click Edit List Config.
  4. Click Sending/receiving setup.
  5. Under "Topics for message categorization", enter the following information for your topic:
    • Message topic name: This is a short name you assign to a particular topic. It cannot include spaces. This will show up in the resulting messages in the "X-Sympa-Topic:" header.
    • Message topic keywords: These are the key words or phrases for which IU List will scan; it is usually best to use single-word phrases, as multiple-word phrases must be found exactly as listed. A key word or phrase does not have to begin a line. To specify multiple keywords or phrases for a topic, separate them with a comma, for example: apples,oranges.
    • Message topic title: This is the text that subscribers will see in the web panel for the topic, when subscribing to topics or setting their preferences under "Subscriber Options".
  6. After entering information for all three items for the topic, press Enter. IU List will reload the form with space to add more topics.
  7. Repeat steps 5-6 to create additional topics for your list. Generally, you will need to make at least two topics in order for the feature to be of any use.
  8. Under "Defines to which part of messages topic keywords are applied", select what part of messages you want IU List to search for your topic keywords. They can be found in the subject or body of the message, or both.
  9. Under "Message tagging", select one of the following settings:
    • optional: Messages may or may not be tagged, depending on the results of the topic keyword scan. This is the default selection; it is usually sufficient for most lists.
    • required_moderator: Messages that are not tagged will be sent to the moderator for review and tagging. Because of the potential burden on the moderator, IU List administrators do not recommend this setting.
    • required_sender: Messages that are not tagged by the keyword scan will generate an email message back to the sender, with a link to tag the original message.
  • If the settings for your mailing list require the sender to authorize posts with a confirmation link and require tagging by the sender, enabling topics will cause the confirmation link to be replaced with the tagging link instead, even if proper keywords are present in the message. If this is confusing to your list members, consider a "Send" option that does not include confirmation.
  • The "Defines to which part of messages topic keywords are applied" and "Message tagging" settings will apply across all topics; you cannot set them differently for different topics.
  • Keywords should be distinct between topics; otherwise, a keyword will match the top-most topic and none of the lower ones.
  • Capitalization does not matter for topic keywords in IU List, unlike in LISTSERV.


This example flags a mailing as a "Music" topic if IU List finds any of the keywords in its body or subject. Any email message containing these words would have "X-Sympa-Topic: Music" added to its header; a subscriber could then choose to create rules to filter those messages.

Message topic name: Music
Message topic keywords: song,composer,librettist,orchestra,album,instrument,music,musical
Message topic title: Music Discussion

Apply to: subject_and_body
Message tagging: optional

To use IU List tags to roughly match a LISTSERV implementation of message tagging, you can use a colon after the keyword. IU List, unlike LISTSERV, is not case-sensitive with topic keywords. This example splits a list into two new topics, based on message subject lines.

Message topic name: Trivia
Message topic keywords: TRIVIA:
Message topic title: Trivial information or anecdotes

Message topic name: Academics
Message topic keywords: ACADEMICS:
Message topic title: Academic information

Apply to: subject
Message tagging: optional

This example requires all posted messages have a topic.

Message topic name: InnerPlanets
Message topic keywords: mercury,venus,earth,mars
Message topic title: Talk about the Inner Planets

Message topic name: OuterPlanets
Message topic keywords: jupiter,saturn,uranus,neptune
Message topic title: Talk about the Outer Planets

Apply to: subject
Message tagging: required_sender

This is document bcdg in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2018-09-10 11:32:37.

Contact us

For help or to comment, email the UITS Support Center.