Distribution Lists User Guide

The SF State Gateway provides a web-based email distribution list. List members can modify their list subscriptions and preferences.

Learn about Distribution Lists

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What is a Distribution List

Electronic mailing lists offer an efficient way to disseminate information and hold long-distance discussions among many people. Setting up a distribution list provides an email address of the form: <listname>@lists.sfsu.edu

Email sent to this address is processed according to rules established for the list. It then distributes a copy of the message to every list member.

List owners can manage their lists by adding and deleting list members and making changes to how the list operates.

Why Use a List

  • An address book can be used by only one person (though there are ways to share distribution lists or set up global address books). A Distribution List is available to anyone who can send email, and offers control over who can get messages distributed to the list.
  • A Distribution List can be set up to distribute messages from any of its members, which creates a tool for group discussion via email.
  • A Distribution List provides many options for controlling privacy, subscriptions, posts, and moderation of posts.

List Roles: Manager, Moderator, Member

Distribution Lists contain members, list managers, and list moderators. An individual may take on multiple roles for a list, and different roles for different lists.

  • List Member: Someone who has subscribed to a list, receives messages posted to the list, and may also post messages for distribution to the list if permitted. A list member can also change subscription settings (i.e., decide to receive message "digests" rather than individual postings). List member guidelines can be found in the View Existing Distribution Lists section.
  • List Manager: Each list must have a manager who is the owner of the list and responsible for configuration, maintenance and operation of the list. Who may post, and how it is done, is controlled by the list managers. The list manager may establish other managers, and may optionally have others moderating the discussion or subscription requests. List managers may execute commands for their members including adding and deleting subscribers. Each list must have at least one manager who is a current faculty or staff and must have a current SF State ID. Guidelines for list managers can be found on the Manager/Moderator guide.
  • List Moderator: This is an optional role that can be assigned by the list owner to manage list subscriptions and postings. Functions available to moderators can be found in the Manager/Moderator guide under Moderate a List.

View Existing Distribution Lists

SF State Users:

  1. Login to SF State Gateway
  2. On the top right side, click on Profile
  3. Scroll down the page and click on Manage your distribution list subscriptions
  4. The Distribution List Subscriptions page shows distribution lists you have subscribed to, if any, and a search section which allows search and subscription to existing distribution lists

Off-Campus Users:

  1. To search, view, and subscribe to any public or open distribution list, go to the Open Distribution Lists page
  2. Subscription requests may need the approval of the list owner or moderator


How to Search for Distribution Lists

If you don't know the list name of a distribution list, you can search 1 of 3 ways:

Search Directory on Gateway

  1. In the Search Distribution List field, type the name of the list, or
  2. Select the first letter of the name of the list to narrow down options, or
  3. Scroll down to scan the List Email address or Display Name


Review Distribution Lists

Once you find a list you can:

  1. Click the List Email address link to view list owner and description details
  2. Click View Archive to review messages that have been posted to the list. (For some lists, the owner may not make this option available, or it may only be available for members.)

Subscribe to a List

Once you have found a distribution list you want to join, subscribe to the list with your SF State or external email address.

SF State users:

  1. Click Subscribe to add your account to the list. A conformation email will be sent with instructions for completing the subscription process. All lists you have subscribed too will be listed in the SF State Gateway.

If managers' approval is required, you will receive an email letting you know that your subscription is pending approval. Once approved, the confirmation email will be sent.

Off-campus users:

  1. Click Subscribe
  2. Enter your full email address
  3. Enter your full name
  4. Click Submit to subscribe to the list. A conformation email will be sent with instructions for completing the subscription process. Login to your email account to complete the request.

If managers' approval is required, you will receive an email letting you know that your subscription is pending approval. Once approved, the confirmation email will be sent.

Send and Manage Emails as a List Member

Manage your Subscriptions

Once you are subscribed to a list, you will be able to manage your lists from the SF State Gateway. You will see your Distribution Lists Subscriptions and the options to Disable, Unsubscribe and View Archive.

  • Disable: Temporarily stop messages from being delivered to your email account.
  • Unsubscribe: Remove yourself as a member from the List.
  • View Archive: See archive of messages posted to list members (available if not greyed out).
  • List Members: Your email address will stay active in the list unless you disable it or unsubscribe. If mail sent to it bounces excessively in our mail system it will be disabled. Be sure to manage your lists in the SF State Gateway. Log in and click Profile. Look for the link “Manage Distributions Lists” to review all your list subscriptions. If you want to continue as a member, keep your email account current.

Manage List Subscriptions as a Member


Manage Message Delivery

Decide how you would like messages delivered to your email account.

Member Settings for a List

  1. Click on the List Email address link to open the email delivery options.
  2. Review information about the list and click (Show details) for each option to get more information about the delivery options.
    1. Mail Delivery: Select Disabled if you want to stay on the mailing list but temporarily stop delivery of messages.
    2. Set Digest Mode: Select On if you want individual posts combined into a daily email.
    3. Get MIME or Plain Text Digests?: Select MIME if your email reader can accept attachments with no problem, otherwise select Plain Text.


Send Messages to a Distribution List

To send a message to any Distribution List:

Note: The message will be delivered to all members of the list. You will receive a notification if the message is rejected or if it needs a moderator's approval.

  1. Verify the List email address on your Distribution List Subscriptions page, or in the email you received when you subscribed to the list, i.e.,
  2. Use your email client (i.e., OWA, Outlook, Mac Mail) to create a new message.
  3. Enter the list email address in the To: field, compose and then send the message.

Use Distribution Lists: Recommendations

  • Review the list description including the purpose of the list. Follow the guidelines set by the list manager and abide by the general acceptable language level of the list (business only, personal discussion encouraged, etc.).
  • Address the audience using a formal communication style to ensure the correct understanding of content. Be careful with slang or local acronyms since a distribution list can have global membership.
  • Be aware of what you are sending (size, content, etc.) and to whom you are sending it.
  • Consider that a large audience will see your posts. Be careful of what you write. Remember that mailing lists are frequently archived, and that your words may be stored for a very long time in a place where many people have access.
  • Assume that individuals speak for themselves, and what they say does not represent their organization (unless stated explicitly).
  • Messages and articles should be brief and to the point. Don't wander off-topic, don't ramble, and don't send mail or post messages solely to point out other people's errors in typing or spelling. This may be considered Spam or inappropriate use.

Use Email List Commands

Email commands are available for advanced users or for those who prefer to manage their distribution list subscriptions via email instead of the Web interface. Reference for email commands is available at: