Mailman is an open source program for managing electronic mail discussions and e-newsletter lists. Many open source mailing lists (including all the Ubuntu mailing lists) use Mailman as their mailing list software. It is powerful and easy to install and maintain.


Mailman provides a web interface for the administrators and users, using an external mail server to send and receive emails. It works perfectly with the following mail servers:

  • Postfix

  • Exim

  • Sendmail

  • Qmail

We will see how to install and configure Mailman with, the Apache web server, and either the Postfix or Exim mail server. If you wish to install Mailman with a different mail server, please refer to the references section.


You only need to install one mail server and Postfix is the default Ubuntu Mail Transfer Agent.


To install apache2 you refer to ??? for details.


For instructions on installing and configuring Postfix refer to Postfix


To install Exim4 refer to Exim4.

Once exim4 is installed, the configuration files are stored in the /etc/exim4 directory. In Ubuntu, by default, the exim4 configuration files are split across different files. You can change this behavior by changing the following variable in the /etc/exim4/update-exim4.conf file:



To install Mailman, run following command at a terminal prompt:

sudo apt install mailman 

It copies the installation files in /var/lib/mailman directory. It installs the CGI scripts in /usr/lib/cgi-bin/mailman directory. It creates list linux user. It creates the list linux group. The mailman process will be owned by this user.


This section assumes you have successfully installed mailman, apache2, and postfix or exim4. Now you just need to configure them.


An example Apache configuration file comes with Mailman and is placed in /etc/mailman/apache.conf. In order for Apache to use the config file it needs to be copied to /etc/apache2/sites-available:

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

This will setup a new Apache VirtualHost for the Mailman administration site. Now enable the new configuration and restart Apache:

sudo a2ensite mailman.conf
sudo systemctl restart apache2.service

Mailman uses apache2 to render its CGI scripts. The mailman CGI scripts are installed in the /usr/lib/cgi-bin/mailman directory. So, the mailman url will be http://hostname/cgi-bin/mailman/. You can make changes to the /etc/apache2/sites-available/mailman.conf file if you wish to change this behavior.


For Postfix integration, we will associate the domain with the mailing lists. Please replace with the domain of your choosing.

You can use the postconf command to add the necessary configuration to /etc/postfix/

sudo postconf -e 'relay_domains ='
sudo postconf -e 'transport_maps = hash:/etc/postfix/transport'
sudo postconf -e 'mailman_destination_recipient_limit = 1'

In /etc/postfix/ double check that you have the following transport:

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

It calls the script when a mail is delivered to a list.

Associate the domain to the Mailman transport with the transport map. Edit the file /etc/postfix/transport:      mailman:

Now have Postfix build the transport map by entering the following from a terminal prompt:

sudo postmap -v /etc/postfix/transport

Then restart Postfix to enable the new configurations:

sudo systemctl restart postfix.service


Once Exim4 is installed, you can start the Exim server using the following command from a terminal prompt:

sudo systemctl start exim4.service

In order to make mailman work with Exim4, you need to configure Exim4. As mentioned earlier, by default, Exim4 uses multiple configuration files of different types. For details, please refer to the Exim web site. To run mailman, we should add new a configuration file to the following configuration types:

  • Main

  • Transport

  • Router

Exim creates a master configuration file by sorting all these mini configuration files. So, the order of these configuration files is very important.


All the configuration files belonging to the main type are stored in the /etc/exim4/conf.d/main/ directory. You can add the following content to a new file, named 04_exim4-config_mailman:

# start
# Home dir for your Mailman installation -- aka Mailman's prefix
# directory.
# On Ubuntu this should be "/var/lib/mailman"
# This is normally the same as ~mailman
# User and group for Mailman, should match your --with-mail-gid
# switch to Mailman's configure script.  Value is normally "mailman"
# Domains that your lists are in - colon separated list
# you may wish to add these into local_domains as well
# -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
# These values are derived from the ones above and should not need
# editing unless you have munged your mailman installation
# The path of the Mailman mail wrapper script
# The path of the list config file (used as a required file when
# verifying list addresses)
# end


All the configuration files belonging to transport type are stored in the /etc/exim4/conf.d/transport/ directory. You can add the following content to a new file named 40_exim4-config_mailman:

   driver = pipe
   command = MM_WRAP \
               '${if def:local_part_suffix \
                     {${sg{$local_part_suffix}{-(\\w+)(\\+.*)?}{\$1}}} \
                     {post}}' \
    current_directory = MM_HOME
    home_directory = MM_HOME
    user = MM_UID
    group = MM_GID


All the configuration files belonging to router type are stored in the /etc/exim4/conf.d/router/ directory. You can add the following content in to a new file named 101_exim4-config_mailman:

   driver = accept
   require_files = MM_HOME/lists/$local_part/config.pck
   local_part_suffix = -bounces : -bounces+* : \
                       -confirm+* : -join : -leave : \
                       -owner : -request : -admin
   transport = mailman_transport


The order of main and transport configuration files can be in any order. But, the order of router configuration files must be the same. This particular file must appear before the 200_exim4-config_primary file. These two configuration files contain same type of information. The first file takes the precedence. For more details, please refer to the references section.


Once mailman is installed, you can run it using the following command:

sudo systemctl start mailman.service

Once mailman is installed, you should create the default mailing list. Run the following command to create the mailing list:

sudo /usr/sbin/newlist mailman
  Enter the email address of the person running the list: bhuvan at
  Initial 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...


We have configured either Postfix or Exim4 to recognize all emails from mailman. So, it is not mandatory to make any new entries in /etc/aliases. If you have made any changes to the configuration files, please ensure that you restart those services before continuing to next section.


The Exim4 does not use the above aliases to forward mails to Mailman, as it uses a discover approach. To suppress the aliases while creating the list, you can add MTA=None line in Mailman configuration file, /etc/mailman/


We assume you have a default installation. The mailman cgi scripts are still in the /usr/lib/cgi-bin/mailman/ directory. Mailman provides a web based administration facility. To access this page, point your browser to the following url:


The default mailing list, mailman, will appear in this screen. If you click the mailing list name, it will ask for your authentication password. If you enter the correct password, you will be able to change administrative settings of this mailing list. You can create a new mailing list using the command line utility (/usr/sbin/newlist). Alternatively, you can create a new mailing list using the web interface.


Mailman provides a web based interface for users. To access this page, point your browser to the following url:


The default mailing list, mailman, will appear in this screen. If you click the mailing list name, it will display the subscription form. You can enter your email address, name (optional), and password to subscribe. An email invitation will be sent to you. You can follow the instructions in the email to subscribe.


GNU Mailman - Installation Manual

HOWTO - Using Exim 4 and Mailman 2.1 together

Also, see the Mailman Ubuntu Wiki page.

Mail Filtering

One of the largest issues with email today is the problem of Unsolicited Bulk Email (UBE). Also known as SPAM, such messages may also carry viruses and other forms of malware. According to some reports these messages make up the bulk of all email traffic on the Internet.

This section will cover integrating Amavisd-new, Spamassassin, and ClamAV with the Postfix Mail Transport Agent (MTA). Postfix can also check email validity by passing it through external content filters. These filters can sometimes determine if a message is spam without needing to process it with more resource intensive applications. Two common filters are opendkim and python-policyd-spf.

  • Amavisd-new is a wrapper program that can call any number of content filtering programs for spam detection, antivirus, etc.

  • Spamassassin uses a variety of mechanisms to filter email based on the message content.

  • ClamAV is an open source antivirus application.

  • opendkim implements a Sendmail Mail Filter (Milter) for the DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) standard.

  • python-policyd-spf enables Sender Policy Framework (SPF) checking with Postfix.

This is how the pieces fit together:

  • An email message is accepted by Postfix.

  • The message is passed through any external filters opendkim and python-policyd-spf in this case.

  • Amavisd-new then processes the message.

  • ClamAV is used to scan the message. If the message contains a virus Postfix will reject the message.

  • Clean messages will then be analyzed by Spamassassin to find out if the message is spam. Spamassassin will then add X-Header lines allowing Amavisd-new to further manipulate the message.

For example, if a message has a Spam score of over fifty the message could be automatically dropped from the queue without the recipient ever having to be bothered. Another, way to handle flagged messages is to deliver them to the Mail User Agent (MUA) allowing the user to deal with the message as they see fit.


See Postfix for instructions on installing and configuring Postfix.

To install the rest of the applications enter the following from a terminal prompt:

sudo apt install amavisd-new spamassassin clamav-daemon
sudo apt install opendkim postfix-policyd-spf-python

There are some optional packages that integrate with Spamassassin for better spam detection:

sudo apt install pyzor razor

Along with the main filtering applications compression utilities are needed to process some email attachments:

sudo apt install arj cabextract cpio lha nomarch pax rar unrar unzip zip


If some packages are not found, check that the multiverse repository is enabled in /etc/apt/sources.list

If you make changes to the file, be sure to run sudo apt update before trying to install again.


Now configure everything to work together and filter email.


The default behaviour of ClamAV will fit our needs. For more ClamAV configuration options, check the configuration files in /etc/clamav.

Add the clamav user to the amavis group in order for Amavisd-new to have the appropriate access to scan files:

sudo adduser clamav amavis
sudo adduser amavis clamav


Spamassassin automatically detects optional components and will use them if they are present. This means that there is no need to configure pyzor and razor.

Edit /etc/default/spamassassin to activate the Spamassassin daemon. Change ENABLED=0 to:


Now start the daemon:

sudo systemctl start spamassassin.service


First activate spam and antivirus detection in Amavisd-new by editing /etc/amavis/conf.d/15-content_filter_mode:

use strict;

# You can modify this file to re-enable SPAM checking through spamassassin
# and to re-enable antivirus checking.

# Default antivirus checking mode
# Uncomment the two lines below to enable it

@bypass_virus_checks_maps = (
   \%bypass_virus_checks, \@bypass_virus_checks_acl, \$bypass_virus_checks_re);

# Default SPAM checking mode
# Uncomment the two lines below to enable it

@bypass_spam_checks_maps = (
   \%bypass_spam_checks, \@bypass_spam_checks_acl, \$bypass_spam_checks_re);

1;  # insure a defined return

Bouncing spam can be a bad idea as the return address is often faked. The default behaviour is to instead discard. This is configured in /etc/amavis/conf.d/20-debian_defaults where $final_spam_destiny is set to D_DISCARD rather than D_BOUNCE.

Additionally, you may want to adjust the following options to flag more messages as spam:

$sa_tag_level_deflt = -999; # add spam info headers if at, or above that level
$sa_tag2_level_deflt = 6.0; # add 'spam detected' headers at that level
$sa_kill_level_deflt = 21.0; # triggers spam evasive actions
$sa_dsn_cutoff_level = 4; # spam level beyond which a DSN is not sent

If the server’s hostname is different from the domain’s MX record you may need to manually set the $myhostname option. Also, if the server receives mail for multiple domains the @local_domains_acl option will need to be customized. Edit the /etc/amavis/conf.d/50-user file:

$myhostname = '';
@local_domains_acl = ( "", "" );

If you want to cover multiple domains you can use the following in the/etc/amavis/conf.d/50-user

@local_domains_acl = qw(.);

After configuration Amavisd-new needs to be restarted:

sudo systemctl restart amavis.service

DKIM Whitelist

Amavisd-new can be configured to automatically Whitelist addresses from domains with valid Domain Keys. There are some pre-configured domains in the /etc/amavis/conf.d/40-policy_banks.

There are multiple ways to configure the Whitelist for a domain:

  •’ => ‘WHITELIST’,: will whitelist any address from the “” domain.

  •’ => ‘WHITELIST’,: will whitelist any address from any subdomains of “” that have a valid signature.

  •’ => ‘WHITELIST’,: will whitelist subdomains of “” that use the signature of the parent domain.

  • ./’ => ‘WHITELIST’,: adds addresses that have a valid signature from “”. This is usually used for discussion groups that sign their messages.

A domain can also have multiple Whitelist configurations. After editing the file, restart amavisd-new:

sudo systemctl restart amavis.service


In this context, once a domain has been added to the Whitelist the message will not receive any anti-virus or spam filtering. This may or may not be the intended behavior you wish for a domain.


For Postfix integration, enter the following from a terminal prompt:

sudo postconf -e 'content_filter = smtp-amavis:[]:10024'

Next edit /etc/postfix/ and add the following to the end of the file:

smtp-amavis     unix    -       -       -       -       2       smtp
        -o smtp_data_done_timeout=1200
        -o smtp_send_xforward_command=yes
        -o disable_dns_lookups=yes
        -o max_use=20 inet    n       -       -       -       -       smtpd
        -o content_filter=
        -o local_recipient_maps=
        -o relay_recipient_maps=
        -o smtpd_restriction_classes=
        -o smtpd_delay_reject=no
        -o smtpd_client_restrictions=permit_mynetworks,reject
        -o smtpd_helo_restrictions=
        -o smtpd_sender_restrictions=
        -o smtpd_recipient_restrictions=permit_mynetworks,reject
        -o smtpd_data_restrictions=reject_unauth_pipelining
        -o smtpd_end_of_data_restrictions=
        -o mynetworks=
        -o smtpd_error_sleep_time=0
        -o smtpd_soft_error_limit=1001
        -o smtpd_hard_error_limit=1000
        -o smtpd_client_connection_count_limit=0
        -o smtpd_client_connection_rate_limit=0
        -o receive_override_options=no_header_body_checks,no_unknown_recipient_checks,no_milters

Also add the following two lines immediately below the “pickup” transport service:

         -o content_filter=
         -o receive_override_options=no_header_body_checks

This will prevent messages that are generated to report on spam from being classified as spam.

Now restart Postfix:

sudo systemctl restart postfix.service

Content filtering with spam and virus detection is now enabled.

Amavisd-new and Spamassassin

When integrating Amavisd-new with Spamassassin, if you choose to disable the bayes filtering by editing /etc/spamassassin/ and use cron to update the nightly rules, the result can cause a situation where a large amount of error messages are sent to the amavis user via the amavisd-new cron job.

There are several ways to handle this situation:

  • Configure your MDA to filter messages you do not wish to see.

  • Change /usr/sbin/amavisd-new-cronjob to check for use_bayes 0. For example, edit /usr/sbin/amavisd-new-cronjob and add the following to the top before the test statements:

    egrep -q "^[ \t]*use_bayes[ \t]*0" /etc/spamassassin/ && exit 0


First, test that the Amavisd-new SMTP is listening:

telnet localhost 10024
Connected to localhost.
Escape character is '^]'.
220 [] ESMTP amavisd-new service ready

In the Header of messages that go through the content filter you should see:

X-Virus-Scanned: Debian amavisd-new at
X-Spam-Status: No, hits=-2.3 tagged_above=-1000.0 required=5.0 tests=AWL, BAYES_00


Your output will vary, but the important thing is that there are X-Virus-Scanned and X-Spam-Status entries.


The best way to figure out why something is going wrong is to check the log files.

  • For instructions on Postfix logging see the Troubleshooting section.

  • Amavisd-new uses Syslog to send messages to /var/log/mail.log. The amount of detail can be increased by adding the $log_level option to /etc/amavis/conf.d/50-user, and setting the value from 1 to 5.

    $log_level = 2;


    When the Amavisd-new log output is increased Spamassassin log output is also increased.

  • The ClamAV log level can be increased by editing /etc/clamav/clamd.conf and setting the following option:

    LogVerbose true

    By default ClamAV will send log messages to /var/log/clamav/clamav.log.


After changing an applications log settings remember to restart the service for the new settings to take affect. Also, once the issue you are troubleshooting is resolved it is a good idea to change the log settings back to normal.


For more information on filtering mail see the following links:

Also, feel free to ask questions in the #ubuntu-server IRC channel on freenode.

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