mailing lists - the unix way
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nanolist is a lightweight mailing list manager written in Go. It's easy to deploy, and easy to manage. It was written as an antithesis of the experience of setting up other mailing list software.


nanolist is controlled by emailing nanolist with a command in the subject.

The following commands are available:

  • help - Reply with a list of valid commands
  • lists - Reply with a list of available mailing lists
  • subscribe list-id - Subscribe to receive mail sent to the given list
  • unsubscribe list-id - Unsubscribe from receiving mail sent to the given list

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a web interface?

No. If you'd like an online browsable archive of emails, I recommend looking into tools such as hypermail, which generate HTML archives from a list of emails.

If you'd like to advertise the lists on your website, it's recommended to do that manually, in whatever way looks best. Subscribe buttons can be achieved with a mailto: link.

How do I integrate this with my preferred mail transfer agent?

I'm only familiar with postfix, for which there are instructions below. The gist of it is: have your mail server pipe emails for any mailing list addresses to nanolist message. nanolist will handle any messages sent to it this way, and reply using the configured SMTP server.

Why would anyone want this?

Some people prefer mailing lists for patch submission and review, some people want to play mailing-list based games such as nomic, and some people are just nostalgic.


First, you'll need to build and install the nanolist binary: go get

Second, you'll need to write a config to either /etc/nanolist.ini or /usr/local/etc/nanolist.ini as follows:

You can also specify a custom config file location by invoking nanolist with the -config flag: -config=/path/to/config.ini

# File for event and error logging. nanolist does not rotate its logs
# automatically. Recommended path is /var/log/mail/nanolist
# You'll need to set permissions on it depending on which account your MTA
# runs nanolist as.
log = /path/to/logfile

# An sqlite3 database is used for storing the email addresses subscribed to
# each mailing list. Recommended location is /var/db/nanolist.db
# You'll need to set permissions on it depending on which account your MTA
# runs nanolist as.
database = /path/to/sqlite/database

# Address nanolist should receive user commands on
command_address =

# SMTP details for sending mail
smtp_hostname = ""
smtp_port = 25
smtp_username = "nanolist"
smtp_password = "hunter2"

# Create a [] section for each mailing list.
# The 'list.' prefix tells nanolist you're creating a mailing list. The rest
# is the id of the mailing list.

# Address this list should receieve mail on
address =
# Information to show in the list of mailing lists
name = "Go programming"
description = "General discussion of Go programming"
# bcc all posts to the listed addresses for archival
bcc =,

address =
name = "Announcements"
description = "Important announcements"
# List of email addresses that are permitted to post to this list
posters =,

address =
# Don't tell users this list exists
hidden = true
# Only let subscribed users post to this list
subscribers_only = true

Lastly, you need to hook the desired incoming addresses to nanolist:

In /etc/aliases:

nanolist: "| /path/to/bin/nanolist message"

And run newaliases for the change to take effect.

This creates an alias that pipes messages sent to the nanolist alias to the nanolist command.

The final step is telling your preferred MTA to route mail to this address when needed.

For postfix edit /etc/postfix/aliases and add: nanolist nanolist nanolist nanolist

and restart postfix.

Congratulations, you've now set up 3 mailing lists of your own!


nanolist is made available under the BSD-3-Clause license.