[Mailman-Users] Sending HTML to the email list

mailman at tux.org mailman at tux.org
Mon Oct 7 18:53:35 CEST 2002

On Mon, 7 Oct 2002, Jonathan Chum wrote:

> I've sent a HTML document successfully to the list and I'm curious
> what will happen to those who cannot read HTML documents properly? Is
> there an option in Mailman for subscribers to subscribe to a text only
> version, or will that require setting up a new list?

The proper way to handle a subscriber base where the capabilities of
the end-users' e-mail software varies is to send a multipart message
with the same content rendered in various formats.  Such messages are
called "multipart/alternative" (for obvious reasons) and modern e-mail
software will select an appropriate part to display.  Modern e-mail
software will also -compose- these multipart/alternative messages for
you; make sure you are using modern e-mail software and that you have
it configured to do this.

The down side?  Your outgoing message is larger than it needs to be,
because it contains the same information more than once.  (Also, some
formats, like HTML, are "fluffy" -- they are all by themselves larger
than they need to be to convey the information.)  This is a problem
if you pay for your connectivity by the byte, or if you are near your
monthly limits or whatever.  If connectivity is cheap for you, then you
may find this downside to be small.  If connectivity is -not- cheap
for your subscribers, they may very well ask if you can drop the HTML
stuff and just send it plain-text.

If you do not mind sending the same message twice - once in HTML and
once in plain text - you are certainly free to set up two lists and
direct people to subscribe to the one that suits them.  The nature of
the messages going out, and the nature of your subscriber base will
determine whether or not this becomes a huge pain in the neck.  For
example, this might lead to an administrative nightmare if subscribers
become really confused about the two lists, or if your turn-over rate
is high, or whatever.  Or, it may be a breeze.

> Or will Mailman handle this for me?

I will hazard a guess that no, Mailman will -never- take care of
reposting HTML messages to HTML or plain text (or other formats)
based on the subscriber's preference.  For one, as I outlined above,
accommodating varying e-mail reading software capabilities is already
taken care of with an established standard (RFC 2046 (see section 5.1.4
in particular)).  For another, there is already plenty of work to do on
essential and highly desireable features, to say nothing of docs, etc.
What you envision would require Mailman to have a full-blown HTML parser
so that it can render things like nested HTML tables into the equivalent
formated plain text.

For the same reason that Mailman will (I would guess) never contain
a spell-checker, I would guess that it will never contain an HTML parser:
This is not Mailman's role.

- Andrew

  Mailman Administrator   -   http://www.tux.org/mailman/listinfo/

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