HWG Resources FAQs HWG Filtering FAQ

HWG Filtering FAQ

Mail Filtering Frequently Asked Questions


The HTML Writers Guild currently offers eight discussion lists and a number of administrative lists to interested Guild members. Subscribing to many of these lists can lead to a large amount of email, and so the question "how do I sort my Guild mail" comes up frequently. This FAQ is based on information supplied by various Guild members; in all cases, you are urged to consult your email software documentation and manuals for more information.

Table of Contents

  1. General information on filtering Guild Lists
  2. Email software that allows filtering by Sender
    1. Eudora Pro (Windows, Mac)
    2. Pegasus (Windows)
    3. (elm's) filter (Unix)
    4. procmail (Unix)
    5. Netscape 3.0 (Windows, Mac, Unix)
    6. Forte's Agent (Windows)
    7. Microsoft Outlook97 (Windows)
  3. Email software that does not allow filtering by Sender with alternatives for each
    1. Eudora Lite (Windows, Mac) (But see note regarding version 3)
    2. Microsoft Internet Explorer (Windows)
    3. Microsoft Internet Mail (Windows)
    4. America OnLine's email program (Windows, Mac)
  4. An alternative: digest mode
  5. Credit where credit is due

  1. General Information On Filtering Guild Lists

    The Guild's mailing lists are run via the "Majordomo" list processor software. Majordomo sets the "Sender:" field on each message it sends out. In the case of the Guild lists, the Sender line looks like this:

    Sender: owner-hwg-<list>@<listhost>

    Here are several examples from various mailing lists:

    Sender: owner-hwg-ops@hwg.org
    Sender: owner-hwg-basics@hwg.org
    Sender: owner-hwg-servers@mlists.com

    This header line is guaranteed to be set on each message that is processed by Majordomo and sent to the list. The "To:", "From:", and "CC:" lines are _not_ guaranteed to contain the list address; thus it's better to filter messages based on the "Sender:" field than on those other lines.

    "Filtering" refers to separating out messages sent via the Guild's list into separate files or "mailboxes" or "folders", so that they can be read separately from your other email.

    Most reasonably advanced email programs allow filtering based on the "Sender:" field; a few less sophisticated mail clients do not. This FAQ contains instructions written by Guild members about how to set up various email programs to filter your Guild mail. If filtering is not an option, you may wish to consider obtaining a more sophisticated email program, or subscribing to a digest version of the mailing lists. (See digests.)

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  2. Email Software That Allows Filtering By Sender

    The following list is not meant to be comprehensive, nor are the following pieces of software endorsed or recommended by the HTML Writers Guild. The instructions were supplied by Guild members who have successfully set their software to filter Guild messages. You are urged to consult your documentation and/or user manuals before making any changes to your mail program's configuration.

    1. Eudora Pro (Windows, Mac)

      Eudora is a mail client available for Windows and Mac machines from Qualcomm. The free version, Eudora Lite, does not allow filtering (but see note on version 3, below), but the "Pro" version does. The instructions below are for Eudora Pro.

      • Open Tools -> Filters
      • Select the modes of use (In, out, manual)

        In the Match section:
      • In the Header box, type "Sender:". You need to type this word in the box, because it's not listed as one of the options.
      • Set it to 'contains' in the next box - this is the default for new filter rules.
      • Enter the owner address in the last box. For example, "owner-hwg-servers@mlists.com", if this rule will filter the HWG-Servers list.

        In the action section:
      • Set it to whatever want it to do. Typically you'll want to choose "Transfer To" and then select or create a mailbox to use, such as "HWG-Servers Pending". You may want to select "Skip rest" as the second action.
      • Use the Up and Down buttons to set in which priority the messages need to be filtered.
      • Close the dialog box to save the filters. Answer "YES" to the prompt.

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    2. Pegasus (Windows)

      Pegasus is a freeware email client.

      The first step is to create a folder/tray system to house your HWG mailing lists. First, create a tray called "HWG" or "HTML Writers Guild". Within that tray, create a folder for each HWG mailing list you're subscribed two.

      Now for the filtering rules. Edit the "New Mail Rules" that are applied "when [the] folder is opened". Select "ADD" to create a new rule with the following characteristics:

      In these headers: Sender
      Trigger text: owner-hwg-<listname>@<sitename>
      Action to take: Move to <foldername>

      For example, to automatically send messages from HWG-OPS to the HWG-OPS folder you would create a rule with the following characteristics:

      In these headers: Sender
      Trigger text: owner-hwg-ops@hwg.org
      Action to take: Move to HWG-OPS

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    3. (elm's) Filter (Unix)

      This is using 'filter' which usually comes with Elm - but can be used with any UNIX mailer. On my system it is found in /usr/local/bin/filter.

      This is from one HWG member's '~/.elm/filter-rules' file:

      if (sender = "hwg-servers") then save "/home/server/megazone/HWG-SERVERS"
      if (sender = "hwg-ops") then save "/home/server/megazone/HWG-OPS"
      if (sender = "hwg-basics") then save "/home/server/megazone/HWG-BASICS"
      if (sender = "hwg-news") then save "/home/server/megazone/HWG-NEWS"
      if (sender = "hwg-html") then save "/home/server/megazone/HWG-HTML"
      if (sender = "hwg-newtech") then save "/home/server/megazone/HWG-NEWTECH"
      if (sender = "hwg-webapps") then save "/home/server/megazone/HWG-WEBAPPS"

      'filter' is called with a line like this in your .forward file:

      "|/usr/local/bin/filter -q -o /home/server/megazone/.elm/logs"

      the quotes ARE part of the line in the file.

      From the man page for filter:

      -o file   Redirect stdout messages to the specified file  or
                device.    Logging   of   filter  actions  is  not
                affected.  (This is added to more gracefully  deal
                with changes in the file system (since sendmail is
                quite picky about modes of files being  redirected
      -q        Quiet.  Do not log filtering actions.

      If you get a lot of email, logging will make a HUGE file in short order. And it isn't useful info unless you are testing or debugging something, so there is no sense in logging all the time. For the adventurous there are other flags listed in the man page.

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    4. Procmail (Unix)

      Procmail is a sophisticated and powerful email processing program. Like filter (above), any normal Unix email program, such as Pine or Elm, can be used to read the mailboxes created by the program. One Guild member has this to say about procmail:

      If you receive and read your e-mail on a Unix system, by far the best way to filter it (IMHO) is with "procmail", written by Stephen R. van den Berg. It is available for free from:


      It can be installed in a regular user's shell account and invoked from a .forward file, or administered centrally for use by any user on the system. (Check your service provider's documentation before installing it yourself; chances are it's already installed.)

      For detailed info on installing and configuring procmail, see:


      A brief desription of how to set up procmail follows:

      • Create a file called ".forward" in the home directory of your Unix shell account, with contents similar to the following:
        |IFS=' '&&exec /usr/local/bin/procmail -f-||exit 75 #gerald
        (that should be all on one line, with no whitespace before or after, terminated with a regular Unix newline character.)

        Change "/usr/local/bin/procmail" to be the path to procmail on your system, if necessary, and change "gerald" to be your Unix login id.

        Make this file world-readable with "chmod 0644 .forward".
      • Create a file called ".procmailrc" in your home directory, with contents similar to the following:
        MAILDIR=$HOME/mail                 # Create this if it doesn't exist
        DEFAULT=/usr/spool/mail/gerald     # Change this to be your regular mail folder
        * ^Sender.*owner-hwg-news@
        * ^Sender.*owner-hwg-ops@
        # Anything that has not been delivered by now will go to $DEFAULT
        This will cause any mail received with a "Sender" header line matching "owner-hwg-news@" or "owner-hwg-ops@" to get filtered into $HOME/mail/hwg-news and $HOME/mail/hwg-ops, respectively.

      The syntax of a .procmailrc looks intimidating, but you don't really need to understand it in order to be able to use procmail effectively; just copy the text above and duplicate and change it for other lists.

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    5. Netscape Navigator 3.0 (Windows, Mac, Unix)

      Netscape's mail program apparently allows for filtering, but this fact is completely undocumented. One Guild member helpfully supplies the following information:

      Under Netscape Mail (at least 3.0 under IRIX, Solaris, HP/UX, and Win95), filtering can be accomplished in the following manner. I do not believe that this is documented anywhere, and I'm not sure who pointed it out to me.

      What you need to do is create a sort.dat file in the directory Netscape is using to store mail. On a Win95 system, this is typically "C:\Program Files\Netscape\Navigator\Mail". The sort.dat file has the following format for each line. You may have as many lines as you wish.

      mail     folder     field     substring

      Where "mail folder" is the folder you want Netscape to put the mail in (it must exist), "field" is the field you want Netscape to filter on (From, To, Cc, Sender, etc.), and substring is the string you want Netscape to match in that field. An example sort.dat file for hwg-html, hwg-servers, and hwg-ops:

      hwg-html       Sender     owner-hwg-html
      hwg-servers    Sender     owner-hwg-servers
      hwg-ops        Sender     owner-hwg-ops

      I've heard from some sources that sorting on Sender does not work on some versions of Netscape - users who encounter that problem can work around it by using something like the following:

      hwg-html     From   hwg-html@hwg.org
      hwg-html     To     hwg-html@hwg.org
      hwg-html     CC     hwg-html@hwg.org

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    6. Forte's Agent (Windows)

      Forte's "Agent" program, better known as a news reader, can also be used for mail reading. A freeware version of Agent, known as "Free Agent", does not support filtering.

      A Guild member suggests the following for Agent users:

      A "recipe" can be configured to include the following fields:

      Sender, Reply-To, To, From, Subject, Date, Cc, Bcc and Keywords.

      For example, I am currently subscribed to HWG-OPS and HWG-Business. I use the filters 'Sender: owner hwg', 'To: hwg' and 'Cc: hwg' to capture and sort mail to a folder called 'HWG - all lists'.

      Alternatetly, I can set up separate folders for each list by including the name in the filter parameter. This would look like 'Sender: owner-hwg-ops' or 'To: hwg-ops'. This method was especially useful when I was subscribed to five of the Guild's lists. ;-)

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    7. Microsoft Outlook 97 (Windows)

      MS Outlook97 is a Microsoft product that apparently does a number of things, including email. A Guild member writes the following:

      Microsoft OutLook97 has the capability to filter messages. In OutLook you simply drag the appropriate header to the top and set the filtering/sorting order. Then you set into which folder you want it to go.
  3. Email Software That Does Not Allow Filtering By Sender

    The following is a list of popular email clients that do not allow filtering based on the "Sender:" line. Some Guild members have suggested work-arounds based on the "To:" and "CC:" lines. These filters work in most cases, but cannot be counted on for 100% reliability.

    1. EUDORA LITE (Windows, Mac)

      Eudora Lite does not support filtering/sorting by "Sender:". There is an option to sort a mailbox "by Sender", but this actually sorts based on the "From:" field and not the "Sender:" field.

      This just in, via a kind HWG member:

      With version 3, filtering was added to Eudora Light and now it can sort mail automatically. Although you cannot explicitly filter based on "sender", there is an option to sort based on "any header" which I have successfully used with other mailing lists.

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      MSIE does not appear to support filtering by "Sender:". One Guild member suggests the following work-around:

      Unfortunately, not everyone has an add-on mail processor :( so they rely on the more rudimentary abilities of their browser. I use MSIE 3.01 which does not support filtering based on SENDER. However, I have found that by adding folders for each list (File|Folder|Create) then rules as follows to my Inbox Assistant (Mail|Inbox Assistant) based on the TO and CC fields achieves the same purpose.
      Rule 1: Move to <folder name> if To contains 'hwg-<list>@hwg.org'
      Rule 2: Move to <folder name> if To contains 'hwg-<list>@goldendome.com'
      Rule 3: Move to <folder name> if Cc contains 'hwg-<list>@hwg.org'
      Rule 4: Move to <folder name> if Cc contains 'hwg-<list>@goldendome.com'
      In some cases, you also need to add:
      Rule 5: Move to <folder name> if To contains 'hwg-<list>-digest@hwg.org'
      Rule 6: Move to <folder name> if Cc contains 'hwg-<list>-digest@goldendome.com'
      Since Digest msg's (on hwg-html) at least occasionally end up on the list.

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    3. Microsoft Internet Mail (Windows)

      Microsoft's Internet Mail program apparently does not sort by "Sender:". The following work-around was suggested by a Guild member:

      First create a folder for the list:
      • Select from the drop down menu "File," then "Folder" then "Create."
      • Type in the name you've chosen and select "OK" to finish.
      Second, set-up the filter:
      • From the drop down menu select "Mail," then "Inbox Assistant" then "Add."
      • Under "Add" find the following filter choices: "To," "CC," "From," and "Subject" Cut and paste (or type in) the appropriate header such as "hwg-ops@hwg.org" from the "To" field in the e-mail you receive into the "To" field in the "Add" options menu.
      • Then, at the bottom of the "Add" menu find the box labeled "Move To," it contains the names of all e-mail folders. Select the appropriate folder, then select "OK" twice to finish.
      E-mail received with the specific header entered in the "To" field will be directed to the folder you created.

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    4. America Online's Mail Program (Windows, Mac)

      AOL offers a very simple email interface with few features that one would expect from a full mail client. A Guild member suggests the following for AOL users:

      AOL won't let you sort mail by any criteria. My suggestion: Create a new account on AOL just for reading Guild Lists. Subscribe to them from that account, and don't use it for anything else. Not a great solution, but it does "sort" your guild related e-mail from the rest. And use Flash Sessions when retrieving e-mail on AOL.

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  4. An Alternative: Digest Mode

    All Guild discussion lists offer a "digest" mode. This means that instead of receiving one message each time someone writes to the list, the messages are saved up until some size or time limit is reached, and sent out in a batch form as a "digest".

    These digests are named and numbered consecutively, and all have consistent "From:" and "TO:" addresses. Here's an example:

    From: owner-hwg-ops-digest@hwg.org (hwg-ops)
    To: hwg-ops-digest@hwg.org
    Subject: hwg-ops V1 #17

    Sorting or filtering digests by To:, From:, or Subject: will group together your HWG messages, if you are unable to filter by "Sender:".

    Information on how to change from non-digest to digest mode can be found at http://www.hwg.org/lists/.

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  5. Credit Where Credit Is Due

    This FAQ was created by Kynn Bartlett from answers supplied by a number of helpful Guild members who use the mail programs listed above. When multiple people submitted information on the same program, the most complete write-up was used and any additional points from the other submissions were added, but everyone who responded gets credit here.

    Helping out on this FAQ were:

    Eudora Pro:
    Brian Catlin <lurch@radix.net>
    Stefan Paetow <owner@ellipse-data.com>
    Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>
    Bill Curnow <bcurnow@onramp.net>
    Joseph Brady <jebrady@unity.ncsu.edu>
    MegaZone <megazone@livingston.com>
    Gerald Oskoboiny <gerald@hwg.org>
    mike ledoux <mwl@hwg.org>
    Joe Cline <cline@mm.com>
    jonathon <grafolog@netcom.com>
    Netscape 3.0:
    mike ledoux <mwl@hwg.org>
    Forte's Agent:
    Roy Buchanan <buchanan@netcom.com>
    MS Outlook97:
    Stefan Paetow <owner@ellipse-data.com>
    Eudora Lite:
    Robert Mader <rmader@solgate.com>
    Zach Joress <zjoress@ml.org>
    Tony Dickinson <ajd3@tutor.open.ac.uk>
    Damien M. Jones <dmj@emi.net>
    MSIE 3.0:
    David Lars Chamberlain <tanuki@nenpub.szptt.net.cn>
    MS Internet Mail:
    Woody Williams <threew@arn.net>
    America OnLine:
    jonathon <grafolog@netcom.com>

    Hearty thanks to everyone listed above!

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If you would like to contribute a new section or provide additional or updated information on a mail program, please write directly to the FAQ maintainer: ckshort@hwg.org.

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This page is maintained by ckshort@hwg.org. Last updated on 3 September 1998.
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