Solving the GNU Mailman MIME message footer problem

By | May 25, 2010

If you administer a GNU Mailman installation, you are probably aware that message footers don’t always work quite right: if a message submitted to a list is entirely plain text with no attachments, then the footer is fine, but if it’s formatted in HTML or has attachments, then the footer is added to the message as a separate message part, and some email clients display it as an attachment which must be clicked on to view, rather than displaying it as part of the message text.

This is a significant problem, since Microsoft Outlook, which has by far the biggest market share of any email client, is one of the clients that displays Mailman footers incorrectly.

Many people have complained about this problem to the maintainers of GNU Mailman, but they have declined to address it.  I don’t agree with their reasoning, but it is of course their prerogative as the volunteer maintainers of free software to decide that they’d rather maintain some sort of vision of purity in their code rather than actually make the it do what their users want it to.  Jan Ploski also has some interesting thoughts about this.

Fortunately, it’s our prerogative as users to fix it ourselves if they don’t :-).  Adrian Bye did this with a patch to Mailman way back in 2005, but the maintainers rejected his patch and it’s now out-of-date and incompatible with the current stable Mailman release.  Others have hacked together site-specific solutions using mimedefang, but no one has implemented a generic solution that can be deployed on top of a standard Mailman installation.  Until now, that is.

I’ve just released a script that can be deployed easily into a mimedefang installation to automatically reformat outbound Mailman messages to insert the footer into the text and/or HTML bodies of the message rather than as a separate attachment.  All you need to do to use it is install it into your mimedefang installation using the provided instructions, then modify the msg_footer setting inside Mailman to add a couple of special tokens which tell the script to reformat your footers.

Share and enjoy!  And hey, if you find this useful, maybe you can show your appreciation. 🙂

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