Your Email List(s) With PHPList

PHPList is server-based software that allows you to send out mass email messages – messages intended for lots of people. It is commonly used by our clients to communicate with their customers, sales force, etc. PHPList is the open source version of things like MailChimp and Constant Contact.

Internet Connections is able to tie web sites to PHPList to make it easy for site visitors to add (and remove) themselves on your email list without any action from you at all. PHPList helps with list maintenance (it automatically stops sending to emails that bounce repeatedly) and allows you to prepare emails to be sent automatically at a future time and date.

Click Here For A Video Tutorial on PHPList

Login to your PHPList admin web page with any web browser using the address provided to you by your Internet Connections staff person. They will give you a username and password to login, when you do, you should see the following:

PHPList main screen

You will see a menu with four sections in the center:

  • Configuration functions – most users can ignore this
  • List and user functions – set up new lists and administer emails on your list(s)
  • Administrator functions – most users can ignore this
  • Message Functions – send messages and see past messages you’ve sent

You’ll also see a small menu in the upper right with these options.

  • logout – log user out of PHPList
  • main page – returns you to this page
  • help – phplist software help documentation (or call us at IC)
  • about – about PHPList software
  • lists – same as “list” under List and user functions
  • send a message – same as “send” under Message functions
  • manage users – click on “users” on this page to go to the same page as users under List and user functions
  • subscribe pages – same as “spage” under Configuration functions
  • messages – same as “messages” under Message functions
  • templates – to create a standard Template for emails

Send an Email Message

Go to Messages under Message Functions (or messages in the upper right box) You’ll see a tabbed screen.

PHPList Sending a Message screenshot

Content – Compose your email – enter a subject line, enter the email message. We advise keeping any graphics VERY small and that links to images are to images that are on your web site. (upload images yourself with FTP, Contribute or send to IC to upload for you) Tip: if you are not using a PHP Template for your email, select the Plain Template from the list, otherwise PHPList uses its default stylesheet for your message.

Format – Select to send your message as HTML, Text or Text and HTML (we recommend Text and HTML) You can send a test message now using the button here.
more on showing how to send a message.

Scheduling – Set a date and time that you want your message to go out. This can be hours or days from now, or leave it as is to send on the next mail queue. Tip: every 15 minutes the list will look for messages that are ready to go and will send them.

Criteria – Select which people on your email list to send messages to – using one of the attributes you collected (on your web site my account or newsletter sign up form perhaps). For example, you can select to send an email to just End users or just Sales Reps. If you’d like other attributes here – inform your IC project manager to add that to your online forms that are signing people up.

Lists – Create a new list that you can put users on or edit the name or characteristics of your list. Tip: create a “test” list of people that are on your staff or trusted friends and use that to test sending your message before sending the message to the real list of customers.

Misc. – You can have the page send you an email when it starts and stops sending the email you prepared by putting your email address in the boxes provided under this tab.

Manage Users

Add users to your mailing list(s) – Most IC customers using PHPList will have a web site that will automatically put users into your mailing list (and remove them if they ask to be removed using tools on the web site). You can by-pass the web site and add users. Just click on the “manage users” link in the upper right corner and then click on “users” or from the main page, click on “users” under List and user functions.

Click on Add user and fill out the short form – see below. Note that you can leave most everything blank – just put in the email address and set the HTML email thing to 1 (which is “true” or “on”) and you should be set.

PHPList Manage Users screenshot

1 means true and 0 means false. So, with the example shown here, Yvonne would get HTML emails, The account is NOT disabled, which means it is live, she is confirmed and has no password. Most of the time, this is what you’d enter for any user.

See users on the list – Clicking on the “users” link under List and Users Function will show you a list of all users on your mailing list. Tip: if you have a very large list, you’ll need to do a Search to see the list of users.

PHPList User List screenshot

Delete users from the list – On the same users page above, click on “del” next to the usernames and confirm that you want to delete to remove them from your list.

Edit the emails users get when they are added to the list or removed from the list – Go to the “spage” link on your administrative page above (under Configuration Functions). You can change these messages any time. Tip: users added from the web site are usually automatically confirmed and don’t get an email from the list.

Import emails – Sometimes we have an email list from some other mailing list, excel file, etc. and want to put that list of emails into PHP list. You can import a tab or comma-delimited text file. The text file should contain Go to manage users and click on “import users”. Note: attributes here are the fields of information you are keeping about each person in your email list. This may be just an email or some people store things like state, customer type, product preference, etc.

The first or second options on the import users page are the most common ones used by our clients.

  • First option: import emails with different values for attributes
  • Second option: import emails with the same values for attributes

Clean up invalid emails – Go to “manage users” and select “reconcile users”. Select the option that says “find users who have an invalid email” to see a list of invalid emails. As you can see from the image below – invalid emails can mean a missing letter in .com or a space in the email address or a partial email.

PHPList Reconcile Users screenshot

First, scroll down and click on “fix emails for users who have an invalid email” – this will fix some emails, but will likely leave some to be hand fixed. Next, click on “find users who have an invalid email” again. Click on the user number to the left of the first email, this will take you to a page where you can fix that email. Fix it and click Save Changes at the bottom of the page. If the email already exists in your user list, you’ll get a red “database error” message that says it’s a duplicate. No worries, that just means they are already on the list, click to “delete” that user. Confirm that you do want to delete when the box pops up, then “return to reconcileusers”.

If after the fix a duplicate is not found, then a success message will show – now click on “return to reconcile users”. This will take you back to the list of invalid emails with that one gone now.

Manage Lists

On the “lists” page, you’ll see the existing lists you have set up in PHPList. You can click on “add a list” to create a new email list. You just have to give it a name and enter a description and check a box to make it active.

For existing lists, you can edit the name or description of it, you can view members of the list and you can delete the list. Note that deleting a list doesn’t delete users from your PHPList database.

On the view members page, you can see the status of each member of the list and how many messages they have received. You can even move users from one list to another or copy users from one list to another here.

Review Messages

Go to “messaages” on the upper right menu to see your “sent”, “draft” and “queued” messages. Messages are in one of these three states.

  • draft – this means you created a message using the “send a message” area and you saved that message to the system, but you have not queued it up for sending yet
  • queued – your saved message has been queued to be sent out at a future time (in the next 15 minutes or whenever you set it to go
  • sent – the message was sent to the list(s) you selected

Tip: messages only go out every 15 minutes, if you queue a message with a send time that is BEFORE the next 15 minute sending, the message will not go out (but you can “requeue” it with a new time)

Tip: each message you create has a number in PHP (15, 16, 17, etc.). If message 16 is sent to user 3, then if you resend message 16, it will not go to user 3 again. This is a built-in protection PHPList has to keep you from sending the same message to the same user. If you really want to – you need to copy and paste the message into a new “message” with a new PHPList number (using the send a message pages) and then send it to the same list. This doesn’t come up often, but if your “test” list has some users that are also on the “regular” list, this can come up.


Go to “templates” on the upper right menu to be able to create or edit a template. The first page you’ll see will list some brief instructions for you to use when creating and using a template. From there, you can click on “add new template” at the bottom of the page.

How to set up a template – First, you should give your template a title that you’d like to use to be able to choose the template for use later. Then, there is a blank space where you can format your template as you’d like. You’ll see on this page the option of either creating a new template with the WYSIWYG editor or importing an html file you’ve already created.

Click Here For A Helpful Article On Creating Email Templates

Instructions for using the WYSIWYG editor – A simple template may just have an image you choose to place in the header. To do so, click on the image icon (see location in image below) and it will ask you to enter a URL to an image you’d like to use.

PHPList Text editor screenshot showing how to upload an image

TIP: You must first have an image on your site that you’d like to use for the template, a good example would be the logo for your web site.

To find the URL of an image you’d like to use, navigate to your web site with another browser page and then right click on the image you’d like to use from your site. Select “Copy Image Location” from the menu and then paste that into PHPlist.

PHPList Copying an image

Below the header image, make sure to include the following:


This is where you’ll be able to later compose your message in the email within.

Then you may like to include an image or text below this as your footer. Text can be added simply by typing it as you’d like it to appear in the email. An image can be added as well following the same steps for the image in the header.

Once you have the layout as you’d like to see for your email template, it is recommended that you check all of the boxes at the bottom of the page and then click “Save Changes.”

PHPList Save changes

After saving the template, it may ask you to upload the image that you used for the template. To do so, make sure to first save the image to your computer, then browse to it in PHPlist and upload.

You are now ready to begin using your template!

Using a template – When sending a message, you can select what template to use by going to the “Format” tab and then selecting the one you created. The content of your message then goes where you put the [CONTENT] tag in your template.

Showing how to use a template in PHPList

If you don’t have a template, PHPList uses its default one, which has the orange look. You can create a Plain template, with nothing in it basically that will override the orange look.