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Frequently Asked Questions - Configuration of the E-mail Software

Problems installing the emailing & Newsletter software

  • How do I install the email software phpList?
  • What server setup is required for running the email software phpList?
  • Where can I find the 'config.php' file?
    • Typically it's found in '/lists/config/config.php'. You need to have access to the files on your server (via FTP or SSH for example) to modify the config.php file. You cannot access it through your web browser.
  • Fatal Error: Cannot connect to database, access denied. Please contact the administrator
    • That error indicates something is wrong with your database connection details. A database connection requires four things, and they are very sensitive to errors (just one little typo and it won't work):

      database host; the name of the server, usually it's 'localhost')
      database user; the name of the user on the database host
      database password; the password for that user
      database name; the name of the database to use
    • If any of these four are incorrect, you will get this error message. It's a good idea to double-check your settings, and confirm with your hosting provider or system administrator what the database connection details should be. Also, the database user must have full permissions on the database specified in the 'database name' setting.
  • Why does my website redirect to after I install the software?
    • The file '/public_html/index.html' in the software downloaded, says 'You will probably want to replace this document with your own website'. In place of this file, you probably want to put your website's index.html file. In typical installations, you only need to upload the contents of the directory '/public_html/lists/' to your web server.
  • My phpList installation has limitations on the amount of emails it can send
    • There are two main reasons for this to happen: Limitations of the sendmail program provided by your ISP, or that you are trying to process big queues directly from the browser.
    • If you use the sendmail engine provided by your ISP directly (no SMTP settings) you might have limitations on the amount of emails you can send. Due to security reasons ISPs might be reluctant to remove these limitations. So, if this happens to you the best route to take is to change the sendmail method to SMTP. This can be done by changing the software configuration in your config.php file.
    • To process the mail queue and keep sending emails, the email send software needs to be able to keep running. There are several ways that the email send software will use to keep the queue running even if you close the browser while processing the queue. However, depending on your ISP's configuration there is a possibility that none of them will work. If this happens to you, the solution is to process the mail queue by using a cron job.
  • Why do I get a 500 Server Error?
    • If you get a '500 Server Error' when installing, your server probably runs PHP as a cgi, not as an apache module (also known as phpsuexec). You need to edit the file '/lists/.htaccess' delete or comment out (with a #) the line about 'php_flag magic_quotes_gpc'. e.g. # php_flag magic_quotes_gpc on
  • What does 'magic_quotes_gpc = on' mean?
    • Magic quotes is a PHP setting. If the server runs PHP as a cgi, you can turn magic quotes on by creating the file '/lists/php.ini' with this directive: magic_quotes_gpc = 1
    • More information about php settings in phpsuexec mode.
  • When I run the initialize process it shows me an error about index length: "database error 1071 - index length too long". Why is that?
    • If your hosting provider offers you an old version of MySQL (4.1.X or older), this error may arise because in old versions, indexes length has a byte limitation (1000 bytes). This error message will appear below a table name, and that table is the one that has the index length error. So, you will need to reduce the size of the field, or set of fields. The total length of it needs to be less that the 1000 bytes limit that MySQL imposes.

Problems after installing the email send software

  • Why does the software ask me to login for every admin page I try to load?
    • This generally indicates that something is wrong with session handling in your PHP configuration. Check your php.ini file and make sure you have this set: session.use_cookies = 1, and/or ask your ISP to make sure sessions are enabled in your PHP configuration and are stored correctly.
    • The temporary directory on your server doesn't have read/write permissions. Please make sure that it does have read/write permissions.
    • The temporary directory has filled up with temporary files, and phpList is unable to write to it. You can fix this by cleaning up your temp dir.
    • You are connecting through multiple proxies and this means that your IP address isn't the same for every page request. (AOL is an example of an ISP that connects in this way.) You can solve this in config.php, by setting define("CHECK_SESSIONIP",0);
    • Alternatively, you can store sessions in the database instead of the default place by assigning a table name to this value. Enable this setting in config.php: $SessionTableName = "phplistsessions"; by uncommenting this line. The table will be created and will not use any prefixes. This only works when using mySQL and only for administrator sessions.
  • When loading the admin page I get some PHP code instead of a clean page. How do I fix this?
    • This issue is probably related to the use of 'short tags'. You should be able to fix this by adding the following line in the lists/.htaccess file: php_flag short_open_tag on
    • Alternatively, you could convert short tags to long tags by using the script included in the scripts directory of the phpList archive.
  • I just installed phpList, but sending my first messages fails. Why can't I send any message?
    • Please check if the software is still running in Test mode. In config.php check your value for this constant (0 is off, 1 is on): define ("TEST",0); . See also email send configuration.
    • When sending a 'test message' you should also check that your email address is included in the user list. If not, you will get this error message: "Email address not found to send test message".
    • It is recommended not to include links to Javascript files when sending an HTML email, since the receiving servers may quarantine or block it, due to consider it a a possible virus or unauthorised code.
    • If you are trying to send a message to a subscribers list, make sure you process the message queue. Otherwise your message will just be waiting in the queue.
    • If the above does not apply, it is likely something is wrong with your mail server settings. If you are using the PHP mail() function (which is the default setting in config.php), your host may have limited it's use. In that case you should contact your host to fix this. Alternatively, you could switch to using your SMTP server instead. To do so, edit the PHPMAILERHOST setting in your config.php file and enter your SMTP server name, e.g. define("PHPMAILERHOST",''); You will also need to enter your SMTP server's username and password by editing and uncommenting (i.e. by removing the # at the start of the line) the phpmailer_smtpuser and phpmailer_smtppassword settings in config.php. Usually the SMTP settings you would use in your email client should work here too.
  • When I try to edit a message, or a message template, the part where the editing window should be is blank. How can I fix this?
    • This can occur when ASP tags are enable in php.ini. If you do not use ASP tags, you could set asp_tags = off in php.ini.
    • Alternatively, if you do not need an online editor, you can disable FCKeditor in your config.php file. The message content tab would then display a simple source window where you can paste your text and HTML source code.
  • Why do I get messages twice?
    • In phpList versions 2.9.x and up, the "send test message" button will send you two messages, one in HTML and one in text format. This is so you can check how the messages look in both formats. Eventually, when you send your message, your subscribers will only receive one of the two formats, depending on their preferences.
    • Since version 2.10.3 you can override this behaviour, and only have one test message sent to you, by changing the default setting for "test emails" in config.php.
  • How do I mark everyone to receive HTML messages instead of text messages?
    • You can set all subscribers to receive HTML messages through the Admin backend: click on "manage users", then on "reconcile users" and finally on "mark all users to receive html".
  • How do I make my own subscribe pages?
    • In the page (subscribe pages) area of the software, you can create and edit subscribe pages. There you can edit the html of the header and footer, where you can insert html from your website's template. If you do not have any subscribe pages, you can edit the header and footer html from the phpList configuration area. You can get here free subscribe pages templates.
  • I've configured my own subscribe page and message texts on the Configuration page and they look OK there. But, when I subscribe a user all is back to the original defaults. Why is that?
    • You probably created a subscribe page before changing the settings on the configuration page. When you create a new subscribe page, it will take its initial settings from the defaults on the configuration page. Of course you can change these settings for each individual subscribe page you create. So, either create a new subscribe page, or copy/paste what you have on the configuration page to the corresponding fields in your existing subscribe page.
  • How do I place a subscribe form on an existing webpage?
  • How do I get rid of the 'powered by' image?
    • In the config.php file there is an option under the 'Feedback to developers' section that allows you to remove the phpList logo in the html emails and public web pages (including subscribe pages). You'll end up with just a text link giving credit to phpList and Tincan instead of the images.
  • Why do I lose all characters over 255 when I enter a long text in a textarea attribute?
    • The data entered into the textarea is stored in the database. To prevent the database from becoming big and slow this is done using a 'varchar', which has a 255 characters limit. If you do want to use a bigger textarea attribute look for the solution in the forums. It has been done before: here is one solution and this has some more explanation. The code support it.
  • The links in the confirmation messages are misformed or have no UID code. How can I fix this?
    • You can fix this by changing the message encoding setting for text messages in config.php. Usually 7bit encoding is a good setting, i.e.: define("TEXTEMAIL_ENCODING","7bit");
  • How can I make a backup copy of my user list and other important data?
    • the software 's admin module currently only offers an option to export the user lists. An option to make a backup of the entire List database is scheduled for a future release. In the mean time it is highly recommended to regularly make a full backup of your phpList database using a tool like phpMyAdmin for instance.

Translation and Internationalization of the email & Newsletter Software

  • I am using another language file than, but some text strings keep appearing in English. Why is that?
    • Other language files than may need to be updated. The availability of translations does not always keep pace with new releases of the software, and new text strings added in may still have to be added and translated in other languague files.

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