Searching Listservs

How to search a listserv by email

© 2000 Walt Howe
(last updated June 22, 1998)

These procedures apply ONLY to searching the archives of Listservs. They will not necessarily work for other types of mailing lists, such as mailserv, majordomo, and others.

In order to search the database of a listserv for anything concerning a particular subject, an automated, structured message is used. Suppose you want to search the HELP-NET listserv for all messages that mention DELPHI. The HELP-NET listserv is at the address templevm.bitnet. The search is run by email. Address the message to internet"listserv@templevm.bitnet", leave the subject blank, and send the following message:

Database Search DD=Rules
//Rules DD *
When the search is finished, you will get a message back which lists all the Index numbers, dates, times, lines, and subjects of all messages which include the word DELPHI. Suppose you find that there are 40 messages that mention DELPHI and you decide you want to read the message with Index number 264. You would then send a similar message with the following text:
Database Search DD=Rules
//Rules DD *
Print all of 264
Or if you wanted to read messages 264, 278, and 312, you could substitute for the fifth line
Print all of 264 278 312
Boolean searches can also be run. Instead of searching for just one keyword like DELPHI, you can use more than one keyword with the Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT used in line 4.


1. Search delphi AND mac in HELP-NET

This line searches for all messages which include both the words DELPHI and the word Mac-- or for that matter Macintosh or machine or sumac or grimace.

2. Search delphi OR prodigy in HELP-NET

This line will search for all messages that include DELPHI or Prodigy. Unlike the first example, both words do not have to be present to get a match.

3. Search (delphi OR prodigy) AND mac in HELP-NET

This example, using parentheses to group words will find all messages that include Mac and either DELPHI or Prodigy or both.

4. Search delphi NOT Borland in HELP-NET

This example finds all messages that include the word DELPHI except those that also include the word Borland. This could be used to eliminate messages that refer to Borland's database software instead of DELPHI.

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