LISTSERV at Work L-Soft
Issue 4, 2011

   Tech Tip: LISTSERV

Q: How can I prevent encoding artifacts from showing up in my plain text digests?

Back in the mists of time when people were using dial-up to connect to the Internet, it made sense to be able to get a single digest email that collected all the separate email messages from the current day. On active discussion lists, the flow of messages can sometimes seem frenetic, so a single digest email collecting all the flow into one message might be more relaxing. LISTSERV has offered the digest feature from the beginning.

However, over time, as the sophistication of email has increased – first adding attachments, then foreign languages, then HTML email and email from your phone, plain old "plain text" email has become not-so-plain anymore. This has caused some complaints from digest users as they struggle to read around the artifacts that these email add-ons make to messages that become visible in the digest. Here is an example of the "old" format of plain text digests exhibiting several of these problems:

From: Automatic digest processor <LISTSERV@PEACH.EASE.LSOFT.COM>
Subject: WIN95-L Digest - 2 Apr 1999 - Special issue (#1999-147)
To: Recipients of WIN95-L digests <WIN95-L@PEACH.EASE.LSOFT.COM>
(Quoted-Printable encoding for foreign languages and special chars)

Date:    Fri, 2 Apr 1999 03:04:04 -0500
From:    Bob Golden <xxxxxxxx@xxxxxxxx.ner>
Subject: FW: WISH: Kenny's page.

I am still collecting files and gems to be included in the Goodies Page b=
alas, if I'm going to be in exile, it is hard to muster the effort to rev=
page.  Perhaps if List Owner relents, I'll update the pages and put up a =
more Win98 specific stuff. =20

There has been a glitch with my web host's server which rendere=
of my sites inaccessible.  It is being attended to and will be b=
hopefully, Friday. =20
(Base-64 encoding used by Blackberry, etc. and for binary attachments)

Date:    Fri, 2 Apr 1999 22:40:56 +1000
From:    Peter Williams <>
Subject: Re: Apps: Office 97 SR-2

(HTML encoding used by HTML email)

Date:    Fri, 2 Apr 1999 09:11:51 -0400
From:    grt <>
Subject: Re: GEN: Question_ Downloading IE5.0 with Lynx

<div align="center">
 <table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="900">
     <div align="center">
      <p class="viewhtml">
     <a href="
vcnQuY29tLw=="><img alt="The Magill Report: Marketing's Weekly Dose of the Truth" 
border="0" height="110" src="
magill-top2.jpg" width="900" /></a></td>

As you can see, messages can be difficult or impossible to read. In the past, LISTSERV conformed its digest format to the requirements of Internet Standard RFC 1153. However, in LISTSERV 16.0 changes were made to the traditional digest format to address these issues and instead render what appears to be a pure plain text digest. The technical details of how and why this was done can be found in the LISTSERV 16.0 What's New Manual. But the end result is that anybody receiving the traditional plain text digest will now have an easily readable email. This could be another reason to upgrade your LISTSERV instance if you aren't already running Version 16.0.


LISTSERV 16.0 What's New Manual, 1.2 Displaying Encoded Messages in the Body of a Digest

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