Creating distribution lists in GMail

It turns out you can create distribution lists in GMail. It’s not elegant and it’s not as user friendly as it will probably be someday, but it’s a hack… and who doesn’t love a hack?

BTW, in case you’re lost at this point, a distribution list is a single entry in your address book that lets you send a message to several different people.

So go to your GMail account (see previous posts if you don’t have one) and click on “Contacts” to open the Contact Manager. Click on “Add Contact” to create your new distribution list.

For the “Name:” use whatever you want to use to identify this particular list. (i.e., type “Geeks” if you want to send e-mails to all your geek friends, or “Pol” if these are your political discussion buddies).

For “Email:” you type in the e-mail addresses of all those you want to include in the distribution list. However, you must type it in a special way so that GMail is fooled into correctly addressing the message to all those in the list (a hack!).

All the e-mail addresses must be separated by the following characters:


There should be no spaces at all and nothing before the first address or after the last one.

So, if your friends are:,, and

then the “Email:” field should look like this:>,,

Please note that there are no additional characters at the start or end, no spaces whatsoever, and every address is separated by the characters ">,<". Now, when composing a new message, simply type the name of your distribution list and GMail should offer to fill it out for you. Because of the way we've stored the e-mail addresses, GMail will interpret them as individual addresses and will send a copy of the message to each one. Mail away and enjoy your new GMail functionality.  

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