Dynamic queries can also be used as “virtual sub-lists” to augment the membership of a list (see below for more information on security restrictions). To do so, simply insert the query in the “Sub-Lists=” keyword, or create a “Sub-Lists=” keyword with just the query:


Dynamic sub-lists work exactly like regular sub-lists, except that all recipients have the default list options. As always with sub-lists, duplicate recipients are eliminated.

8.5.1 Why not create plain dynamic lists instead?

It is not possible to create a regular list whose membership is defined by a dynamic query. Dynamic membership is only available by creating a super-list with a dynamic query as a sub-list, and the reasons for this design choice may not be obvious at first. In a nutshell, a plain dynamic list implementation would have led to reduced functionality for about the same learning curve. It may seem strange at first to define dynamic membership as a sub-list, but the only practical difference is the name of the list header keyword that carries the query and its parameters.

There are two main advantages to having the query in a sub-list rather than in the list itself. First, all the value-added LISTSERV features remain available – or rather, they can be made available if desired. A recipient from the dynamic query can subscribe to the list, change subscription options, be promoted to list editor, turn off mail receipt, and so forth. This would not be possible if the list membership were “frozen” and managed entirely outside of LISTSERV – for instance, in Active Directory. There is no function in Active Directory to switch to DIGEST mode or activate the NOMAIL option. This degree of freedom may not be desirable for internal lists and can be disabled easily with a list exit, or by preventing subscriptions to the super-list, but it can also be enabled. This provides more flexibility than an implementation where there is simply no way for a dynamic recipient to opt out.

Second, LISTSERV only explores sub-lists when it needs to, i.e. when a message is posted to the list, but explores and grooms top-level lists on a regular basis. Having the dynamic query as a sub-list minimizes the number of potentially resource-intensive queries. LISTSERV also knows that each sub-list has its own, independent list management process and will generally “do the right thing” with respect to managing, grooming and advertising the super-list vs. the sub-list. In a nutshell, LISTSERV will leave the sub-list recipients alone, as it always has when expanding sub-lists.