How To Create Student Email Lists in Two Minutes

David Parry bio photo By David Parry

(Okay in all honesty this takes more than two minutes the first time, but after you do it once or twice it only takes two.)


Just cause Jenn asked here is a post on how to create an email group for your classes, actually I was working on this (I wasn’t going to leave all of those people hanging with the start of the semester approaching), but it is the most complicated of the email tricks so it has taken me a while to get the explanation set-up (thanks to my brother for his help). But don’t fear, it is much easier than it looks, and there are screenshots along the way.

Okay, so the goal here is to create an email distribution list for all of your students. This way you can type in one word, for example “English 205z” (see that’s technically one word and one number) and the mail program will automatically email all of your students. Over the course of the semester this is tremendously useful. I use it to email reminders about class, especially if we are going to be in the computer lab for the day, so they don’t show up for class late having gone to the wrong location, or if I see something in the news I want them to read, or whatever; the goal for me is to increase my chance to reach students in a medium which they are likely to hear.

Step One: Getting all the Email Addresses

The thing that makes this work is requiring all of your students to email you on the first day of class. I covered my rules for email in a previous post but the ones that concerns us here are about the first day assignment:

  • Students should email you with their full name in the body of the email (this way you can search for them later in you emails).
  • The subject line of the email should list the class name or number.

This gives you all of the student’s email addresses so you don’t have to type them in, but now the trick is getting them all together into a group. The Mac address book allows you to create a group and assign people to it, but you would have to manually do this; clicking and dragging 60 names into different lists. This is do able but would take far more time than I want to spend, especially when there is an easier way. . .

Step Two: Mail Scripts

Think of scripts as little programs that your computer can run to help another program. This particular script will allow you to create a group list from all of the selected emails. So, the first thing to do is go to the Mail Scripts web site and download the scripts. Click on the drive image that is downloaded and up should pop a drive on your desktop called “Mail Scripts 2.7.10”. Open this. You should be able to click the install icon; Mail Scripts handles the rest. There is a lot you can do with these scripts outside of what I am about to cover, but the key one will create student email lists with only about 2 minutes of effort on your part.

Step Three: Highlight all the Messages

Open up your mail program, now all of you student emails should be in a classes folder (using the technique from an earlier post). Select that folder and look at all of the messages in there. In the screenshot below you can see an example of what I am talking about, notice all of the emails are from me as I set this up as a demo, but the important part here is to look at the subject line. Notice how these emails are from two different classes. I am going to create a list that only emails students who have emailed me with 205z in the subject line.

Your inbox should look something like this:


You want to highlight all of the messages with the subject line for the particular class you are creating an email list for, in this case I am highlighting all of the ones that say 205z. You can highlight multiple messages by holding down the Command key (the one with the apple on it) and clicking a message. When you are done it should look something like this:


Step Four:Run Mail Scripts

Now without clicking anything else in mail (so that these messages stay highlighted), open up your applications folder, and open up the folder inside this that is labeled “Mail Scripts.” Inside this folder are all of the ones you can run, but for now we only need the first one “Add Addresses.” Click this to run it. If you have followed all of the steps you should get a screen that looks something like this:


You probably want to take a brief scan at the email addresses as it might pick up some extra ones (it gets all the addresses, so for example if a student had an extra address in the body of an email it would be here) and unclick any of the ones you do not want. Under the line that says “Select Group to add addresses to” select create new group, and give it a name; in this case I will name it English 205z.

Emailing Your Class

You can check to see if this has worked by opening up the address book, and seeing if there is a group with the new name and that that group has all of the addresses in it. Now when you compose a message all you have to do is type “English 205z” and it automatically addresses the message to all of the students in the group. It is a good practice to put the addresses in the bcc field, rather than the “to” field or the “cc” field as this way students who want to keep their addresses private, or free from spam, don’t have it going out to the whole group. I always put my own address in the “to” field.

Repeat steps three and four for any other classes. Now if a student adds you class late, after you have created this list, you can just manually add them to the list using the address book rather than redoing all of the steps.