Google Groups

on Friday, March 13, 2009

I got a phone call yesterday asking how to create email groups online, so that an email address could be created that would automatically send emails to all group members. Think of it as an ad hoc Listserv.

As always, Google seems to have a tool for everything (though some work better than others; ever try Google Knol?). Google Groups is a nice solution for creating email groups. One of the better aspects of it is that it doesn't require you to use G-Mail (Google's email service).

Creating a group is a simple process. The administrator of the group needs to register with Google, which requires an email address and a password. Then go to, or find the groups link on the "My Accounts" page. Give the group a name, a description, and add all the email addresses you would like to be part of the group. The members of the group will each receive an email from Google Groups, asking them if they'd like to join the group. There is a link they need to click to accept the invitation. That's pretty much it. The email address Google assigns will be, though this can be customized. The screen shot below shows how a specific title is made part of the email address by Google.

Again, no one needs to use G-Mail; you can simply email the group from your own email client (e.g. Thunderbird, Outlook).

There are several options that make this an attractive solution. You can add a customized prefix to all email titles in brackets so that, for example, emails from a water issues group would look something like this: "[Water Issues Group] Meeting tonight at 4 p.m.". A customized footer option is available as well, to give specific instructions to all members of the group. Finally, you can assign permissions, so that only designated members (or all members, if that is what you decide) can add others to the group.

Other options are available as well: a group page, a document "drop." Play around on your own to discover all the possibilities here.

One caveat: Outlook has a tendency to dump Google Group email into the "Junk" folder. So make sure each group member knows to go to the "Junk" folder, and move the originating email to their inbox. From then on, email will go to the Inbox.


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