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Getting Started

What is ModTools?

It's a way to make it easier to moderate your Yahoo Group, especially with the changes Yahoo has made to Groups since August 2013 (a.k.a. Neo).

Why can't I just use Yahoo?

You can, if you prefer. But there are a lot of things that are quite hard or time-consuming things to do using the tools Yahoo provides. For example:

  • Sending "canned" replies to pending messages/members
  • Changing moderation status.
  • Bulk operations.

Is it a website, a plugin or an app?

There is an app for mobiles/tables - get it on the Play Store or iTunes.

Then there's the website http://modtools.org . This lets you do basic moderation on your group without installing anything extra, but there are browser plugins for Firefox and Chrome which enable extra function.

Can I use it on my phone or tablet?

Yes, which is great! But you can't install the plugin, so some function won't be available, and some operations will be queued up until you're next on a "normal" machine.

How does this relate to the modplugin?

It's a replacement for it. The Neo changes completely break that plugin; it worked for a little while, but no longer works at all.

Is there any way to get Classic back?


Can I use ModTools for users?

No, it's aimed purely at moderators. I cannot afford the time or money to produce a version for members, and it's not likely that most would use it.

Is there a support group?

Yes - here. But please do check this FAQ page first for answers.

What is dev.modtools.org?

http://dev.modtools.org is the development version of the site where new modifications are tested.

If you report a fault, you may be invited to try this URL instead of modtools.org. Others may choose to use it in order to try out the latest features.

Be aware that like the ordinary modtools.org, dev.modtools.org is working on the live data for your group. In other words, it is not "only testing", but updating your group's members or messages in the same way as the main version.

Logging In

How do I sign in to ModTools?

Using a Yahoo ID.

Why do I get an error about my Yahoo ID?

For some people signing in with Yahoo, especially (but not only) those using Yahoo's ability to sign in via Google/Facebook, Yahoo doesn't pass the right information to ModTools. ModTools needs to have an ID and an email address.

It's not clear whether it's possible to fix this. For now, you need to create a brand new Yahoo ID to use with ModTools. You don't necessarily need to make this Yahoo ID a moderator on the Yahoo Group.

Can I use a different ID to sign in to Yahoo and ModTools?


  • Sign out of Yahoo.
  • Sign in to ModTools using the ID you use for ModTools.
  • Open a new tab, and sign out of Yahoo.
  • Sign in to Yahoo as the new ID.

Why do I keep getting sent back to the login screen?

This seems to happen occasionally, but we don't yet know why. You can cure it as follows.

  • If you are signed in to Yahoo then sign out
  • If you're using Firefox:
    • Go to the Privacy settings. On Windows Tools -> Options then the Privacy tab; on OS X Firefox -> Preferences then the Privacy tab.
    • Under History make sure that Firefox will: is set to Use custom settings for history
    • Click on the Show Cookies button
  • If you're using Chrome:
    • Click on the Chrome settings icon on the top right.
    • Click on Show Advanced Settings
    • Click on Content Settings
    • Click on All cookies and site data
  • Enter modtools in the Search box and hit return.
  • Use the delete key to delete any cookies for modtools.org or dev.modtools.org
  • Enter yahoo in the Search box and hit return.
  • Use the delete key to delete any cookies you see
  • Close these dialogues
  • Go back to ModTools and sign in again
  • Refresh the page ( Windows Ctrl+R, OS X Cmd+R)
  • Sign in again if required.

How do I get started?

This is covered on the page Getting Started.

Trying to add modtools to my group runs forever. What's happening?

If adding modtools as a moderator seems to be running indefinitely then there is a problem. This is explained, and recovery information is available here.


How do I change my email?

The email which ModTools gets initially is the one provided by Yahoo for your Yahoo ID. You might want to change it to your mail email address. Go to Settings->Personal Settings - you can change it in there.

What are 'Configurations'?

A configuration is a bit like a configuration set on the old modplugin - it contains a bunch of settings and (usually) multiple standard messages.

How do I set which configuration a group uses?

Go to Settings->Groups.

Can I use the same configuration on multiple groups?

Yes, that's what you would normally do.

How do I change the name which $myname expands to?

Go to Settings->Personal Settings - you can change it in there.

Do my standard message names need to be unique?

They need to be unique within the configuration you're editing.

I have a lot of standard messages. Can I reduce how much space they take up?

Yes. Go to the standard message and change the drop-down from Show separate button to Show in More...

Can I import standard messages from the old modplugin?

Yes. If you have the new Firefox plugin installed, then:

  • In ModTools go to Settings->Configurations
  • Select one of the tabs for standard messages (e.g. Pending Messages)
  • You should see a button called Migrate from modplugin (slow) - click that.

Can I import my user database from the old modplugin?

Yes. If you have the new Firefox plugin installed, then:

  • In ModTools go to Settings->Configurations
  • Click on the Migrate User Database button.

Can I CC to the -owner address?

No - experiment shows that many mails do not reliably get through to the owner address and are silently dropped by Yahoo as spam. This is dreadful, but is outside my control.

The recommended way to CC to your mods is:

  • Have a private Yahoo group for your mods - this is useful for discussion, too.
  • Set it up so that anyone can mail it.
  • CC to that.

If you have a mods group but cannot change the settings to allow anyone to mail it, then one possible workaround is:

  • Set up a new gmail account.
  • Make that account a member of the mods group.
  • Set up a rule to forward all mail to the mods group.
  • CC to this gmail account.

Can I remove a group?

Yes - go to Settings->Groups and use the trash/bin icon.

Removing the group just removes it from your list. The group stays on ModTools if there are other moderators, and keeps any license it had.

How do I create a new message?

  • Settings
  • Configurations
  • Choose the configuration you imported the messages in to (you may only have one)
  • Click on one of the tabs at the top for which kind of messages you want to add.
  • Click on Add and enter a name.
  • Click on the name of the message you've just added.
  • Edit it in the same way.

How do I amend a message?

I've successfully imported my message from the old mod plug in, but how do I amend a message once it's in the new tool?

  • Settings
  • Configurations
  • Choose the configuration you imported the messages in to (you may only have one)
  • Click on one of the tabs at the top for which kind of messages you want to edit.
  • Click on the message you want to edit - it will open and show you all the details.
  • Edit the details including the text if you want.

You can then carry on editing other messages or close the configuration window.

Can I spot valid subjects?

Yes. In Settings->Configurations on the General tab there are fields to control whether subjects are colour-coded according to whether they are valid or not. This defaults to on with an expression suitable for Freegle groups (e.g. for the format OFFER: Item (location)). If you don't want this, turn it off.


Can I add comments on Members?

Yes. Underneath a member you'll see a little icon like a speech bubble. Click on that.

Once you have a comment then it will appear next to that member for other mods to see. You'll see an edit icon like a little pencil next to it to change it.

You can also view comments in the Comments page - click on the link in the left hand side.

Why can't I edit?

You nee the plugin to edit (so you can't edit on mobile).

If you don't see the box to edit, it means that your plugin is not working correctly. Start here.

Can I export my members?

Yahoo currently only lets you export upto 1000 members. You can export the whole list from ModTools:

  • Go to Members
  • Click on the down arrow on the tab next to the group name

This list may be around 24 hours out of date, because the full member list is only synchronised daily. The synchronisation requires the browser plugin to be installed.

Can I import members?


Why don't I see the fields to change moderation and delivery status?

These are only displayed if:

  • You're on a machine using the plugin
  • The plugin is working
  • The screen is big enough

If you used to see these and don't any more, start here.

There is a GreaseMonkey script here which seems to disable them - so don't install it.

Why do messages say "Approved by modtools@modtools.org"?

When you approve messages or members via ModTools, it can do so in two ways:

  • Via the plugin direct to Yahoo. This will show up in Yahoo's management logs as you.
  • By sending an 'approve' mail to Yahoo. This will show up on Yahoo's management logs as having been approved by modtools@modtools.org.

Which of these happens first is effectively random.

When you view the message on ModTools itself it will show who approved it.

I approved a message; why does it show as approved by someone else in Yahoo?

This can happen sometimes. The explanation is quite technical.

What happens when you approve messages on ModTools is:

  • ModTools tries to approve the message by email to Yahoo. That isn't 100% reliable, though.
  • They also go into a queue of work for that group, held on ModTools.
  • Any mod for the group who has ModTools open will pick up items from that queue.
  • ModTools will then approve that message direct to Yahoo as that moderator.

The reason for this is that it allows things like this:

  • Mod A is on a mobile
  • Mod B has a browser tab open
  • Mod A approves a message and changes delivery status for the member
  • Mod A's changes can't be applied from the mobile because the mobile doesn't have the browser plugin.
  • Mod B's browser tab picks up those changes and applies them

That's very useful.

This can lead to some surprising entries in Yahoo's logs, but ModTools logs should show who initially approved the message.

What happens to messages deleted on Yahoo?

They are shown on ModTools with the Message ID and Date fields struck out.

This helps you spot when members are deleting their own messages, which they sometimes do to get around rules for your group.

What is pre-banning?

By default ModTools warns you if you have a known spammer on your group. In Settings->Groups you can tell it to pre-ban them. This means that known spammers can't join your group and be on there until you get warned that they are - which might be several hours, during which time they could be spamming.

Browser Plugin

Why is there a browser plugin?

ModTools does some function by communicating with Yahoo by email. But for other things, e.g. deleting messages or changing moderation status, there is no corresponding email command. Installing the browser plugin allows ModTools to make requests to Yahoo on your behalf to enable this function.

Can I moderate without the browser plugin?

Yes. This is very useful on mobile devices such as phones.

How do I tell if the plugin is working?

It will say it's connected, like this:


This won't show on narrow resolutions - if in doubt try zooming out.

What's this "Plugin: Disconnected" message?

It probably means you are running on a device/browser which doesn't have the plugin installed. Some plugin features won't be available, and it won't sync well with Yahoo.

If you do have the plugin installed, check:

  • that you're logged into Yahoo, as well as ModTools - open a new tab
  • that Tools->Options->Privacy is set to Remember History.
  • that you're not running your browser as Administrator (you'd probably have set this yourself, so if you don't know what that means, ignore it)

Then try restarting your browser.

Why does it say Plugin: Missing/Broken?

The most likely reason is that you've not installed the ModTools plugin on that machine.

  • Look to your bottom left and choose your browser, either Firefox or Chrome.
  • Click the icon and it will download the ModTools plugin to your browser.

If it's not that, then try:

  • rebooting (I know that sounds like a cop-out, but there's a reason for it)
  • removing the Privacy Badger extension
  • restarting your browser
  • removing and re-adding the plugin
  • making sure that you are going to http://modtools.org or http://dev.modtools.org/ , not www.modtools.org
  • waiting and coming back later (it sometimes fixes itself)


If you're on Chrome, then you may well need to do two further changes.

First (on Windows, but not on Mac), tell Chrome not to run in the background:

  1. Click on the Chrome menu (or press Alt+E)
  2. Select Settings
  3. Click on the link titled ‘Show advanced settings‘
  4. Under the section headed ‘System‘ untick the box next to “Continue running background apps when Google Chrome is closed”

Then make a change to disable use of SPDY; see the following sections.


  1. Right click on your Chrome shortcut (you need to do this both on any desktop shortcut, and on the toolbar if you have it there)
  2. Select Properties
  3. Click in the Target box
  4. Add this at the end: --use-spdy=off --use-system-ssl
  5. ...so that it looks something like this: "C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe" --use-spdy=off --use-system-ssl
  6. Make sure you leave a space between the second set of speech marks and the added text.
  7. Restart Chrome


  1. Close all instances of Chrome and/or Chromium.
  2. Find the script or its symlink
  3. Open it in a notepad application like Geany or Leafpad
  4. Add --use-spdy=off --use-system-ssl (with that all-important space at the beginning!) to the end.

On my system, the script is in /opt/google/chrome/ and is named google-chrome. The symlink is in /usr/bin/ and is named google-chrome-stable.


  1. Close Google Chrome.
  2. Open Script Editor (in older versions of OS X, this is called AppleScript Editor).
  3. Paste the following text, including quotation marks:
    do shell script "/Applications/Google\\ Chrome.app/Contents/MacOS/Google\\ Chrome --use-spdy=off --use-system-ssl > /dev/null 2>&1 &"
  4. Save the script as an app. (From the File menu, choose Export (in old versions, "Save As"), then change the file format from Script to Application, give it a name e.g. Google Chrome for ModTools, and save it in the Applications folder.)
  5. To start Chrome, run this script app instead of the main app. Remember this if you quit Chrome and start it again later.
  6. To run this automatically when you start up: in System Preferences, Accounts, click Login Items, remove the ordinary Google Chrome app if it was there, and add the new app instead.


Check you don't have any privacy extensions installed which are blocking it, such as Privacy Badger.

Why does it say Yahoo: Disconnected?

This means that even though you might have the plugin installed and working, ModTools can't talk via the plugin to Yahoo properly. This will stop some function (e.g. message edits) working.

  1. Go to Yahoo and check that you're logged in.
  2. If that doesn't help, follow the instructions to remove cookies here.
  3. If that doesn't help, try removing and readding the plugin.

It shows connected but I still can't edit?

If you're using Firefox, check in Tools->Options->Security that you're set to remember history.

Ok, I've installed the plugin. What happens?

You should now see a message at the top of the screen saying "Plugin: Connected".

When moderating, you need to sign in to both ModTools and Yahoo. Once you do this, you'll see a message saying: "Yahoo: Connected as xxxx".

Where's the IE/Safari/Other browser version?

I'm not sure there's a big enough crowdfunder in the world to make me write an IE version, and I doubt I will have time to do other browsers. For now assume it will be Firefox and Chrome.

If I don't have the plugin installed, what happens to the extra function?

For function which would affect what's displayed on the ModTools pages, you just won't get it.

For actions which can only be performed when the plugin is available, ModTools will queue up anything which requires the plugin and do it next time you (or another moderator on the same group) access ModTools with the plugin enabled.

How do I update the plugin?

If there are new versions of the plugin they should update automatically. On Chrome watch out for the three-bar icon on the top right going orange to indicate more permissions are required.

You can also update the plugins manually. If your screen is large enough you'll see the Firefox and Chrome icons for the plugins on the bottom right - just click on them.

If you don't see them,

  • On Firefox:
    • Go to Tools->Add-ons->Extensions
    • Find ModTools
    • Right click and do Find Updates
  • On Chrome:
    • Go to Settings->Extensions and do Ctrl+R

How do I get debug for the plugin?

Use Chrome for this - although you might not normally use it, the process for getting debug is easier.

  1. Make sure you have the browser plugin installed by clicking on the icon on the bottom left.
  2. Go to the relevant page on ModTools.
  3. Do Ctrl+R to make sure you've got the latest fixes.
  4. Hit F12 to open the debug window.
  5. Click on Console
  6. Reproduce your problem.
  7. Wait for a minute or so.
  8. Copy and paste the contents of the Console window into an email to Edward.

I'm a curious geek - how does the plugin work?

The old modplugin Firefox extension contained the code to do all the moderation function. ModTools hosts the moderation function itself, which is more efficient. The browser plugin lets Javascript served from ModTools make cross-site AJAX requests to Yahoo as though it was Yahoo's own Javascript code. There's no real moderation function built into the plugin itself.

Interaction with Yahoo

Can I use this while other moderators use Yahoo?

Yes, you can, but see below for a couple of gotchas.

Can I have a resync button for pending members/messages?

ModTools syncs approved members and messages once a day to spot any that have been removed on Yahoo.

Because you see this popup, it's easy to think that pending members/messages are only sync'd once a day. They're not. They're sync'd each time you load the page.

So a resync button for pending messages/members wouldn't do any more than already happens when you load the page.

If you are seeing problems with approval or rejection, see here.

Why does a message/member rejected on Yahoo still appear?

That's usually because your plugin isn't working. Check that you are signed in to Yahoo. Otherwise click on the plugin icons to reinstall it and see if that helps.

I dealt with a message/member, and then a bit later it reappeared; why?

Once you deal with a message/member on ModTools, it will remove it from the list. So why does it come back?

When you do this, ModTools will try to approve/reject the member in two ways:

  • By send an email to Yahoo
  • Directly on Yahoo via the plugin

After a couple of days ModTools will decide that Yahoo has lost the approval, and show you the message/member again. This gives you another chance to approve/reject it, and hopefully Yahoo will pay attention this time.

If you see messages reappear, then both of these must be true:

  • Yahoo is slow to process the email, or has lost it. This seems to happen sometimes.
  • You are using ModTools from a machine without the browser plugin, or the plugin is not working.

If you suspect that the browser plugin is not working then get debug.

As a last resort, you can process the message/member directly on Yahoo to resolve this.

Why isn't changing moderation/delivery status working?

For this to work:

  1. You need to have the new Firefox or Chrome plugin installed.
  2. If you have both Firefox and Chrome running, then what will happen is that you'll queue up the work from Firefox, then it'll quietly do it in the background on Chrome, then you'll notice the count drop to zero on Firefox. This is intentional and correct, but can be confusing if you're paying close attention to the count.

Sometimes other plugins or userscripts interfere with Yahoo's. If you have problems, please try disabling other extensions before reporting a problem.

Why don't I see any recent messages on ModTools?

ModTools receives messages via the modtools@modtools.org membership on your group. Check that this is:

  • Present - if not, invite it
  • Set to Individual Emails
  • Not bouncing


Why do I need to pay?

The development of ModTools was a significant piece of work which had to be done at short notice, which meant that Edward had to do it instead of other paid work. People very kindly donated to the crowdfunder for this to make that possible.

There are ongoing server costs, as well as a significant amount of time, required to keep this running. The license payment doesn't fully cover that - but it makes it possible to provide this service.

Can I get a trial?

Yes - when you first add a group (see above), it will start with a 30 day trial.

How do I buy a license?

Go to Settings->Personal Settings and you'll see a Buy Now button.

I have a voucher code, how do I use it?

Go to Settings->Personal Settings, and use the Use Voucher button. This will credit your account with a license.

Ok, I've got a license, how do I use it for my group?

Go to Settings->Groups, and use the Add License button next to your group.

I paid using PayPal but I didn't get a voucher code?

If you paid using PayPal you should have received an email with the voucher code. Please check your spam folder. If you don't think you've received this, please forward your PayPal receipt to edward@ehibbert.org.uk.

What if my group has lots of moderators?

Licenses are per-group, so all your moderators can use the license once you've activated it.

I have a license, why do I see the Buy Now button?

Because you might want to buy more licenses for later use.


Why does ModTools need to be a moderator on the group?

When you approve messages/members via ModTools, it then approves messages and members by email to Yahoo. That means ModTools needs to receive the email notifications that Yahoo sends out for pending messages/members, and to be able to reply to those emails to do the approval. So it needs moderator rights on your group.

Does ModTools need to be an owner?

Definitely not. I don't want you to even think that I might be able to take over your group.

Will ModTools do anything on my group without me knowing?

At the moment ModTools only does things on your group when you've told it to by clicking on the screen.

In the future I may add as auto-approval of selected messages/members - for example for Freegle groups it would be useful to be able to auto-approve members applying via Freegle Direct. But this will default off, and you'll need to turn it on.


How do I "do a refresh"?

You'll be asked to do this sometimes to check you've got the latest code.

  • On a PC, do Ctrl+Shift+R
  • On a Mac, do Command-R

If you know the hotkeys for refreshes on other kinds of machines, please add them here.

How can I report a spammer?

Click the Spam icon next to a message. Spam.png

I don't use ModTools, how can I report a spammer?

From here.