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As far as I can tell, there isn't a decent mailing list program to be found anywhere on the planet. I don't want a lot a really, just a basic tool to keep a list of addresses and post a message once in a while. You'd think I could find one...
I should start by saying that I'm on a Windows box. There are quite a few server-side programs out there, but all I want is a simple list-management tool that runs on my desktop. Ideally, it would have the capacity to connect to my server and retrieve subscribe/unsubscribe messages. But it doesn't even need that, really. All it has to do is keep a list of address and let me send a message once in a while.
Well, I guess it needs a little more than that. The horror stories that follow will bring out the other requirements...
Arrow This was the first list processing tool I tried. It worked pretty well, for a while. It wasn't great, but it was functional. Then it suddenly and mysteriously stopped working. It's been on version 0.9 or something for the past year, with no updates forthcoming. The author was nice enough to suggest a workaround that involved launching a second message-sending program. But when that failed, I started looking around again.
Mail List King First stop: A program I downloaded several months ago. It didn't look really great either, but it looked as though it might work well enough to use. That's what I recall from when I was looking at it, anyway. When I tried to fire it up, lo and behold the time limit had expired. Heck, I had never set up a mailing list in it, much less sent a message. But what the heck, it's only $49. So I figure I'll just go buy it. Better to spend a few bucks and get my newsletter out the door.
So I go to the site, and guess what? There is no $49 option. There's a $100 "professional" option, and even more expensive "corporate" options. I'm not very happy with that, so I keep looking.
Adaptive Mailing List This program sounds pretty good. So, like always, I go check how much it's going to cost. The order page says "pricing will be made available". Then it tells you to try the demo. Riiight. As if. Do they really think I'm going to download the demo, figure out how to use it, commit my mailing list to it, and then find out how much it costs? I don't think so, Tim...
MailXpert This one came really close. It was servicable. It had decent export and export capabilities. But it turns out that it can't sort the list, or tell you how many items are in it. But since a comma-separated list (csv) can be edited in a spreadsheet, I have a workaround. So I planned to send them some money and register a request for the additional features.
But when I try to send a message to my list, it turns out that I have the configuration wrong. So the program starts giving me one error message after another, one for each attempted send. That's bad. So I look for a way to cancel it. Ah. There's a Stop button. I click it. Things stop. Good. I set up a test list so I can figure out what the configuration settings need to be. But now I can't send to it! The send button is disabled. So is the Stop button. It seems I have to press "Start". I try that. The original send now resumes, and I'm back to getting hundreds of error messages.
That implementation is just deplorable, so I go to the web site to send some feedback. That's when I decide that these guys don't get my money--there is absolutely no feedback address of any kind! It's very clear that this program isn't going to get any better. So I resolve to keep looking.
EMail List Software $10 a month. Pass...
Mailing List Express At $30, this one certainly isn't very expensive. I passed on it orginally, because it didn't look quite as good as the others. But since they've all fallen down, I'm back for another look.
The $30 version is pretty functional, as it turns out. The $80 version has a few additional features--notably address verification and the ability to send to overlapping lists while removing duplicates. There's also a high-performance $120 version, but I definitely don't need that one.
I downloaded the $80 trial version, and it looks like I'll be able to get the job done, but there's not a lot of joy. There are still no sort options on the columns, and in this one I can't even name the columns. So I tell it that column 1 contains the addresses, and column 2 contains the names, but they always display as "column 1" and "column 2".
Next, I paste my (long) newsletter into the little text window. Guess what? No scroll bar! I can move up and down, but this definitely a paste-only window, not an edit window.
For fun, I go to "Project Options" next. Good thing I did. I need to set up my connection settings there. There wasn't a Wizard to remind me, but that's not all bad. It let me do things in a more natural order. And this one has a place to specify SMTP port-- something that Mail"Xpert" overlooked--and which may account for its failure.
So there I was. Home free, I figured. Wrong! When I tried to send, all of the messages aborted. Why? Good question. It doesn't say. Not one friggin' clue. It has a nice little spreadsheet that shows the result of each send, but they all say "aborted". Nothing else that's any help.
I review my configuration a few times and think about about sending again. But there's another little problem--the trial version is limited to 50 messages. That's no so bad, but when I post to my list, it gives me an error message dialog for every additional address--that's a lot of additional clicks to acknowledge the error, with no ability to cancel the send! Freakin' poor design, that. I could make a trial list, of course. But the configuration looks right. So I'm not sure if it's worth experimenting with it any more.
So that's where things stand at the moment. All I want is a decent program for managing a mailing list. I'm willing to pay for it. I want to pay for it, so it will be supported. But I can't seem to find one anywhere.
Anyone have a clue?? I'm 6 months overdue on my TreeLight Health mailing list, and I can't seem to find a single product that "just works".
|Eric Armstrong has been programming and writing professionally since before there were personal computers. His production experience includes artificial intelligence (AI) programs, system libraries, real-time programs, and business applications in a variety of languages. He works as a writer and software consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area. He wrote The JBuilder2 Bible and authored the Java/XML programming tutorial available at http://java.sun.com. Eric is also involved in efforts to design knowledge-based collaboration systems.|