Desktop Mailing List Management

I’m interested in maintaining several email address lists, for example:

  • A list of close friends and family.
  • A list of those who have commented on my weblog.
  • A list of those who have commented on our Jiu-Jitsu weblog.
  • A list of MakaluMedia hosting customers.
  • A list of those interested in MakaluMedia job opportunities.
  • etc., etc.

These are my desires for a tool to manage my lists and send emails:

  1. I need easy and flexible mechanisms for getting addresses into and out of the list(s). For example, I’d like to be able to import addresses from a file, and I’d like to be able to quickly add an address from an email I receive in Apple Mail.

  2. I need to be able to create and send customized emails, for example, including a custom link which will unsubscribe the recipient from my list.

There are various options available, each with its own drawbacks:

  • Apple Address Book combined with Apple Mail. I can create “groups” in Address Book, and use them to generate mails in Apple Mail. Management of the lists, however, can become a headache, as too much manual intervention is required.
  • Daylite. We use the (very powerful!) Daylite CRM in our company. Among the million things it does, Daylite allows one to create groups, and generate customized mailings for those groups. It can send the mails using Apple Mail, or the original version of FSS MailDrop. It doesn’t, however, provide any mechanism for the recipient to unsubscribe, and so the whole process of list management becomes a bit burdensome.
  • CommuniGate Pro. We use the (very high end) CommuniGate Pro messaging system on our corporate servers. This software provides powerful mailing list services, but interaction with it primarily takes place through a browser, within a clunky user interface. I’d prefer a desktop application.

The solution I seem to have settled on is the recently launched IntelliMerge 5.0 product, for MacOS X. Here’s why:

  • IntelliMerge is a MacOS X desktop mailing list tool, providing all the features one could want for generating and sending customized emails to multiple recipient lists.
  • Version 5.0 includes a set of PHP scripts that you can install on your server, providing an automated mechanism for your recipients to unsubscribe. The desktop software interacts with this script, to determine which existing addresses should be removed from your list(s) and/or which should be added. (You could easily integrate these scripts into a website, if you wanted.)
  • With a bit of QuickSilver magic, one can quickly add single addresses to one’s lists. How is this done? QuickSilver interprets any Safari bookmark with the characters “” as a “search URL”. When accessing these URLs from within QuickSilver, the user is prompted to enter a search term. By creating bookmarks to the IntelliMerge PHP scripts, replacing the unsubscribe (or subscribe) email address in the URL with ““, you can, from within QuickSilver, generate a request to your scripts to subscribe or unsubscribe a particular address.My bookmarks are of the form:
    MML - My Weblog Commenters
    http://server/intellimerge/weblog_commenters/im.php?a=s&e=***
    
    So, when I receive a weblog comment in Apple Mail, I control-click the address and select “Copy Address”, then invoke QuickSilver and type “MML”. A list of my address list management URLs appear (one for each list I’m managing). I select the one I’m interested in, hit “tab”, and then paste in the email address, and hit return. This URL is then sent to Safari, resulting in the addition or deletion of the address from my list.
  • Recipients of my emails then find a link at the bottom saying something like this:
    You are receiving this email as a commenter on my weblog. If you wish to receive no more announcements, please access the following link: http://server/intellimerge/weblog_commenters/im.php?a=u&[email protected]

So far, I’m very happy with this solution.

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