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MicroReviews for April 1995 Micropendium
by Charles Good

Mailing List Manager, by Bill Gaslill

Ever since I got my first 99/4A back in 1982 I have been looking for the perfect mailing list (name address phone number) software. I started out years ago with Personal Record Keeping and have made extensive use of three other name and address programs, each a little better for me than the previous software. My quest has been similar to searching for the holy grail in that I often appear close to my goal, but never quite get there. Features of existing software just don't quite seem to fit my needs. Some of the problems I have encountered over the years with such software include:

-Kludgy data entry screens and difficulty in correcting incorrectly entered data.
-Inability to enter enough data of the type I desire, such as entering a "country" and very long phone number for foreign addresses.
-Limited number of names one can put in a data file. This happens if an entire data file has to be put into memory each time you use the program.
-Difficulty in deleting a single name from a large data file. You'd be suprised how difficult it is to accomplish this very basic task with some existing mail list software.
-No ability to send special codes to my Gemini 10X printer so it will print mail lables in dark "emphasized" letters rather than thin dot matrixy "draft mode" letters.
-Slow, or no sorting ability. If sorting ability exists you sometimes are forced to sort your list in memory each time you print sorted mailing lables since the software can't create a sorted data file from an unsorted data file.

The closest I have come to my perfect mail list software is Mailing List Manager (MLM). The problem with switching to a new mail list program is that youn have to start from the beginning. You have to manually type in all your data into the new program, data you have already long ago typed into the old program. After experimenting with MLM I was so impressed with MLM's features that I decided to transfer my user group membership and newsletter exchange mailing list from the software I had been using to MLM. This means that I spent 3 hours at the keyboard typing into MLM and checking over 150 names and associated data. I consider this time well spent. I am very happy with MLM, and that is why I am devoting my entire column this month to this one product. I only review good software for Micropendium, but that doesn't mean that I personally have a use for the software I review. Unlike many of the other software packages I review for Micropendium, I am now actually using MLM on a regular basis.

MLM can handle name and address files of unlimited length, subject only to the physical limitations of the media where the file is stored. Each name and address data group takes one disk sector. Although sorting within MLM is limited to files with no more than 1000 names, an alternative means of sorting larger files is provided. The fully functional fairware version of MLM comes on a SSSD disk and will work very nicely on systems with only one SSSD drive. You can use a separate SSSD data disk with up to 358 names. The program prompts you to insert the program disk into a drive whenever that is necessary. MLM is set up to have its system files run automatically out of any floppy or ramdisk drive because it looks for a volumn name, not a drive number, when it loads parts of itself into memory. It also works with hard drives and allows you to have up to 23 characters in path names. MLM is written in extended basic, with various assembly CALL LINK's to speed things up. Default printer names, printer control codes, label spacings, and data file paths can be changed on the fly from within MLM, and you can also permanantly change these defaults by changing the extended basic program code.

The following data fields are found in each name and address record: lname, fname, address, city, state, zipcode, nation, group code, home phone, work phone, fax bbs phone, dates, notes 1, and notes 2. You can leave any of these fields blank and update them later. Group code might be used for user group affiliation. Dates might be used to indicate when a user group membership expires. The Date entry is printed on mailing labels. I particularly appreciate the nation field, something rarely found in mailing list software. This makes it easier to deal with airmail mailings to international locations.

Actually you can put any text you want into any of these fields. Thus, you have room to put lots of notes and comments into the last seven fields listed above. You might, for example, put XMAS in the Group Code field to identify those who are on your Chirstmas card mail list. It is not necessary, for example, to put numerical digits in all three phone number fields. You can just as easily enter some text.

When you finish typing your data IN all the fields for a particular new or updated name and address and press "C" to continue, the data are immediately written to the data file. There are no complicated "exit the program" procedutes required to make sure all files are closed. Wherever you are in MLM just press FCTN/9 (Back) a few times for a quick exit to the title screen. All files are safely closed when you do this so your data is secure.

You can sort an entire data based on any one of the above data fields. When a list is sorted the computer reads the list into memory, sorts the list, and creates a new sorted file on disk leaving the original unsorted file intact. Doing all this to a list of 140 names stored on a horizon ramdisk (sorting an unsorted list by zipcode) took me only 1 minute 35 seconds. By 99/4A standards that is quite fast. An assembly language sort is used.

You can search a data file using either one or two keywords in either one or two data fields. If you sort by two keywords you only get a hit if both words are found. Searching for only one keyword requires that you specify the exact same keyword and data field twice when asked for the first and second keyword to be used in the search. This takes some getting used to. Partial strings can be used in these searches. For example, if you can't remember if L.L. Conner is spelled "Connor" or "Conner" you can search for "CONN". Data entry is automatically all in upper case, so you don't have to worry about what is and is not in upper case when you do a search.

There are three ways to delete names form a file. In each case a new file is written without the deleted names, leaving the original file intact. 1-To delete a single name or a few manually selected names from a file first display on screen each name to be deleted and mark it with a carnet (shift 6) in the first space of the lname field. You can mark any number of names this way. Then select Delete names from the main menu and a new file will be written leaving out the marked names. This procedure is easy, safe (you still have the old file), and fast. 2-You can also do a global delete, creating a new file that has all the records from the old file except those containing a text string you specify. You could, for example, create a file that omits Christmas list people. 3-And finally you can create a new file that only contans records from the original file that do have a text string you specify. This is sort of the opposite of #2 above. You can make a file that contains only Christmas list people. In creating subsets of files based on text strings, you can use either one or two text strings as described above for searching by keyword.

If you can't remember a data file name you can, from within the program, display a disk directory. Then you can optionlly delete any file from the disk.

Reports can be printed in either of two formats. You can also print mailing lables of the entire file or a single label of only the name currently displayed. It is possible to print labels or reports of subsets from larger lists. To do this the software lets you create an index file of larger data file with pointers to specific records in the larger file. You can, for example make an index of all your names you have marked XMAS in one of the comment fields. Later you can select "Print using an index" to print mailing labels to your Christmas card list.

You get some unusual software extras with MLM, all of which can be run within MLM.
--There are two different free form mailing label creating editors They let you compose mailing labels on the fly and print multiple copies of these onto fan fold lables. Examples would be return address labels or "Do Not Bend" labels for packages containing floppy disks. You can also load in templates of previously composed labels and print these. One of the two label makers also lets you print disk lables and automatically advances to the next label to continue printing if all the disk's file names won't fit on one label.
--MLM also has a 40 column text editor, great for writing short letters or keeping records of your correspondence with people in your data base. This text editor has many features of the TI Writer editor and is compatible with TI Writer's text files. You are limited to one page of text at a time. There is no word wrap and no automatic margins.

The software that compares most closely to MLM is Asgard's (Larry Tippitt's) Mail Room. Both products have their own particular advantages and disadvantages. I reviewed Mail Room in one of my earlier MicroReviews columns. Mail Room has an 80 column version and allows you to use a modem to dial any phone number stored in its data base, features not found in MLM. Advantages of MLM compared to Mail Room include MLM's "nation" and generous comment fields and the ease of permanently creating sorted data files and of deleting names from MLM data files. All Mail Room users should have a look at MLM.

Send me $1 and I will send you MLM on a DSSD disk (or $2 for two SSSD disks). The author asks $15 to register your copy of the program. Registered owners will recieve an expanded hard copy of the instructions and an update with even more features than those described here for the fairware version. You might consider saving the dollar and immediately sending Bill his $15 with a request that he send you the most recent version of MLM.


Lets say you have a data file created with MLM, TI Base, First Base, PR Base, PRK, or just about any other data base software usable on the TI. If all you want to do is display a particular name, address, and phone number (or some other data within a data file) on screen there is a quick easy way. This method is usually much faster than loading software such as MLM and using the software's internal search engine. Instead of doing that, use an assembly language "find string" to quickly display a data file sector with the desired text you are looking for.

Funnelweb's Disk Review or John Birdwell's DSKU can be used to do this. These are programs you probably already have on your computer's menu system. From a Disk Review disk directory move the cursor next to a file you want to search and press I (for inspect). Select 2 (File search) and then 1 (ASCII string). Press when the cursor appears over the first question mark and enter your search string over the second group of question marks. From DSKU select File Utilities from the first menu and then select Find String. Enter the file name, drive number, A (for ASCII), and the text you want to find. If your file is on a horizon ramdisk such string searches usually take less than 10 seconds. MLM and many other data bases automatically store text only in upper case, which takes much of the guesswork out of a string search.

Bill Gaskill, 10 Cypress Court, Grand Junction Colorado, 81506.

Charles Good, P.O. Box 647, Venedocia OH 45894.
Phone 419-667-3131.
Internet email [email protected]

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