|★ APPLICATIONS ★ BUREAUTIQUE ★ QMAIL ★|
AA mailmerger, as veteran readers of issue I's Grand Mailmerge Showdown will know, is a program to produce bulk mailshots from an address list and a form letter, in true Readers' Digest style.
Qmail is a newcomer to the scene, aimed specifically at LocoScript users who have a complex mailing list that needs sorting and selecting before use. This would be useful, for example, where you have a list of suppliers of different products and want to write only to those who make stuffed parrots.
Setting up your mailing list
Qmail's real strength is that the database it uses for addresses is specially designed for mailmerge operation. It is set up in advance with the correct slots for names and addresses, and doesn't get carried away with features you don't need.
Aside from the name and address, there is room for up to 5 "user defined” slots per name. These might contain the balance outstanding on a customer's account, or the phone number, or just general notes.
Finally, and most importantly, you can define "attributes" for a person. Each name can be tagged with up to 15 or so labels from from a range of 260 (AO to Z9), which can stand for anything you like. Suppose you are trying to manage an advertising agency, and you want to categorise companies by what they produce. You might number stuffed parrots as “P0", and stuffed gerbils "GO". Then you can address letters to manufacturers of either one specifically, or you could do a general stuffed animal mailshot and produce a print run covering both parrot and gerbil stuffers.
One nice touch is that as you enter names into the mailing list they are automatically sorted into alphabetical order. Qmail seems to know how names are written, so it will correctly sort by surname entries like "Mr. A. Aardvark" and “Len Zapalowski".
Writing the form letter
Qmail only reads letters prepared with LocoScript, although inevitably it doesn't actually run from within LocoScript. You have to start up CP/M, run Qmail, and restart LocoScript if you need to make any corrections.
Almost all LocoScript print styles can be used when Qmail processes a document, and also the centring and justification commands work. Qmail has what is called "automatic rejustification", which means that if it inserts special text into a letter that varies in length from person to person, then it can manage to reformat the paragraph so there are no untidy gaps or short lines.
Each item stored in the database has a name associated with it, like "Address” or "Amount due”. To insert the relevant words into the letter, you just type its name into the LocoScript document in “ReVerse Video” (EftV).
Running off the mailshot
To produce a print run, you first prepare a letter using LocoScript, and set up the mailing list using Qmail. There are now several ways forward. You can pick one of your mailing list databases within Qmail and select the addresses you want to mail - for example, all those who are tagged with a certain attribute (like P0, our parrot stuffers). Attributes can be combined to produce complex selections like parrot stuffers who also manufacture feather dusters.
You can opt not to use a mailing list, but run the mailmerger directly. In this case, as the document is processed Qmail pauses to ask you what each database field should be as you come across it.
Qmail is a worthy challenger to LocoMail. The address database is simple and well designed for mailmerging, and overall, it's ideal for mailmerging if you have a complicated address list.
The only real drawbacks are that it can't read files from word processors other than LocoScript, and that it can't do arithmetic to customise invoices. The manual is a bit too dense for comfort, and the novice reader will find it a struggle. Some example letters are on the disc to show how it is done.