Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Good cheap/free bulk email software?

No, this isn't about Spam.  I have a list of 600+ people who signed up to be notified when a certain product is ready.  They volunteered their emails for this specific purpose and this purpose alone.  :P

It's a simple email, no per-user customization.  Now that the product is launching, I need to email them.  I know there are products out there that will do this (Google returns a ton of results) but I'd like to know if there's one that you guys recommend.

Obviously, I could use a normal email client for this and just cram lots of people into the BCC field, but that's kind of ugly.  Also, it can run afoul of spam filters, since the mail won't be directly addressed to them.

A free evaluation period is pretty much a requirement here.  A free product, period, would be even better- this is something I'm likely never to use again (or if so, very infrequently).

John Rose
Thursday, February 19, 2004

Why not roll your own? If this doesn't need to be industrial strength, you could script something in VBA in a few minutes to pump out 600 email messages...

Rob VH
Thursday, February 19, 2004

Yes, I was also thinking of just rolling my own.  Would be easy.  But I was hoping somebody might suggest something even easier.... also, perhaps other people might need something of this ilk as well so I figured the replies might help others.  (-:

John Rose
Thursday, February 19, 2004

I use Microsoft Word + Microsoft Excel + Mail Merge for short one time mailings to a list of people that requested it.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Thursday, February 19, 2004

If you want to manage it pretty well, without too much trouble on your part, you can outsource it to bCentral from Microsoft.

Li-fan Chen
Thursday, February 19, 2004

If you want to create a custom html-based or text-based email for each person. You could use CityDesk and point it at a database; then you'll have to manually do your own open/click/forward/bounce-tracking, because most commercial mailers won't let you upload a separate different email for each person (although the more advanced ones will let you upload profiles for their servers to do the customizing for you)  if you are a programmer this might not be a problem.

Li-fan Chen
Thursday, February 19, 2004

If _free_ is a requirement, Enemies of Carlotta (by Linus Torvald's college buddy), written in Python, will interface with Postfix and Qmail. It's a real mailing list manager but I suspect your outgoing mails will be identical for each person (without customization).

Li-fan Chen
Thursday, February 19, 2004

As Joel said, use MS Office with mail merge

With later versions, it's dead easy to do, and you can quickly throw in a few customizations or two, like adding the persons name.

NC
Thursday, February 19, 2004

What about MajorDomo or ListServ and the other traditional mailing list programs? Or that service that Joel uses for his mailing list.

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, February 19, 2004

I'm thinking that listserv-type stuff would be a bit too involved for this, with subscribes and confirms and all that.  Or is it?  I've never used them...

John Rose
Thursday, February 19, 2004

Google for blat, it is a command line smpt mailer that is free.

Laurel
Thursday, February 19, 2004

Pick any two

Gregor Brandt
Thursday, February 19, 2004

Oh I dunno, I never had to use one, but I kind of assumed the admin could add e-mail addresses easily, by maybe dropping them into a file either CSV or with carraige returns seperating them.

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, February 19, 2004

John Rose,

Assuming you aren't interested in building a dialog (allowing customers to talk to each other) a list manager is too much.

As long as you are trying to do a one-to-many SBE (solicited bulk email) communication (the message received by all is the same, composed by you), a list server can help you achieve two things:

  1) auto unsubscription
  2) bounce handling/reporting

List cleaning syntax (add this to your qmail .qmail-yourlist-default and .qmail-yourlist):
|enemies-of-carlotta --incoming

To determine on an on-going basis who bounced or unsubbed, do this (to determine who is still on the list):
Status check syntax:
enemies-of-carlotta --name=yourlist@yourdomain.com --list

With Enemies of Carlotta (EOC), you can directly pool a list with email addresses. What this means is instead of having subscribers subscribe by themselves, going through the confirmation process, you can subscribe them without they seeing a challenge/confirmation email.

Subscription (without confirmation) Syntax:

cat emaillist.txt | xargs
enemies-of-carlotta --name=yourlist@yourdomain.com --subscribe

-- source (man page of EOC): http://liw.iki.fi/liw/eoc/enemies-of-carlotta.1.txt

Li-fan Chen
Thursday, February 19, 2004

I know that some of us never manage a list before the way Joel has, so just some key pointers:

1) Managing unsubscriptions and bounces properly are a pain in the neck and waste a lot of your time. Which is why list managers like MailMan and EOC are popular (because they auto handle it)...

2) Most list managers don't do what you want, no matter how popular, the free ones anyway. You can get yourself something really fancy pants like Lyris but that's like using a back-haul to do microsurgery--it's money badly wasted. I think you want something like bCentral for the perfect fit. The yearly subscription is less than $500, it gets you quite a bit for your money, alas I still haven't used bCentral so do some investigation and tell us how you like it!

Li-fan Chen
Thursday, February 19, 2004

You should try the mail merge, if it doesn't scale, then switch to a real mailing list deployment service like bCentral.. and if that fails you.. god help you.. you need to hire a real relationship manager because by then you are making real money :)

Li-fan Chen
Thursday, February 19, 2004

Marshallsoft has an excellent E-Mail addin for multiple environments.  We use it in our products as it supports HTML encoding.  It's a single DLL that has no dependencies.
$105 US

http://www.marshallsoft.com/

hope this helps - John

John Murray
Thursday, February 19, 2004

John, it's just a email component, it composes the email to allow mime alternate types (which basically means recipients' email readers can read either HTML or text, depending on their capability/preference)... you don't really need to pay $105 for that little wrapper. Is it good at anything else? Just wondering...

Li-fan Chen
Thursday, February 19, 2004

If this is a one-off (and even if it isn't) then forget about operating systems developed in the Pacific Northwest.

Get any Unix variant with either Sendmail or Postfix and set it up as your MX, then:

Create a text file containing the email addresses. (Text export from Excel ought to work.)

Create a mail alias in /etc/aliases:

mylist :include:/my/exported/file

Then just send the message to mylist@your.domain.

Done.

David Jones
Thursday, February 19, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home